from Utah As It Is, by S.A. Kenner, published in 1904

While the object of the Pioneers and those who came here soon after the first settlement was made was not the pursuit of wealth nor partaking in any sense of the nature of speculation, it still followed that transactions between man and man must prevail to some extent. This grows into trade, trade into business establishments, and out of it all commercial regularity in one form or another to an extent governed by circumstances is brought into existence.

While at the first, and to a diminishing extent later on, this may be carried on by means of barter and trade, yet there must in all cases come a time when all such systems must be found too burdensome and slow and some form of money be used to effect exchanges with. The Pioneers brought but little cash with them, practically none at all.

There were two reasons for this—they were coming to a place where there was nothing to be bought, so it could not do them much good, and having to leave their property without compensation as a general thing, their earthly possessions did not include large quantities of anything in particular, especially money. They were going into the business of empire-building a “long ways from anywhere,” with no other means of transportation than their wagons, teams and ability to walk, and with no other capital than what would remain when the journey was completed, their endless perseverance, their splendid energy, their dauntless faith, and the soil upon which they settled. The small quantities of coin, even if put into general circulation, could not have accomplished much, but we may readily understand that not a great deal of the aggregate amount was allowed to escape; being surrounded by such circumstances as made other things of more consequence, it was just as well to let the shining pieces remain where they were until the time came when it would be advantageous to bring them forth. This time, compared with the conditions which they had previously known, must have seemed very long, but it came of course.

Improved circumstances necessarily meant an increased demand for the coinage of the realm or something in lieu thereof, so that values might be transferred without having to receive corresponding values, but merely the tokens representing such values, in return. Understanding full well that in the love of money lies the chief source of evil, the people also comprehended.that a sufficiency of the article to go around and simplify things was many degrees removed from evil.

It is not known to many, but is a fact notwithstanding, that the first coinage of the precious metals on the Pacific coast was not accomplished at either Sacramento or Carson, but at Salt Lake City. Returning members of the Mormon Battalion had brought small bags of “dust” (nuggets) with them from California, which, together with some few desultory finds in the neighborhood, had made the ruddy metal tolerably plentiful for a time. But passing particles of from hand to hand as a means of effecting exchanges was a rather clumsy performance and necessitated the carrying or of having conveniently at hand a pair of scales with which to fix the quantity. So it was determined to establish a mint for local purposes exclusively, in which nothing in the similitude of Uncle Sam’s coinage should be brought forth, but merely pieces without alloy bearing different devices and stamped with the value of the metal which they contained.  The first dies were made by John Kay, and consisted of $2.50, $5 and $10 denominations, but the work was so inartistically performed that it was deemed best to have something better, whereupon a set of dies was constructed by J. M. Barlow, whose product was pronounced excellent, and which was kept up until ordered discontinued by Governor Cummings. An accurate picture of these coins appears herewith. 

The constantly increasing pilgrimage of Argonauts in real life to California had an excellent effect in the direction of circulating the money of the country among the people. It should be understood that at first the difficulties of the overland trip, added to its great duration, caused the Pacific coast business to be divided with the lines via the Isthmus of Panama, which was longer both in point of time and distance traversed but was less irksome and freer from dangers such as loomed up or existed insidiously along the transcontinental trails. Naturally, for a time, the great bulk of the trade was by the water route; but with the increasing and spreading knowledge of the splendidly equipped “halfway house” which the Mormons had established, with its ramifications constantly extending in every direction, and the certainty of being able to cut the overland journey in two by making Salt Lake the objective point to begin with, where rest, recruiting and a new equipment could be had, there came a change.

The ship routes began to fall off as the roads gained, and the increased traffic in the midst of the people hereabout was a matter of course. For a community composed of a lot of exiles who began business without capital in the midst of the American desert to be a competitor of the great ship transportation companies operating in the full flush of all manner of civilization, and a successful competitor at that, is one of the funniest things* when it is fully considered, I ever heard of. Mark Twain tells about being mired in the Platte on an overland stage* and extrication for sometime seemed very doubtful; he then ’ wondered if, after having made two trips in safety across the Atlantic ocean and countless numbers of them on the Mississippi, he was destined at last to drown in the heart of a great desert! The of the thing proceeds from the same source in either case—the contrasts which varying nature surrounds her with.

Well, there was for a time an abundance of cash, but the volume declined as the overland traffic fell off, corresponding with the gradual shortening of the gold supply in California and the increasing influx of people there. But the hardest part of the situation was past, and with the assistance derived the people could manage to get along very well.

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