Uncle Sam's buried treasure


The 1937 Flood disrupted many lives and events, and one of those events was the transfer of $5.52 billion dollars worth of gold from the Philadelphia Mint and the New York Assay Office (the last public gold refinery in the U.S.) to the newly built U.S. Gold Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Ky.

In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order requiring Americans to sell their gold coins to the Federal Reserve in exchange for bank notes. As a result, the U.S. gold reserves tripled, and the Treasury Department wanted a central, more secure facility to store the country's assets.

The depository, more commonly called Fort Knox, was completed at the end of 1936, and the Treasury Department immediately brought in five railroads for a number of conferences to determine how the gold would be moved. The officials decided that specially reinforced U.S. mail cars would transport the gold bullion as registered first-class mail.

On January 12, 1937, the first special left Philadelphia and headed to Kentucky, with four out of the nine railroad cars carrying $98,000,000 worth of gold. Thirty-two armed soldiers on board guarded the train. The L&N RR picked up the gold train at Cincinnati from the Pennsylvania RR and took it to Louisville where, early morning on the 13th, it was handed over to the Illinois-Central RR. A dummy train preceded the gold train, in case potential robbers had tampered with anything along the route. Once at Fort Knox, the gold bars were unloaded and trucked a short distance to the bomb-proof underground vault.

The gold trains were scheduled to run from Philadelphia and New York City to Kentucky between January and April. A second train carrying gold worth $120,000,000 made it to Fort Knox on January 20th, but starting January 21st, the rising floodwaters covered the railroad tracks on the gold train's route and temporarily stopped the transfers. The next train left New York City on February 18th, and the project was completed in June.


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