Note: The following is the fifth in a series of columns on the origin of currency in the American colonies and Georgia.
In 1694, Carolina Governor Arthur Dobbs ordered struck half-penny, one-penny and two-penny "Carolina" coins during the reign of William and Mary. They were worth four-fifths the value of English coins and were used as currency throughout the southern frontier, including the “Debatable Lands” of Georgia.
In Georgia, the "sola bills," the state's first bank notes, were printed for the trustees between 1735 and 1750 and were used to pay for supplies purchased by Georgia.
These certificates were redeemable either in Havana at a 40 percent discount or at 20 percent discount in England. Governor Oglethorpe also printed "military money notes" in 1734, which he used for small purchases in the colony.
The trustees also decided to supply the colony with specie. They sent a ship with one-half ton of half-pence coins, one ton of pence coins, 1,000 pennyweight of copper coins and 20,000 silver shillings in 1735.
In 1769, Georgia issued "bills of credit" with a very clear warning printed on them: "To Counterfeit is Death Without Benefit of Clergy." In 1771, Georgia issued bills to be used to encourage settlement.
Georgia next issued money beginning in 1776 "for the support of the Continental Troops." These certificates were hand-dated, numbered and signed by five prominent citizens.
Georgia printed 12,572 pounds sterling in notes in 1776, and in 1778, $150,000 of Georgia's $5 bills were printed for Revolutionary soldiers. They were to be guaranteed with assets from "seized Tory estates."
In 1794, the city of Savannah printed its own fractional currency. This "animal money" was designed with the understanding that many Savannahians couldn't read.
The act authorizing the bills stated: "The value of the coin is determined by the picture on the coin." A ship was worth 10 cents; a horse, 5 cents; a cow,
4 cents; and a dog, 2 cents.
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.
In 1861, the Confederacy began printing large amounts of Confederate Treasury notes. Most people refused to accept them in exchange for either gold or silver coins. Georgia state bills, however, still held their value.
In Georgia, the Confederate Treasury bills flooded the market. By 1865, nearly $1 billion worth had been printed. They became worth as little as $8 in Confederate bills for $1 in Georgia bills.
These notes, therefore, were used in many creative ways. Often called "shinplasters," the troops discovered that when mixed with mud and water, these bills made their ill-fitting boots much more comfortable.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. He provides a brief look at the area's historical past. Email Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.