I think I may adjust my 2011 collecting goals to finding representative notes of Maryland colonial currency from each emission. While searching an popular online auction website, I found a listing for a note that needed to “come home.” This note did not look like it was in as good condition as my previous purchase, but it looked good enough to represent a new emission.

With money in demand, the Maryland Colonial Assembly authorized an emission of $318,000 in indented bills without legal tender status that would be issued as loans which came due between October 10, 1781 and April 10, 1782. The dollar was tariffed at 4/6 sterling or equivalent in gold or silver. These notes were similar to the release of 1767 except they listed the printers as A.C. and W. Green (Anne Catherine Green and her son William). Jonas Green, Anne’s husband, had died three years earlier. Each bill had two signers, who were Robert Couden, an Annapolis dry goods merchant and mayor of Annapolis from 1786–87, and John Clapham, a landowner in western Maryland who served as sheriff (tax collector) of Anne Arundel County (Annapolis) from 1770–72. These two went into private business together in 1772.

This note has a few condition issues that give it the character of surviving 241 years. Aside from the softness of the paper from handling, the center has a fold that is beginning to tear from the bottom and the bottom right corner (obverse) is torn to almost coming off. But the printing is still clear including the signatures of two Maryland patriots.

One of the interesting features of this note is the “J G” included in the right leaf on the reverse of the note for Jonas Green. Green’s influence can also be seen on the obverse of the note on the left border that says “JG Printer · T Sparrow, sculp.” These notes were sculpted by Thomas Sparrow, a Maryland artist who provided most of the border cuts for Maryland colonial currency.

Those who study the history of colonial currency are quick to note that Maryland notes declare that they “shall entitle the Bearer hereof to receive BILLS of Exchange payable in LONDON, or Gold and Silver, at the rate of FOUR SHILLINGS AND SIX PENCE sterline per Dollar for the said BILL.” Notes issued by the Maryland Colonial Council were backed by the profits of Calvert family whose head was Frederick Calvert, the Sixth Lord of Baltimore.

Frederick Calvert was somewhat of a ladies man after becoming the Sixth Lord of Baltimore and Fourth Proprietor of Maryland at the age of 20 in 1751. Aside from having several mistresses, one who published a scandalous autobiography in 1768, he was accused of abducting and raping Sarah Woodcock in London. Although Calvert was acquitted after claiming the encounter was consensual, Calvert escaped to Europe looking to escape his notoriety. Calvert eventually died in Naples in September 1771.

During this time, nobody spoke for the Calvert family and the Maryland assembly continued to freely use the family’s holdings as collateral for these indented bills. Even though Frederick Calvert’s will left the entire Calvert estate to his oldest son, Henry Harford, Harford was only 13 and did not have influence over the assembly’s working even though he was welcomed as the Fifth Proprietor of Maryland. Since Harford was the illegitimate child of Calvert and Hester Whelan of Ireland, Harford was not entitled to ascend to become Lord of Baltimore making Frederick Calvert the last Lord of Baltimore.

Eventually, Harford’s Maryland holdings were seized during the Revolutionary War and used to help fund the government and the Maryland regiments. Harfod returned to Maryland in 1883 and attempted to reclaim the land. Petitions to the Maryland General Assembly failed. His heirs fought for more than 100 years to reclaim the family property. The last case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1899. In Morris v. U.S., the court denied the family’s claim.

Isn’t it great how one note can open up a segment of history that is not included in your high school history books?!

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