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CONTINENTAL PAPER CURRENCY, 1776
Philadelphia: Printed by Hall & Sellers, 1776
Loosely united in the midst of political revolution and war, the British colonies had no unity whatsoever in currency. Each colony began printing its own paper currency valued both in British-style pounds, shillings, and pence and in the universally familiar Spanish milled dollar. Each colony valued the Spanish dollar at wildly different rates.
In the early flush of independence, the Continental Congress decided to use currency as one indication of sovereignty by launching a standard currency for all the colonies. An emission totaling $4,000,000 payable in Spanish milled dollars, or the equivalent in gold or silver, was authorized by the congressional resolution of February 10, 1776. Of this, $1,000,000 was reserved for the first national fractional currency.
The front design on the fractional notes included the first use of the “FUGIO” (I fly) legend and sundial as well as the “Mind your Business” legend. The back showed the thirteen linked rings representing the colonies and the legends “We are one” and “American Congress.” These designs were created by Benjamin Franklin. The devices and border designs were cut by Elisha Gallaudet. On the fractional bills the dots in the corners of the front design reflected the denomination.
The first four emissions of Continental paper currency from May 10, 1775 through May 6, 1776, included a dollar bill. There was one signer, in red ink, on the fractional bills and two signers, using red and brown ink, on the dollar denominations. Counterfeit detectors for the dollar denominations were made on blue paper. The paper, made at Ivy Mills in Chester County, Pennsylvania, contained blue fibers and mica flakes.
On this bill is printed, “This bill entitles the bearer to receive three Spanish milled dollars, or the value thereof in gold or silver, according to a resolution of Congress, passed at Philadelphia, Nov. 2, 1776.”
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