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Early Paper Money of America / Continental Currency / 1781-1782 Robert Morris

Indented circulating notes or drafts personally signed by Robert Morris as maker and issued by him beginning on August 28, 1781 for the purpose of paying for supplies and other needs of the United States, including the Yorktown, Virginia military campaign. There is no specific provision that these notes were actually United States obligations. Due to the almost total collapse in value of Continental Currency by 1781 the personal obligation of Robert Morris was much more acceptable to suppliers and merchants than any obligation which the United States under the Continental Congress might have authorized or issued. However, the Morris notes should be construed as quasi-official United States bearer obligations because (1) they were signed when Robert Morris was Superintendent of the Office of Finance of the United States (1781-1784); (2) they were drawn on John Swanwick, then Cashier of the Office of Finance of the United States; (3) they were issued to pay governmental expenses; and (4) the money for payment of the notes was obtained from taxes, loans, and other funds received by the United States or on its account.

The first issue of these numbered notes was in three convenient denominations, was undated, and payable to bearer at sight. The copper plate for printing the issue was engraved by Robert Scot who had engraved Virginia bills of credit from 1775 through 1779 and became United States Mint engraver from 1793 to 1820. The paper on which the notes were printed contained a post horn as a watermark. Early in 1782 many of the sight notes were paid at the Bank of North America or exchanged for its banknotes as Morris originally had intended. This issue was partially refinanced in mid-1782 by dated notes of similar type due 60 days after issuance. Due to the appearance of counterfeit $20 sight notes, Morris stopped further circulation on November 8, 1782 when only $16,670 was outstanding. Sight notes were paid in full and ink cancelled with a large X on their face prior to destruction.

Sixty-day notes in four denominations were also personally signed by Morris and drawn on Swanwick and only the text specified by Morris is known. It provided: "At Sixty Days from the Date pay on Account of the United States_____Dollars to_____or bearer." The paper for the sixty-day notes was watermarked UNITED STATES and also contained a different single number watermark on each denomination to deter and detect denominational alteration. He continued to issue 60-day notes into 1783. Morris instructed Receivers of Continental Taxes to accept his notes as money or specie regardless of due date. The sixty-day notes were apparently referred to as Short Bobs to distinguish them from the 1783 issue of six months notes, which were called Long Bobs.

Sight notes: $20 ▷CF◁  $50  $80

Sixty-day notes: $20  $30  $50  $100

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