The Port Orleans Mint Establishes City As Financial Trade Center!

The lobby of the Port Orleans Mint, dated 1892,
five years after it was established.

Currency was always a difficult issue for a city with such cultural diversity. Because Port Orleans was considered an important trade center, it was crucial to establish a stable economic base which everyone could use. At first this was not an issue because the French franc was considered the chief currency of trade. This all changed when the Spanish acquired Port Orleans and decided to use Spanish currency.

Samuel and Mary Chatelaine, 1886.

The mostly French population of the city was suddenly left with large supplies of worthless money and within a week all commerce came to a screeching halt. The new Spanish Governor, Hector Cardenossa Miguelino Y Santiesteban realized that the economic strength of the city relied on having a steady flow of currency to keep it alive. He wisely decided to build a mint to produce the badly needed fuel of commerce. He granted an equal exchange of currency to all the residents.

Before long, the mint was printing on a 24-hour basis just to keep up with the demand. He had gotten the city back on sound commercial footing and what’s more, he developed a financial trade center that actually increased the prosperity of the entire region. The Bank of Port Orleans, founded by Maurice Chatelaine was one of the most active in all of Spain’s territories in the Americas. Then the Spanish lost the territory back to the French.

Once again the city was locked up and all commerce ceased. But this time the city had a built-in solution. The mint changed its plates and within the week was printing francs. Before long, Port Orleans became the main trading and commerce center for the entire region. When the city celebrated Mardis Gras, the mint produced commemorative coins for the various crews that paraded down the street. These intricate coins were valued by visitors for their unique illustrations and as keepsakes of their visit.

The coins were so sought after that the mint hired artists to design still more coins. Eventually, the orders for commemorative coins began to outstrip the demand for hard currency. This proved to be a fortuitous development for in 1823 the French sold the entire territory to the United States. The Louisiana Purchase rendered the mint obsolete as a producer of currency. The Bank of Port Orleans, however, remained as successful as ever and became the base of all commerce. Samuel and Mary Chatelaine, the great grandchildren of the original founder, purchased the bank in 1886, renamed it the Port Orleans Mint as an honorarium to its original history and continued the production of commemorative coins. Its presence would always serve as a reminder of the prosperity that it brought to the city.

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