Upon the discovery of gold in California, a great exodus of Oregonians joined in the hunt for the precious metal. Soon, returning gold seekers offered their gold dust, which became the accepted medium of exchange. As in other Western areas at that time, the uncertain qualities of the gold and weighing devices tended to irk the tradespeople, and petitions were made to the legislature for a standard gold coin issue.
On February 16, 1849, the territorial legislature passed an act providing for a mint and specified five- and ten-dollar gold coins without alloy. Oregon City, the largest city in the territory with a population of about 1,000, was designated as the location for the mint. At the time this act was passed, Oregon had been brought into the United States as a territory by act of Congress. When the new governor arrived on March 2, he declared the coinage act unconstitutional.
The public-spirited people, however, continued to work for a convenient medium of exchange and soon took matters into their own hands by starting a private mint. Eight men of affairs, whose names were Kilborne, Magruder, Taylor, Abernethy, Willson, Rector, Campbell, and Smith, set up the Oregon Exchange Company.
The coins struck were of virgin gold as specified in the original act. Ten-dollar dies were made slightly later, and were of finer design and workmanship.