The United States Bullion Depository, better known as Fort Knox or sometimes the “gold fortress,” carved quite a reputation, thanks to the imagination of TV developers, video game designers, novelists, conspiracy theorists, and even policymakers. “The world’s biggest bank,” as it used to be called, has had a rich history: it existed during the Gold Act, underwent numerous security changes, and housed several historical artifacts.
The Gold Act and Early Fort Knox
Constructed in the late 1930s in the midst of the United States’ worst economic depression, Fort Knox, which sits inside a 109,000 acre U.S. army post, serves as a warehouse for the gold bars owned (and, in many cases, taken) by the federal government and Federal Reserve System. Years earlier during the Gold Act, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in an unprecedented move, collected citizens’ gold and fashioned them into stackable bars weighing approximately 27.5 pounds. The government stored the gold in New York and Philadelphia initially; however, because it grew concerned that rising fascist powers in Europe might want to bomb the gold, it built a giant gold depository and military fortress at Fort Knox.
Fort Knox was chosen as the site because it was 1,000 miles inland, west of the Appalachian Mountains. At that time, the mountain range was considered a reasonable impediment to military forces approaching from the Eastern seaboard.
Fort Knox’s Structure and Security
Fort Knox is two stories high with one basement level. Engineers constructed it out of steel, poured concrete, and some granite as outer plating. Even in the 1930s, the defense systems at Fort Knox were considered first-class. Some early designers even called it “the most secure place on Earth,” according to Fort Knox historian Paul Urbahns.
Although the U.S. government updated security at Fort Knox over time, there were lax periods between major conflicts. Former employee Doug Simmons said that, during his time in the 1970s, “security at Fort Knox was mostly legend. It was old school stuff.”
However, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 became a turning point for Fort Knox security. Now, visitors are no longer allowed to take pictures of the cite, and the apparatus surrounding the building is wider and more heavily guarded.
Other Holdings at Fort Knox
Over the decades, the government decided to store other items in the confines of Fort Knox. The U.S. Constitution stayed there when it didn’t have a permanent home or when its display site was under construction. The Bill of Rights also visited Fort Knox for a short time, as did the British Magna Carta when the British feared that the Nazi might invade mainland England.
Is There Still Gold in Fort Knox?
To date, the U.S. government owns more gold than any other institution in the world (at least officially). The United States holds over 8,000 tonnes of gold, more than double that of second-place Germany, which owns 3,400 tonnes.
Official government figures state that Fort Knox holds 4,582 metric tons of gold, or more than $175 billion worth. However, there are disputes about whether Fort Knox actually holds what the government says it does. In 2010, CBS News ran a special inquiry into Fort Knox (prompted, in part, by Representative Ron Paul’s Audit the Fed bill, which would have forced a public audit of Fort Knox). CBS didn’t offer a definitive answer, but it did highlight challenges by the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee (GATA), which claims the Fed may participate in secret gold swap agreements with foreign banks.
It should be noted that Fort Knox does not hold all of the U.S. government’s gold. More than 1,000 tonnes of gold sit in government vaults in Denver. Thousands more scatter throughout other sites across the country.
The Government Doesn’t Trust Us With Gold
Gold bullion, a universally recognized symbol of wealth and value, is heavily protected in Fort Knox because it protects investors from inflation of fiat currencies. Fortunately, you can own real, physical gold bullion and store it in a tax-advantaged retirement vehicle. American Bullion can discuss your options and help you every step of the way.