Striking the Double Eagle
March 17, 2010 by Chip Wood
The first U.S. $20 gold piece was authorized by Congress 159 years ago this week. Exactly one year later, on March 12, 1850, the first of the famous “double eagles” was struck by the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia. It contained .9676 ounce of gold, which was then valued at $20.67 an ounce.
March 15 is the infamous “Ides of March.” As you’ll remember from reading “Julius Caesar” in high school, Caesar ignored the soothsayer’s warnings to stay in bed that day. He was stabbed to death in the Roman Senate by a gang of 60 conspirators, led by Marcus Brutus (“Et tu, Brute?”) and Caius Cassius.
This is also the week when everyone becomes Irish, at least for a day. That day, of course, is St. Patrick’s Day on March 17. Interestingly enough, the first St. Patrick Day’s parade was held, not in Ireland, as you might suppose, but in New York City 23 years before we became a country. Yep, the first parade took place in 1753. I didn’t even know that New York City had policemen that far back. Erin go bragh.
And finally, my favorite history story of this week took place in 1930, when the New York Yankees signed the legendary batsman Babe Ruth to what was then the largest contract in baseball history—$80,000 for two years. That sum will barely cover an inning of work by one of today’s all-star pitchers. Reporters asked Ruth how he could possibly think he was worth more than the President of the United States, whose two-year salary back then came to $75,000. “I had a better year,” the Babe replied. (1929 was definitely not a good year for President Herbert Hoover… or the country.)