Massachusetts: October 18, 1776 - Codfish
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    Massachusetts Currency

    October 18, 1776 - Codfish

    An emission of £75,000 in legal tender bills of credit payable in lawful money from the state treasury by October 18, 1784, however bills of 6s or higher were recalled for exchange by an act of October 13, 1777, which was amended three times, successively extending the date for redemption until December 1, 1778, at which time the notes became invalid and unredeemable.

    On October 10,1776 the Massachusetts House of Representatives appointed a committee to draft legislation for an emission of £75,000 in legal tender bills of credit. By October 19th the legislation had been read three times in the House and was sent to the Council for further action. However the Council did not vote on the legislation until December 6, 1776 when the bill was passed; it was enacted the following day December 7th. The emission provided for twenty four different denominations, including several small change notes under a shilling. Thus, although this emission is dated as October it was authorized after the November 17th emission and was printed in December by John Gill at the same time Revere was printing the first installment of the November emission.

    Work on the emission actually preceeded the November issue (which was autorized on October 29th). Apparently the House committee, formed on October 10th, began work on the project before the act had passed the Council. They had stated the front of the notes were to be engraved in copper plate "...with a handsome border" while the back of the notes was to be typeset "with suitable ornament." They even went so far as to obtain the services of Nathaniel Hurd to engrave the plates. Apparently Hurd had more work that he could handle for on November 6, 1776 Col. Azar Orne was added to the emission committee in order to expedite the completion of the plates. The House record continues, "...if the committee shall think proper, they take the plate from Mr. Hurd, and employ some other person to compleat the same." After a few weeks on investigation it was decided on November 27: "That the committee appointed to cut plates for a new emission of money, take from Mr. Hurd the plates he began to engrave, and deliver the same to Mr. Revere, to be compleated." (House Journal, pp. 116, 127, 145, 175; Acts and Resolves, 1886, vol 5, pp. 610 and 693).

    The lower denominations from 2d through 4s6d featured an engraved front with a codfish at the top and columns on the sides and one signature below. The back included Nathaniel Hurd's cast cut of a pine tree and a typeset text by John Gill. The higher denominations, 6s to 72s featured an engraved front with each side displaying an ornate column with a urn on the top and two signatures below. The back included three border cuts with a codfish in the top margin and a center cut of a pine tree surrounded by the Latin quote, "Omne tulit punctum qui miscuit utile dulci" (He has won universal approval who has combined the useful with the agreeable). The phrase is from the Ars poetica of Horace, line 343. It was adapted on the Rosa Americana coppers of 1722-1724 as well as on the masthead of the Essex Gazette (published in Salem, Massachusetts) from 1768-71. The back of these higher denomination notes also contain some typeset text by John Gill. The notes were printed by John Gill in Boston, there were 5,143 bill printed of each of the smaller denominations and 3,000 each for notes of 6s and above. John Gill was a well known patriot and printer in Boston. Gill and Benjamin Edes published the radical anti-British newspaper, The Boston Gazette and Country Journal. The Journal's office was the meeting spot for the members of the Boston Tea Party just before they went to Boston harbor.

    It appears the engraving was completed in November, before the emission had been authorized by the Council. There were two copper plates, one for the front of the smaller denominations and another for the front of the larger denominations. Both Hurd and Revere worked on these at different times. The engraved cuts added to the back of the notes are usually attributed to Hurd as the tree on the lower denominations is quite similar to the tree Hurd used on the lottery payment certificates he engraved for the state treasury (Anderson, MA-15). Click here to view an example. For further information on the certificates see the Massachusetts lottery section. Revere submitted his charges to the House on December 2nd and Nathaniel Hurd followed with an invoice for his fee on December 7th. The printing was completed in December for John Gill presented his bill on December 30, 1776.

    Denominations issued in this October 18th emission were: 2d, 3d, 4d, 6d, 8d, 9d, 12d (1s), 1s6d, 2s, 3s, 4s, 4s6d, 6s ($1), 12s ($2), 18s ($3), 24s ($4), 30s ($5), 36s ($6), 42s ($7), 48s ($8), 54s ($9), 60s ($10), 66s ($11) and 72s ($12).

    obv rev

    4s                   Serial Number: 2545                 MA 10/18/76

    Signer: Jonathan Hastings (faded)

    Size: 75 x 74mm (front border design: 63 x 71mm; back border design: 56.5 x 61mm).

    Comments: Numbered and signed in brown ink, with the signature quite faded. A codfish is depicted at the top of the bill facing right (on some denominations it faces left). The scroll on the left column reads downward while that on the right colum reads upward.

    Provenance: EAHA mail bid auction of 04/26/97 lot 242. Purchased through the Robert H. Gore, Jr. Numismatic Endowment.