A Project of the Robert H. Gore, Jr. Numismatic Endowment
University of Notre Dame, Department of Special Collections
by Louis Jordan


This project features descriptions and images of paper currencies of early America through the 1790's. Related items in our collection, such as lottery tickets and fiscal documents from colonial America have also been included. A complementary project featuring our collection of coins relating to colonial America is also available online, it can be accessed by clicking the appropriate blue button at the bottom of the screen. The funding for both of these projects has been made possible through the Robert H. Gore, Jr. Numismatic Endowment in the Department of Special Collections at the University Libraries of Notre Dame.

The blue "Main Contents" button located at the bottom of each page is a clickable symbol that will take you to the table of contents. The yellow search button at the bottom of the page will allow one to search the entire site for various topics, such as specific images (hope anchor, for images of Hope with an anchor), a specific signer or possibly counterfeit (for counterfeit notes regardless of colony). Once you have clicked to a page from a search use the BACK button on your browser to return to the search.

Currency is listed alphabetically by colony and chronologically within each colony followed by Continental Congress issues, lottery tickets and finally fiscal documents. There is a general discussion of each emission or document represented, followed by images and a description for each example in the collection. By using the index listing one can immediately move to a specific colony of interest. The collection can be viewed sequentially in its entirity by starting with Connecticut in the index and using the navigation arrows at the bottom of each page. There are also a few general essays on the history of paper money from the first emission of 1690 through the small change issues of the 1790's and some essays on general topics as the value of money in colonial America as well as some specific topics as indenting. It is hoped these essays will assist those wanting a general introduction to the topic.

Throughout the pages the word dollar refers to colonial American usage, that is, a Spanish American eight reales coin, which was valued differently in different colonies (usually 6 Massachusetts shillings equalled a dollar but it took eight New York shillings to equal a Spanish dollar). A discussion and examples of this coin can be found in our Colonial Coin web site (before 1732 Spanish American dollars were crude "cobs" from that date the Mexican mint began to produce refined milled coins which on colonial and Confederation era American currency were called "Spanish milled dollars"). For brevity in listing dollar denominatins the modern symbol $ is used for a Spanish American dollar. This symbol was not used in the colonial era and should not be taken to refer to our modern decimal dollar.

Emission descriptions are generally based on Eric Newman, The Early Paper Money of America   (Iola, WI: Krause, 4th ed., 1997), which is without a doubt the single most important book on the subject. For additional information and bibliography on any colonial emission there is no better starting point. If you own currency please refer to this work for the vaule of individual notes.

Emission descriptions are followed by entries for individual notes. Each entry starts with a 85K jpeg image of the front and the back of the note. Each image can be clicked to obtain a larger detailed image for close study (about 600-900K jpeg). If you use a jpeg launcher (as jpegview 3.3 for the Mac or LViewPro for the PC) the larger images can be magnified by either using the crop and zoom feature under the edit menu of the application or by using the enlargement under the view menu. All pages and images can be printed directly from your browser.

The 85k images are oriented so that the front of the bill will be correctly positioned for the viewer. In every case the back is displayed as it would appear if the left side of the front of each note was flipped over to display the reverse (so that the left edge of the front becomes the right edge of the back). This was done so the orientation of the back of the bill will be apparent. However, in the larger detailed images both sides of the bills have been oriented toward the viewer for easier study.

The front and back of the 85K images should normally appear side by side. If they are positioned on your screen with one above and another below, simply widen the size of your window by dragging the box icon in the lower right corner further to the right. You will notice within each emission bills may appear in different sizes. We have made an attempt to reflect the relative differences in size between larger and smaller bills within an emission. However, it was not possible to present them in original size because viewing size will differ depending on the size of your computer screen. The item descriptions contain the actual vertical and horizontal measurements of the entire bill, including any margins, in millimeters, and whenever possible, the measurement of the printed portion from border to border for the face of the bill and then for the back.

Images were created from the original bills in our collection using DeskScan II 2.3 and Photoshop 3.0 (and since June 1996 the 4.0 version) for Macintosh with a Hewlett Packard ScanJet 4C. The larger detailed images were saved at 175 dpi, with file sizes usually ranging from 700-1000K; the smaller images were reduced from these to 85K. All all images were compressed using the maximum quality jpeg format.

We hope to continue to expand our examples and seek other institutions and individuals with colonial currency collections that would be willing to cooperate in joint ventures to add their holdings in an electronic format.

This site was awarded a Times Pick by the Los Angeles Times on 1/31/97

This project was started by Louis Jordan in 1996 with the assistance of Andrew Brenner, Christian Dupont and Lawrence Fernandez. New graphics were designed and added in the fall of 1997 by Jennifer Sullivan and John Roach and once again in the spring of 1999 by Matthew Ring. We continue to make regular additions and updates. For comments or further information contact Louis Jordan (just click on the address to send a message): rarebook@nd.edu or call 219-631-5636. (address listed below).

Links to other relevant sites:

The Leslie Brock Center for the Study of Colonial Currency provides an insightful look into the fascinating study of America's colonial currency through a collaboration of essays and articles.

A message for potential collaborators:

We would like to expand this project to include other examples, especially of missing denominations and emissions. We would therefore like to hear from other institutions and individuals with colonial currency collections who may be interested in collaborating with us to make their holdings accessible electronically. Please contact Louis Jordan at The Department of Special Collections, 102 Hesburgh Library, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556 (tel: 219-631-5610) or at the above e-mail address.