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North Carolina Currency Hoard of Samuel Cornell

Origin: America, North Carolina
Paper, ink, paste, pins, and thread
Gift of an Anonymous Donor
Acc. No. 2010-33
During the colonial period, without banks and investment houses as we know them, people kept their wealth in physical form, such as salable goods, silver plate, and real estate. Samuel Cornell, a New Bern, NC, merchant, clearly followed this custom, but he still had available capitol and he chose one of the most risky investment vehicles available during the period: he speculated in the paper money of the colony. In short, he was hoping to make a killing by buying large quantities of North Carolina "Proclamation Money" (either with goods, real estate or gold & silver) when its value was depreciated, and then divesting himself of the cash during an upswing in the paper's value.

Cornell's speculation turned out to be a very bad deal. As a staunch Loyalist, Cornell left New Bern for London in August of 1775, where he remained until he returned to British-occupied New York City in the spring of 1777. He never saw the end of the war, dying there in New York on June 14, 1781, in his 50th year. His will, dated February 24, 1781 left most of his wealth, and his by-then worthless hoard of North Carolina paper money, to his daughters.

Remaining with Cornell's heirs until the early 20th century, the hoard was given to a prominent New York institution which sold it during the 1970s. Colonial Williamsburg's portion of the hoard amounts to slightly less than half of Cornell's assemblage, and represents about 4% of North Carolina's total output of paper money during the period covered by the hoard.

Paper money spanning six different emissions of North Carolina paper money from 1748 through 1771, what you see here was worth more than £7000 at the time. If you took all the pieces of paper in this collection and stretched them end to end, you would make a paper strip long enough to go from the Capitol Building all the way to Chowning's Tavern.
Provenance:This hoard of NC colonial paper money was assembled by Samuel Cornell, a merchant and currency speculator in the period right before the Revolution. While not the entire hoard, this portion represents about 4% of that colony's total output of paper money during the 1748-1771 period.