UNC Libraries

The American Revolution

The American Revolution [1776-1783]

A pair of North Carolina 1779 notes
A pair of North Carolina 1779 notes
Hugh Walker, printer

The University Libraries’ numismatic collection holds an interesting sample of currencies authorized by North Carolina officials between April 1776 and 1780, when James Davis printed the state's last wartime issues.  Items from this period include bills produced in 1779 by Hugh Walker, a little-known printer in Wilmington, N.C. That year Hugh Walker printed the state's authorization because a smallpox epidemic in New Bern prevented James Davis from doing so. To learn more about the production of North Carolina's "smallpox currency" of 1779 and about printing in eighteenth-century North Carolina, read "Hugh Walker and North Carolina's Smallpox Currency of 1779," an article published in American Numismatic Society's December 2005 issue of The Colonial Newsletter. The article was written by former Gallery Keeper R. Neil Fulghum.

Hugh Walker, who printed the 1779 notes shown here, used subtle or "secret" marks on the money to help distinguish genuine bills from counterfeit ones. An example of those marks can be seen on the bill in the foreground. Note the umlaut (two dots) over the "e" in "Silver."

North Carolina paper money $8, 1776
North Carolina paper money $8, 1776
North Carolina paper money $50, 1780
North Carolina paper money $50
1780, front
North Carolina paper money $50, 1780, back
North Carolina paper money $50
1780, back

Above, left to right: In the legislative session that was held in Halifax starting April 2, 1776, delegates authorized an issue of paper money that included fifty six different notes and seventeen denominations, some denominations having as many as eight different designs. There is no explanation why the issue was so complex. No other paper money issue by any of the colonies was so extensive. The plates were engraved by Baltimore goldsmith Gabriel Lewyn.

The May 10, 1780 issue included eight denominations and was printed by James Davis, the official government printer for the colony and later the state. The $50 note includes the phrase in Latin, meaning "A foundation for me more enduring than bronze." The phrases on the notes of the 1779 issue were in English.

See more images from the American Revolution