Q. David Bowers
"'That's all right,' said Mr. Whittemore, accepting them.
"Charley Knutson began rolling the kegs into the elevator. Mr. Higinbotham disappeared into the wire cage carrying one of the sacks. The first three kegs were loaded on a hand truck at the foot of the elevator and wheeled out to the wagon. The other two came down a moment later. Mr. Higinbotham sat on one of the kegs, Mr. Peck took another, and Mr. Seeberger sat in gingerly fashion upon the sharp edge of the third. The Swede boys held onto the stakes along the side of the wagon bed, and the load moved west on Jackson Street to La Salle, north on La Salle to Quincy and west on Quincy to the Rand-McNally en-trance. Here 50 people saw the stout workmen, two to a keg, carry the 300 pound packages to the elevator, which lifted them to the fourth floor. They were rolled into the little room adjoining Mr. Seeberger's office. Among those who came in were directors Thomas B. Bryan, J. W. Ellsworth, Adolph Nathan, and C. H. Schwab, Secretary H.O. Edmunson, J. F. McClain (representing Wyckoff, Seamans & Benedict), and a number of newspaper-men.
"'Gi'me that mallet.' President Higinbotham threw off his coat and told the people to stand back. Someone handed him the mallet and cold-chisel, and with determined blows Mr. Higinbotham battered in the head of the keg marked 'Special.'
" 'There it is,' said Mr. Peck. Pushed in at one side of the snugly-tucked canvas bag was a cigar box. It was lifted out and inside was the packet showing daubs of sealing wax. Across the space was the certificate of Director Bosbyshell of the Philadelphia Mint that it contained the first Columbian half dollar coined at the Mint [and] that it contained numbers 400, 1492, and 1892. This packet was tom open and the shell was given to Mr. Schwab for safekeeping. The envelope marked 'Number l' was then carefully opened-the other three being tucked into the president's inside pocket. Out came a pill box and a folded piece of paper. The paper was another certificate, all signed and backed by affidavit, to show that the coin in the box was really number one.
"The box was sealed. Mr. Higinbotham ran his knife around the rim, and then lifting the cotton showed the precious white bits of metal. Without allowing his fingers to touch the coin he folded a bit of cotton over the edge and held up the original souvenir. 'This coin has been bought by Wyckoff, Seamans & Benedict of New York for $10,000,' said he. 'It is the largest amount ever paid for a coin.'
"The little company applauded. Mr. McClain responded briefly for the purchasers. The coin was fastened into a metal hoop which swung at the end of a three inch chain. This chain was attached to a square glass which was the lid for a glass cube. The lid was put on and sealed. Three cheers were given, and the witnesses signed another certificate. The other kegs were opened and the employees began the work of dividing the coins into small lots for distribution to the banks.
"After the excitement attending the arrival of the coins had subsided, the prosaic work of counting them out began. Judge Bryan, whose public spirit had prompted the first big subscription, got the first 5,000. They were taken to the Jennings Trust Company bank on Dearborn Street in the original packages bearing the Treasury seal. Judge Bryan reserved one of the canvas sacks full of souvenirs for the accommodation of Exposition officials and personal friends, and the rest were distributed by the trust company to a long line of subscribers who had been waiting impatiently to see the first of the new half dollars.
"Newspaper men got the first coins distributed by the trust company, and then the long lines of subscribers filed past windows and exchanged dollars for half-dollars. Directors of the Exposition stood around Judge Bryan's office in the Rand-McNally headquarters and awaited the chance to put the souvenirs in their pockets. Before the afternoon was over the corridors leading to and from the judge's room resounded with the clink of coins and the varying criticisms of amateur numismatists.
"Treasurer Seeberger's force worked well into the night making up packages to correspond with orders filed for souvenirs. Over 5,000 orders are on the books, and the first 432 of these applications will exhaust yesterday's installment. Treasurer Seeberger says, however, that another shipment of 700,000 coins is expected to arrive Thursday or Friday at the latest, and that consignment will just about fill the requisitions made.
"Persons living in Chicago may secure souvenirs in any number by leaving orders with any of the Chicago banks or by personal application at the treasurer's office, fourth floor, Rand-McNally building, 168 Adams Street. Receipts will be given and orders filled in the order of application. Persons living outside of Chicago can have coins delivered to them, carriage prepaid, by ordering through the nearest bank; if no bank is accessible a money order or registered letter addressed to the Treasurer, World's Columbian Exposition, and giving directions for shipment will secure the souvenirs at a net cost to purchaser of $1 each coin."
A month or so later a newspaper report noted that the Mint was working full speed ahead to churn out the production order of 5,000,000 pieces: "Advice from Washington gave notice that the Treasury has ordered the shipment of 68,000 souvenir coins to Chicago. These coins will be the last with 1892 on them, the rest of the 5 million bearing the date of 1893. So far the Treasury has paid out 720,000 half dollars on approved vouchers. The Mint is running full capacity, 20,000 coins daily, and at that rate it will be until the last of July before the issue is completed."