New York: August 25, 1774
Table of Contents
New York Index
New York Currency
August 25, 1774
An emission of £2,400 in promissory notes issued by the City of New York, known as the first of four "Water Works" issues. This is the first paper currency emitted by a city in colonial America. All previous general emissions had been issued by the authority of a colony. Within a year Albany had issued currency (on June 22, 1775) and a second "Water Works" emission had been issued. Later, in 1786 Charleston, S.C. issued currency, then during the copper panic of the 1790's several cities issued small denomination bills. However, it should be remembered that privately printed bank and merchant notes date back much earlier as the notes Benjamin Franklin printed in June of 1729 for the Philadelphia shopkeeper Evan Morgan. A significant number of private issues continue throughout the colonial and confederation periods.
This issue is known as the Water Works Issue because the back of each note has an engraving of a steam powered water pump proposed by the engineer Christopher Colles. The front of the bills has an engraved top border cut while the other three borders are typeset. In this series the first emission and part of the second water works emission have backs with white paper. A large portion of the second emission and all of the third and fourth emissions have while paper on the front but a dark coarse paper on the back of the notes. The plates were engraved by Elisha Gallaudet, who also cut the borders and devices for the Continental Congress "fugio" denominations of February 17, 1776 and cut the dies for the so called "1776 Continental Congress Dollar." The Water Works emissions were printed by Hugh Gaine in New York City with red and black inks on the face and black ink on the back. Notes were signed and numbered in brown and black inks. Denominations issued in this emission were: 1s, 2s, 4s and 8s. These denominations had not been issued in the colony of New York since November 16, 1726.
1s Serial Number: 2,691 NYC 08/25/74
Signers: Whitehead Hicks, J. Watts, Jr.
Size: 58 x 95 mm (front border design: 55 x 91mm; back border design: 53 x 89mm).
Comments: First signature and numbering in light brown and second signature in black ink. The reverse is on white paper.
Provenance: EANA mail bid auction 11/16/96 Lot 637. Purchased through the Robert H. Gore, Jr. Numismatic Endowment.