Maureen Levine writes:
"In working on the upcoming Mike Coltrane North Carolina currency internet sale at Heritage Auctions, I did some research on the crow and pitcher vignette, one of the eight different types on the $1/2 Halifax series notes. To my knowledge, the origin and meaning of that vignette has not been discussed previously."
Maureen submitted the following article. Thank you! Images courtesy Heritage Auctions.
The Crow, the Pitcher, and the Pebble
What is the significance of the "crow and pitcher" vignette on the Halifax issue of North
Carolina currency, and where did the image originate? Unlike the Franklin motifs on Continental
Currency, it won't be found in arcane books of symbols and emblems. Instead, the source is
Aesop's fables, which were very popular in Colonial America. Thomas Jefferson referred to
various tales on more than one occasion, using them to illuminate current events.
Today, the general populace is still familiar with some of the stories, such as "The Tortoise and
the Hare" and its corresponding motto of "Slow and steady wins the race." But the story of "The
Crow and the Pitcher" is not widely known. Though there are different versions of the story, the
Library of Congress' Aesop's Fables for Children recounts the following fable:
"In a spell of dry weather, when the Birds could find very little to drink, a thirsty Crow
found a pitcher with a little water in it. But the pitcher was high and had a narrow neck,
and no matter how he tried, the Crow could not reach the water. The poor thing felt as if
he must die of thirst.
Then an idea came to him. Picking up some small pebbles, he dropped them into the
pitcher one by one. With each pebble the water rose a little higher until at last it was
near enough so he could drink."
The moral given in this online publication is, “In a pinch a good use of our wits may help us
out.” Other interpretations include, “Little by little does the trick,” and my favorite, “Necessity is
the mother of invention.”
Regardless of which lesson is imparted, the story provides meaning to the interesting “Crow and
Pitcher” motif. Before reading the tale, it was difficult to see the pebble in the crow's mouth.
Afterward, it's almost impossible to miss.
To read the complete fable (and more), see:
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