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The E-Sylum: Volume 13, Number 47, November 21, 2010, Article 6

EXHIBIT: MONEY & MEDALS FROM THE COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG COLLECTION

Erik Goldstein, curator of Mechanical Arts and Numismatics at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation forwarded this press release about their new exhibit featuring the Cornell hoard of colonial currency discussed in earlier E-Sylum issues. -Editor

Colonial Williamsburg North Carolina currency hoard A new Colonial Williamsburg exhibition showcases the “Cornell Hoard” —more than 6,600 pieces of colonial currency squirreled away by a North Carolina loyalist prior to the American Revolution — and other fascinating examples of coins and paper money from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s extensive numismatics collection.

“Dollars, Farthings & Fables; Money & Medals From the Colonial Williamsburg Collection” opens Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 25 at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and explores facts and falsehoods, realities and rumors associated with money including the Founding Fathers and the origins of the dollar.

“Many people collect coins as tangible links to distant times and places,” said Erik Goldstein, curator of mechanical arts and numismatics. “Our collection spans 1,000 years, providing period images of a wide array of people, places and things. Within it, there are datable depictions of famous people, art, architecture, nature, industry, historical events, and even patriotic and moral symbols.”

1702 French Ecu 1726 Brazilian gold coin

The exhibition contains examples of the extremes in money circulating in colonial and Revolutionary America: the largest coin — an 18th-century French ecu nearly two inches in diameter — to the smallest — a 17th-century English halfpenny; from the largest denomination — an 18th-century Brazilian gold coin worth 20,000 reis — to the smallest denomination — an English farthing worth one-quarter penny; from the prettiest coin — a 17th-century Dutch ducaton — to the ugliest — a 17th-century Bolivian “cob” coin worth four reales.

Several firsts in American paper money populate the exhibition. The first “greenback” is a £6 note issued in 1757 by the New Jersey colony. It was the first bill to sport a back side printed in green ink. The first one dollar bill appears as a 1767 issue in the Maryland colony, and first $100 bill was issued in 1779 by the independent state of South Carolina.

The exhibition also lays to rest several popular myths about money including the real price the Dutch paid for the island of Manhattan in 1626, the real truth about George Washington’s famous coin toss and a popular myth about coins that protected the holder from witchcraft.

“Dollars, Farthings & Fables; Money & Medals From the Colonial Williamsburg Collection” is the fifth new exhibition opening during the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum’s silver anniversary year and will remain on view through December 2012. Admission is by Colonial Williamsburg admission ticket, Museums ticket or Good Neighbor Card.

Erik Goldstein adds:

The notes remained with the Cornell family until 1913 when they went to the New York Public Library. They were then sold to a dealer (I believe it was Dick Picker) in the 1970s. I believe all the other notes are now scattered to the far corners of the globe!

Kay O. Freeman adds:

Samuel Cornell silver basket Samuel Cornell (1731-1781) spent some of his money on silver made by Myer Myers (1723-1795), one of the best and most sought after silversmiths in America. This basket dates from the 1770s. It is currently in the collection of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Other silver pieces Myers made for Samuel Cornell are a pair of wine coasters, a dish ring (Yale Art Gallery), coffee pot (Museum of the City of New York), and a cann (Wadsworth Atheneum). "Cann" is an early term for drinking cup with handle and bulging lower body (mugs have straight sides; beakers no handle; tankards have lids). Specialized terminology - just like numismatics!

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: MORE ON THE NORTH CAROLINA COLONIAL CURRENCY HOARD (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v13n46a08.html)

Wayne Homren, Editor

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