March 17th is just around the corner, and that means St. Patrick’s Day festivities are soon coming as well. Originally celebrated as St. Patrick’s Feast Day since 1000 AD in Ireland, this Irish celebration was first officially treated as a burgeoning American holiday in 1762. Although it was intended as a day of solemnity upon its creation, a feast day in reverence on the day of St. Patrick’s supposed death, it has come to represent so much more around the world. Nowadays, St. Patrick’s Day is barely a holy celebration of the man; rather, it is a celebration of Ireland, its culture, and its mythos.
Four-leaf clovers, fairies, dressing in green, drinking copious amounts of beer: these seem to be the common characteristics that surround the yearly St. Patrick’s Day celebrations around the world. Yet there is one important character we have left out: the leprechaun and his pot of gold coins. We’ve all heard the mythos surrounding the Irish leprechaun—the little man dressed in green, waiting at the end of the rainbow with his pot of gold coins. He may even have a box of a certain children’s cereal hidden back there, too, with any luck.
But where did this legend come from? It originated as Irish folklore, where it was said that “fairies put a pot of gold coins at the end of each rainbow with leprechauns guarding it.” Irish folklore further states that there is one gold coin in the leprechaun’s pot for each year he has lived. With this in mind, it’s worth our while to consider the history of St. Patrick’s Day and how the value of gold coins has shifted since the holiday’s beginnings.
A Timeline of St. Patrick’s Day
1000 AD: It is believed that the Irish began celebrating St. Patrick’s Feast Day on March 17th out of reverence and solemnity on the supposed day of St. Patrick’s death.
1737: Boston, Massachusetts, which has a notable Irish population to this day, celebrates St. Patrick’s Day citywide for the very first time.
1762: The first St. Patrick’s Day parade is held in New York City, New York, marking its slow shift across the colonies.
1780: As President, George Washington declares March 17th to be an official holiday for the Irish. While not a reparation against the prejudice the Irish received in America, this was a mild sign of their acceptance into the country.
1792: The price of gold per-troy-ounce is evaluated for the first time by the U.S. Mint, putting its value at $19.39/oz.
1835: The price of gold rises slightly to $20.69/oz.
1870: The price of gold again rises, now to $22.88/oz, although the price would stagnate at $20.67/oz from 1879-1932.
1903: Ireland officially makes St. Patrick’s Day a national holiday.
1933: Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) enacts Executive Order 6102, making it illegal for citizens to possess/hoard gold coins, bullion, and certificates in the U.S.
1934: FDR passes the Gold Reserve Act, which requires the Federal Reserve to hand off all gold reserves to the U.S. Treasury.
1939: The price of gold sits now at $39.00/oz.
1948: President Harry S. Truman makes an appearance at the NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade, making a sign of concession toward the long-standing prejudice against the Irish in the U.S.
1965: The price of gold now sits at $35.00/oz.
1972: The price of gold has risen to $63.84/oz.
Dec. 1972: President Gerald Ford signs legislation that repeals FDR’s Executive Order 6102 of 1933, making private ownership of gold legal once again.
1973: The price of gold jumps to $106.48/oz.
1980: The price of gold increases up to $594.40/oz, but decreases, and then stagnates for the next decade.
1991: The United States declares the month of March to be dedicated to the history of the Irish-Americans.
2000: The price of gold has sunk down to $272.65/oz.
2005: The price of gold has returned to $513.00/oz and continues to astronomically rise in the coming years.
2008: The price of gold has risen to $869.75.
2012: Gold has nearly doubled in value, sitting at $1,644.00/oz.
If we’ve learned anything today, it’s that this leprechaun, with his hearty pot of gold, would have made out like a bandit had he managed to keep it safe at the end of the rainbow! And, if you’re wondering how he really made out or are thinking of offering a notable gift to a friend for St. Patrick’s Day, consider sticking with tradition and providing them with one of many gold coins of their own.
Patrick Smith says
Always love reading these articles. Thank you.
Nixon was still president in Dec. Of 1972, not Ford. Need to fact check that one .