Early Check from the certificate from the Bullion and Exchange Bank of Carson City, Nevada dated 1899. This historic check was handsigned by the Company’s Cashier G. W. Richard and is over 107 years old. The check has a tax stamp affixed to it.
The Carson City Savings Bank was incorporated in 1875, when local businessmen saw a need for banking in Carson City, Nevada, particularly after the opening of the US Mint in 1869. The bank became the Bullion and Exchange Bank in 1882. With the decline in mining and reductions in development, the Bullion and Exchange Bank was restructured into the State Bank and Trust Company in 1903, failing by 1907. In turn, each of the three banks served the growing population of Carson City by providing banking services and dealing in mining stock.
The Bullion and Exchange Bank was one of the busiest banks in 1890s. The bank was set up as a clearinghouse for other Nevada banks for bullion, coins, drafts, checks, and other valuables. Taking advantage of its friendly connections with Carson City Mint officials, the B&E Bank opened an office inside the facility. Shortly after Carson City's coining charter was suspended in 1893, B&E took over control of refining operations.
One day in 1894, Chief Melter Hirsch Harris observed that the the tiny amount of naturally occurring gold in a few silver bars had been replaced by copper. The inquisitive Harris checked deeper and found more bars robbed of its gold content. The US Treasury Department was then notified of the gold's disappearance, touching off a full investigation.
The Carson City building was where the gold heist trials were held. Upon completion in 1891, the structure was originally occupied by the Post Office, land office, United States Courts, and a Weather Bureau office.
The probe revealed that several mint employees were systematically skimming off gold bullion during the refining process. Dating back to 1892, when the Carson City Mint was still a full fledged US branch mint, an estimated $75,000 in gold was stolen (equivalent to a cool $1.5 million in today's dollars).
Several high profile trials were held, one ending in a hung jury. When it was learned that a key witness was bribed to remain silent, another trial was held. In the end, James Heney, John T. Jones, and Henry Piper, all former mint employees, were found guilty and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
Throughout the ordeal, the public largely suspected there was a connection between the gold theft and the Bullion and Exchange Bank, suspicions which were reinforced when bank president Jacob Klein leapt to the defense of the accused. Investigators carefully sifted through mountains of financial documents, but could find no evidence of criminal wrongdoing on the part of B&E. Nevertheless, Klein's smug association with the unpopular defendants led to his eventual ouster as bank president.
The incident had several major repercussions. For one, the hope that Carson City would again someday coin money was forever dashed. Almost since the day of its inception, a shadow of scandal darkened the Mint's reputation, and this time, Washington officials said "enough!". On April 18, 1895, the Carson City Mint was closed.
On a national scale, the crime heightened awareness that even in a free capitalistic environment, some regulation of banking and industry is necessary.
The 1890s Carson City Mint scandal helped the government better define his role within the realm of governmental oversight responsibility, business accountability, and compliance with the law at the individual level. Some historians argue that with the successful prosecution and imprisonment of at least some of the conspirators, the United States took a giant step forward in achieving an orderly, lawful society.
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