Money Money Money: Tax Day and the First Emission of Paper Currency in Connecticut

April 14, 2017 · Collections ·

With Tax Day just around the corner and everyone scrambling to submit their income tax returns by April 18th this year, what better time is there to talk about currency?

Federal income taxes were first introduced with the Revenue Act of 1861, designed to help pay for the Civil War. After being repealed and deemed unconstitutional, Congress passed the 16th Amendment to the Constitution in 1913, giving Congress the power to tax all incomes without regard to the apportionment requirement. Tax day has had many dates but has been set as April 15th since 1955.

As early as 1690, the Massachusetts Bay Colony issued public paper currency in the form of Bills of Credit to help pay for a failed military expedition to Canada during King William’s War. This pre-dates the Bank of England (1694) and the Bank of Scotland (1696) issuing paper currency. Following these early examples, the colony of Connecticut began issuing Bills of Credit on July 12, 1709, also to pay for an aborted military action against Canada.

The first emission of Connecticut Indented Bills of Credit was receivable for taxes at 5% advance, but not legal tender. Unlike later Connecticut bills that were printed by Timothy Green of New London CT, the first emission of Connecticut Bills of Credit were engraved on two copper plates by Jeremiah Dummer of Boston. In the lower left-hand corner of the bills the Connecticut’s Colony Arms, containing the motto Sustinet Qui Trantulit (He who transplants sustains himself) was pictured. Each denomination of the Bill has a different-shaped frame around the Colony Arms.

Bill DenominationFrame ShapeImage
2 shillingsDiamond
2 shillings, 6 penceSix Points and two convex sides resembling a pelt
3 shillingsRectangle with convexity on top and bottom
5 shillingsEight alternating arcs of two sizes

The reverse side of the bills had an engraved scroll, identical to contemporaneous issues of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Bills of Credit were then signed by usually three of the following men: John Chester, John Eliot, John Haynes, Caleb Stanly, and Joseph Tallcott.

As soon as these bills started being printed, people began counterfeiting them almost immediately. Below is an example of a 5s Bill of Credit that was altered to become a 40s Bill of Credit. You can clearly see where the “FIVE” was changed to “FOURTY”.

First emission currency of Connecticut, July 12, 1709. Indented Bill of Credit, clearly altered from 5 shillings to 40 shillings. Not returned to original value. CHS collection, 2016.24.44

First emission currency of Connecticut, July 12, 1709. Indented Bill of Credit, clearly altered from 5 shillings to 40 shillings. Not returned to original value. CHS collection, 2016.24.44

Connecticut later began to print New Tenor Bills of Credit, and on January 8, 1755, Timothy Green Jr., the son of the previous printer, of New London CT was authorized to print Treasury Notes. With 5% interest, these lawful money Notes were issued for French and Indian War military expenses and continued to be printed until the last emission on July 1, 1780.

The Connecticut Historical Society has an extensive collection of colonial paper currency, both Connecticut and Continental currency. CHS volunteer and Immediate Past President of the Colonial Coin Collectors Club, Jim Rosen, has curated a new Nawrot History Nook display. Dr. Rosen will be giving a brown bag lunch talk on this topic for CHS members on April 18th. Come visit Connecticut Colonial Currency now on view!

Indented Bill of Credit, altered from 3 shillings to 20 shillings, gift of George E. Hoadley, 1922.7.8

Indented Bill of Credit, altered from 3 shillings to 20 shillings, gift of George E. Hoadley, 1922.7.8

Reverse side of an Indented Bill (above), showing payment for altered bill (was originally a 2 shilling note, altered to 10 shillings), CHS collection, 2016.24.37. Note the engraved scroll at the top of the Bill.

Reverse side of an Indented Bill (above), showing payment for altered bill (was originally a 2 shilling note, altered to 10 shillings), CHS collection, 2016.24.37. Note the engraved scroll at the top of the Bill.

Indented Bill of Credit, two shillings, signed by Joseph Talcott, John Chester, and John Haynes, gift of George E. Hoadley, 1922.7.3

Indented Bill of Credit, two shillings, signed by Joseph Talcott, John Chester, and John Haynes, gift of George E. Hoadley, 1922.7.3

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