Bits & Pieces... by David Sundman

Henry Voight: Early American Coin Designer

[photo: early coin design attributed to Henry Voight]

The dies to create the shown coin have been attributed to the Mint’s first chief coiner, Henry Voight. These are the first coins produced for circulation by the United States Mint in Philadelphia. Henry Voight was appointed First Chief Coiner of the U.S. Mint in January 1793. I was surprised to learn he was quite an inventor. He and John Fitch had a patent on an early steamboat – all this prior to Robert Fulton. It was John Fitch who successfully navigated the first vessel ever moved by steam on the Delaware River at Philadelphia, on July 20, 1786. The following year, on August 22, 1787, a steamboat forty-five feet long again navigated at Philadelphia, in the presence of the delegates to form a Constitution of the United States, and again by John Fitch, with the assistance of Henry Voight. In 1792, Voight had sought the Mint position to aid his finances while he worked on a steamboat with John Fitch. According to the 1857 book by Thompson Westcott, The Life of John Fitch THE Inventor of the Steamboat:

Fitch and Voight both made application for situations in the Mint of the United States; hoping that whilst they held those offices they would have time to perfect the steam-boat. In their petition it was stated, “John Fitch is a goldsmith by trade, and flatters himself that he could render essential service to his country as assay-master. Henry Voight is perfectly acquainted with the process of coining, and of all machinery for the business, and can make the instruments himself, having worked at it in Germany for several years.” Dr. Ewing, David Rittenhouse, Andrew Ellicott, and Dr. Patterson recommended the appointment of the pair to the posts they desired. The result was that Voight was successful, having been appointed Chief Coiner; a position he held for many years. But Fitch, unlucky as usual, did not gain the prize.