In 1848, Alta California, the new territory acquired from the Mexican-American War, was very sparsely populated – only about 15,000 people lived there. After thousands of 49ers flocked west, just two years later, California became the 31st state. The huge amounts of money being found required new financial institutions, and President Fillmore signed for a new mint. The Legislature decided in April of 1852 that San Francisco would be the place for the new mint.
The government built a small, inadequate mint. When silver was struck in the mountains of Nevada, it was evident that a new mint was necessary for all coin supplies. Alfred Mullett designed numerous American governmental buildings, and planned the mint in the Greek Revival style. The basement’s outer walls were built with granite for coin storage to keep tunnel digging thieves out and to prevent against earthquakes and natural disasters. Granite was also used in the entrance stairs of the mint, and she was soon dubbed “The Granite Lady.”
In 1873, there was only one mint, in Philadelphia. The others around the country were branch mints. A new law effectively made all of the other mints, in New Orleans, Carson City, and San Francisco, their own mints, as well as abolished the silver dollar in favor of the paper dollar. Later the silver dollar retained a smaller circulation thanks to the silver output in the West and the S.F. mint as the center of silver coin supplies.