Fort Knox

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Fort Knox, a United States Army post, is the location of the largest United States gold bullion depository. Located about 31 miles southwest of Louisville, Kentucky, Fort Knox began as a post for army maneuvers in 1918 and was called Camp Knox. Its name was changed to Fort Knox in 1933. The post covers about 110,000 acres and is home to 57,000 residents. In addition to guarding the gold bullion depository, Fort Knox is famous for training armored divisions in the United States Army. Construction of the Fort Knox Bullion Depository was finished in 1936. Because of the security surrounding the depository, which lies in the middle of the military base, Fort Knox has become a universal symbol of an impregnable store of wealth. No tourists are allowed on the military base.

Early in the Great Depression of the 1930s the United States nationalized privately owned gold, and devalued the dollar from $20.67 per ounce of gold to $35 per ounce of gold. The rise in the price of gold triggered an inflow of gold into the United States, and by 1939 the United States had swept into its vaults over half of the world’s gold stock. The United States Treasury built the new gold depository at Fort Knox to help store its newly acquired gold treasure.

The Fort Knox Bullion Depository is a granite building constructed from 16,000 cubic feet of granite, 4,200 cubic yards of concrete, and 750 tons of steel for reinforcement. The legend United States Depository, engraved in gold, adorns a marble-lined entry, along with the gold seal of the Treasury Department.

Today the depository holds approximately 4,600 tons of pure gold with a market value of approximately $58 billion. The gold is stored in bars of 1,000 ounces each. Because gold does not deteriorate, gold in the vaults of Fort Knox could be hundreds of years old, probably including gold seized from the Aztecs and the Incas. Some of the gold that flowed into the United States from France in the 1930s was still in the wrappings that held the gold when the Jefferson administration had sent the gold to France to pay for the Louisiana Purchase. The United States government maintains smaller gold caches at West Point and in Denver.

The world’s largest hoard of gold is not stored at Fort Knox. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York maintains an air-conditioned vault about 80 feet below street level in the bedrock of Manhattan Island, New York. This Federal Reserve vault holds about 11,000 tons of gold at a market value of about $176 billion, accounting for about a third of the gold reserves in Western economies. The gold mostly belongs to foreign governments and foreign central banks that store the gold in New York as a matter of convenience. Some of this gold was shipped over on the eve of World War II for security, but much of it European governments purchased from the United States during the 1950s and 1960s, but kept in the United States to spare shipping costs. In 1971 the Page 121United States stopped redeeming dollars presented by foreign governments into gold.