Monday, February 21, 2011

She left her print on Colonial America

Anne Catherine Green, painted by Peale
Anne Catherine Green is the sort of woman they ought to make a movie about – a widow left with 14 children and a struggling printing company in Colonial America supports the rebellion, saves her late husband’s business and achieves success in her own right.

When Green’s husband, Jonas, died in 1767, she carried on her husband’s printing business, including publishing the Maryland Gazette, a newspaper that carried notable attacks on British policy in the tumultuous days before the American Revolution. She also was the Maryland colony’s official printer, producing books, pamphlets, almanacs––and money. Colonies printed their own money then and Green was contracted to print currency for Maryland.

An example of Green’s printing is part of a framed display of authentic American colonial currency that is part of the collection of rare and unusual items at Lighthouse Books, ABAA. (It appears in the slide show above.) Interestingly, the Sixth of a Dollar note includes the legend “Printed by A.C. And F. Green.” By law in male-dominated Colonial America, the name of the man who printed the currency had to appear on it. Green added the name of her son, Frederick, to the note to make it legal.

Upon her husband’s death, Green began tightening up the lax receivables in the printing business and paid off her husband’s creditors within three years. When her husband died, Green added the name of her oldest son, William, to the masthead of the Maryland Gazette, but then he died in 1770. After that, Frederick, helped with the newspaper and the printing business. Only six of Green’s 14 children lived to become adults.

Anne Catherine became prominent and successful in the Maryland colony. She commissioned a portrait by Charles Willson Peale, the prolific artist who painted such American luminaries as Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and John Hancock. In the portrait, the words “Annapolis printer to …” appear on a paper she holds. It is a reference to the act by the Maryland legislature choosing her to succeed her husband as the colony’s official printer.

The American colonists had a tough time with money––mainly they didn’t have enough of it, and the British Parliament wasn’t doing anything to help. Early on they just traded things: you had beaver pelts you exchanged them tobacco and musket balls.

Colonists liked gold and silver coins but most of them came from Spain and Portugal, and were brought in by pirates. Massachusetts even minted coins briefly but finally the various colonies got around to printing money. Massachusetts also issued the first American paper money in 1690––to pay soldiers to fight the French in Canada.

By the time of the American Revolution, colonists had gotten a lot better at printing money. The slide show above depicts the various colonial notes in the display of early American currency. A description of them follows:

New Jersey Colonial Note of 1764
Fifteen shilling note printed by James Parker in the hamlet of Woodbridge. The King’s Arms were prominent.

Delaware Colonial Note of 1776
Although printed January 1, 1776, this note bears the King’s Arms. Two signers of the note, McKinley and Collins, became governors of the new state of Delaware. The third signer, B. Marlowe, deserted to British loyalists in New Jersey by rowing across the Delaware before he signed all the bills. Rebel James Sykes completed the signing assignments.

Continental Currency 1775 and 1779
First and last Continental notes. The Latin phrase is translated: “Either death or an honorable life on the first notes. The Latin on the 1779 note translates “The end is in doubt.” This note is the only one to be printed in red and black. All Continentl issues were printed by Hall and Sellers in Philadelphia and this paper money depreciated so rapidly that the phrase “Not worth a Continental” became common.

Pennsylvania Colonial Notes of 1760
All Pennsylvania issues from 1723-1764 were printed by Benjamin Franklin and David Hall. One note is signed by Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Continental Congress and the original signer of the Declaration of Independence, along with John Hancock that was sent to George III. “Death to Counterfeiters” was a phrase on most paper money but did not discourage such practices.

Delaware Colonial Note – June 1, 1759
The early issue of “The Three Lower Counties” (of Pennsylvania) printed by Benjamin Franklin and David Hall. When creased money was torn, the pieces were held together with a pin, hence, the term “pin money” originated. This paper currency was printed to raise money for the colonists’ participation in the French and Indian War.

Pennsylvania Colonial Notes of 1773
Printed by Hall and Sellers, this money bears the Penn family coat of arms.

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