Christopher Bechtler (1782-1843)

Jeweler, watchmaker, and gunsmith, Christopher Bechtler founded the most successful private mint in the eastern United States. During its peak production from 1831 to 1840, Bechtler’s North Carolina mint rivaled the output of the federal mints and was a significant stimulus to the economy of the state.

Updated: December 18, 2015

Introduction

Jeweler, watchmaker, and gunsmith, Christopher Bechtler (born November 29, 1782 in Brötzingen, Grand Duchy of Baden; died 1843 in Rutherfordton, NC) founded the most successful private mint in the eastern United States. During its peak production from 1831 to 1840, Bechtler’s North Carolina mint rivaled the output of the federal mints and was a significant stimulus to the economy of the state. The United States government’s decision to open branches of the federal mint in North Carolina and Georgia in 1838 caused the Bechtler mint to decline, but it continued to coin until the late 1840s.

Family and Ethnic Background

Christopher Bechtler was born on November 29, 1782, in the city of community of Brötzingen (now a ward in the city of Pforzheim) in the Grand Duchy of Baden (today part of the southwest German federal state of Baden-Württemberg), the son of Jacob and Rosina Barbara (née Eberle). Pforzheim had long been famous for its watch-making and jewelry industry, acquiring the nickname Goldstadt or Gold City. For generations the Bechtler family had been involved in the metalworking industries, and Christopher followed family tradition by becoming a jeweler, watchmaker, and gunsmith. Bechtler’s first wife, Sophia Dorothea Dreher died in 1806 and he later married Augusta Christina Dietz, with whom he had two children, Sebastian Augustus (1810-?) and Carl Christoph. After his second wife’s death in 1819, he remarried once again, this time to Wilhelmina Catherina Vierordt. Bechtler appears to have had at least two daughters resulting from his third marriage. Bechtler and Wilhelm Lentz, his brother-in-law from his first marriage, seem to have owned a business jointly in Pforzheim, and when Bechtler immigrated to America at the age of forty-seven he sold his share in the business to Lentz in return for an annuity to be paid to Bechtler’s third wife, who remained in Pforzheim with their daughters, for as long as Bechtler lived.

In 1829 Bechtler sailed from Le Havre, France, for the United States. He arrived in New York City in October, accompanied by his sons Augustus and Charles, and a nephew, Carl Christ Bechtler. The group immediately moved to Philadelphia where Christopher Bechtler set up shop as a jeweler and applied for citizenship. Carl Christ Bechtler changed his name to Christopher Bechtler soon after his arrival in America and was known in Philadelphia and elsewhere in America as Christopher Bechtler Jr. He married the German-American Sophia Fleck in 1830, with whom he had four sons and three daughters. In his application for citizenship Bechtler stated that he intended to make Philadelphia his home, but within a few months the entire family — Bechtler, sons Augustus and Charles, nephew Carl Christ (now known as Christopher Bechtler Jr.) and Carl Christ’s new wife Sofia — had moved to Rutherfordton, North Carolina.[1] On April 25, 1830, Bechtler purchased a tract of land in Rutherford County from John Bradley. Bechtler was not yet a citizen, so he could not hold title to the land. Instead, he conveyed the land to Martin Kibler, a German-American resident, to be held in trust for him until he became a citizen in July 1832.[2] Rutherford County had a substantial number of German immigrants, and Bechtler frequently availed himself of their assistance as translators and witnesses of legal transactions. Bechtler never mastered the English language, although he could communicate tolerably well in broken English.[3] On July 28, 1830, Bechtler placed an advertisement in the North Carolina Spectator and Western Advertiser announcing he was open for business as a “clock and watchmaker, jeweler, etc. in Rutherfordton.”

Several factors may have prompted Bechtler’s move from Philadelphia to western North Carolina. In 1830 North Carolina was in the midst of a gold rush, the first in the United States. Placer gold had been discovered in North Carolina by John Reed in 1799, but large scale mining operations did not begin until after 1825 when a gold bearing vein of quartz was found in a hillside. By 1830 the gold rush was at its peak, and North Carolina gold production was valued at more than half a million dollars per year (approximately $12.6 million in 2011$).[4] Some of this gold was sent to the federal mint in Philadelphia or shipped overseas, but much of it remained in the region, circulating as a medium of exchange in the form of gold dust or being diverted for use in the arts. The abundance of this raw material in the region and the economic boom the area experienced from mining had obvious attractions to a jeweler such as Bechtler. It may, in part, explain why he chose to settle in Rutherfordton, a town in the heart of the gold belt. It seems clear, however, that Bechtler himself caught gold fever and hoped to strike it rich. Upon buying his first tract of land, he immediately began prospecting on it with energy and persistence but little success. In 1837 visiting British geologist George Featherstonhaugh found Bechtler to be “a great enthusiast about gold mining” who had dug a tunnel at least 80 feet deep on his farm, although in Featherstonhaugh’s opinion the veins on his property were not promising.[5] Bechtler never gave up on his golden dream, expressing the hope in his last will and testament that “our ore will be found good.”[6]

Business Development

Bechtler’s first business activity in North Carolina was his watch and jewelry store in the town of Rutherfordton. Products sold included rings, earrings, necklaces, collar buttons, cufflinks, candlesticks, as well as watches and clocks. Bechtler did not aspire to be a mass market manufacturer. His products were high quality, finely crafted items, often custom made. The same vision guided his gunsmithing business, which evidently took place at his farm in the country. Known as a “first rate gunsmith” who produced “beautiful rifles and pistols” of innovative and sometimes curious design, Bechtler crafted repeating rifles capable of firing eight times a minute, and also made novelty items such as a “snuff box pistol,” a “walking stick rifle” and a twin-barrel pistol with the barrels facing in opposite directions. During his tour of Bechtler’s farm in 1837, Featherstonhaugh was so impressed with the firearms on display that he bought a rifle which Bechtler personally engraved with gold. Bechtler achieved local renown as a jeweler, watchmaker, and gunsmith, but the coining business he established would overshadow all of these other activities, becoming the most successful private mint in the eastern United States.

Although the U.S. Constitution prohibited individual states from coining money, until 1864 private minting of gold was not illegal so long as the coins produced did not imitate federal currency. In 1830 the only federal mint was in Philadelphia, and its output was woefully inadequate given the needs of the country. Gold dust was plentiful in the gold rush region but coins were scarce. Miners bartered raw gold to merchants for necessities, but without an assay its value could only be guessed, and the miners always suspected that merchants’ scales were biased. Shipping gold from backcountry North Carolina to the Philadelphia mint for coining was a long and difficult process, because of the ever-present danger of robbers along the way, accidents while fording streams, or storms at sea. Once the gold arrived in Philadelphia there were more delays before the gold was assayed and returned as coins. Starting in the late 1820s North Carolina congressmen led by Samuel Carson of Burke County worked to establish a branch of the federal mint in their state. In February 1831 a bill was introduced to establish assay offices of the U.S. Mint in the gold regions of North Carolina and Georgia, which opponents of the bill succeeded in shelving indefinitely in committee.

The denial of a branch of the federal mint to North Carolina provided an opportunity for a private mint to fill the void, and within a few months Bechtler seized that moment. He was not the first to mint coins in the South. The previous year Templeton Reid began coining gold in Milledgeville, Georgia.[7] However, a writer who signed himself “No Assayer” attacked Reid with a series of letters in a local newspaper, accusing him of violating the Constitution by minting coinage and, furthermore, by producing coins with low assays. Although the critic was wrong on the first point, assays at the Philadelphia mint did show that Reid coins had inconsistent gold content, in some instances as much as thirteen-percent low. Initially, Reid had only subjected the raw gold he received to a preliminary purification, or fluxing, which removed some of the gross impurities but did not remove copper, silver, and other metallic impurities. Reid assumed that the fluxed gold had a consistent and relatively high purity typical of the Georgia gold region and valued his coins on that assumption. The gold he received, however, was actually variable in composition and his valuations were therefore crude and inaccurate. After the newspaper attacks, Reid began refining gold more thoroughly and the quality of his coins improved, but those efforts were too late to repair the damage already done to his reputation. His mint shut down after only a few months of operation.

Bechtler must have known of the Georgia mint, since an article about Reid appeared in the local North Carolina newspaper in the summer of 1830.[8] Like Bechtler, Reid was a jeweler, gunsmith, watchmaker, and inventor of German descent, and his failure served as a warning to the North Carolinian. Before opening his mint, Bechtler took care to establish himself in the community, develop confidence in his character as a trustworthy businessman, and most importantly, line up powerful and influential men to support his endeavor. One of these was Roswell Elmer Jr., the editor of the North Carolina Spectator and Western Advertiser. Soon after arriving in Rutherfordton, Bechtler seems to have introduced himself to Elmer and wrote an article for the newspaper on assaying auriferous ores.[9] On July 2, 1831, Roswell published an editorial entitled “Gold Pieces” in the Spectator, promoting the opening of Bechtler’s mint. According to Roswell, Bechtler had “undertaken this enterprise at the suggestion of several gentlemen of the highest standing among our miners,” was “unquestionably a man of competent science and skill,” and “has the entire confidence of all who have had any acquaintance with him.” The gentlemen of high standing who encouraged Bechtler probably included Samuel Carson, the congressman who had been the driving force behind the attempt to set up an assay office in North Carolina. Sometime in 1830 Bechtler had made Carson’s acquaintance and had obviously impressed him. In January 1831 Carson introduced a bill to allow Bechtler to patent two gold washing machines he had designed even though he was not a U.S. citizen. Thanks to Carson’s intercession, “An Act for the Relief of Christopher Bechtler,” was approved in March 1831.[10] Bechtler also gained the support of North Carolina congressman Henry William Connor, who opposed the campaign for a branch mint. Speaking to voters in 1831 Connor passed around samples of Bechtler’s coins, saying that there was no need for a federal mint in the state, since private coinage answered the same purpose.[11]

Bechtler’s “Notice to Gold Miners & Others” appeared in the same issue of the Spectator that carried Elmer’s editorial. Bechtler announced his readiness to flux, assay, and stamp gold to any amount, making it into pieces of $2.50 and $5.00 value. (At some later point Bechtler began minting $1 gold pieces as well.) Unlike Reid, Bechtler proposed to convert raw gold into coins of 20 carat standard assay. Various rates were listed for fluxing or stamping gold, with a set fee of $1 for assaying. The response to this notice must have been encouraging, because the next month Bechtler posted a longer notice in the Spectator which promoted the financial advantages of coining, solicited business from South Carolina and Georgia as well as North Carolina, and gave a simpler fee structure for services.[12] Bechtler took pains to describe his assaying procedure, which he said would make deception or fraud impossible, and declared himself responsible for any short weights.

Table 1: Bechtler Mint Output From 1831 to 1840[13]
From To $ Coined $ Fluxed $ Total $ Coined/Day $ Fluxed/Day
Jan 1831  Dec 1834 109,732.50 316,643.20 426,375.70 90 258
Dec 1834  Dec 1835 695,896.00 569,266.40 1,265,162.40 2223 1819
Dec 1835 Aug 1836 471,322.50 317,928.00 789,250.50 2277 1314
Aug 1836 May 1838 770,239.50 160,912.80 931,152.30 1408 294
May 1838 Feb 1840 194,560.00 19,248.40 213,808.00 354 35

During the nine-year period from 1831 to 1840 Bechtler coined $2,241,750.50 (approximately $57 million in 2011$) and fluxed about $1,384,000 worth of gold (approximately $36 million in 2011$), a total of $3,625,750 (approximately $93 million in 2011$). To put these numbers in perspective, the total North Carolina gold production up to 1840 has been estimated at $10 million (approximately $260 million in 2011$).[14] Of this raw gold, about one third passed through Bechtler’s mint, either as coins or fluxed bars, more than the $3 million worth (approximately $79 million in 2011$) that was sent to the federal mints for coining. The amount processed by Bechtler is all the more remarkable considering that his mint did not begin operations until mid-1831, by which time the North Carolina gold rush had been underway for several years. In addition, the opening of branches of the federal mint in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Dahlonega, Georgia, in the spring of 1838 diverted much of the raw gold away from Bechtler’s mint. The variable development of the Bechtler mint is reflected in the average daily coining and fluxing output shown in Table 1. It is apparent that Bechtler’s mint did only a modest business during its first few years and was no doubt a part–time operation for the family. By 1835 coin production soared, remained high for three years, and then dropped precipitously after branches of the federal mint opened in the South. The delay in Bechtler’s mint achieving high output probably reflects the suspicion with which private mints were viewed by the public and the difficulty a minter had in establishing confidence in his business. When the first Bechtler coins appeared in Georgia in the fall of 1831, they received a disparaging review by a newspaper editor who referred to Bechtler as the Templeton Reid of North Carolina.[15] However, Bechtler’s name eventually became a by-word for integrity. George Featherstonhaugh recorded this account of how the mint came to prosper: “Bechtler… coined his gold into five dollar pieces, of the same intrinsic value as the half-eagles of the United States… he also coined pieces of the value of two dollars and a half, and stamped the value, as well as his own name, upon every piece that he coined. These, after a while, found their way to the Mint of the United States, were assayed, and found to be correct. This becoming known, all the gold finders in his vicinity — and indeed, from greater distances — began to bring their gold to his mint to be coined…. It would be in his power to take improper advantage of the confidence placed in him, but I heard of no instance of his having attempted this…. Bechtler’s maxim was, that honesty is the best policy, and that maxim appeared to govern his conduct.”[16]

In fact, the public accepted Bechtler’s coins in spite of official disapproval. Contrary to the popular belief recorded by Featherstonhaugh, assays at the federal mint in Philadelphia had not verified the value of the coins but rather had found their gold content to be “exceedingly irregular and inferior.”[17] Coins were as much as six percent below their stated value with an average loss of 2.5 percent. Nevertheless, Bechtler had established such confidence in his mint that nothing could shake the loyalty of his customers. In 1835 when a merchant in Salisbury, North Carolina complained that the federal mint had discounted the value of his Bechtler coins by 3 percent, a newspaper defended Bechtler saying, “May it not be that the error is in the Mint itself?”[18] Bechtler promptly wrote a letter to the editor, maintaining that his assays were correct and that the coins in question must have lost weight in handling, an explanation that satisfied the editor.[19] However, modern analyses of Bechtler coins have confirmed the findings of the Philadelphia mint.[20] This is not necessarily evidence that Bechtler was dishonest. His coins were of similar quality to the output of private mints in California during the gold rush there a decade later.[21] The nineteenth-century fire assay was an exacting process, and getting within three percent of the correct gold content seems to have been about as good as most private assayers could manage. However, it is worth noting that all of the American private mints erred by producing coins worth less than their stated value, not more. While this is the expected result of an inaccurate gold assay in which base metals are not completely removed, it also provided a rationale for aggrieved customers to accuse the assayer of lining his pockets at their expense and was the main reason private mints were viewed with such suspicion.

In the minting business, Bechtler was assisted by his son Augustus (1810–1843/44) and perhaps at times by other members of his family. Augustus seems to have lived with his father on the site of the mint. Bechtler’s son Charles may also have lived in the house for a time, but after his 1839 marriage Charles lived in an adjacent house with his wife and family. Bechtler’s nephew Carl Christ (known as Christopher Bechtler Jr.) probably lived in the town of Rutherfordton, where he operated the jewelry and watchmaking shop.[22] The Bechtler family, however, cooperated in all of these business activities. Although he may have been primarily involved with minting and gunsmithing on his farm, Bechtler also served as collections agent for his nephew’s business in town.[23] The minting work was labor intensive and during peak periods Bechtler and his son probably carried out the assaying and supervised several laborers who fluxed raw gold, rolled sheets, and cut and stamped planchets (known as coin blanks).[24] Some of these workers may have been slaves hired at wages or apprentices, of whom one was bound to Augustus in 1837. The income of the Bechtler mint is not known with certainty but the total income may have been as high as $75,000 during the period from 1831 to 1840 (approximately $2 million in 2011$), with total profits during this period in the order of $50,000 (approximately $1.3 million in 2011$).[25]

The efficiency of the Bechtler mint is indicated by comparison with the federal mint in Charlotte, North Carolina, which had an output comparable to Bechtler’s. The Charlotte mint was located in an imposing two-story brick building and had a staff of nine: a superintendent, an assayer, a coiner, a clerk, and five laborers. Constructing and furnishing the branch mint cost $62,000 (approximately $1.5 million in 2011$), and yearly expenses were $13,000 (approximately $300,000 in 2011$).[26] In contrast, Bechtler’s mint was described as a wooden shed built over the entrance to one of the gold mining tunnels on his property.[27] The structure was by no means a ramshackle affair, however, and his assaying lab was equipped with a latticework floor, which facilitated recovery of any gold dust that was dropped.

Since Bechtler produced coins solely for the purpose of exchange, they were not works of art. The designs were simple, and the lettering was uneven and sometimes engraved carelessly, but Bechtler gold pieces were accepted at face value in the gold region and were more common there than official coins of the United States. The infusion of currency into the region gave a significant boost to the economy. According to a report to Congress in 1833, “The upper part of North Carolina has very severely felt the pressure so generally complained of throughout the South. These difficulties are rapidly disappearing from the gold districts. The gold that is found and put into circulation, and the sums that are expended in making experiments, erecting machinery, procuring labor and provisions, are producing important changes and greatly improving the condition of the country.”[28] Migrants and traders carried Bechtler coins into neighboring states, as far west as Kentucky.

In July 1840 Bechtler signed a deed of gift transferring to his son Augustus his shop, tools, and the land surrounding it. In November of 1842 Bechtler wrote his last will and testament, which was clumsily translated into English by several friends.[29] He was optimistic about the future of his mint, instructing Augustus to invest part of his inheritance in the coining business. The mint evidently had a cash flow problem at this point, since Bechtler stated that Augustus needed the extra capital in order to advance money for business expenses, otherwise “he would have to coin every day.” Bechtler apparently died in early 1843. After his father’s death Augustus continued the minting business. Coins made under Augustus’ supervision were of higher quality both in appearance and assay (only 1.5 percent below stated value), indicating that Augustus was a better craftsman and metallurgist than his father. Augustus outlived his father by only about a year, dying in late 1843 or early 1844, and the family business went to Charles, who himself died in 1846. All three of the Bechtlers lived on the property adjacent to the minting business, and their deaths in such short succession have raised suspicions that they died because of exposure to the toxic chemicals used to process the gold. The Bechtler property passed to Carl Christ (Christopher Bechtler Jr.), who may have abandoned minting, though there is some evidence that he was coining as late as 1849. He lived in Rutherfordton until at least 1857, but by 1860 he had moved to Spartanburg, South Carolina, where he opened a jewelry store.

Personality and Social Development

Christopher Bechtler was a man of imagination and ability in many areas. He was an inventor who designed and patented gold washing equipment, a gunsmith who crafted rifles and pistols which were considered works of art, and an entrepreneur who founded the most successful private mint of his day. Bechtler’s imagination sometimes got the better of him. Confident that a rich gold mine lay beneath his land, Bechtler spent much time and money searching fruitlessly for it. Besides prospecting for gold on his farm, Bechtler bought five tracts of 640 acres in 1832 and 1833, and smaller tracts on other occasions, probably in the hope that gold would be found on them. Featherstonhaugh noted that Bechtler’s speculative pursuits caused tension in his family: “It appeared to me that he was in some danger of wasting the fair profits of his industry upon impracticable schemes, many of which his son did not approve of.”[30]

The profits of the Bechtler mint during its peak period of production from 1831 to 1840 may have totaled about $50,000 (approximately $1.3 million in 2011$). This was a substantial sum, but hardly a fortune, particularly since it was shared with other family members working at the mint. Even considering his other income from his work as a gunsmith, jeweler, and watchmaker, Bechtler would probably have been considered to be well off rather than wealthy by his neighbors. Census records show that he owned three slaves in 1840, a woman and two young children, evidently domestic servants. In 1850 a quarter of North Carolina families owned slaves, and of these, thirty-four percent owned between two and four.[31] These statistics support the portrait of Bechtler as a prosperous businessman living relatively modestly. By the end of his life, Bechtler was renowned and respected in the gold region, considered to be a clever inventor, a fine craftsman, a man of integrity, and a “famous coiner.”

Although Bechtler’s wife and daughters did not accompany him to America, he cared about them and provided for them in his last will and testament. Concerned that his wife would lose her annuity upon his death, he directed Augustus to use part of his inheritance for her benefit. He also directed that any profits from mining on his farm would first be used to secure his wife’s finances, with the remainder to be divided equally among his children.

Bechtler intended to become an American. He applied for citizenship upon arriving in the United States and took the oath of allegiance along with his son Augustus as soon as the requirement of the two-year residency period had been satisfied. Bechtler was a founding member of the Rutherford Presbyterian Church in 1834, and his son Augustus and nephew Christopher became elders there. Although Bechtler never mastered the English language, he Americanized as well as he could, given his age and the stage of his career when he relocated to the United States.

Immigrant Entrepreneurship

Without the assistance of the German-American community, Bechtler could not have started his mint. Bechtler relied on German-Americans to assist him in buying the land on which he built the mint, and they served him as translators and no doubt helped him in other ways. Without the support of all well-established men in the community as a whole, however, the business would not have succeeded either. Men such as Congressman Samuel Carson and newspaper editor Roswell Elmer Jr. were essential in attesting with confidence to Bechtler’s integrity, which allowed him to establish his business and enabled the mint to thrive. Templeton Reid, Bechtler’s contemporary, had failed to reach out to the leaders of his community and as a result he had to close his mint after critical comments were published in a local newspaper concerning his coins’ quality. When similar comments about the lower-than-acceptable value of his coins were levied at Bechtler, he could count on support within the community and counter those claims because of the reputation he had built and the public’s trust in his integrity.

Conclusion

In opening a private mint, Bechtler planned well — locating in the heart of the gold region, lining up support beforehand, promoting his business in the local newspaper, and operating his business with a disarming transparency which instilled confidence in his customers. Although effective as an entrepreneur in the coining business, Bechtler unwisely invested much of his profits in speculative gold prospecting, a risky activity in which he had no experience, which meant that, almost inevitably, his efforts in this regard were expensive as well as unsuccessful.

Notes

[1] Christopher Bechtler naturalization papers, typed copy of Rutherford County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions Minutes, 1832–1833, Broad River Genealogical Society, Inc., Shelby, NC, 42.

[2] Martin Kibler to Christopher Bechtler, Rutherford County Deeds, Book 43, 250–251, Rutherford County Courthouse.

[3] Thomas G. Walton, Sketches of the Pioneers in Burke County History, (Easley, SC: Southern Historical Press, Inc., 1984), 38.

[4] All 2011 financial figures are based on the Consumer Price Index values given by Samuel H. Williamson, "Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1774 to present," MeasuringWorth, 2011.

[5] George W. Featherstonhaugh, A Canoe Voyage up the Minnay Sotor (London: Richard Bentley, 1847), 330, 339.

[6] Christopher Bechtler’s last will and testament. Rutherford County Wills, February 1844, Record of Wills, Book E, 122–123.

[7] Dexter C. Seymour, “Templeton Reid, First of the Pioneer Coiners,” The American Numismatic Society Museum Notes, 19, (New York: The American Numismatic Society, 1974), 225–266.

[8] North Carolina Spectator and Western Advertiser, August 13, 1830, 3.

[9] North Carolina Spectator and Western Advertiser, May 7, 1830, 3. The article is signed “B.”

[10] All records of Bechtler’s designs for gold washing machines were destroyed by a fire at the patent office in 1836.

[11] Charlotte Journal, July 24, 1835, 1.

[12] North Carolina Spectator and Western Advertiser, August 27, 1831, 3.

[13] Merchants’ Magazine, 11, July 1844: 62–65.Table assumes $0.80/dwt for fluxed gold.

[14] Ibid, 64.

[15] Seymour, “Templeton Reid,” 246–247.

[16] Featherstonhaugh, Canoe Voyage, 329–330.

[17] Rodney Barfield, “The Bechtler Mint,” in Gold in History, Geology, and Culture, eds. Richard F. Knapp and Robert M. Topkins (Raleigh: North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Division of Archives and History, 2001), 147–162, here 158.

[18] Charlotte Journal, July 24, 1835, 3

[19] Ibid, August 14, 1835, 3.

[20] Barfield, “The Bechtler Mint,” 158–159.

[21] B. W. Barnard, “The Private Coinage of Gold Tokens in the South and West,” South Atlantic Quarterly 16 (April 1917), 163.

[22] The identities of the three Bechtler households may be deduced from 1840 U.S. Census records for Rutherford County, NC.

[23] North Carolina Spectator and Western Advertiser, January 7, 1832.

[24] If the distribution of coins produced by Bechtler approximates that of the 149 coins in the collection of the North Carolina Museum of History (66% $1, 8% $2.50, 38% $5), then the Bechtler mint was producing 784 coins per day during its peak period from December 1834 to August 1836.

[25] The fees Bechtler listed in Spectator ads beginning August 27, 1831, are as follows: coining, 2.5%; fluxing 400 dwts or less, $1; assaying 1000 dwts or less, $1; no charge for assaying gold to be coined. Applying these fees to the production figures given for 1831–1840 with the assumption that all fluxed gold was assayed gives a calculated income of $62,099 if conservative figures of quantities fluxed and assayed are used, in other words lots of 400 dwts fluxed, lots of 1000 dwts assayed, no coined gold fluxed by Bechtler. If we assume smaller average lots of 200 dwts fluxed and 400 dwts assayed, and assume all coined gold was fluxed by Bechtler the income would be $83,029. The average of these figures is $74,726. Bechtler and his son Augustus would probably have acted as assayers and supervisors over a staff of about five laborers who carried out the fluxing and rolling gold, and cutting and stamping planchets. Wages for unskilled manufacturing labor at the time were about $150 per year; the Charlotte Mint paid workers $300 per year. Income minus labor costs were $74,726 − $6,750 = $67,976 if the lower wage figure is used, or $74,726 − $13,500 = $61,226 if the Charlotte Mint wage scale is used; average = $64,601. Costs for equipment and materials were probably minor, since the Bechtlers were skilled metalworkers and already owned or could make most of their own equipment. Allowing for the costs for chemicals used in gold assaying and alloying (flux, mercury, lead, copper, etc.) and other miscellaneous expenses a profit of about $50,000 for the years 1831–1840 seems plausible.

[26] Clair M. Birdsall, The United States Branch Mint at Charlotte, North Carolina, (Easley, SC: Southern Historical Press, Inc., 1988), 5–17.

[27] William B. Bynum, The Bechtler Mint Site: A History of the Site and an Analysis of the Bechtler’s Activities There, (Rutherfordton, NC: Hilltop Productions, 1989), 12–19. The monograph was commissioned by the Rutherford County Historical Society.

[28] Fletcher M. Green, “Gold Mining: A Forgotten Industry of Ante-bellum North Carolina,” The North Carolina Historical Review, 14.1 (January 1937), 1–19, 135–155, here 137.

[29] Bechtler’s last will and testament. Rutherford County Wills, February 1844, Record of Wills, Book E, 122.

[30] Featherstonhaugh, Canoe Voyage, 330.

[31] John H. Wheeler, Historical Sketches of North Carolina from 1584 to 1851 (Baltimore: Regional Publishing Co., 1964), 56.

Cite this Entry

APA Style

"Christopher Bechtler." (2017) In Immigrant Entrepreneurship, Retrieved February 28, 2017, from Immigrant Entrepreneurship: http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entry.php?rec=15

Chicago Style

Stevenson, William. "Christopher Bechtler." In Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, vol. 1, edited by Marianne S. Wokeck. German Historical Institute. Last modified December 18, 2015. http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entry.php?rec=15

MLA Style

"Christopher Bechtler," Immigrant Entrepreneurship, 2017, Immigrant Entrepreneurship. 28 Feb 2017 <http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entry.php?rec=15>

Christopher Bechtler Portrait, 1975

  • Christopher Bechtler Gold Press, n.d.
  • Die for stamping $5 Bechtler coins, ca. 1840-1850
  • Single-barrel percussion pistol, likely made by Christopher Bechtler Sr.’s son, Augustus Bechtler, ca. 1840
  • Bechtler one dollar gold coin, obverse and reverse, ca. 1830

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