When did the US make the dollar our national currency?

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,514
Dispargum
#1
I have a reference to an American citizen still conducting routine financial transactions in British pounds as late as the early 1800s. I'm sure this is atypical as this person would seem to be especially stuborn, persisting in a way of life that had ended more than forty years earlier, but I'm curious about what the forum has to say. I've checked Wiki and it says other currencies continued to be used down to the Civil War. So assuming that my guy was an oddball, when did most other Americans stop spending pounds and start spending dollars?
 
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betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
5,873
#2
The first US coins were minted in 1793, at the beginning of Washington's 2nd term. Under the Articles of Confederation, the states minted their own coins. The US dollar was based on the Spanish 8 real, and both were a little less than an ounce of silver. Spanish money was more used than British money in colonial times and certainly 1776-1793. This was partly because of an unfavorable balance of trade with Britain, and because of so much silver for coins from Mexico. Commodities were used in colonial times, such as tobacco in Virginia. I believe Spanish and British money were still used somewhat into the 19th century.
 
Jan 2015
2,843
MD, USA
#3
Various states (if not all of them?) were printing their own currency or "scrip" during the Revolution, in dollars. The actual value varied depending on that state's economic condition--for instance, as I understand it, Connecticut scrip was considered pretty solid and widely accepted, while New Jersey scrip made reasonable toilet paper. Pretty sure dollars were used right alongside pounds and shillings, though.

Matthew
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
5,873
#4
Pretty sure dollars were used right alongside pounds and shillings, though.

Matthew
They were in dollars because the standard currency was not pounds and shillings, but Spanish dollars, reales, pieces of eight.

The states did print scrip, but the US did not print paper money under the Constitution until the Civil War. Currency was generally silver or gold coins, whether British, Spanish, or US. The US did print paper money during the Revolutionary War, from which comes the expression "not worth a Continental". Below is worthless Continental supposedly worth "TWENTY Spanish milled DOLLARS or the value thereof in Gold or Silver".

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Oct 2016
1,040
Merryland
#5
'Pounds' too British. we'd just fought to rid ourselves of them and didn't want to give our money their name. we also rejected the pound/shilling/pence concept for decimal; one 'cent' is one-hundredth of a dollar.
'Reales' too Spanish. 'Franc'? no.
'Dollar' is a variation of Thaler, a German/Austrian coin, one of many to be about an ounce of silver (like the 8 Reale). Very large German population in the US in the early era.

the 8 Reales, about an ounce of silver as mentioned, one of the great and universal coins of the world. it would even be broke into pieces; 8 'bits', hence the old saying 'two bit', i.e. low value.
the Maria Teresa Austrian thaler was very well known.

it took some time for US money to become minted and established; non-USA currency (Pound, Reale) was accepted for years.
remember, a lot of a coin's value was in the silver/gold content (if any). 'specie' had actual value, as opposed to 'fiat' currency, whose value is established by government. a silver dollar used to be worth a dollar in silver; a paper dollar never.
once colonial coiner made some copper pennies with the script 'I am good copper' (apparently he was accused of diluting the material)
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
5,873
#6
I don't want to sound like our Spanish posters, but "dollar" referred to Spanish 8 reales or 1 peso coins in colonial America. $ also was an abreviation for Spanish pesos, the letters S and p on top of each other.
 
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betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
5,873
#7
The main thing was gold and silver content. Paper money was not much used. The Coinage Act of 1857 required only US coins to be used. A significant portion of currency was Mexican pesos after Mexican independence. Probably Spanish money was the main currency until 1820 or so.

Dollar was probably used partly because it sounded less Spanish than real or peso, but it originally referred to one ounce Spanish silver coins.
 

Willempie

Ad Honorem
Jul 2015
4,735
Netherlands
#8
'Pounds' too British. we'd just fought to rid ourselves of them and didn't want to give our money their name. we also rejected the pound/shilling/pence concept for decimal; one 'cent' is one-hundredth of a dollar.
'Reales' too Spanish. 'Franc'? no.
'Dollar' is a variation of Thaler, a German/Austrian coin, one of many to be about an ounce of silver (like the 8 Reale). Very large German population in the US in the early era.
i thought it originated with "daalder", which was in use in New Amsterdam.
 
Oct 2016
1,040
Merryland
#9
i thought it originated with "daalder", which was in use in New Amsterdam.
I think dollar / thaler / daalder are all variations of the same word

"On 15 January 1520, the Kingdom of Bohemia began minting coins from silver mined locally in Joachimsthal and marked on reverse with the Bohemian lion. The coins were called joachimsthaler, which became shortened in common usage to thaler or taler. "
source: wiki Dollar - Wikipedia

the Brits captured so many 8 Reale coins that they stamped over them and used as currency, calling them 'crowns' (worth five shillings)
 
Likes: sparky

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
5,873
#10
Dollar is probably the English, Dutch, and Flemish version or thaler. There was an early medieval consonent shift in German which didn't effect Dutch and English. There is a reference to "dollars" in Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure" set in Vienna. It could have been influenced by Dutch in New York and New Jersey, but there were a lot more British than Dutch in the American colonies.

The term was used to refer to 8 real or 1 peso coins. Crowns were about the same silver content, US dollars a little less.

Spanish money was also used in China and elsewhere in Asia. This is mostly because Spain mined so much silver and gold, and didn't keep most of it. It is somewhat like the US dollar is used in many places today.