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CURRENCY: Notes Printed by Paul Revere


 
Four Shillings Six Pence
December 7, 1775


Colony of Massachusetts Bay, second "Sword in Hand" issue, engraved and printed by Paul Revere. Some £75,000 was authorized for this issue, a continuation of the first issue of this type from the previous August. Revere simply altered the original plates to change the date and denominations as needed. This note has seen heavy circulation and has been split at its centerfold, then sewn together with contemporary fine silk thread, possibly as a memento of the Revolution, because of the patriotic design on its reverse. Although the serial number and signature of Joseph Wheeler are faint from wear, most of the text and the iconic design on the back remains readable.

Joseph Wheeler, who signed this note, graduated from Harvard in 1757, taught school, and served as an ordained minister before becoming active in his town's government. He served as assessor, clerk, and Town Meeting moderator. He was a prominent Patriot, representing the town of Harvard at Provincial Congresses in 1774-1775. In April, 1775, Wheeler was among those who responded to the alarm in Lexington. He spent several weeks at Washington's headquarters, and tradition has it that he was chaplain to Washington, and assisted with the fortifications at Bunker Hill. He held many town, country, and State posts at various times, during and after the Revolutionary War.


 
Nine Pence
October 18, 1776


In October, 1776 Massachusetts passed an Act providing for an issue £75,000 in legal tender bills, to be printed by Paul Revere and Nathaniel Hurd. This is the first so-called "Codfish" issue, by Paul Revere, who engraved the copper plates for twelve lower denominations (below six Shillings). Reverse also completed work that Hurd started on the higher denominations, and printed the face side of the bills. John Gill printed the backs.
 

Jonathan Hastings House, Cambridge
The signer of this note, Jonathan Hastings, was a Patriot who contributed the use of his home for the Revolution to the Committee for Public Safety. General Artemas Ward, Commander of the New England militias that assembled on Cambridge Common (following the April 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord) used Hastings' house as his headquarters throughout the Siege of Boston. Eighteen hundred Continental soldiers assembled there in June, 1775 before marching on to Bunker Hill.
Six Pence
October 16, 1778


In October, 1778 Massachusetts passed an Act providing for an issue £28,000 in legal tender bills of credit. They were to be issued to replace older notes that had become torn or defaced, and payable by October 18, 1784 from the State treasury in "lawful money" (abbreviated "LM" on the face of the notes). Since Paul Revere still had the copper face plates for the first so-called "Codfish" issue he had engraved back in 1776, he simply re-dated them for the printing of the 1778 issue. However, only £8,000 worth could be printed, because the plates had become worn, and were inadequate for printing the number of bills needed. Revere engraved new plates with a different design (the "Rising Sun" type, of 1779) for the remaining £20,000 that was authorized by the Act.

In addition to engraving the plates, Revere printed the face side in his shop. The backs were printed separately, by Thomas Fleet, who re-used Nathaniel Hurd's cast cuts of a pine tree (originally used for the 1776 issue), while changing the typeface, and adding border designs. Unlike many others, this note is boldly printed and well centered, with clear details, including the distinctive "Codfish" vignette at the top, and this denomination is scarcer than most others of the issue.

Colonel Thomas Dawes, circa 1806
This portrait of the signer, Colonel Thomas Dawes depicts him holding a book by Andrea Palladio, a 16th-century Italian architect, whose published works spread classical architecture throughout Europe and America. Famous as "Boston's patriot architect," Dawes was born in Boston, 5 August 5. 1731 and died there, January 2, 1809. He was a major figure in Boston's architectural and political history (John Hancock one of his best friends). As an architect, Dawes worked on many famous buildings' designs or renovations, including the Old State House, Faneuil Hall, the New State House, and several buildings at Harvard University. He was active during the American Revolution, serving as a colonel of the Boston regiment from 1773 until 1778. His activity angered the Royalists, resulting in his mansion on Purchase Street (next to that of Samuel Adams) being sacked by British soldiers. Dawes often presided at the town meetings of Boston, and after the Revolution, he served as Representative, Senator, Councilor, Presidential Elector, and Deacon of the Old South Church.

George Washington, by Gilbert Stuart
The artist who painted Dawes was none other than Gilbert Stuart, who painted many famous Americans, and whose third (and unfinished) portrait of George Washington has appeared (since 1869) on the US Dollar bill.

King’s Chapel Burying Ground
Dawes was buried at King’s Chapel Burying Ground, the earliest cemetery in Boston, where John Winthrop, first Governor of Massachusetts, was buried in 1649. The obelisk shown in the photo gives a clear indication of how important the signer of this note was at the time of his death. If you have ever been to Boston, you have seen this.

 
Five Shillings, 1779

The "Rising Sun" issue of £20,000 in bills of credit was part of the previous issue of October 16, 1778 but payable by December 1, 1782. The front of these bills was made from a newly created plate by Paul Revere depicting the sun rising. On each denomination the scene and borders are slightly different. Paul Revere printed the face of the bills. The back was typeset by Thomas Fleet in Boston, who reused the cast cuts of the pine tree previously used for the 1776 and 1778 "Codfish" issues. Revere's original copper plate, with the front of all twelve denominations survives in the Massachusetts State Archives.

The American Antiquarian Society and the Massachusetts Historical Society both have restrikes of the plate. The Historical Society also has a presentation proof copper plate of the printed back of all twelve denominations. On the back of the plate is written "Presented to Mr. Thomas Fleet the printer 14 Septem. 1799." Also, the Chamberlain Collection in the Boston Public Library has Revere's handwritten bill to the state for £713 6s8d for the engraving and printing of this issue.

Signed by Richard Cranch (1726-1811) of Braintree, who graduated from Harvard College in 1744, and was a watchmaker, legislator, and a jurist. He was a representative from Braintree to the Constitutional Convention in 1788; Representative to the Mass. General Court 1778-1782, 1786; member of the Mass. Senate 1787; Justice of the Suffolk County Court of Common Pleas 1779-1793, and Postmaster at Quincy 1794. He married Mary Smith of Weymouth, the sister of Abigail Smith, who married John Adams, and thus he became the brother-in-law of John Adams.


 
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