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Mosler and Fort Knox

Mosler and Fort Knox. Since 1937, a Hamilton-made vault has protected much of the nation's gold stored in the United States bullion depository at Fort Knox, Ky. Mosler shipped the depository vault doors in June 1936. The $560,000 Fort Knox facility was completed in December 1936. The next month, the first gold arrived at the site about 30 miles southwest of Louisville. For obvious security reasons, some details of the Fort Knox depository haven't been revealed. Mosler sources said the main vault door weighed 20 tons, was 21 inches thick and had seven laminations of "the latest tool and torch resisting materials" which "are interlayed with cast and open hearth steel."

The two-level steel and concrete vault weighs nearly 30 tons, said the Bureau of the Mint. "The vault casing is constructed of steel plates, steel I-beams and steel cylinders laced with hoop bands and encased in concrete. The vault roof is of similar construction and is independent of the depository roof," noted a Mint press release. The Mosler vault is housed in what the Mint describes as a 105x121-foot "two-story basement and attic building of granite, steel and concrete."

Where was the nation's gold stored before Fort Knox was built? It wasn't.

Presidential edicts and legislation passed by Congress in 1933 and 1934 -- aimed at stabilizing the Depression-crippled economy -- changed the nation's monetary system, which had been based on gold coin currency. Between 1795 and 1933, the Mint had struck and circulated gold coins worth more than $4.5 billion. The Gold Standard Act of 1900 had made the gold dollar the standard unit of value in the United States. By the start of World War I in 1914, European nations followed the same standard. The complications of war weakened the system and Britain abandoned the gold standard in 1931 because of the worldwide Depression. Legislative and executive action led to the dismantling of the gold standard in the U. S. in 1933. In April, President Franklin D. Roosevelt placed an embargo on gold shipments. In June, the treasury recalled gold and gold certificates, and Congress ended the payment of debts, both public and private, in gold. At FDR's request, Congress enacted the Gold Reserve Act in January 1934. In nationalizing gold, it ordered Federal Reserve banks to turn in their gold supplies to the Treasury.

Under these measures, it became a criminal offense for Americans to own or hold gold coins, gold certificates and gold bullion. The right of citizens to demand gold in exchange for paper money was abolished. When the coins were melted, the Mint needed a place to store its hoard of 400-ounce gold bars.

That led to the building of the federal depository at Fort Knox. (See Mosler for company details.)

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