Dave Bowers and Dennis Tucker forwarded this interesting article published last week in The Virginia Gazette.
Colonial Williamsburg has acquired a large amount of cash, but it's not the kind the foundation can spend.
The collection of colonial paper currency was issued by North Carolina prior to the American Revolution.
Comprised of more than 6,600 notes in varying denominations issued between 1748 and 1771, the stash of cash was worth about 7,176 pounds sterling in 1775. If legal tender today, the currency would have purchasing power of more than $750,000.
Portions of the currency will be featured in a new coins and currency exhibit, “Dollars, Farthings & Fables: Money & Medals From the Colonial Williamsburg Collection,” opening in the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum on Nov. 24.
“As the only known hoard of pre-Revolutionary War colonial paper money, the Cornell Hoard is truly exciting,” said Erik Goldstein, Colonial Williamsburg’s curator of mechanical arts and numismatics. “Not only is the sight of such a huge pile of cash stunning, but it has much to offer students of early American coins and currency.”
Named the “Cornell Hoard,” the money was collected originally by Samuel Cornell, a transplanted New Yorker who became a wealthy merchant after moving as a young man to New Bern, N.C. in the mid-1750s. In addition to his activities as a merchant, Cornell also was involved in high risk currency speculation as evidenced by the hoard of colonial currency.
In 1769 as one of the wealthiest and most influential men in the North Carolina colony, Cornell underwrote the construction of a new governor’s house in New Bern — the Tryon Palace — with a loan to the government of £8,000 in “proclamation money,” or colonial paper currency, which helped earn him an appointment to His Majesty’s Council for North Carolina.
As an ardent Loyalist, Cornell seized another opportunity in 1771 to lend a lot of cash to North Carolina. He provided £6,000 to finance a military expedition to the western part of the colony to put down a small taxation rebellion. The skirmish became known as the Battle of Alamance, considering by some to be the opening salvo of the American Revolution. In addition to his loan, Cornell also sold £483 in supplies for the expedition to the colony.
On the eve of the Revolution, Cornell left New Bern and sailed for London in 1775. After two years there, he headed to British-occupied New York City. Before his death in 1781 at the age of 50, he was apparently able to transport his monetary cache to New York. His will, which specifically mentioned the “proclamation money of North Carolina,” left most of his wealth to his five daughters.
The bundles of currency apparently remained in the family until 1913 when it was offered, along with other Cornell papers to the New York Public Library, which published the letters as “Papers Relating to Samuel Cornell, North Carolina Loyalist.” The library, in turn sold the currency in its entirety to a dealer during the 1970s, who put half the collection up for sale. The other half, representing about 40% of Cornell’s original stash and the last remaining intact portion, is now part of the Colonial Williamsburg numismatic collection, the gift of an anonymous donor.
To read the complete article, see:
Colonial Williamsburg's latest buy: Money
Wayne Homren, Editor
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