Note: The following is the second in a series of columns on the origin of currency in the American colonies and Georgia.
The first coin intended for circulation in Britain's North American colonies was the brass coin known as the Sommers pence. It was minted in 1612 for the small group of islands that we now know as the Bahamas.
Then came the 1652 "pine tree pennies" from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. They were issued in shillings, sixpences and threepences but were "two-pence in the shilling of less value than the English coyne."
In 1690, King James II (followed by kings George I and II) coined the half-pence and pence for use in the colonies. They were coined in tin, which Parliament stated was good enough for "the outside barbarians."
Between 1722 and 1724, William Wood had coins engraved in England and struck in France for use in America. Minted in different denominations in both gold and silver, they were stamped "America."
The "Rosa Americana" series, so named because they featured the sign of both the houses of York (white rose) and Lancaster (red rose), traded for three-quarters the value of English coins.
A blacksmith named Higley, from Granby, Conn., made the first American coins in 1737. Higley struck four different variations of his copper coins from local copper, all of which showed a blacksmith at work.
In 1787, James Jarvis had 300 tons of copper coins struck in New Haven, Conn., on the orders of the U.S. Congress. They bore the legend "Fugio"("I fly").
The coins had the warning "Mind Your Business" on one side and the statement "We Are One" on the other. They were the first officially authorized coins of the new U.S. government.
In 1792, the first American silver 5 cent half-dime (or "half-disme") was struck by Philadelphia silversmith John Harper. In 1798, the first American 10 cent dime (or "disme") was struck at the new U.S. Mint.
The word "dollar" came from the "Thaler" coin of the Bohemian coin the "Joachimthaler." The Spanish "real" was also called the "milled dollar." It was often divided into "pieces of eight" or "bits." These pieces were then used as small change. In fact, the term "two bits" originally referred to two pieces of eight.
In 1792, Alexander Hamilton established the U.S. dollar as the basic unit of American currency. The new gold dollar contained 24.74 grains of gold, while the new silver dollar contained 371.25 grains of silver.
Louis Garnett first proposed the striking of an American "trade dollar," whose weight was changed so that it would remain equal in value to gold, silver and paper currency.
They were changed in 1869 and 1870, then again in 1871. In December 1872, the U.S. Congress permanently fixed the American silver dollar at 420 grains of silver.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. He provides a brief look at the area's historical past. Email Roger at email@example.com.