A History Lesson With Booze ®

How American Money Upgraded From Coins to Paper

This week back in 1689, cash got a whole lot easier for Americans to carry around. Learn the history, then cash out with a custom rum cocktail.

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The History Lesson

Those dollar bills in your wallet wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the Nine Years’ War.

That was one of a bunch of wars between France and Britain. Which, among other things, involved fighting in what’s now called “Canada.” The British wanted folks in their American colonies to fight as soldiers on their side. Which was fine with the colonists… as long as they got paid for it.

But in the Massachusetts colony, they couldn’t get paid. Because there was barely any money. Literally! Back then, the only form of cash was coins and America’s British overlords had recently shut down the Massachusetts coin factory. Of course, the Brits could’ve made some coins, but they needed that precious metal for the war.

Then some genius — whose name is lost to time — had a big idea: instead of coins, officials could give soldiers paper certificates, that could be redeemed for coins later. When, you know, there actually were any. America’s first paper currency was issued.

You can probably guess what happened next. After a while, the people of Massachusetts just started using the certificates as legal tender, since they were worth just as much as the coins they represented. Other colonies liked the idea. And soon, all New England was paying for stuff with paper.

Of course, we still use paper money today, though it’s a little harder to counterfeit.

Among the holdings of National Museum of American History is an old Massachusetts certificate worth two shillings. To which some enterprising colonial criminal took a pen and added a zero… making it worth twenty shillings.

The Booze

The Promissory Note

Minted by Ezra Star, Bar Manager of Drink in Boston, MA.

Ingredients:

Instructions:

In a cocktail shaker, combine ingredients, shake and then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with some shredded dollar bills… though we don’t recommend shredding your own cash.