History of Florida Currency
Posted on 6/21/2016
The territory and eventual State of Florida has a long and storied history dating back to the early 1500s with its discovery by Juan Ponce de Leon. Despite the legends, Ponce de Leon was not in search of any fountain of youth, but rather on an expedition to discover the Islands of Bimini which is located in today’s western Bahamas. The territory switched between Spanish and English control until it was finally incorporated into the United States in 1821. In 1822 it became the Territory of Florida. Florida’s population was small and consisted almost entirely of Native Americans from the Seminole tribe as well as escaped slaves. Florida was eventually admitted as the 27th State of the Union as a slave state in 1845. Its population was small and slow growing until the mid 20th century when air conditioning became more available and economic prosperity allowed people to move. Today Florida is the third most populous state in the United States with an estimated 20 million people.
The history of Florida’s paper money is relatively short despite its long past. Up until the early 19th century, the settlers in Florida mainly traded through the barter system. There were attempts to grant charters for banks, however the efforts were either abandoned or vetoed by the governor. It wasn’t until 1828, under pressure from agricultural and business interests, when the Legislative Council created The Bank of Florida at Tallahassee over the veto of the governor, becoming the first bank in the State of Florida. As more people began to move to Florida, the number of banks offering currency and private companies offering scrip increased. Some of these notes, such as the Bank of Pensacola fifty dollar note, can reach high prices depending on their scarcity.
With the long history of Native Americans living in Florida, it was natural that they would become a fixture on the state’s banknotes. In several banks’ designs there are depictions of Native Americans in different poses as shown below.
During the Civil War, Florida, being a slave state, was one of the first states to secede from the Union following the election of Lincoln in 1860. Like other Confederate states during the time, Florida printed its own currency. The currency printed during this time often had depictions of slaves picking cotton. With nearly half of Florida’s population being slaves at this time, it was understandable that this would be a common theme on their currency.
Private Scrip and Nationals
As with other states, private businesses issued their own scrip to be used at their stores as well as advertising scrip to increase business. Some of these can be very collectible even in low grades due to their low population. National banknotes from Florida have also become highly sought after, with notes from certain cities fetching a high price at auctions. So be on the look out for any notes from Florida, you never know whether you could be holding trash or treasure.
- Freeman, Harley L. (1967). Florida Obsolete Notes and Scrip. Society of Paper Money Collectors; 1st edition.
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