The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 20, Number 54, December 31, 2017, Article 12


Mobilitate Viget ferryboat

Tom DeLorey writes:

The boat on the ferry boat chit has neither a side paddle wheel nor a stern paddle wheel, which implies either that it has a screw propeller or that the engraver was woefully incompetent. Assuming it has a screw propeller, that dates it to after 1835, when the first patents for such were filed in England. From what Wikipedia says, the concept did not gain acceptance until 1839, which dates it further.

Any chance it ran up the Hudson River to Albany, or even (though less likely) on the Erie Canal? I know nothing about it, but for some reason my first impression was that it was a canal boat.

Julia Casey writes:

I came across an explanation in: New York City Small Change Bills of 1814-1816 by Eric P. Newman in the Proceedings of the Coinage of the Americas Conference at The American Numismatic Society, New York City, 1985.

Here's a lengthy excerpt from the article. -Editor

DeWitt Clinton, Mayor of the Corporation of the City of New York, announced to its Common Council on August 29, 1814 "that there was at present existing in this City a great pressure for small change" and he urged "the issuing by this Corporation of notes of small amount to obviate this difficulty." The silver and copper coins which customarily were used by the public in the markets and stores had been withdrawn from circulation by merchants and banks because of uncertainties arising by the continuation of the War of 1812. Accordingly a sum of $5,000 in small change notes was authorized, backed by the faith and credit of the Corporation of the City of New York, the highest denomination not to exceed 12 1/2 cents. On September 12, 1814, John Pintard was selected to sign the bills, and the amount was increased from $5,000 to $25,000 with denominations of 25 and 50 cents also approved.

The circulation of small change bills was so successful and well accepted by the public that the Common Council approved $25,000 more on November 21, 1814, and another $50,000 on December 26, 1814, raising the total to $ 100,000 by the end of the year. This was just the beginning.

With denominations ranging from 1 cent to 75 cents, one-half million bills had to be printed, cut apart and signed. On December 26, 1814, Thomas Franklin was authorized to join John Pintard in signing the bills. At the same time a fund for the redemption of the bills was created; the fund to be added to as bills were issued and to be invested by the Finance Committee and the Comptroller in interest bearing securities...

The wear and tear on small change bills used by the public primarily in the food markets was substantial. The dirt from handling grain, produce, poultry, animals and meat, the conduct of business on unpaved streets in snow and rain, and the stuffing of small paper money into pockets of buyers and sellers resulted in the money rapidly becoming dirty, torn, unreadable or worn out. Within two and a half months after the bills were first authorized, arrangements were approved for the city to receive worn out bills and to cancel them. The condition in which the known examples of bills are usually found attests to the difficulty of keeping reasonably clean, undamaged bills in circulation.

Backs were printed only on the 4, 6, 9 and 12 1/2 cent denominations. The denominations of 12 1/2 cents and below are first dated December 26, 1814. Bills of 25, 50 and 75 cent denominations had been issued dated September 12, 1814, which was the date of authorization of the 25 and 50 cent bills, but the 75 cent bill was not mentioned in the Council minutes until November 20, 1815, which was over one year after the 75 cent bills were in circulation. Whether this omission of authorization was an error in transcription is unimportant as no one complained. The bills of 25, 50 and 75 cents were printed on bank note paper and were about 5 inches wide and 2 1/4 inches high. They had blank backs and contained both a printed plate number and a handwritten serial number. All denominations of bills were signed by hand in ink by an authorized signer, of which there were eventually four.

The denominations on bills of 12 1/2 cents or less are printed vertically on each side of the face of the bill, reading upward on the left side and downward on the right side. For this vertical portion each denomination has a different type font. Only 9 and 12 1/2 cent bills have denominations printed on their backs.

The printers named on the small change bills were T. & W. Mercein, 93 Gold Street; T. & J. Swords, 180 Pearl Street; and J. M., 25 Van Dam Street, all of New York City. The only identification of J. M. located in New York City directories of the period is "Miller, John, carpenter, 25 Van Dam." The known plate letters on the bills of 25 to 75 cents range from A to S (including Dd) so that a substantial number must have been printed on one sheet. The observed printed dates on small change bills are September 12, 1814; December 26, 1814; July 3, 1815; January 3, 1816; and July 1, 1816. The size of the 12 1/2 cent and under denominations of the July 1, 1816 issue is slightly smaller than the size of prior similar issues, being about 2 3/8 by 1 5/8 inches and the layout of the text also differs slightly from prior issues.

1814 New York City scrip Four Cents The Decorative Backs
The insignia and mottoes on the backs of the small size notes of 4 to 12 1/2 cents are true "folk art." The development of steam navigation on the Hudson River is featured on the back of the 4 cent bills with an illustration of a steamboat and the motto MOBILITATE VIGET (It thrives through speed);

So, it's not a ferry boat ticket after all, but small change scrip.

It's truly miraculous how E-Sylum readers can come up with spot-on answers to the most obscure numismatic questions imaginable. It's as if we have an angel in heaven looking out for us. Thanks Tom, Julia, ... and Eric! -Editor

To read the complete article, see:

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: DECEMBER 24, 2017 : Ferry Boat Ticket Information Sought (

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Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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