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Materials: Paper
Measurement: Dim. 14.2 cm H x 10.5 cm W
Source: Unknown


Called upon by the British government to help fight the French in Canada in 1689, Massachusetts authorities were hard-put to comply, because official money was unavailable. The Hull/Sanderson mint, which had created Pine Tree Shillings and other coins, had been closed on Crown orders years before, and all coinage was now in extremely short supply.

Then someone had an idea: Why not issue paper certificates to pay for the supplies and troops that Massachusetts was expected to contribute? The Crown had promised to reimburse the colony, in coinage, at war's end. The experiment was tried, and it worked. The first government-issued paper money in the entire Western world had made its appearance unexpectedly in Massachusetts.

Since these notes could eventually be redeemed for coinage and they were in fact as good as gold or silver, another unknown functionary had an epochal idea: why not leave them in circulation? After all, everyone accepted their status as "real" money, and the need for them was great. So it was done. Colonial authorities elsewhere watched, and when the Crown did not stop the experiment in the Bay Colony, other colonies decided to begin issuing paper currency of their own.

Paper's popularity spread, and colonial America became dependent upon it. But paper was vulnerable to counterfeiting, or, in this case, to tampering. No twenty-shilling notes were actually issued by Massachusetts in 1690. Yet someone skilled with a pen thought there ought to be one, and proceeded to create it, altering the original denomination of two shillings sixpence.
Related Events
1684: The Massachusetts Bay Colony charter is revoked by King Charles II.
1688: William of Orange becomes English King in "Glorious Revolution."
1689: As part of King Williams War, British and Colonial forces fight French troops and their Indian allies in America.
1697: King William's War ends with no major territorial change in North America.
1754: The French and Indian War breaks out in Ohio Valley.
Legendary Firsts The following objects are in this section.
Massachusetts Pine Tree Shilling, "1652" (struck 1667-1674)First United States Silver Dollar, 1794Great Britain, Sovereign, 1838
Massachusetts, "twenty shillings," 1690Brasher Doubloon, 1787United States, 5 Dollars, 1838
Pewter Continental Dollar, 1776United States, 20 Dollars, 1854United States, 10 Dollars, 1838
Copper Pattern Dollar, 1794Portrait Medal of James Smithson, 1817 
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