Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What's in your archive?

This is quite fascinating and involves the archives of The Wistar Institute.

The Tale of the Lost Colonial Currency

It’s not uncommon to find hidden treasure at The Wistar Institute. Usually, however, those treasures are discovered in a lab and come in the form of a newly identified gene, a technology to improve drug delivery, or the isolation of a protein that plays a key role in fighting disease.

Last summer, Wistar archivist Nina Long came across a treasure of a more traditional nature. While going through the Wistar vault, the Wistar Museum Collections curator spotted a dusty black box with a handwritten label. Much to her surprise, the box contained a collection that had not been seen since it was inventoried in 1958 — colonial currency dating from before the American Revolution. Long, also the director of Library Services for Wistar, counted 74 notes, printed between 1758 and 1777 from the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware colonies. Even though money had expiration dates during that time, many people chose to keep the bills, believing them to be valuable even after the notes were expired. The label on the box and a note that lay atop the bills were written by the Institute’s founder, Isaac Wistar, who indicated that the money had been passed down from his maternal grandfather, former Philadelphia mayor Isaac Cooper Jones, upon his death in 1865. Some of the bills in the box were printed by Benjamin Franklin and his business partner David Hall in Philadelphia. Others bore signatures of Charles Thomson, John Morton, and Francis Hopkinson — all signers of the Declaration of Independence. The collection is valued at $18,000, according to John Kraljevich, a renowned numismatist in New York City. The bills, which were placed in protective coverings, are part of the Wistar Archives Collections.

The Wistar Institute

The Wistar Institute [Wikipedia]

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