When did the US make the dollar our national currency?

Chlodio

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Aug 2016
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#21
I can believe that in earlier times the Spanish dollar had a stronger reputation than the US dollar but not as late as the 1870s.
It wouldn't matter if the country that minted the coins no longer existed. What mattered was a Spanish dollar had more silver in it than a US dollar. "Cold hard cash" meant cold hard gold and silver coins. Paper money was usually certificates supposedly redeemable for gold or silver. They could be issued by a back or a government.

The US dollar was a copy of the Spanish dollar, but about 27g rather than 28g and about the same percentage silver. Therefore Spanish money was preferable, and a certificate redeemable in Spanish dollars would be worth more.
But was Spanish coin still circulating in the US as late as the 1870s? After the California and other gold rushes there was a lot of American gold in circulation. There was a lot of monetary reform in the 1850s and especially during the Civil War. All of the references I'm finding to Spanish coins circulating in the US are prior to 1840. I note that some of the paper bills in post 14 show Spanish coins, not US, but I suspect they are just pictures. The text on the bills does not specify if the dollars to be paid to the bearer are US or Spanish dollars. Paper bills were issued on the assumption that very few of them would ever be redeemed for coin. In fact, if everyone had tried to redeem their paper for coin at the same time, there would not have been enough coin to go around.

As a practical matter, do you think that merchants kept two sets of prices, one for Spanish coin and the other for US coin? I don't think so.
 

betgo

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Jul 2011
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#22
Like I said, foreign coins were not legal tender after 1857. I agree it was unlikely they were using Spanish coins in 1870, particularly since Spain had lost control of the silver mines so long earlier.

At one time, yes, merchants may have charged a percent surcharge if you paid in US rather than Spanish money. At one time, there was Spanish, US, British, and maybe Mexican money circulating, and some forms of conversions had to be made. There were coins minted by states and paper money issued by private, official state, and central banks, as well as the US government during war time. People were used to dealing with different types of money, unlike today.
 

martin76

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Dec 2014
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#23
But was Spanish coin still circulating in the US as late as the 1870s? After the California and other gold rushes there was a lot of American gold in circulation. There was a lot of monetary reform in the 1850s and especially during the Civil War. All of the references I'm finding to Spanish coins circulating in the US are prior to 1840. I note that some of the paper bills in post 14 show Spanish coins, not US, but I suspect they are just pictures. The text on the bills does not specify if the dollars to be paid to the bearer are US or Spanish dollars. Paper bills were issued on the assumption that very few of them would ever be redeemed for coin. In fact, if everyone had tried to redeem their paper for coin at the same time, there would not have been enough coin to go around.

As a practical matter, do you think that merchants kept two sets of prices, one for Spanish coin and the other for US coin? I don't think so.

I don´t know.. maybe you are right.. but for sure, the Connecticut (1858), Mississippi (1862) and Virginia (1861) Dollars were doing reference to Spanish Dollars.. and that means something, as Betgo said...it was not printed because in Connecticut they like too much the Coat of Arm of Spain! With this symbols, in Connecticut in 1858 or in Confederate States in 1861-1862 they want to say something...

Why not printed the K und K Monarchie coat of arm? It was very beautiful.. Yellow and Black with the Habsbourg two-head Eagle!... but they didn´t... so I guess they wanted to say something using Castile and Lion in Dollars during Civil War... Don´t you think so, Chlodio?
 

Chlodio

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Aug 2016
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#24
I don´t know.. maybe you are right.. but for sure, the Connecticut (1858), Mississippi (1862) and Virginia (1861) Dollars were doing reference to Spanish Dollars.. and that means something, as Betgo said...it was not printed because in Connecticut they like too much the Coat of Arm of Spain! With this symbols, in Connecticut in 1858 or in Confederate States in 1861-1862 they want to say something...

Why not printed the K und K Monarchie coat of arm? It was very beautiful.. Yellow and Black with the Habsbourg two-head Eagle!... but they didn´t... so I guess they wanted to say something using Castile and Lion in Dollars during Civil War... Don´t you think so, Chlodio?
Accepting paper money as payment involves a certain amount of faith that the paper is actually worth something and will be accepted as payment when the seller next attempts to buy something with the paper he is receiving today. To this day, US paper money contains the words "In God we trust." It contains pictures of a dead admired public official, of a famous monument like the White House or Lincoln Memorial, the seal of the US, signatures of the treasury secretary and treasurer of the US, etc. These symbols are there to create a sense of soundness or reliability in the money. At one point Spanish coins had this same power to impress people with their images. German or Austrian coins were less familiar to Americans and lacked the same ability to reassure people in the value of the paper money. The beauty of the coins had nothing to do with it. It was all about what did people trust.

I'd be curious to learn of any evidence that different surcharges were applied based on the kind of money offered as payment. It's certainly possible but I'm curious about where, when, and how often were these surcharges applied. Did merchants selling every day items apply surcharges or were they only applied in large, unusual purchases like land and other big ticket items?
 
Likes: martin76

martin76

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Dec 2014
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#25
Accepting paper money as payment involves a certain amount of faith that the paper is actually worth something and will be accepted as payment when the seller next attempts to buy something with the paper he is receiving today. To this day, US paper money contains the words "In God we trust." It contains pictures of a dead admired public official, of a famous monument like the White House or Lincoln Memorial, the seal of the US, signatures of the treasury secretary and treasurer of the US, etc. These symbols are there to create a sense of soundness or reliability in the money. At one point Spanish coins had this same power to impress people with their images. German or Austrian coins were less familiar to Americans and lacked the same ability to reassure people in the value of the paper money. The beauty of the coins had nothing to do with it. It was all about what did people trust.

I'd be curious to learn of any evidence that different surcharges were applied based on the kind of money offered as payment. It's certainly possible but I'm curious about where, when, and how often were these surcharges applied. Did merchants selling every day items apply surcharges or were they only applied in large, unusual purchases like land and other big ticket items?
Very interesting Mr Cholido.. my doubts.. Do you think Virginia or Mississipi had power to exchange Spanish dollars for the bills they issued in 1861-1865? I think Betgo is right.. and Confederate never would have changed their Spanish money (Peso, Duro, Dolar, Real de 8 etc) for their bills. But it is my presumption.. maybe I am wrong.. but I doubt Virginia´s money was parity to the Sp. Dollar.
 

Chlodio

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Aug 2016
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#26
Very interesting Mr Cholido.. my doubts.. Do you think Virginia or Mississipi had power to exchange Spanish dollars for the bills they issued in 1861-1865? I think Betgo is right.. and Confederate never would have changed their Spanish money (Peso, Duro, Dolar, Real de 8 etc) for their bills. But it is my presumption.. maybe I am wrong.. but I doubt Virginia´s money was parity to the Sp. Dollar.
The examples in post 14 were issued by cities - Natchez and Richmond, not states or the Confederate government. One bill actually says "Receiveable in city taxes." The cities printed the paper money and used it to pay city workers and to buy goods and services that the city used. The paper money circulated in the local economy. Later, when people had to pay city taxes, they did so with these city bills so that the money went back to the city and out of circulation. Since at least one of the bills says "Receiveable in city taxes" I doubt that bill could have been redeemed for coin. The "promise to pay to the bearer one dollar" probably meant that the city would credit the bearer one dollar toward their tax obligation.

I have seen Confederate money that read something to the effect of "The government of the Confederate States of America promises to pay the bearer one dollar in gold" (or silver) "one year after a treaty of peace is signed between the Confederacy and the US." In other words, the Confederates hoped to extract a payment of gold from the US as part of such treaty, and the US gold would be used to pay off Confederate war debts. I don't recall mention of whether the dollar would be a Spanish or American dollar. As Betgo says, after 1857 Spanish dollars were no longer legal tender in the US. By the time of the Civil War a dollar was understood to mean an American dollar.
 

betgo

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Jul 2011
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#27
I have seen Confederate money that read something to the effect of "The government of the Confederate States of America promises to pay the bearer one dollar in gold" (or silver) "one year after a treaty of peace is signed between the Confederacy and the US." In other words, the Confederates hoped to extract a payment of gold from the US as part of such treaty, and the US gold would be used to pay off Confederate war debts.
They weren't expecting to be paid by the US. They were saying they would pay after the war was over. In reality, it might be more than one year.

I saw in the Confederate Museum in Bermuda certificates for so many bails of cotton deliverable in 1868. The Confederacy was buying munitions and so on with those. Obviously, the buyers knew the certificates would have value only if the Confederacy won.

The certificates issued by southern states during the Civil War were payable in Spanish dollars, but the states didn't have the money to pay at that time. After the war, if they won, maybe the certificates could be redeemed. Isn't it obvious why they used Spanish dollars rather than US dollars during the Civil War?

Virginia had a huge pre Civil War debt, which was not paid off during the war or Reconstruction. Eventually, it was paid off, and West Virginia made its last payment to Virginia of its share in 1930. This was a big political issue in the 1880s. The Readjuster Party won control of the Virginia government and cast the deciding votes for Republican control of the Senate. They defeated elite controlled Democrats, and the main issue was restructuring the debt. Virginia never paid back the Confederate debt from the Civil War, and that was part of the cause of resentment, as the pre-war debt was mostly held by northerners and Europeans.

Anyway, the value of the certificates was there was some chance they eventually would be paid off after the Confederacy won.
 
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Chlodio

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#28
... I saw in the Confederate Museum in Bermuda certificates for so many bails of cotton deliverable in 1868. The Confederacy was buying munitions and so on with those. Obviously, the buyers knew the certificates would have value only if the Confederacy won...

The certificates issued by southern states during the Civil War were payable in Spanish dollars, but the states didn't have the money to pay at that time. After the war, if they won, maybe the certificates could be redeemed. Isn't it obvious why they used Spanish dollars rather than US dollars during the Civil War?
That's interesting - a futures contract.

The Confederacy choosing to use Spanish dollars over US dollars during the CW would be an exception rather than the rule post 1857.
 

Chlodio

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#29
As interesting as this discussion is about Spanish dollars, my OP was about British pounds. Does anyone have any similar info on how pounds were used in the US post 1800?
 
Aug 2018
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Southern Indiana
#30
Another side note, counterfeiting was not uncommon in those days with both paper money and coins. The Spanish were very harsh of counterfeiters and tracked them down whenever possible.