Collection Location: Maryland Department, Enoch Pratt Free Library / State Library Resource Center.
Collection Overview: This collection of Maryland colonial and continental currency from the Maryland Department of the Enoch Pratt Free Library / State Library Resource Center includes various denominations of Maryland paper dollar notes dating from 1767 to 1776.
In 1766 the Assembly of the British Colony of Maryland authorized the issue of a new unit of monetary exchange called the dollar. With this act the Assembly circumvented British Law, abandoning the British sterling as its sole source of monetary exchange and establishing a new unit of monetary exchange for its citizens.
Printed on each note was its equivalent value in sterling units. The various printed denominations mirrored regularly used sterling units: $1/9th (6 pence), $1/6th (9 pence), $2/9ths (1 shilling), $1/3rd (1 shilling 6 pence), $1/2 (2 shillings 3 pence), $2/3rds (3 shillings), and $1, $2, $4, and $8 on the same basis.
The first dollar notes were printed in 1767 by an Annapolis printer, Jonas Green, and included engravings by a local silversmith, Thomas Sparrow. When Green died later that year, his wife and three sons took over the business and continued as Maryland's official printers.
Counterfeiting of colonial currency was a problem. To combat counterfeiting, printers embedded "secret marks" in the printed text and borders and used nature motifs. This latter technique, devised by Benjamin Franklin, was known as leaf or nature printing.
Nature printing consisted of laying a leaf, twig, or branch on a wet cloth placed over a smooth plaster bed. After the materials were pressed together and the plaster had hardened, the cast was used to make a plaster negative. This plaster negative became the mold into which molten copper was poured, producing a copper plate with many fine lines and patterns, which made counterfeiting more difficult.
Maryland's dollar held its value until the American Revolutionary War. Thereafter, its value decreased until by 1780 it was virtually worthless.
Wroth, Lawrence C.: The Colonial Printer. Portland, ME: The Southworth-Anthoensen Press, 1938.
Newman, Eric P.: "The Earliest Money Using the Dollar as a Unit of Value" at http://www.chicagocoinclub.org/projects/PiN/ted.html
Sandrock, John E.: "Maryland Colonial and Continental Bank Note Issues of the American Revolution" at http://www.thecurrencycollector.com/pdfs/Maryland_Colonial_and_Continental_Bank.pdf
Collection overview prepared by Bill Cady, Digitization Assistant, Enoch Pratt Free Library / State Library Resource Center