This chapter studies colonial money, beginning
from the time of Columbus and his voyage to the New World.
|Europeans Settle in the New World|
Very early in the morning on October 12, 1492,
the lookout aboard the Pinta, one of three ships commanded by
Christopher Columbus, spotted land in the distance. After 10 weeks of
sailing into the unknown, Columbus had discovered a New World.
Later that same day, Columbus and his crew set
foot upon the island he
named San Salvador, thought by historians to be an island somewhere in
the modern day Bahamas, and laid claim to the finding on behalf of his
financial sponsors, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain.
Given a head start by Columbus, Spain quickly
explorers to the New World (although the two unfamiliar continents were
collectively named after an Italian, Amerigo Vespucci), laying claim to
enormous expanses in both North and South America.
The new Virginia settlement, named Jamestown,
was founded in the spring
of 1607. The colonists struggled for several years, being nearly wiped
out by poor planning and disease. Thanks largely to the leadership of
John Smith and the discovery of tobacco, the colony survived. Soon,
other English colonies took hold, such as in Plymouth (Massachusetts)
by the Pilgrims.
|The Beginning of American Money|
The story of American money began more than
three centuries ago. The
early settlers of New England relied heavily upon foreign coins for
conducting their day to day business affairs. At any given time, coins
from Europe, Mexico, South America, and elsewhere could be found in
The Spanish milled dollar and its fractional
parts were the principal
coins of the American colonists, and served as the model for our silver
dollar and its sub-divisions in later years.
We suggest that anyone wishing to engage in a
comprehensive study of
American money from the earliest days of wampum and beaver pelts to the
present day should obtain a copy of America's Money, America's Story,
by Richard Doty
(update: see below)
|Tensions Grow with the Mother Country|
Many of the first European transplants to the
English colonies retained
their Old World customs of class society and restrictions on religion,
education, voting rights, and individual freedom.
The British government looked to the American
colonists to start
shouldering a heavier burden of the empire's finances, in the form of
higher taxes. After all, British leaders reasoned, the colonies were
prosperous, benefiting from the sale of materiel to the British army
and navy, all the while enjoying the protection afforded by the same.
In early March, 1770, an angry demonstration
against British troops
quartered in Boston got out of hand. As the mob grew more fierce, the
Redcoats fired into the crowd, killing three and mortally wounding two
The colonists viewed the Tea Act as a slap
enterprise. What industry would be the next to be monopolized?
On September 5, 1774, delegates from all but one
of the thirteen
colonies (Georgia did not participate) met in Philadelphia for the
purpose of deciding what could be done to appropriately respond to what
they perceived as increasing hostility heaped against them by the
From the inception of the first American
settlements onward, Great
Britain failed to seriously consider the coinage problems mounting in
her colonies across the Atlantic.
The design simplicity on the NE coins was an
easy target for
counterfeiters, leading to the better known "Pine Tree" coinage, minted
from 1667-1682, though all bore the date 1652. This was to deceive the
British, who had raised objections about the "NE" coins of 1652, into
believing that colonial coins were discontinued beyond that year.
Willow and Oak tree coins also were struck.
We have attempted here to lay out a few of the
basics on American
colonial coinage, but if you're really interested in knowing more, we
believe there is simply no better reference than Walter Breen's Complete
Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins. The text and
marvelous illustrations explain the history of all American coins, from
the colonial era to modern times. Yes, it's expensive, but well worth
it. It's one of THE ultimate books of American coinage, a
resource used everyday by serious numismatists.
|U.S. Coins and History Chapters|
|The American Revolution|
|We the People|
|The Mint Survives Political Strife|
|A Rising Spirit of Nationalism|
|The Mint Branches Out|
|The Nation Drifts Toward War|
|The Money of the Civil War|
|The Reconstruction Era|
|More Chapters to Come ....|
|1||Allen, Jack, and John L. Betts. History:
New York, NY: American Book Company, 1967.
|2||Breen, Walter. Complete
Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins.
New York, NY: Doubleday Publishing, 1987.
|3||Brinkley, Douglas. History
of the United States.
New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, Inc., 1998.
|4||Doty, Richard. America's
Money, America's Story.
Sydney, OH: Amos Press, Inc., 1998.
|5||Jordan, Winthrop D., Miriam
Greenblatt, & John S. Bowes. The Americans.
Evanstan, IL: McDougall, Littell & Company, 1988.