The following studies are grouped by topics into four parts. Part one focuses on the Hull and Sanderson homesteads and the exact location of the mint. It begins with a discussion of the Hull family and homestead and continues with an investigation of Hull's shop and its relationship to the mint, followed by a brief study on the Sanderson homestead. The section continues with a discussion, transcription and commentary on the mint and goldsmith shop entries in the surviving portion of John Hull's personal ledger and then concludes with a brief notice on the various Massachusetts Bay colonists named John Hull. Part two deals with the economics of the mint beginning with an analysis of coin weight and minting fees as calculated from the information in Hull's ledger and continues with an explanation of the relationship between the value of British and Massachusetts silver. Part three concerns production related issues at the mint. First is a summary of the minting procedures in London in the 1660's followed by sections on how consignments were accepted at the Massachusetts mint and how that differed from the regulations in the 1652 mint act. This is followed by is a section on assaying and a section on some other production related issues where practice differed from the specifications in the mint act. Next is a section on the production steps followed at the Massachusetts mint and the changes in production that occurred with the introduction of screw press technology. I then give a summary of the consignments to the mint between 1671 and 1680 as found in Hull's ledger. These ledger entries are used to derive information on production runs and productivity at the mint, estimating the number of days per year the mint actually worked on processing consignments for coinage. Information on the length of production runs is used to estimate the turn around time, including length of time consignments were backlogged. This is followed by a section on the size of a melt at the Massachusetts mint and how that related to the size of production runs. Next is a discussion of the role Hull and Sanderson may have played in coinage production. The section is continued with an investigation of other individuals that have been mentioned in connection with the mint, namely John Mansfield and Joseph Jenks. Part four deals with the history and importance of the eight reales cob coinage. This section begins with the significance of eight reales in Massachusetts Bay followed by a discussion of the origin and intrinsic value of the eight reales. There is also a history of the value and use of Spanish silver coinage in England and a comparable study on Spanish silver coinage in Massachusetts Bay.
Regrettably, there are no surviving documents precisely locating the site of the Massachusetts mint. Our most specific information concerning the location of the mint is found in an announcement recorded in the minutes of the Massachusetts Bay General Court's mint committee meeting of June 22, 1652 which specified, "That the said mint howse shall be sett upon the land of the said John Hull." Clearly, to determine the location of the mint we must first ascertain the real estate holdings John Hull had acquired by June of 1652. Determining the property holdings of the 27 year old John Hull must begin with an investigation of the Hull family and homestead.
Robert Hull was a blacksmith from Market Hareborough in Leicestershire, England, who took the widow Elizabeth Storer as his wife. Elizabeth had a pre-teenage son named Richard from her previous marriage to the late Paul Storer. Robert and Elizabeth then had two children of their own. The elder son, named John, was born about December 18th in the year 1624. The date of the birth of their second son, Edward, is not known. However, according the records of the local parish church, Edward was baptized on July 25, 1628, thus we may assume he was a few years younger than John. In July of 1629 Robert Hull sent his stepson, Richard, to London to begin a ten years apprenticeship under the goldsmith James Fearne. Unfortunately, Richard was not able to complete his training as the entire Hull family departed England from Bristol on the ship George on September 28, 1635, arriving in Boston Harbor on November 7th.
During the early years of Massachusetts Bay, families newly arriving in Boston were usually given a house plot in the town and an allotment of farm land at Muddy River (now Brookline), which was about three miles to the southwest. The Boston town records state Robert Hull received his "great allotment" of farm land on December 12, 1636 (Appleton, Boston Records, p. 14). The allotments were parcels of land assigned to newcomers by an Allotment Committee with the stipulations that the grantee become a member of the Puritan Congregation (at the time the only church was the First Church of Boston) and that they construct a dwelling on their house plot before March 1st of the following year. The specific location of the Hull allotment was not mentioned; the record simply stated the members of the allocation committee agreed:
"that Edward Belchar, William Talmage, Thomas Snowe, and William Deninge, and John Aratt, the servants of William Brenton, shall have their great Allotments at Muddy Ryver, and also our brother Robert Hull and Thomas Wheelar." (Appleton, Boston Records, p. 14)This record indicates both Hull and Wheeler obtained acreage at Muddy River, but no mention was made of their house plots. However, from later sources we know their house plots were on the same street block.
The records of several later allocations assist in determining the location of the Robert Hull house plot. The general location of the Hull residence can be determined from its proximity to other allocations, for example, a house plot was allocated to John Hurd on January 31, 1642, "betweene the howse plats of Robert Hull and William Plantayne" (Appleton, Boston Records, pp. 65-66). The specific location of these house plots is contained in a manuscript volume entitled, "Possessions of the Inhabitants of Boston" found in the Suffolk County Bureau of Records. The origin of this volume is unrecorded, however, an undated note referring to the work was made by the recorder of the General Court, Isaac Addington, who stated he had discovered the book in 1672 and frequently used it but that he, "alwaies was in doubt of the validity of it as a Record." The book lists each landowner with a description of the parcels of land they owned in the town of Boston, covering the period 1645-1648 with some supplemental updates extending the coverage up to 1652. During the October 1652 session of the General Court it was legislated that verbal agreements for the sale of land would no longer be recognized by the law, all transfers of land needed to be documented in writing with a deed that was validated by an official notary with the seal of the Commonwealth or the sale had to be acknowledged and recorded through the court (Shurtleff, vol. 3, p. 280). With the cessation of oral land transfers the Book of Possessions was replaced by the filing of written deeds.
The Book of Possessionsis in the handwriting of William Aspinwall, who had been appointed to the positions of both Recorder for the Suffolk County Court and Public Notary for Suffolk County by the General Court on November 13, 1644. His predecessor, Stephen Winthrop, who was a son of Governor John Winthrop, stepped down from the posts when he obtained permission to travel to England in September of 1644. Aspinwall wrote the majority of the text (pp. 1-111) by March of 1645. This has been determined because the book lists a parcel of land on School Street as belonging to Thomas Scottow, however a deed exists stating Scottow sold the land on March 31, 1645. Pages 112-149 amend and supplement the text by year, p. 112 for 1645, pp. 113-122 for 1646, pp. 123-134 for 1647, and pp. 135-149 for 1648, with marginal updates throughout covering up to 1652 (the final updates by Aspinwall are: Oct. 27, 1651 in item 35 and Nov. 11, 1651 in items 40 and 77; there is one addition by Edward Rawson, dated Jan. - Feb. 1652, which probably refers to 1653 in item 127). Aspinwall continued in his positions until 1651. In that year John Witherden brought charges against Aspinwall in the Sufflok County Court for overstepping his authority. The court upheld the charges and as a result Aspinwall was removed from his posts by the Massachusetts Bay General Court during the session of October 14, 1651. His two positions were divided among three people. In the October 14th session of the General Court Edward Rawson, who was Secretary of the Commonwealth, also assumed the duties as Suffolk County Recorder, while Jonathan Negroos took the title of the Clerk of Writs in Boston (Shurtleff, vol. 2, pp. 257-258). At the General Court session of October 26th Nathaniell Souther was appointed as public notary for Suffolk county (Whitmore, Aspinwall pp. i-x).
Item 96 in The Book of Possessions defined the Hull homestead as follows:
"Robert Hulls Possession in Boston. One house and garden bounded with John Hurd south; the high streete west: Job Judkin north: and Gamaliel Waite, east." (Appleton, The Book of Possessions, p. 36) [Note: In the original manuscript each item is a separate page. In the Appleton edition the original pages were treated as item numbers with page numbers referring to the pages in his edition.]
The location of the Hull homestead was determined in 1866 by William Appleton and William Whitmore who plotted each lot described in The Book of Possessions, onto a map; the Hull house was designated on their map as parcel F 60 (The Book of Possessions, p. 82 and map on p. 74). Since specific lot measurements are lacking, Appleton and Whitmore could only plot the lots based on the adjacencies described in The Book of Possessions and the references to known landmarks (such as streets, hills, ponds or streams). Thus, although the general location of each plot is fairly accurate relative to other named lots within a specifically described geographic location (such as a town block), without exact measurements for each plot, the precise location of any plot within a specific block is only an estimate. Realizing this limitation we can locate the Hull lot with some reliability, as it was located on a central thoroughfare known as the highway or High Street (by 1700 it was called Newbury Street), which is now Washington Street in downtown Boston. Moving south on Washington from the intersection of Washington and Summer Streets (Summer was then called Mill Street or Seven Star Lane) the Hull home was the third parcel of land on the east side of the street. After the Hull lot there were three other lots before reaching the intersection of Washington and Bedford Streets (Bedford Street was simply called the road to the Watering Place, because of the pond found there; by the 1670's it was referred to as the road to Wheeler's Pond and later Pond Street). The lot owners, on the east side of Washington Street moving from the intersection with Summer Street to the intersection with Bedford Street, were: Elizabeth Purton, Job Judkin, Robert Hull, John Hurd, William Blantaine (or Plantayne) and Thomas Wheeler (Appleton map, lots F 58 to F 63). This would put the Hull lot almost half of the way between Summer and Bedford Streets (due to recent redevelopment in downtown Boston as of the year 2000 Bedford Street stops a block east of Washington). The east side of Washington Street is the side where Macy's (formerly Jordan's) department store is now located.
John Hull's mother, Elizabeth (Storer) Hull, died on May 7, 1646. The widower Robert, then living with his 21 year old son John and his 17 year old son Edward, made a deed of gift to John on December 15, 1646, five months before John was to marry. The agreement stated that since John was, "now being upon his marriage, being about the one and twentieth yeare of his age" his father Robert Hull promised to give to John,
"My dwelling House & garden, with all the fruit trees and Appurtenances, bounded on the north, with the land of Job Judkin; on the south with the land of John Hurd; on the east with the Land of Gamaliel Waite; on the north west with the high way. As also my Lott of ground at mudy river, given to me by the towne of Boston, of about 36 or 38 ackras, bounded with Cambridg line on the North; upon the south, with the Land of Edward Belsher; on the East, partly: with the Land of Robert Turner; on the west, with the Lotts of Thomas Wheeler, Thomas Scottow & Isack Perry. As also a Lott of 21 ackras given by the town of Boston unto my sonn, Richard Storer, & by me purchased off him, Lieing at Brantree, by Manatticott river, between Mr. Francis Loyall & Mr Ting. Said property, Robert Hull gave to his son, John, reserving to himself during life, the full enjoyment of it."(Trask, "Abstracts," p. 323 and Howe, p. 40)
Richard Storer had been given an allotment of twelve acres in Braintree on November 25, 1639, said to be enough for "three heads" (Appleton, Boston Records, p. 43 and Clarke, Hull, pp. 30-31). Presumably he was married and had a child at the time. Storer subsequently acquired about nine additional acres but at some point before 1646 he sold the land to his stepfather and seems to have returned to England.
On May 11, 1647 the twenty two year old John Hull married Judith Quincy, daughter of Edmund and Judith Quincy. In his diary John Hull wrote that he had been married in his own house, his exact words were, "Mr. John Winthrop married me and my wife Judith, in my own house,..." (Hull, Private Diary, p. 143). From passing references to the Hull house in his diaries and letters and from later references to the house in the extensive diaries and letters of his son-in-law Samuel Sewall, we know the Hull house originally consisted of a single large room with a fireplace at one end. John Hull extended the structure, adding a room onto the other side of the fireplace, so that the hearth was now at the center of the house between two large rooms. At this time the original room was called the "Great Hall" or the "Old Hall" while John's addition was called the "Little Hall." John also extended the size of the kitchen (Clarke, Hull, p. 36 as well as p. 162 for later comments on the rooms made in reference to the marriage of Hull's daughter). When John Hull stated he had been married in his own house he was referring to the addition he had built onto his father's house. John's father continued to reside in the "Great Hall." Indeed, Robert Hull later remarried, taking as his second wife, Judith Paine, the widow of Edmund Quincy, that is, John's mother-in-law (through this marriage Judith's son Edmund Quincy, who had been John's brother-in-law, became his step brother). Thus, although the estate contained John Hull's residence and the land had been promised to him, it did not legally revert to John Hull's ownership until after the death of his father. Since his father was still alive when the updates to the information in The Book of Possessions ceased, there was no mention of John Hull in that book as an independent property owner. However, it is clear that in 1652, when the mint was constructed on Hull's property, the 27 year old John Hull and his wife of five years were settled on the Hull family homestead.
"I, Robert Hull, being in good memory of body and mind doe [do] give to sonne, John Hull, my part of this house which was first bylt [built], and the orchard or garden, with all oppurttynances to it, and on lotte at muddye river, of thurty Accores, which I promised to him at his marridge to give at my death, and doe make him my full executores of all oether goods, cattells [chattel] after my death, and to see this my will to be performed, that is to saye, I give to my sonne, Edmund Quinney [Quincy], that porsson [portion] which is due to me by my wife [the former Judith Quincy], that £20 in goods and corne, be it more or less, and to his sonne, John Quiney, on lote at brantrye which was my sonne, Richard Storer; to the oether childrens [Edmund's other children], 12 pence a peece. To Richard Storer, £9, to be payed before or after my death, and to sonne Edward Hull, that peece of ground at the water mile [mill] and three core [score] poundes in money or goods. [signed below] Robert Hull"(Trask, "Abstracts," p. 322-323 and Howe, p. 40)
Robert left the bulk of his estate to John, while offering far less to his son Edward and his stepson Richard. As we have seen, Richard had most likely returned to England by this date. Edward moved to Braintree in 1650 and by 1652 had married Elinor Newman. However, a few months after his marriage Edward set sail on a frigate owned by the family and joined Captain John Underhill in an expedition to seize Dutch ships, under the authority of a commission from the Rhode Island Assembly. Soon the sailors were not only raiding the Dutch but also preying on the French and any others they could overpower. Edward dragged the entire Hull family into a piracy charge, as both his father Robert and his brother John were listed with him as owners of the vessel. At the Essex County Court held in Salem on November 29, 1653 a Captain Kempo Seibada sued all the Hulls. The court record stated Seibada sued Robert and John along with Edward as they were all listed as partial owners of the frigate Swallow, "under the command of Edward Hull, pirate, for damages of his estate in taking out his house at Block Island by said Edward Hull, goods to the value of £96." (Dow,Records, vol. 1, p. 314). During the proceedings Robert and John produced several letters they had sent to Edward disapproving of his actions, Robert and John stated that they, "did endeavour to improve all the interest wee had in him to gaine him from that imployment by letters & by message..." (Dow,Records, vol. 1, p. 318). Robert and John were acquitted of any wrongdoing while Edward, who did not appear at the trial, seems to have fled to England. There are several letters from Edward written in the 1650's from London (Clarke, Hull, pp. 73-75 and Morison, p. 152).
Robert Hull died on July 28, 1666. On February 12, 1667 John was appointed executor of his father's estate, the document stated John was, "his Eldest & now only sonn." This clearly refers to natural sons, as Edmund Quincy was still living and probably Richard Storer was still alive in England. The inference is that Edward Hull had died by this date. On the same day John Hull was appointed executor of his father's estate, he filed a copy of his deed of gift from 1646. At this point John Hull became the sole owner of the Hull estate.
When John Hull died on October 1, 1683 he owned numerous properties and was a partner in several businesses. Unfortunately, Hull died intestate, so there was no will detailing his holdings, but we have a document of almost equal value. An agreement was submitted to the court on March 12, 1684 for the division of John Hull's estate. The agreement was forwarded by the executors of the estate with the approval of John Hull's widow, Judith Hull, and the Hull's only daughter Hannah1 along with Hannah's husband Samuel Sewall. The document contains some important details concerning the Hull residence, which reverted to his wife Judith. The residence was described as follows,
"the mansion house of the said Mr. Hull, wherein hee dyed, with all the land thereto adjoining and belonging; and all tenements, shop, out houseing and buildings whatsoever on any part of said land standing; with a small orchard or parcel of land thereto neer adjacent late purchased of Mr. Edward Rawson." (Hull, Diary, addenda, p. 258)
The 1684 agreement also stated that upon the death of Hull's wife Judith, the property would revert to Samuel Sewall. For an excellent discussion of Hull and Sewall references to this property see the article of Estes Howe cited in the bibliography.Footnote
1. The children of John and Judith Hull were as follows: On January 23, 1653 twins, Elizabeth and Mary, were born but they lived barely a week. Mary died on January 30th and Elizabeth died on February 1st. On November 3, 1654 the Hull's had a son named John who died less than two weeks later on November 14th. On February 14, 1658 their daughter Hannah was born, she was the only child to survive to adulthood. On August 6, 1661 a son Samuel was born but he died within two weeks on August 20th. (Hull, Private Diary, pp.143-144).
From a variety of sources we know Hull acquired several properties during his career. His holdings in Rhode Island and New Hampshire as well as his Massachusetts real estate outside of Boston have never been proposed as locations for the Boston mint, hence I shall limit my remarks to Hull's various holdings within Boston (for holding outside of Boston see Clarke, Hull, pp. 84-92). It has sometimes been suggested the mint could have been located on any of Hull's Boston holdings. The central problem with this argument is that none of Hull's land acquisitions date back to the period of the construction of the mint in 1652 other than his father's gift of December 1646 promising John would inherit the family estate and granting John ownership of the part of the house wherein John and Judith resided. Since the mint was constructed in 1652 on land said to be owned by Hull, it seems clear that land acquired ten to thirty years after the mint was constructed could not be considered a likely location for the mint. The problem lies in that although many of Hull's land holdings are listed in the 1684 agreement for the division of his estate, no dates were given as to when Hull acquired the lands. It has sometimes been incorrectly assumed Hull held these lands from his earliest years. Indeed, the editor of the 1878 edition of Samuel Sewall's Diary mistakenly located the Hull residence (and thus also the Sewall residence) to Hull's land on Cotton Hill! Even though Estes Howe wrote an article in 1885 rectifying the numerous geographical errors in the 1878 edition, those using this source without recourse to Howe's article sometime perpetuate errors concerning Hull's properties.
Hull's acquisitions of Boston real estate first date from the mid 1660's. He purchased a house with some land from Seaborn Cotton on September 24, 1664 on Cotton Hill for £200. Cotton Hill was located off Tremont Street north of the corner of Tremont and School Streets (up to Pemberton Square). Later, on May 29, 1682, Hull expanded his holding in the area by purchasing the house and property originally owned by the Reverend John Cotton, after the house had gone through several owners (Appleton, The Book of Possessions, p. 3, item 9 and p. 111, item H 13; Howe, p. 316 and Clarke, Hull, pp. 86-87). Hull also acquired some land in 1665 from the family of his apprentice, Jeremiah Dummer. This property was a section of what had originally been Christopher Stanley's pasture located in the North End of Boston near Cobb's Hill. About 1711 Hull's heirs, Samuel and Hannah Sewall, conveyed the North End land to the town of Boston with the proviso that the road connecting that land to the main thoroughfare be called Hull Street. The town agreed and the road still retains that name to this day. (Appleton, The Book of Possessions, p. 16, item 43 and p. 119, item I 1 and Clarke, Hull, p. 87).
In the last decade of his life Hull seems to have gone on a buying spree, acquiring several nearby lots to add to the Hull estate. In November of 1676 John Hull purchased half of his neighbor's lot, acquiring the house and the south half of the lot (which was the portion that abutted the north end of his own property) from Samuel Judkin, the son of Job Judkin; the northern half of the Judkin lot was acquired by Christopher Morse (Howe, p. 313). In the agreement submitted to the court for the division of John Hull's estate following his death we learn among the properties Hull had purchased were:
"ye little orchard or parcel of land bought of Mr. Rawson neer adjacent to ye Mansion house; with the dwelling house and land on the other side of the street purchased of Robert Walker..." (Hull, Diary, Addenda, p. 259)The Walker property was acquired in March of 1680 and was described as bounded to the east by High Street, south by the land late of Robert Mason, west by the land of Hezekiah Usher and north by the land late of Peter Goose. This locates the property to the other side of Washington Street, two lots south of the Hull residence (Howe, p. 314). The Rawson property was purchased by Hull on June 30, 1683, just three months before he died. This orchard, acquired from Edward Rawson, Secretary for Massachusetts Bay, was on Summer Street, formerly the east end of the Widow Elizabeth Purton's lot and went 100 feet down Summer Street (Howe, p. 313). Hull also acquired a pasture from Sarah Phippen that was located about a block or two east of the back end of his estate, although the date of that purchase is not recorded (Hull, Diary, Addenda, p. 260 and mentioned again on p. 261).
Further, in the agreement for the division of John Hull's estate there are numerous other Boston properties in which Hull had an interest including half interest in some warehouses and a wharf, a third interest in three dwellings that were then occupied by William Hoar, Hudson Leverett, and the widow of Richard Woodde. The division agreement also explained Hull's Muddy River property was, "in the tenure and occupation of Simon Gates." All of these properties were acquired long after the construction of the mint and could not be seriously considered as sites Hull could have selected in 1652 for the mint house.
In 1652 John Hull owned the section of the family home he had built for himself and his wife. John also had a signed promissory note from his father stating he was to receive the homestead upon the death of his father. This was the only real estate to which John Hull had a claim in 1652. Therefore, it seems quite probable the Hull homestead was the location referred to in the minutes of mint committee meeting of June 22, 1652 which stated, "That the said mint howse shall be sett upon the land of the said John Hull."
John Hull and his wife Judith continually improved and expanded the family homestead, living at that location until they died. The description of Hull's estate at the time of his death in 1683 mentions several buildings located on the homestead in addition to the "mansion house" as it details, "all tenements, shop, out houseing and buildings whatsoever on any part of said land standing" but it does not specifically name any buildings except the mansion residence and the shop. Hull's surviving ledger gives some further information on the buildings at the Hull estate (for details on the ledger see below, part one, section two). Among the numerous personal accounts in the ledger is an account for Hull's "dwelling house" detailing expenses Hull incurred in regard to his residence. In this account we find Hull incurred a debt of £18 on October 9, 1671 "To Building my little stone house of office" (New England Historic Genealogical Society, MS CB 110, vol. 1, folios 24 verso - 25 recto). In addition to the construction of an office we find the "shop" was mentioned several times in the ledger as the location where his silversmith business took place. For example, there is an entry under the account of Mr. William Brimson from May 27, 1673 "To [be] paid ye shop for mending a pott & 3 spoons and silver added 10 · 6"[that is, 10s6d] (New England Historic Genealogical Society, MS CB 110, vol. 1, folio 13 verso). There are also other accounts that refer to payments for items needed for the shop such as coal and charcoal. In the account of John Winchester and Dorman Muerson (?) of Muddy River (now Brookline) are several payments for coal delivered to the shop. On February 28, 1674 [listed in the old style dating as 1673 since the new year began in March] is an entry: "By money of the shop for coals - for John Winchester · · 1 / 10 /· ·" [that is, £1 10s]. Also, under November 17, 1674, "By money of the shop for 73 bushels 1/2 coal - for John Winchester · · 1 / · 4 /· 6" [that is, 73.5 bushels for £1 4s6d]. And finally under December 3 , "For charcoal to ye shop whose money for Dorman Muerson (?) · · 2 / 17 / · 8" [that is, £2 17s8d] (New England Historic Genealogical Society, MS CB 110, vol. 1, folio 40 recto). Clearly, the shop was the location where Hull and Sanderson kept their tools and made silver cups, bowls and other objects.
The ledger also contains an account relating to the shop. This is a three part listing beginning on folios 26 verso - 27 recto under the heading "Account of the shop..." (this account is fully transcribed below). Several entries clearly related to the coining operation and demonstrate Hull used the terms shop and mint interchangeably. The first entry specifically mentions silver sent to the shop, rather than the mint house, to be minted into coins. The entry, from October 18, 1671, stated, "To 417oz. 1/2 sterling silver sent into ye shop to be minted..." On the other hand, two of the following entries use the term mint house rather than shop. Under August 25, 1673 Hull wrote, "To Put into ye mint house to be Coyned 265oz. sterling at 6s · 2d is £81 · 14 · 2" and again under December 12, 1674, "To Put into the mint house to Coyne 275oz. 1/2 sterling at 6 · 2 d £84 · 19 · 0 " Other entries neglect to mention either the shop or the mint house as under October 24, 1671 which simply stated "To 208oz. sterling sent in to be minted..." and under June 29, 1672 "To Put into Coyne 179oz. 1/2." Although most of the entries in this section relate to sterling silver to be turned into coinage there are some entries specifically relating to silversmithing, for instance "4 Rings get in ye shop of mine. 1 · 12 · 74." [that is February 1, 1675]. There are also entries relating to the purchase of items that could be used both in goldsmithing and in minting, as an entry of December 26, 1671 concerning the purchase of 12 parcels of files. That this account was listed under the heading of "Account of the shop", indicates Hull considered both the coining operation and and silversmithing business to be activities of his shop. Hull listed mint expenses as shop expenses. Further, although he sometimes used the term mint house when referring to coining, at other times he use the word shop. Hull understood the General Court had authorized his silversmith shop to also function as a mint house and thus sometimes he used the more legally appropriate term mint house when referring to the location of the coining function while at other times simply used the term shop as that was the location where the minting was performed.
The Massachusetts Bay General Court mint documents of 1652 refer to a building on the Hull estate called a "mint house." These documents also mention the acquisition of the tools required for the melting and refining of silver as well as the tools needed for the stamping of the coins. It is clear the building constructed to house these items was the structure Hull and Sanderson used for all of their silversmith operations and was the structure they referred to as the "shop."
There are very few documents that actually describe the structure or structures where the Massachusetts silver coins were minted. The following discussion analyzes the specific terminology used to refer to the mint house in contemporary government documents to determine if they provide any further information concerning the mint building.1. Citations to the mint house from 1652
The earliest reference to a "mint house" is found in the undated draft legislation brought before the May 1652 session of the Massachusetts Bay General Court for establishing a mint. The legislation explained,
"That all persons what soeuer have liberty to bring in vnto the mint howse at Boston all bulljon plate or Spannish Cojne there to be melted & brought to the allay of sterling Silver by John Hull master of the sajd mint and his sworne officers, & by him to be Cojned into 12d : 6d & 3d peeces" (Crosby p. 34)The final part of the draft legislation ordered the mint committee:
"to Appoint the mint howse in some Convenjent place in Boston. to Give John Hull master of the mint the oath suiteable to his place. And to Approove of all other officers and determine what els shall Appeare to them as necessaryly to be donne for the Carrying an end of the whole order.This wording is also found in the final forms of the legislation as passed by the House of Magistrates on May 26, 1652 and as passed by the House of Deputies a day later on May 27th (see the entries in the chronology). Thus, the idea of constructing a special mint facility in Boston was an essential part of the legislation and expediting the construction of that facility was one of the primary charges delegated to the mint committee.
& That all other orders concerning the valuation or coining of money past this Court shallbe repealed:" (Crosby pp. 34-35)
Interestingly, the most detailed description of the mint house is not a description at all but rather reflects general building specifications issued by the mint committee dating to before the building was constructed! The reference is found in an undated and incomplete draft version of an action of the mint committee of the General Court which stated:
"ffor melting Refining & Coyning of Silver ... thire shall be an howse built at the Countryes Charge of sixteene foote square tenn foote high, substantially wrought and further also, provide all necessery tooles & Implements for the same at the Countrjes charge..." (Crosby p. 39)The final version of this action is dated June 20, 1652. It used the same wording but slightly revised the spelling and punctuation presented in the draft, the final version stated that:
"for melting Refyning and Coyning of silver... there shall be an howse built at the Countrjes charge, of sixteene ffoote square, ten foote high; substantially wrought; and further also, Provide all necessary tooles and Implements for the same, at the Countrjes charge..." (Crosby p. 40)The location of this structure was not mentioned but it is clear the committee was negotiating for a site that would meet the requirements of the legislation, namely "some Convenjent place in Boston." Two days later a site was announced and orders for the construction of a mint house were issued.
On June 22nd, the committee stated that, "there should be a mint howse & all tooles and Implements necessary thereto, built and procured At the Countrjes charge." To that end the committee stated a warrant had been issued to the Constables of Boston impressing Isacke Cullimore into the service of the state and another warrant had been issued to Cullimore allowing him to impress "other workemen Carpenters" to join him. Furthermore the document explained, "That the sajd mint howse shall be sett vppon the land of the sajd John Hull." This announcement is the first evidence we have that the committee had been negotiating an agreement with Hull on the use of his land for the mint house. The substance of that agreement is explained in a provision added to the announcement on the selection of the site. The provision explained if Hull ceased to hold the position of mintmaster, the Commonwealth had the option of purchasing the land from Hull or allowing Hull the option of purchasing "the sajd Howse" from the Commonwealth at a price determined by two impartial men, one of which would be selected by the Commonwealth and the other selected by Hull. (Crosby, p. 42).
From these documents we learn the mint was conceived to be housed in a single building erected on Hull's land where silver would be melted and refined into a sterling alloy and then stamped into coins. The Commonwealth impressed the carpenters and paid for the construction of the mint building as well as acquiring the tools necessary for refining silver and minting coins. Whether the building that Cullimore actually constructed varied from the specifications set forth in the memorandum of June 20th is unknown, as there is no similarly detailed description of the structure with specific dimensions from an eyewitness who actually saw the building. The June 20th statement predated the construction of the mint, it was intended as a general guide for the carpenters, explaining the kind of building the state anticipated would be required. However, it does seem quite probable the carpenters followed the committee's request as closely as possible, constructing a single structure with the intention that the building would be used for the entire process from melting and refining silver to stamping coins. Indeed, later General Court documents refer to a single structure called the "mint house."
Assuming Cullimore quickly found the additional carpenters required for the job and the necessary building materials were available, it is quite likely the mint building was completed by mid July. However, precisely when the mint was opened is unknown. We do know that Hull took his oath as an officer of the mint on June 10th or 11th while Sanderson waited until August 19, 1652. Clearly, the construction of the building was not the only task that needed to be completed before coins could be minted. Presumably, Hull had a hearth in which to melt silver as he worked as a silversmith before this time; although it is quite possible he had been using his father's hearth, as his father was a blacksmith. Minimally, some type of stone hearth would be required in the mint building. If Cullimore and the carpenters he impressed into service also built a hearth, or if a stonemason was later brought in to complete the structure, is unknown. Further, Hull would need a variety of equipment required for coin production (see part three, section one on production procedures for details). He may have needed a furnace or foundry to melt larger quantities of silver, although it is possible at first he only required a hearth. Hull would also need to acquire fine molding sand and set up a wet sand area to cast silver into thin sheets. Further, he would need to acquire of some type of rolling machine to shape the sheets to the desired coin thickness and heavy cutting shears to cut out the planchets for the NE coinage. He would also need punches for the NE and the denomination numerals, as well as other equipment required for coinage production such as crucibles or pots in which to melt the silver and ladles to remove the molten silver. Naturally, he would also need equipment for assaying silver, which he presumably owned as part of his silversmith supplies. The construction of the building was an important visible sign of the establishment of the mint, but coins could not be produced until the structure was completed with a working hearth and filled with the benches and all the tools and special equipment required for minting*.Footnote
* If it is assumed the essential tools could be made locally by Joseph Jenks at the Hammersmith Ironworks, then it is possible to suppose the mint opened opened by September. If one assumes the tools had to be ordered from England, then it is necessary to allow for a 4-6 week trip in each direction as well as some time in England to place the orders and produce the tools. Even if the mint committee had sent such a request from Boston on June 20th (the day of their action ordering the tools to be procured) it would be unlikely any items could have reached Boston before late September or early October at the very earliest. For additional information on Jenks see below, Part 3, section 7.
It is quite likely minting did not begin until after Sanderson took his oath in mid August. The legislation of May 26/27 stated Massachusetts silver coins were to become current money as of September first. This probably reflects the date on which the mint was to officially open. On the other hand it may reflect the release date on which the first coins were to be distributed for circulation. If the latter option was the case then Hull may have started experimenting with minting in August. It is possible Sanderson did not take the oath earlier because he may have been out of town. We know Hull personally signed the undated mint committee draft of early June 1652 while Edward Rawson, the Secretary of the General Court and a member of the mint committee, added Sanderson's name to the document, indicating Sanderson may not have been available. In any event, it seems clear the NE coinage was in production before mid October. On October 19, 1652, legislation was passed changing the coin designed from a round planchet with NE one side and the date on the other to a more complex design with a rim inscription within a double ring and in the center a tree on one side and the date on the other. It is quite unlikely that a coining press was available on October 19th allowing the minters to immediately begin producing the new variety, now known as the Willow Tree coinage. It is more likely the production of the NE coinage continued until the minters could acquire the equipment needed to conform to the new regulations. It is possible NE coinage may have been produced until 1654. It seems some type of press was obtained by 1654 as there are some indications the mint was exploring the possibility of hiring a diecutter in that year. In 1654 Joseph Jenks of Hammersmith corresponded with John Hull's brother Edward Hull, who was in London, about bringing a diecutter to Massachsuetts Bay. In the same year John Mansfield petitioned the General Court for a position at the mint but neither initiative seems to have been successful (Morison, p. 152; Crosby, pp. 103-104 and below in part three, section six). That inquiries were made concerning a diecutter and that Mansfield, who had apprenticed in London as a goldsmith, applied for a position suggests Hull and Sanderson were seeking an experienced diecutter. Obviously, they would not have sought a diecutter unless they had acquired some type of press, probably some type of roller or rocker press, which required dies.
Unfortunately the pages in the account book of Richard Russell, Treasurer of Massachusetts Bay, relating to the period during the construction of the mint were excised from the surviving text at some point in the past and are now lost (Noe, Silver, p. 6). This source would have had a listing of the specific mint expenses incurred by the Commonwealth. However, although we have been deprived of the best source for financial information, we do have some verification that the expenses relating to the construction of the mint house had been paid by October; for in the October 1652 session of the General Court treasurer Russell summarized the expenses incurred by the Commonwealth since the May General Court meeting. Unfortunately he did not give a detailed itemized account, rather he included the mint expenses along with prison costs stating:
"To several sums paid on the charge, - prisons and prisoners and keeper and executioner and mint house. All is £395. 12s. 2d" (Hull, Diary, appendix, p. 289 and Shurtleff, vol. 4, pt. 1, p. 104)The unknown portion of this sum that reflected the mint costs probably included both the cost of constructing the building as well as the cost of purchasing the necessary tools for soon thereafter, on October 26, 1652, the secretary of the Court recorded that the whole General Court voted to allow and approve the actions of the mint committee concerning the construction of a mint house and the acquisition of the necessary minting equipment at government expense. (Crosby, p. 41, Hull, Diary, appendix, p. 289 and Shurtleff, vol. 4, pt. 1, p. 118). Thus, during the summer of 1652 a building called a mint house had been constructed and the needed equipment had been purchased and both of these expenses were subsequently approved by the General Court at the October session. 2. Citations to the minting facilities from the 1660's
Although the 1652 references mention only a single building, some later references, made after the mint building had been constructed but while the mint was still in operation, suggest there may have been more than one structure involved in the production of coinage. On October 16, 1660, the General Court established a second mint committee in the hope of obtaining more favorable terms for the Commonwealth. On June 6, 1661, the committee submitted a report stating they felt that, "the use of the mint & house required in justice some certaine part of the income received..." be paid to the government. The committee asked for 5% of the mint fee, however, Hull and Sanderson would not agree to give the Commonwealth an annual percentage of the fee but offered an annual payment of £10 as a free gift (Crosby, p. 72). The use of the ampersand for the conjunction "and" in the phrase "the mint & house" is imprecise. It should be remembered in early New England the word house not only referred to a home but was also used to refer to any building, thus we find the phrase, which we might consider to be a redundancy, namely, "dwelling House" used in Robert Hull's December 15, 1646 promissory deed of gift, alternatively we find the term "howse" and "mint howse" used in the General Court documents of June 20 and 22, 1652 to refer to a building for the mint. Based on the generic usage of the term "house" it is possible, in the present context, that the phrase "the mint & house" could refer to two separate structures, a mint building and a related building generically called a house. On the other hand the phrase could refer to a single edifice with multiple functions, namely a structure that functioned as a mint and had other unspecified uses as a house or building. Alternatively, the phrase could simply be an awkward method of referring to a single structure that was used solely as a mint house. A codicil to this report by William Torrey, the Clerk for the lower house of the court, the House of Deputies, stated that the Deputies felt the committee should accept the £10, "& what else they can gett by way of recompenc for the mint howse for the time past, & that1 it be deliuered to the Treasurer to be bestowed in powder & oill,..." (Crosby, p. 72). This decision of the deputies was also added to the record of the General Court, backdated to the start of the court session on May 22nd, where the phrase referring to the structure was again transcribed as, "Recompence for the mint house" and stating the money would be used to acquire powder (that is, gunpowder) without mention of oil (Crosby, p. 72). Thus, although the reference made by the mint committee is unclear as to the number and uses of the building(s), it appears the General Court continued to refer to a single structure called the mint house.
Further references to the mint building are found in relation to a third mint committee appointed by the General Court on May 15, 1667 to obtain, "some allowance annually, or otherwise, for & in Consideration of the charge the Country hath binn at in erecting a mint house, & for the vse of it for so many years without any Considerable sattisfaction,..." (Crosby, p. 78). An agreement was reached with this third mint committee and a document was signed on October 4, 1667. The contract stated, "hauing duely weighed the Countrys Interest in the aediffices apperteyning to the sajd office, and Agitated the matter with mr. John Hull & mr. Robert Saunderson, the present mint masters..." that Hull and Sanderson agreed to pay £40 into the Commonwealth treasury within six months, "In Consideration of the Countrys disbursments in the said aediffices, & for Interest the Generall Court hath therein." Presumably this payment was to reimburse the government for construction costs and appears to have been made to acquire the rights to the government's interest in the buildings associated with the mint. Further, Hull and Sanderson agreed to pay £10 annually to the Commonwealth for the next seven years (Shurtleff, vol. 4, pt. 2, p. 347 and Crosby, p. 78). That the 1667 agreement refers to "aediffices" in the pleural implies there was more that one structure taken into consideration. Also, by this one time payment of £40 it appears the mintmasters acquired whatever interest the Commonwealth had in the buildings.
Thus, the documents of 1652 refer to a single structure where the entire refining and minting process would take place, this structure was simply called a house or a mint house. In the references made after the mint had been in operation and had expanded through the acquisition of more sophisticated coining presses (evolving from simply using punches to a roller or rocker press and then to a screw press) we find the General Court continued to refer to a single structure called a mint house. However, the reports of mint committees, who actually investigated the matter and presumably viewed the mint facilities, do not use the standard phrase "mint house." The 1661 report uses the ambiguous phrase "the mint & house" while the 1667 contract uses the word "aediffices." As the 1667 document details a payment made by the mintmasters to acquire the government's interests in the structures I assume the wording was selected with more care than was the case in the document of 1661. Thus, it seems possible as Hull's businesses expanded the minting operation may have been carried out in more than one building.
The reference to multiple buildings may reflect a separation of minting operations. Probably the assays and the processing of the silver strips into blank planchets as well as the engraving of the dies may have been performed in the shop, where Hull conducted his silversmith business. It is also likely the shop contained a stone hearth at one end, as did most homes including the Hull residence. With the aid of a bellows, a hearth could reach temperatures hot enough to conduct assays, shape metal, granulate small quantities of silver plate and coins (see Lazarus Ercker's 1580 treatise, cited in the bibliography, for details on the granulation process, pp. 51-59) and then melt the granulated silver so that it could be refined to sterling and shaped into a small object such as a ring, cup or a bowl. A hearth would also be essential in several other silversmith related tasks such as baking wet clay to make an assay oven or baking cupels to be used in an assay, as well as keeping the staff warm during the winter months. It is possible a hearth may have been the only heat source Hull needed when the mint first opened. However, as the mint became more successful and moved from the hammer technology used on the NE coins to the more sophisticated machine press technology used for the later series, the production rates increased. This required more silver and larger melts. It is clear from Hull's ledger that large quantities of silver, sometimes over one hundred troy pounds, were consigned to the mint. Unlike most silversmiths who only melted small quantities of silver, Hull needed to melt much larger quantities of silver for coinage, often up to 25 troy pounds in a single melt. For melts of this magnitude he needed a large foundry furnace. Not as large as the furnace constructed in the late 1640's at the Hammersmith Ironworks, but certainly much larger than the hearths used in most silversmith and blacksmith shops. These larger foundry furnaces reached temperatures of up to 2000° Fahrenheit and were often found at mining sites, where they were used for extracting minerals from ore. The foundry furnace was usually located outside, frequently in an open structure that could be described as a lean-to, or what we might now call a car port, consisting of a back wall and a roof giving some protection from rain and snow. Sometimes this structure was attached to an outside wall of a building or was free standing in the proximity of a building (Agricola's treatise on metals contains several plates of large furnaces in operation, see pp. 474-482). Only the most advanced facilities, such as the London mint and a few large London goldsmith operations, had the financial means to construct special foundry rooms within the confines of a building. If the mint house was only sixteen feet square and ten feet high there may have been room for a wall hearth along with the work benches and other tools Hull needed but there would certainly not be room for a foundry furnace and the adjacent sand molds required to shape large quantities of molten silver into strips. Indeed, when such a furnace was in operation the heat would be so intense it would be difficult to remain nearby. Thus, it seems quite likely when a melting furnace was added to the operation it was not located inside the shop, although it may have been just outside the shop under a lean-to or in a nearby shed. Further, at least during the screw press period, and possibly earlier, it is likely the relatively noisy job of actual striking the planchets into coins may have been performed in another building where the coin press would have been kept.
It should be noted Michael Hodder and Richard Doty have shown the Willow and Oak series as well as most, if not all, "large planchet" Pine Tree varieties may have been stamped onto metal strips fed through a roller or rocker press, with the impressed coins then cut out from the strips. It is unknown if the mint was still using a roller or rocker press in 1667 or if they had already moved to a screw press. We do know the mint began producing Oak Tree twopence coins in 1662 and thus surmise at that date a roller or rocker press was still in use.
In conclusion it seems a mint building was erected on the Hull estate in 1652 and was called both "the shop" and "the mint house" by Hull. As the coining operation expanded with the acquisition of a foundry furnace to melt large quantities of silver, the furnace was probably not located inside the shop. Further, as newer and more sophisticated minting machinery was acquired, such as a roller press, and later with the acquisition of a screw press, mint production was probably distributed so that more than one building was used for the coining operation. Also, it appears in 1667 Hull and Sanderson made a payment of £40 to acquire the Commonwealth's interest in the physical facilities used in the operation of the mint.Footnote
1. The abbreviation yt in the text is transcribed as "that" rather than "yet." See the General Court transcription of this text, which is also given on p. 72 in Crosby and the use of the abbreviation yt by Sewall in Hull, Diary, p. 254 in the entry for March 21, 1677.
Unlike John Hull who had immigrated to America as a ten years old child with no professional training, Robert Sanderson came to America as a fully trained adult. Indeed, Sanderson began an apprenticeship in the goldsmith trade a year before Hull was born. In the London register of the Goldsmith's guild is the following entry dated October 17, 1623:
"That I Robert Sanderson the sonne of Saundersonne of Higham doe put myselfe apprentize until William Rawlins Citizen & Goldsmith of London for the terme of nyne yeares." (Clarke, Hull, p. 57)It was not until sixteen years later that Sanderson departed England for Massachusetts Bay. Upon his arrival in 1639 Sanderson first settled in Hampton, New Hampshire with his wife Mary, where they were granted 80 acres of land. Sanderson took an oath as a freeman of Massachusetts Bay on September 7, 1639 (Shurtleff, Records, vol. 1, p. 376). Soon thereafter, on October 29, 1639 their daughter Lydia, was baptized at the Hampton church (The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, vol. 12 (1858) p. 79). Within three years the family moved to Watertown, Massachusetts, just west of Cambridge, where the birth of their son Joseph was recorded in the Watertown register on January 1, 1643 (The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, vol. 7 (1853), p. 282). The family later moved to Boston, where Sanderson became a deacon at the First Church and then in 1652 joined John Hull as a partner in the Boston mint. (Clarke, Hull, p. 57)
The location of Robert Sanderson's residence in Boston is not mentioned in The Book of Possessions, however we can estimate its general location from an entry in the town records. According to the Boston town records for June 29, 1657 Robert Sanderson was allowed to rent, "a Little 3 square strip of Land" from the Commonwealth for 18d per year, this land adjoined, "...the upper end of his owne Garden, Coming from the upper Corner of Tho. Munt's pailes [i.e., his boundry stakes] unto stile [the entrance steps] of the said Robert Sanderson," (Appleton, Boston Records, pp. 137-138). From The Book of Possessions we know the Thomas Munt house and lot was on the north side of what is now Essex Street (at that time it was part of a marshy creek area called the Cove or mill dam), just west of the intersection with what we now call South Street (then simply called the lane), located as lot F 24 on the Appleton map. Later, on January 23, 1663, Thomas and Elinor Munt sold Sanderson sixteen and a half rods of land in this area (Anderson, p. 1317). Robert Sanderson seems to have lived near the Munt property, probably on a portion of the large acreage listed as owned by William Teft (lot F 23 on the Appleton map), or possibly near the homestead listed as belonging to Jonathan Negroos in The Book of Possessions (lot F 25 on the Appleton map). About a block east of the Munt and Sanderson lots had been a windmill on a promontory overlooking the ocean, thus the main road connecting that area to High Street (i.e. Washington Street) was called Mill Street (now Summer Street). In 1642 permission was given to move the wind mill a few blocks east to the fort (see, Appleton, The Book of Possessions, p. 38, item 108b and p. 78, items F 23, 24, 25 and information on the mill in item 27, the fort was located on a hill overlooking the ocean in the area near what is now the Old Custom House).
Further evidence on the location of the Sanderson residence is found in the undated will of Thomas Munt where it stated, "to Clement Short, Husband to Faith Munt, Imp. a piece of land lyeing nigh the mill dam between Robert Sanderson and John Bracker, £30;" (Trask, William B. "Abstracts from the Earliest Wills on Record in the County of Suffolk, Mass.," The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, vol. 16 (1862), p. 162). Faith was one of Thomas's three daughters. An inventory of the Thomas Munt estate was taken on July 6, 1664 and his will was executed on April 28, 1666 (see The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, vol. 12 (1858), p. 346 and Anderson, p. 1317). Additionally, in the agreement for the division of John Hull's property there is reference to a small pasture John Hull acquired that was described as, "a small close or pasture ground scituate in Boston adjoining upon Mr. Robert Sanderson formerly purchased of Sarah Phippen." (Hull, Diary, Addenda, p. 260 and mentioned again on p. 261). The precise location of the Phippen lot has not been determined. In the Boston Town Records for September 27, 1641 it stated "David Phippen is admitted to be a Townsman, and to have a howse lott, if it can be found" (Appleton, Boston Records, p. 63). David seems to have found some property near the mill creek (the Cove) for at the town meeting of April 28, 1645 the record reflected, "There is granted unto David Phippen liberty of wharfing before his property, neere the milne Creeke." (Appleton, Boston Records, p. 84). If this reflected the location of the land later sold to Hull by Sarah Phippen, then both the Munt and Pippen references locate the Sanderson lot to the area near the waterway called the Cove or mill dam (now Essex Street), just a few blocks east of the Hull estate. That Sanderson lived so close to Hull is a further indication their joint silversmith and minting operations were located on the Hull estate.
There are four large manuscript volumes written by John Hull now held at the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston, Massachusetts designated as Manuscript CB 110. According to a bookplate on the inside front cover of each volume, the set was donated to the society by Dr. Winslow Lewis of Boston on November 30, 1861; another bookplate in volume one states the volumes were bound on June 19, 1891. The microfilm of these manuscripts calls the volumes John Hull's Colony Journal. Actually, volume one is Hull's personal ledger from the 1670's while volumes two through four are the Massachusetts Bay accounts regarding all payments related to King Philip's War. Hull was treasurer of the War Committee therefore maintained the official record of all debts incurred and payments received by the Commonwealth relating to this conflict. The ledger was cited by Clarke on pp. 63-64 in his 1940 biography of Hull as being in the New England Historic Genealogical Society but he did not list a shelfmark. Clarke briefly perused the work but he did not attempt to analyze the contents and it appears since that time the numismatic information in the ledger has not been published.
The ledger was one of several varieties of accounting books described in Seventeenth century English merchant manuals. Since the later middle ages merchants and accountants had been advised to retain a variety of records. Among the most common records was the letter book, in which the merchant made copies of all the correspondence he sent out to others so he would have a record of what was sent should a controversy or misunderstanding arise. Also, there were various account books. One basic item was the journal or day book which included a listing of all transactions as they occurred arranged by day. Naturally, a journal would be cumbersome to use in settling an account with an individual, as payments to and from each client would be scattered throughout the journal. To alleviate that inconvenience a merchant would transfer his journal entries to a ledger (Seventeenth century spellings include leager and lieger), which grouped transactions by client, so one could easily discover the current and past balances for any client. The merchant might also have a factor book in which he recorded inventory, such as items he had imported for resale or items due to him and debts he owed as a partner in a specific trading venture. There were numerous other accounting options including a book recording petty expenses, a specie book containing the exchange rates for various coins, and a book called a memorial, used to record items that did not pertain to any of the other accounting books. Some merchants also kept a waste book, basically a notebook in which one recorded daily transactions as they occurred and then discarded the notes once the information was transferred into a journal at the end of the day, additionally some merchants kept a cash book as journal and ledger entries may not be up to date and there was a need to keep track of cash that was immediately available (Dafforne, pp. 4-5).
During the Seventeenth century, accounting practices in England were being streamlined, especially for smaller businesses. Because of the growth of paper receipts emphasis was placed on the ledger. One merchant manual explained:
"... If we should pay or receive any Monies, buy or sell any Commodities, remit or draw any Bills of Exchange, or otherwise receive any Bills, Invoices, Advice, Accounts, Certificates, Notes, from our Factors, Stewards, Correspondents, Friends, or others with whom we have to deal, either for matter of Money, as Exchanges, Principals and Charges, paid and laid out, or for Goods and Commodities as aforesaid bought or sold; then instead of a Journal or Memorial we take such Letters of advise, Accounts, Bills, Certificates, Invoices and Notes, and keep them from time to time in safe custody, until we may be conveniently at leasure (sic) to enter such original papers, one after another, very orderly and exactly into the Lieger..." (Liset, unpaginated, on signature Q1v)The ledger grouped transactions by account. An account could represent a client or customer, alternatively it may represent a shop or business, a piece of real estate or a specific short term business venture or partnership. It was even possible to use an account to track a commodity, one accounting book stated that some merchants:
"...(because their monies are laid up or locked in a Chest which they call Cash) they will therefore imagine this Cash to be a person whom they have trusted, and make the said Cash a Debitor for the Money they put into it; and when they pay out that money or any part thereof, they will make Cash Creditor, and that party to whom it was paid shall be made the Debitor, ..." (Liset, unpaginated, on signature Q1r)As the quote implies, the ledger was a record of debts and credits by individual accounts. For each account there was a column recording the debits of that account in chronological order and a column showing the credits. The basic concept was explained as follows:
"It is observable that a man negotiating in this world must trust and be trusted. He that is trusted with any Goods, monies or other moveable things, is therefore called a Debitor or Debtor unto the Party that trusteth him therewith, and he calleth that Party his Creditor, because he gave him Credit for the same;..." (Liset, unpaginated, on signature Q1v)
In Hull's ledger each account is read across a two page opening, consisting of a left hand page or verso and a right hand page or recto. The left hand page identified the specific account, listing the money, merchandise or services for which the account was indebted. On the opposite side of the opening, the right hand page, was a listing of the money, merchandise or services provided by the named account in payment of the debts, in other word the credits. Ideally the two sides of the account would be equal so the amount owed and the amount paid would cancel each other out, leaving a balance of zero. Simply stated the ledger was a balance sheet.
The majority of the entries in Hull's ledger were accounts with individuals, for example, in one opening on the left hand page, identified as folio 44 verso, is an account Hull had with his former apprentice Jeremiah Dummer under the heading, "Jerimiah Dummer as debtor" meaning Dummer as the debtor in his account with Hull, while on the right hand side of the opening, numbered as folio 45 recto, is the account of payments from Dummer to Hull entitled "Contra Creditor." Hull did not use a comma in this title, but from the standard merchant texts we know the phrase was "Contra, Creditor." In this context the Latin word "contra" means, on the contrary or on the other hand, in reference to the account name on the opposite page, thus the Latin could be paraphrased into English as, "On the other hand, Jeremiah Dummer as creditor."
Each two page opening in the Hull ledger averages four to six accounts. Most of the entries in the various accounts date from 1671 through 1679, but a few entries appear to represent transactions of earlier years that were post dated to this period while some other entries seem to have been added after 1679 and date to as late as 1683, the year John Hull died. Most of the accounts concern business dealing with specific individuals but some accounts refer to property income and expenses or corporate ventures in which Hull participated. A typical opening of individual accounts is the opening on folios 44 verso through 45 recto which contains the accounts of William East of Milford covering July 3, 1672 - May 6, 1675; Jeremiah Dummer covering July 3, 1672 - November 21, 1679; John Paine of Hogg Island covering July 2, 1672 - August 21, 1674 and Hull's cousin Captain Daniel Henchman covering August 27, 1672 - February 1, 1673. An interesting opening containing several property and corporate accounts is on folios 24 verso - 25 recto which includes the account for Hull's own "dwelling house" detailing three entries as follows: a debt of £203 19s10d brought over from folio 80 of ledger A; a debt incurred on October 9, 1671 "To Building my little stone house of office" at £18 and finally a debt incurred in November of 1672 "To John Dewey for claboarding £6 & nailes 40s" for a total of £8. Hull shows no payments against these debts. Other accounts on that opening are for lands and housing in Virginia detailing debts and payments from 1669 - 1681 (this account is post dated to the year without any month or day listed, for instance interest owed from 1669 - 1671 is combined as a single entry clearly added in 1671), the next account on that opening regards a house Hull purchased from the Cotton family detailing payments received and debts incurred from December 1, 1671 - June 1, 1683; following that is an account for shipments of goods to Virginia from 1671 - 1673, then the opening concludes with an account for Henry and Richard Williams from 1673.
Several accounts were carried forward from an earlier ledger, for example, as mentioned above, on f. 24 verso Hull began the account relating to his house, "To Brought from Legr A. fol. 80" and on f. 56 verso he began the account for John Plumb and Joseph Butler, "To Ballance Brought from Leager B. fol. 179." From these annotations we can surmise the surviving ledger had at least two earlier parts, called ledger A and ledger B. Sometimes the space allotted for a specific account was insufficient so Hull would continue the account on the next free page of the ledger giving a note as to where the next portion of that account could be found, for example on f. 48 recto he ends an account with his cousin Edward Hull of London (this is not his brother, who had also been named Edward), "By Ballance of this Account caried to fol. 78." The Edward Hull account is continued on the opening 77 verso - 78 recto and then carried forward again to folio 125. When all the spaces in the ledger had been allocated Hull began a new ledger. However, Hull did not waste paper, as long as there was some free space under a specific account he would continue to use that space. Thus, for an account with few transactions the allocated space in the surviving ledger might suffice for all entries until Hull's death in 1683, while for more active accounts the balance would be forwarded to subsequent ledgers. Therefore, some accounts in the surviving ledger continue to the year of Hull's death while others fill the allocated space and conclude with the note that the account was continued in another ledger. For example on f. 68 verso the account with Joseph David ends with, "Bal. carried to Legr D. fol. 153" while in other instances the allotted space was not used up until Hull had started a ledger E, thus he concluded some accounts, as the account with Daniel Smith of Rehoboth on f. 79 recto, with, "Balance is carried to Legr E fol. 11." From these various notes we can surmise the present ledger was designated as ledger C and there were at least two fully allocated ledgers that preceded it and at least one fully allocated ledger followed by another ledger called ledger E. It is unknown if ledger E was only partially or completely allocated at the time of Hull's death in 1683, or if there were any subsequent volumes. The designation of the surviving ledger as ledger C is confirmed in Hull's private diary. In the diary, below the entry for November 20, 1678, Hull added the comment:"James Elson was taken by the Algerines, where I lost only my eighth part of a ship; as see my ledger C, fol. 54, £113. 17s. 10d, through it might be worth more, £82. 2s. 2d" (Hull, Private Diary, p. 163). In the surviving ledger, on folio 54 recto, in his account for the ship called The Blessing Hull added the comment, "by Profit & loss for ball[ance] being taken by the turkes - 113 17 10" Clearly, this £113 17s 10d loss is the entry Hull referred to in his diary as being from ledger C.
Hull also seems to have had another series of accounts referred to as books rather than ledgers. In entries relating to shipments Hull occasionally refers to a Book H, which must have contained listings of shipping expenses. For example, on folio 24 verso under Voyages to Virginia, Hull mentioned this book three times, "To disbursements on the ketch Friendship & victualling as Book H. Fol. 33 · 34 --- £ 53 19s1d" and "To disbursements victualling & Goods as in Book H fol. 37 --- £ 110 11s7d" and "To disbursements victualling & Cargo as Book H fol. 39 --- £ 130 3s3d" and it is also mentioned in the entry for the ship Blessing on folio 53 verso, "To my 1/8 of disbursements on ship & Cargo as B. H fol. 55 --- £ 106 15s5d." It seems this book H was what accountants of the time called a factor book or a memorial.
0f special interest to numismatists is an account at the bottom of the opening on folios 26 verso through 27 recto which is continued on 133 verso - 134 recto and 170 verso - 171 recto, representing the account relating to the goldsmith shop and the mint house. Below is a transcription of the account with a commentary on each entry.
In these entries Hull specified the troy ounces of sterling silver deposited at the mint. Hull then calculated the return to the customer based on the customer receiving 74d (6s2d) in coins per troy ounce of silver. In June of 1675 the customer's return was increased to 75d (6s3d) per troy ounce and then by private agreement with his customers, the customer's return was increased again in 1677 and further increased in 1680. In his annotations Hull expressed the troy ounces of sterling giving the whole ounces followed by the abbreviation oz. and then added any fraction of an ounce as 255oz. 1/4 for 255.25 troy ounces.
Clearly, Hull's personal ledger differs from a modern account book. We use an account book to record all debts or expenses related to a business and then balance expenses against credits or income to determine the profitability of the enterprise. For Hull the ledger was a method of recording debts and payments that were owed to him or that he owed to others. The goal was for Hull to be able to keep an account of all his transactions by client so he would know where he stood with each of his accounts, one contemporary accounting book called the ledger a mirror of ones true estate (Dafforne, unnumbered, signature O2r).
Hull recorded debts and payments in the manner that was the easiest for him to understand and in the way it was most convenient for him to track his dealings. Although we may wish Hull would have focused his ledger on his coining business and included every mint and silversmith related expense in his shop account, that was not the case. Certainly the shop was important to Hull but it was only one of many ventures in which he was associated. Indeed, all the mint entries would fill only one opening, the equivalent of two pages, in the surviving 320 pages of this ledger! Because of his diverse activities, Hull found it useful to record some shop related expenses in other accounts. For example, John Winchester and Dorman Muerson of Muddy River (Brookline) rented sixteen acres of land from Hull for which they were required to make two payments per year, they were to pay £1 13s each March 25th and each September 29th. According to the debit side of their account with Hull this situation continued from 1672-1677, then the amount owned was recorded as a single annual payment of £3 6s due each March 25th from 1678-1681 (New England Historic Genealogical Society, MS CB 110, vol. 1, folio 39 verso). On the credit side of this account we discover Winchester and Muerson sometimes paid their debt with deliveries of coal and in one case with 14 bushels of malt, at other times they paid in cash. As mentioned earlier, the coal was delivered for use at Hull's shop. For example, one entry in the account stated "1674 November 17 by money of the shop for 73 bushels 1/2 coal - for John Winchester · · 1 / · 4 /· 6" [that is, 73.5 bushels for £1 4s6d] (New England Historic Genealogical Society, MS CB 110, vol. 1, folio 40 recto). In this instance Winchseter delivered the coal to the shop and Hull reimbursed himself, taking £1 4s6d in money from the shop account and then crediting Winchester with a payment of £1 4s6d against his annual rent due to Hull. Hull did not mention this delivery or payment in the shop account, rather it was simpler for him to keep track of the Winchester and Muerson payments in a separate personal account with these two men. Thus, payments for coal, which we would expect to be on debit side of the shop account, if one were intent of determining the profitability of the enterprise, are not even recorded in the shop account! It was easier for Hull to keep track of the Winchester/Muerson account as a single unit rather than record payments under the various enterprises for which the two provided goods or services.
Just as the expense of coal was not added to the shop account we have seen an instance where Hull neglected to add some shop income to the shop account. In Hull's account with Mr. William Brimson we saw that on May 27, 1673 Brimson incurred a debit to the shop 10s6d for the mending of a pot and three spoons. The cost included a charge for some silver that needed to be added to the pieces (New England Historic Genealogical Society, MS CB 110, vol. 1, folio 13 verso - 14 recto). This charge was only listed in Hull's personal account with Brimson, it was not mentioned in the account of the shop. In the shop account Hull appears to have been most meticulous in listing jewelry and bullion deposited in the shop and verifying the annual payment to the Commonwealth. Apparently, Brimson's pot and spoons were not deposited in the shop; probably the items were mended while the custom waited. If that was the case then there would be no debit to be added into the shop account, rather when the mending was completed the repaired items would be returned to Brimson and Brimson would then owe a debit to Hull. In these circumstances the debit would be included in the Brimson account, not the shop account, and would be cancelled when Brimson paid the charges, which would be indicated by adding the payment to the credit side of the Brimson account. In fact this is what happened. For the period up to May 27, 1673 Brimson had owed Hull a total of £88 11s4d and had paid Hull a total of £87 14s. Thus he owed Hull 18s 8d before the mending fee was incurred and with the 10s6d mending fee the total outstanding balance was £1 7s10d. The account shows that about ten days after the pot and spoons were mended Hull received a payment of £1 7s10d from John Newcomb on behalf of William Brimson. Hull added this payment to the Brimson account so that the total owed by Brimson of £89 1s10d was balanced by the total paid, which was also £89 1s10d.
Interestingly, in his shop account Hull sometimes included his mint fees as income while at other times he did not reveal his fees. In balancing the shop account Hull made sure there was enough income to pay expenses. If income was more than expenses Hull would take some of the income off the books and only carry over the amount required to balance the account. On the credit side of the shop account at the bottom of folio 134r Hull had a credit balance of £75 3s, while on the debit side of the account, at the bottom of folio 133v, there was debit of only £9 18s. Hull only carried £9 18s forward in the next credit entry of the account as that was all he needed to balance the debits. The remaining £65 5s was taken off the books as profit. Thus the ledger was used to record and verify when debits were incurred by the shop or when payments were made to the shop but it did not carry a record of profits paid out to Hull or Sanderson. In addition to verifying when outstanding debits had been paid, Hull used the ledger to verify that all specie left on deposit had been returned to the consignors and that the annual payment to Massachusetts Bay had been made. However, it is clear the shop account did not include a detailed listing of all the expenses or income related to the business.Transcription and commentary of the shop account 1671-1680
The personal ledger of John Hull is a folio size volume. Any title page and preliminary material along with the first 11 leaves of the text are missing, the upper right corner is missing from folios 12-14 so the folio numbers are lost but the following folios, 15-171, have their original numbering in the hand of John Hull. Folio 171 verso ends abruptly in the middle of some accounts, showing the manuscript originally contained additional folios. The manuscript is deposited in The New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts, as MS CB 110, volume 1.
Note on the transcription - The original text is presented in columns without headings. I have presented the transcription as an HTML table composed of cells so this web presentation of the text will align in columns that are similar in appearance to the original. The shading was added to make it easier to isolate an individual entry. The title and the text (in the two lighter colors) are found in the original; the headings in darker shading, namely the top line with the designations: Year, Date, Text, Pounds, Shillings and Pence, are not found in the manuscript but have been added to make the chart easier to understand.
Shop ledger - text and commentary, section one: 26 verso - 27 recto
Folio 26 verso
|Account of the shop as debtor|
|1671||October · 18||To 417oz. 1/2 sterling silver sent into ye shop to be minted||
} sterling **is £176
|To 111 ounces of plate|
|24 October||To 208oz. sterling sent in to be minted which was **** Trusdales||64 · 3 · 0 ·||64||· 3||· ·|
|26 December||To 12 papers of files for account Coz. Allin||· · 6||· 6||· ·|
|2 · 11||To plate & money 119||} 255oz. 1/4||· · ·||· ·||· ·|
|1672||· 15 · 4||To money sent||· 20||· 8||· ·|
|21 4||To money sent||· 30||· ·||· ·|
|29 4||To Put into Coyne 179oz. 1/2|
|1673||August 25||To Put into ye mint house to be Coyned 265oz. sterling at 6s · 2d||is £81 · 14 · 2|
|September||To sent to the Country mony as Leager B folio 144||£ · 20||· ·||· ·|
|1674||December 12||To Put into the mint house to Coyne 275oz. 1/2 sterling at 6 · 2 d||£84 · 19 · 0|
|4 Rings get in ye shop of mine||1 · 12 · 74|
|1675||May · 8||To 369oz. 1/2 sterling silver dollars into ye mint house to be Coyned|
|June 17||To 217oz. sterling silver dollars into ye mint House to be Coyned.||6 · 3 d · £67 · 16 · 3|
|July 17||To 12 Iron Potts & 3lb Small Wyre||· · 5||· ·||· 6|
|1676||June 14||To 496oz. 3/4 sterling dollars to be Coyned / /|
Folio 27 recto
|1671||November · 13||by mony received||£ · 170 · 13 · 0||} 175||13||· ·|
|by given to Daniel Quinsey||5 · 0 · 0|
|December 3||by mony for account Mr. Truesdall||64 · 3 ·0||· 64||· 3||· ·|
|by mony I think for the files||6 · 6 · 0||· · 6||· 6||· ·|
|February · 6||by 119 ounces||
} sterling 255 received
|· · ·||· ·||· ·|
|1672||June 26||by mony received for Mr Danforth 13 · 17||and more for self - 6 · 3 · 0||· 20||· ·||· ·|
|July 12||by mony received||· 30||· 8||· ·|
|August 23||by mony received in viz the final produce of 179 ounces sterling 1/2|
|1673||October · 25||by mony received in full of ye 265 ounces|
|1674||June 30||by mony received||£ · 10||· ·||· ·|
|December 31||by mony received||· 10||· ·||· ·|
|by received the produce of £275 ounces 1/2|
|1675||May · 22||by received out of the shop the produce of 369 ounces 1/2 sterling
|July · 22||by received out of the shop the produce of 217 ounces|
|23||23 by mony received for Potts & wyre||· · 5||· ·||· 6|
|1676||July 12||by received of of [for out of] shop produce of 496 ounces 3/4||//|
In the discussion below, debit and credit transactions for a specific entry are treated as a unit. A transcription of the entry is given in quotation marks, followed by an explanation or commentary. Each distinct entry is divided by a line of short dashes.
[26 verso] "Account of the shop as debtor"
[27 recto] "Contra Creditor"
Comment: These are the titles of the two sides of the account. Clearly, Hull considered the coining operation to be part of his goldsmith business and listed items relating to both enterprises under his shop account. On the verso Hull used the title of "Account of the shop as debtor." This side of the account included a description and the price of items purchased for the shop as well as a dated listing of items and bullion deposited in the shop. The text portion of the ledger contains numerous notes on inventory and other items related to the shop, while the sums added in the far right represented debts to be paid from the shop income.
On the recto side of the account, for which the partial Latin title may be parahprased as "On the other hand, the shop as creditor," Hull listed payments made to the shop. The text portion included numerous notes explaining the outcome of comments made on the other side of the account. For example, on the debit side Hull included the date on which an item was deposited in the shop, while on the credit side he noted when the item had been returned to the owner. In the far right column Hull listed sums paid into the shop but he did not list all income. Ideally Hull wanted the debit column on the verso and the credit column on the recto to balance. The credit column was not meant to show the shop's entire income, as not all the income was included in the far column. Rather this column was to show that the payments from the debit column had been paid out of the shop account. A zero balance between the verso with the debts of the shop and the recto with the shop income demonstrated all bills had been paid and all items left on deposit had been returned.--------------------------
[26 verso] "1671 October · 18
To 417oz. 1/2 sterling silver sent into ye shop to be minted
To 111 ounces of plate
[These two lines are joined by a bracket] } sterling **is £176 175 13 · ·"
[27 recto] "1671
November · 13 by mony received - - - - - - - - - £ · 170 · 13 · 0
by given to Daniel Quinsey - - - - - - - - 5 · 0 · 0
[the two above lines are joined by a bracket] } - - 175 · 13 · · "
Comment: As March was the first month of the new year, October was the eighth month, hence the abbreviation 8br (see image of the document) is transcribed as October, so the silver was brought to the shop on October 18, 1671. The two entries under this date state 417.5 troy ounces of sterling silver and 111 troy ounces of plate (that is, household items as utensils, bowls or dishes) were sent to the shop to be minted into Massachusetts silver coins. English plate was regulated at sterling fineness and thus Hull did not always feel the need to state that plate was of sterling fineness. The two quantities came to a total of 528.5 troy ounces of sterling. On the credit side we see this consignment was completed on November 13. Generally Hull calculated the quantity of silver coinage due to the customer based on the quantity of silver deposited at the mint. The return to the customer was 74d per troy ounce of sterling until June of 1675 when it was raised to 75d. However, in this entry Hull calculated the yield using the full authorized rate of 80d (6s8d) per ounce. In no other case in the surviving records was this full rate used. This indicates Hull was producing the silver for himself or for the shop. Indeed, on the credit side Hull lists that £5 of the sum was given to Daniel Quincy. Daniel was the son of Edmund Quincy, who was the brother of Hull's wife. It is quite likely Daniel, who later became a goldsmith, apprenticed with Hull [for further details see the entry under November 1673 in the chronology].
At the full rate of 80d (6s8d) per ounce the total yield of this consignment equals £176 3s4d. Without calculating the fractional remaining half ounce, that is, using only 528 ounces, the total comes to £176, which is the total Hull calculated. In the far right column Hull subtracted 7s from the total to get £175 13s. In this example the wastage allowance at 1d per ounce is 44s for 528 ounces, so the 7s does not reflect the wastage allowance. Further, a half ounce of sterling equals 3s1d (37d) at the full 80d per ounce rate so the 7s cannot reflect a mistake of subtracting rather than adding a half ounce to the total. Exactly what the 7s deduction represents is unclear. On the credit side Hull stated £5 went to Quincy and £170 13s to the customer (in this case it appears Hull or the shop was the customer), thus accounting for the total yield.
[folio 26 verso] "24 October To 208oz. sterling sent in to be minted which was *** Trusdales - 64 · 3 · 0 · 64 · 3 · ·"
[folio 27 recto] "December 3 by mony for account Mr. Truesdall - - - 64 · 3 · 0 · 64 · 3 · ·"
Comment: In 1652 Hull's fee had been approved at 5d per ounce with an additional 1d for wastage. Based on the legislated rate of 80d in coinage per troy ounce of sterling, once Hull's fees had been subtracted the customer would receive 74d (6s2d) in Massachusetts coinage per ounce of sterling deposited with the mint. In this example the customer return on 208 troy ounces of sterling was £64 2s8d, which Hull rounded up by 4d to get £64 3s. If Hull produced coins at the precise legislated rate of 80d per ounce his total fees for this consignment would be £5 6s8d. However, the amount of coinage Hull retained as his fee depended on the actual face value of the coins minted, this, in turn, varied based on the average weight of the coins produced and the actual amount of silver lost as waste. These figures are unknown for this production run. However, in later entries Hull did include the total number of coins minted from specified amounts of sterling. Based on these later examples we know Hull averaged 80.44d in Massachusetts coins per troy ounce of sterling. Using the 80.44d in coins per ounce of sterling as an average production rate, this consignment would produce a total return of £69 14s 3.52d which, after paying the customer £64 3s would give Hull a return of £5 11s 3.52d or a fee of just under 6.77%.
Mr. Trusedall (also, Trusdall and several other variants) is Richard Truesdall, one of the earlier settlers of Boston. According to J. Wingate Thornton, "The Gilbert Family," New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 4 (October, 1850) 342, "in 1672 Mary the widow and sole execitrix of Richard Truesdall, lately deceased, had her will drawn by Mr. John Hull." The Trusedall's had an account with Hull that is found on folios 28 verso - 29 recto of the ledger.
[folio 26 verso] "26 December To 12 papers of files for account Coz. Allin 6 · 6 · ·"
[folio 27 recto] "by mony I think for the files - - - - - - - - 6 · 6 · 0 · · 6 · 6 · ·"
Comment: This entry from December 26, 1671 refers to the delivery of twelve parcels of files for the shop, purchased for £6 6s. Here a file does not refer to a paper file but rather to a small abrasive metal tool used to smooth wood or metal. According to the Essex County probate records the inventory of the possessions of Richard Mercer of Haverhill from April 14, 1671 listed a file at a value of 6d and the inventory of the possessions of Daniel Knight of Lynn from November 26, 1672 listed "4 old files, 18d" (Essex County Probate Records, vol. 2, pp. 245 and 305). These contemporary estimates price a used file in the range of 6d, down to 4.5d for an older file. Hull stated that he had acquired 12 papers of files. In this context "papers" refers to sheets of paper used as wrapping for small parcels (see the Oxford English Dictionary, volume P, page 437 under paper, definition 6b). Possibly a paper or parcel of files contained a dozen files, that would give a total of 144 files for a per unit cost of 10.5d for a brand new file. We do not know the size of the files, but assuming the size was similar to the examples in the Essex probate records, a price of 10.5d seems reasonable considering a used file was valued at 6d. In an undated entry on the credit side of the account, that was obviously added sometime before the next entry, which dated to February 6, 1672, Hull recorded the payment for the files. He stated that he thought the bill had been paid using money. Occasionally in his ledger some payments were made using barter, beaver skins or other money substitutes. The files had been acquired from Hull's cousin Daniel Allin of London. Under the account with Allin, Hull wrote that on December 21, 1671 he had sold Jeremiah Dummer 2 papers of files for £1 1s and had acquired 12 papers of files for the shop at a cost of £6 6s (New England Historic Genealogical Society, MS CB 110, vol. 1, ff. 30 verso - 31 recto).
[folio 26 verso] "2 · 11 To plate & money 119
[the two amounts are joined with a bracket] } 255oz. 1/4 · · · · · · ·"
[folio 27 recto] "February · 6 by 119 ounces
[the two amounts then joined by a bracket] } sterling 255 received - - - - · · · · · · ·"
Comment: The date for this entry is January 2, 1672. The British did not begin the new year until March 25th, so January and February were considered to be the final two months of the previous year. Thus, on January 2, 1672 a consignment of 255.25 troy ounces of sterling was deposited at the shop. Hull stated this was "to plate and mony" which apparently meant part of the consignment went to coinage and part was used to make some household items such as bowls, dishes, cups or utensils. The consignment was ready for delivery on February 6, 1672. Hull did not calculate any return to the customer nor did he mention the quantity of coinage produced. As Hull usually kept close track of the customer's return it is quite likely this coinage was for Hull, thus he kept the entire yield. If the entire sum had been minted, the total yield at 80.44d per ounce would be £85 11s 1/4d.
[folio 26 verso] "1672 · 15 · 4 To money sent · 20 · 8 · ·"
[folio 27 recto] "1672 June 26 by mony received for Mr Danforth 13 · 17 and more for self - - - 6 · 3 · 0 - - - · 20 · · · ·"
Comment: On June 15, 1672 the shop agreed to pay out £20 8s, but the reason for the payment was unspecified. It appears £20 of this sum went to John Danforth and John Hull. On June 26th £13 17s was paid to Mr. Danforth and £6 3s went to Hull. The total paid out was £20, the remaining 8s of the shop's payment of £20 8s was carried to the following transaction. Mr. Danforth is probably John Danforth. Hull included an account for John and Mary Danforth in his ledger in 1677 on folios 138 verso - 139 recto.
[folio 26 verso] "21 4 To money sent · 30 · · · ·"
[folio 27 recto] "July 12 by mony received - - - - - - - - · 30 · 8 · · "
Comment: On June 21, 1672 the shop agreed to pay out £30, again the reason for the payment was not specified. On the credit side we learn on July 12, 1672 a payment of £30 8s in money was sent to the unspecified creditor.
[folio 26 verso] "29 4 To Put into Coyne 179oz. 1/2"
[folio 27 recto] "August 23 by mony received in viz the final produce of 179 ounces sterling 1/2"
Comment: On June 29, 1672 a shipment of 179.5 troy ounces of sterling silver was deposited at the mint to be coined into Massachusetts silver. In the credit column Hull stated the coins were ready for pick up on August 23, 1672. However, Hull did not calculate the return to the customer nor did he mention the quantity of coinage produced. As Hull usually kept close track of the customer's return it is quite likely this coinage was for Hull thus he kept the entire yield. At 80.44d per troy ounce the silver would yield a total return of £60 3s3d.
[folio 26 verso] "1673 August 25 To Put into ye mint house to be Coyned 265oz. sterling at 6s · 2d is £81 · 14 · 2"
[folio 27 recto] "1673 October · 25 by mony received in full of ye 265 ounces sterling"
Comment: On August 25, 1673 a shipment of 265 ounces of sterling was deposited at the mint house to be coined. The consignment was ready to be picked up on October 25th. The customer's return at 74d (6s2d) per troy ounce was £81 14s2d, which was exactly what Hull calculated. Based on a total yield of 80.44d per troy ounce the consignment would produce £88 16s4.6d, leaving Hull with £7 2s2.6d.
[folio 26 verso] "September To sent to the Country mony as Leager B folio 144 · £ · 20 · · · ·"
Comment: The only date given was the month of September. This is one of the few entries lacking a specific day in the date area. Most likely this entry refers to 1673 as it follows an entry dated August 1673. The next entry is from December 17, 1674. This entry states Hull was to send £20 to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Bay. Often Hull did not include the word "be," in this case the text means - to be sent to the country. During this period individuals typically referred to the colony as their country. Hull explained the reason for this pay was listed in the previous ledger, called ledger B on folio 144 (the surviving ledger is ledger C). At first glance it seems the payment represented Hull's annual payment to the Commonwealth as it would be due in October. However in the contract renewal of October 4, 1667 the annual payment for the next seven years was stipulated at £10, thus it does not seem to represent an annual payment. Additionally, no annual payment is recorded under any other year in the ledger from 1671-1675. In the mint contract renewal of June 3, 1675 the contractual annual payment was increased to £20. Annual payments in compliance with that agreement are listed yearly in the ledger from 1676 through 1680 and each entry specifically stated it was the annual £20 due to the country "by ye Agreement" and sometimes specifying, "as per Agreement June 3 · 1675" As the present entry does not mention an agreement but only states the reason for the payment is in a previous ledger from some years earlier, and no other year from this time indicates a payment to the country, it suggest the payment was not an annual contract renewal but rather was for some other purpose.
[folio 27 recto] "1674 · June 30 by mony received - - - - - - - - £ · 10 · · · ·"
Comment: On the credit side we learn on June 30, 1674 a payment of £10 in money from an unspecified source was received in the shop.
[folio 26 verso] "1674 December 12 To Put into the mint house to Coyne 275oz. 1/2 sterling at 6 · 2 d £84 · 19 · 0"
[folio 27 recto] "by received the produce of £275 ounces 1/2"
Comment: The date could be December 12th or 17th, I have considered the second numeral a 2 as it has a small stroke to the right at the bottom of the number, similar to a 2 whereas Hull's 7 ends with a straight downward stroke. On December 12, 1674 a shipment of 275.5 ounces of sterling silver was brought to the mint house to be coined. On the credit side an undated annotation was added following the entry for December 31, 1674, signifying the consignment was completed. At 74d per ounce this yielded a return for the customer of £84 18s11d, which Hull rounded up by 1d to £84 19s. At a total return of 80.44d per troy ounce the consignment would produce £92 6s9.22d, which would leave Hull £7 7s9.22d.
[folio 27 recto] "December 31 by mony received - - - - - - - - - - · 10 · · · ·"
Comment: On the credit side we learn on December 31, 1674 a payment of £10 in money from an unspecified source was received in the shop.
[folio 26 verso] "4 Rings get in ye shop of mine 1 · 12 · 74."
Comment: In this entry the date is added following the entry. Generally when writing dates numerically Hull gave the day followed by the month. Using this convention the date would be February 1st. The year is 1675, written in old style dating as 1674, as the new year did not begin until March 25th (the previous year was used in dates between January 1 and March 24). The entry simply records the deposit of the rings into the silversmith shop on February 1, 1675, there is no mention of valuation or explanation why the rings were deposited. In a later entry, on folio 170 verso, Hull mentioned the rings were still in the shop in early 1679.
[folio 26 verso] "1675 May · 8 To 369oz. 1/2 sterling silver dollars into ye mint house to be Coyned"
[folio 27 recto] "1675 May · 22 by received out of the shop the produce of 369 ounces 1/2 sterling"
Comment: On May 8, 1675 a total of 369.5 ounces of sterling dollars were deposited at the mint which was turned into coins and was ready for delivery on May 22nd. In Britain and the American colonies Spanish American eight reales were regularly assumed to be of sterling fineness, thus Hull's reference to sterling dollars refers to eight reales coins. This is the last ledger entry before the June agreement increasing the customer's return from 74d to 75d per ounce of sterling silver. In this entry the rate of return was not mentioned, nor was any payment specified in the credit column. As there are no annotations relating to a customer's return it is possible this consignment was produced for Hull. At the rate of 80.44d per ounce the consignment would yield a total return of £132 17s10.46d.
[folio 26 verso] "June 17 To 217oz. sterling silver dollars into ye mint House to be Coyned. 6 · 3 d · £67 · 16 · 3"
[folio 27 recto] "July · 8 by received out of the shop the produce of 217 ounces"
Comment: On June 17, 1675 a quantity of eight reales weighing 217 troy ounces was brought to the mint to be coined and was ready to be picked up on July 8th. This is first example in the ledger using the reduced mint fees established in the third contract renewal of June 3, 1675 which increased the customer yield to 75d (6s3d) per ounce. At 75d per troy ounce this yielded a return for the customer of £67 16s3d, which is exactly what Hull calculated. Estimating a total yield of 80.44d per ounce the consignment would produce £72 14s7.48d which would leave Hull a return of £4 18s4.48d.
[folio 26 verso] "July 17 To 12 Iron Potts & 3lb Small Wyre · · 5 · · · 6"
[folio 27 recto] "23 by mony received for Potts & wyre - - - - · · 5 · · · 6"
Comment: On July 17, 1675 Hull purchased twelve iron pots and three pounds of "small" wire for £5 6d. I am not sure if "small" wire referred to several short lengths of wire or thin wire with a smaller than normal diameter. Iron pots were used in melting silver, see below part three, section four for some information on melting sterling at the mint. On the credit side of the account Hull stated payment was made six days later, on July 23, 1675. Hull stated "by mony received for Potts & wyre" meaning by money received out of the shop for payment of the goods, it is clear this was money taken out of the shop as the sum is included in the final column which listed the monies paid out and the value of the coinage returned to the clients from the silver the clients consigned to the mint.
[folio 26 verso] "1676 June 14 To 496oz. 3/4 sterling dollars to be Coyned //"
[folio 27 recto] "1676 July 12 by received of of [for out of] shop produce of 496 ounces 3/4
Comment: This is the final entry in the first section of the shop account, specifying that 496.75 troy ounces of sterling dollars, that is, Spanish American eight reales, were deposited in the mint on June 14, 1676 to be turned into Massachusetts silver coinage. On the credit side of the account we see the consignment was ready for pick up on July 12, 1676. Hull did not include any calculations with this entry, which leads me to suspect the consignment was for Hull. Obviously for personal consignments there was no need for Hull to calculate the customer's return and subtract it from the remaining mint fee. Using a production average of 80.44d per troy ounce of sterling this consignment would produce a total yield of £166 9s10.57d.
The double slash // was used by Hull to show the end of the final entry in the space allotted for an account. Hull continued the shop account on folios 133 verso through 134 recto.
Shop ledger - text and commentary, section two: 133 verso - 134 recto
Folio 133 verso
|Account of the shopp as debtor|
|To 21lb of Quicksilver 5s||£ · · 5||· 5||· ·|
|June 3 · 1676 To debit to ye Country as by ye Agreement for ye mint one year||· 20||· ·||· ·|
|3 · 1677 To debit to ye Countrey for ditto a 2d year||· 20||· ·||· ·|
|20 · 2 to 27 of 2d||To mony put in to ye mint to Coyne
} all sterling 1575 · 1/2 at 6 · 3d per oz. is - - - - - - - £492 · 6 · 10
|· · ·||· ·||· ·|
| Spanish plate 186
|} 6s per oz. - - - - - 84 · 12 ·0|
|July · 13||To sterling 125 oz. - - - - - - -||125 at 6 · 3d is - - - 39 · 1 · 3|
|1678||August 24||Paid to the shop the 24 ounces 3 pennyweight and 18 grains sterling which I formerly borrowed|
|To debt to the Countrey as per Agreement for one year||- - - - - - - -||· 20||· ·||· ·|
|[cost of quicksilver and payments to Massachusetts Bay are totalled]||65||· 5||· ·|
|November · 20||To sterling silver Put in to ye shop oz. 159 · 3/4||} 1292 · 1/4|
|January · 20||To sterling silver Put in to the shop 1132 · 1/2|
|February · 24||To money Spanish sterling Put to Coyne - - -||ounces 400 ·|
|March · 12||To Ballance Carried to folio 171||- - - - - - - - - - -||· · 9||18||· ·|
||£ · 75||· 3||· ·|
Folio 134 recto
April · 4
|by mony received - - - - - - -||£ · · 5||· 5||· ·|
|By several Parcels of mony received from May · 3d to August 29
By Coynage of which mony £ 671 · 12 at 12d per pound - - - - - - -
£33 · 11 ·
|December 4||by borrowed 24 ounces 3 pennyweight · 18 grains · sterling|
|1678||by 16 gold Rings for funerall of Mr Symonds at 10 s - -||8 · 0 · 0|
|January · 27||by mony received £300 ounces sterling - £100 · 12 · 0|
|30||by mony received 300 sterling - 100 · 12 · 0|
|February 6||by mony received 300 sterling - 100 · 12 · 0|
|18||by mony received 392 1/4 sterling - - 131 · 7 · 0|
|[the four above sums are joined with a bracket and then totalled] £ 433 · 3 · 0|
|by Coynage of £ 433 · at 12d per pound by agreement - -||21 · 13 · 0|
|£63 · 4 · 0||63 ·||4 ·||· ·|
|March 12||by mony received 400 ounces sterling 133 · 18s.||Coynage at 12d - - 6 · 14 · 0||6||14||· ·|
|£ · 75||· 3||· ·|
In the discussion below, debit and credit transactions for a specific entry are treated as a unit. A transcription of the entry is given in quotation marks, followed by an explanation or commentary. Each distinct entry is divided by a line of short dashes.
[133 verso] "1677
To 21lb of Quicksilver 5s - - - - - - - - - - £ · · 5 · 5 · ·"
[134 recto]"1677 ·
April · 4 by mony received - - - - - - - - - - - - - - £ · · 5 · 5 · ·"
Comment: This is the first entry under 1677, but it was not assigned to a month or day. Clearly, the agreement to purchase the quicksilver was later than March 12th, which was the date of the previous entry, and must be before April 4th, which was the date associated with the payment. The text simply stated Hull purchased 21 pounds of quicksilver at 5s per pound. In the far right column Hull included the total cost, which came to £5 5s and added that amount with the annual payments due to Massachusetts Bay to get a total of the expenses owed by the shop. On the recto Hull noted a payment of £5 5s in cash was received on April 4, 1677, without further comment. Most likely this entry relates to the quicksilver. Interestingly, Hull added the £5 5s received on April 4th in the far right column along with his mint fees to arrive at his total shop income. Thus, it appears this entry is not the actual payment for the quicksilver, but rather, is money Hull added to the shop account, possibly from his own pocket, in order to pay for the quicksilver. The actual payment for the quicksilver is not recorded. If the payment had been recorded, following Hull's usual practices, it would have been listed with phrasing such as - by money received out of the shop for 21 pounds of quicksilver. Instead Hull simply recorded his deposit of £5 5s into the shop account; that was enough to show the cost on the debtor side of the account for the purchase of the quicksilver was balanced by the deposit on the credit side.
Quicksilver is another name for mercury, which was commonly extracted from cinnabar. Since the middle ages mercury has been used in the extraction of silver. A solution of mercury will attract any particles of silver that come into contact with it, forming a silver-mercury amalgam. The amalgam is then heated, vaporizing the mercury and leaving only the silver. Quicksilver is also quite useful in cleaning tools and surfaces used in silversmithing as one is able to retrieve any remaining particles of silver.--------------------------
[133v] "June 3 · 1676 To debit to ye Country as by ye Agreement for ye mint one year - - - · 20 · · · ·
3 · 1677 To debit to ye Countrey for ditto a 2d year - - - · 20 · · · ·"
Comment: Following the quicksilver entry, which was completed by April 4, 1677, there were two entries for the annual payments due to Massachusetts Bay on June 3, 1676 and June 3, 1677. As the entry that follows these two payments was dated April 20-27, 1677 we may assume the two payments were recorded sometime between April 4th and April 27th in 1677. These entries refer to the annual payment of £20 to Massachusetts Bay as stated in the seven year contract renewal of June 3, 1675. The agreement simply stated "the sajd minters are to pay in to the Treasurer of the Country, in mony, twenty pounds per Anno during abouesajd terme" (Crosby, p. 82). The "above said term" mentioned in the document was "this Seven yeare next to Come." Although the contract did not stipulate the reason for the payment Hull refers to it as "for ye mint." I believe Hull is referring to an annual payment for the right to hold the exclusive coining agreement with the Commonwealth which is the subject of the agreement of June 3, 1675. It does not appear to be a fee paid for use of the shop or mint building.--------------------------
[133v] "20 · 2 to 27 of 2d To mony put in to ye mint to Coyne
[the column is grouped together with a bracket and followed by] } all sterling 1575 · 1/2 ounces at 6 · 3d per oz. is - - - - - - £492 · 6 · 10
[the list continues with two lines]
Spanish plate 186
[these two lines are joined by a bracket and followed by] } at 6s per oz. - - - - - - 84 · 12 ·0"
Comment: In this entry Hull stated between 20 · 2, referring to the 20th of the second month, which was April, to the 27th of the second month, that is, April 20 to April 27, 1677, a number of shipments of silver were received to be turned into coinage. The five quantities of sterling were added together and the two quantities of Spanish plate were combined. The Spanish plate was valued at 6s per ounce, which is 3d less than the value of sterling silver thus, in this case, Spanish plate does not refer to eight reales coins as the coins were regularly considered to be of sterling fineness. I suspect Spanish plate referred to silver objects of a Spanish or Spanish American origin that were brought into the mint to be melted down. I do not know if these several shipments represented the holdings of a single customer or if they came from various sources, the brief time lapse between shipments appears to suggest a single source.
Hull calculated the customer's return based on the terms in his seven year contract with the Commonwealth signed on June 3, 1675, whereby the customer received 75d (6s3d) in coins per ounce of sterling deposited at the mint. In this case a total of 1575.5 troy ounces of sterling silver should yield a return to the customer of £492 6s10.5d, which Hull rounded down to £492 6s10d. This figure was included on the debit side of the ledger as the amount owned by the shop to the customer.
Unfortunately Hull did not include an entry on the credit side of the ledger so we do not know when the coins were ready for delivery. Further, unlike later entries, Hull did not include the total number of coins produced, he only listed what was owed to the customer. Hull retained the remaining coinage as his fee, but he did not reveal his fee. Based on later examples we know Hull averaged 80.44d in Massachusetts coins per troy ounce of sterling. Using the 80.44d in coins per ounce of sterling as an average production rate, the 1575.5 troy ounces of sterling would produce £528 1s1.22d, in coins, which could be rounded to £528 1s (10,561s), of which Hull would retain £35 14s2d for a return of just under 6.77%.
As to the Spanish plate, Hull offered the customer a return of 6s per troy ounce. This is 3d less than the return for sterling, reflecting the lower fineness of the Spanish silver. Again Hull simply calculated the return to the customer, which was £84 12s. As Hull only listed the number of ounces of Spanish plate, we do not have the exact number of ounces of sterling. However assuming Hull offered an equivalent value for the Spanish plate, we would expect that each troy ounce was deficient from the sterling standard by 3d (or, as 1d equalled 6 grains in Massachusetts sterling coins) a troy ounce of the Spanish plate would be 18 grains below sterling, so that a troy ounce of the Spanish plate would equal 462 grains of sterling. This would make the Spanish plate equivalent to 271.425 troy ounces of sterling (that is, 271 oz. 8 dwt. 12 gr. in sterling). Using the 80.44d in coins per ounce of sterling as an average production rate, the estimated 271.425 troy ounces of sterling would produce £90 19s5.426d, in coins, which could be rounded to £91 (1820s), of which Hull would retain £6 8s.--------------------------
[133v] "July · 13 To sterling 125 oz. - - - - - - 125 at 6 · 3d is - - - - - 39 · 1 · 3"
Comment: On July 13, 1677 Hull received a shipment of 125 troy ounces of sterling to be turned into coinage. This is the final entry in the ledger where Hull calculated the customer's return based on the terms in his seven year contract with the Commonwealth signed on June 3, 1675, whereby the customer received 75d (6s3d) in coins per ounce of sterling deposited at the mint. In this case 125 troy ounces of sterling silver yielded a return to the customer of £39 1s3d, which Hull included on the debit side of the ledger as the amount owned by the shop to the customer.
Unfortunately Hull did not include an entry on the credit side of the ledger so we do not know when the coins were ready for delivery. Further, unlike later entries, Hull did not include the total number of coins produced, he only listed what was owed to the customer. Hull retained the remaining coinage as his fee, but he did not reveal his fee. Based on an average return of 80.44d, the consignment would yield £41 17s11d (or just about 838s), of which Hull would retain £2 16s8d.--------------------------
[134r] "By several Parcels of mony received from May · 3d to August 29
By Coynage of which mony £ 671 · 12 at 12d per pound - - - - £33 · 11 · 0"
Comment: Hull added an undated single entry on the credit side of his ledger for a series of shipments of silver that had been sent to the mint between May 3 and August 29, 1677 to be turned into Massachusetts coins. The date of the delivery of the coins is not specified but it was probably before December 4th, which is the date of the entry below it. These shipments were produced under a different fee schedule from the July 13, 1677 shipment and therefore the July 13th shipment is listed separately, even though that shipment was received during the inclusive dates of this shipment.
In this entry we see the first instance in which Hull took a smaller mint fee than he was due under his contract with Massachusetts Bay. Hull was allowed a mint fee of 4d per ounce plus a wastage allowance of 1d per ounce. However, Hull agreed to a fee of "12d per pound" of money struck (that is, pound as the value £1, not as a weight). Hull produced £671 12s in coins (13,432s) and therefore was entitled to £33 11s 7.2d but in his calculations Hull only asked for £33 10s. Formerly, Hull retained any extra coins that were produced from a consignment above the authorized 80d per troy ounce so that if Hull made the coins slightly underweight he would retain any extra coins produced. By this agreement Hull's fee was directly based on the quantity of coins produced for the customer, thus any silver not wasted or any overages in production went to the customer. Of course Hull would obtain a higher fee if more coins were produced, but by this agreement the customer made out significantly better than previously.
In this transaction Hull took £33 10s while the customer received £638 2s of the total £671 12s produced. Using Hull's average yield per ounce of sterling of 80.44d, we can speculate the quantity of silver minted was about 2005 troy ounces of sterling.--------------------------
[134r] "December 4 by borrowed 24 ounces 3 pennyweight · 18 grains · sterling"
[133v] "1678 August 24 Paid to the shop the 24 ounces 3 pennyweight and 18 grains sterling which I formerly borrowed"
Comment: On December 4, 1677 Hull borrowed 24 oz. 3 dwt. 18 gr. in sterling silver from the shop inventory. At the legislated rate of Massachusetts silver, of 80d per ounce, this silver would be valued at £8 1s3d. Hull made a note of this loan on the credit side of the shop account, showing he owed the shop a credit to that amount. About eight and a half months later, on August 24, 1678, Hull recorded that he replaced the sterling. This note was added to the verso or debit side, as were all deposits brought to the shop, this deposit was to cancel his loan listed on the credit side of the account.--------------------------
[133v] "June · 3 · 1678 To debt to the Countrey as per Agreement for one year - - - - - - - · 20 · · · ·"
Comment: This undated payment was recorded directly below an entry dated August 24, 1678 and is followed by an entry of November 20, 1678. Thus, this payment probably was made sometime between August 24th and November 20th, 1678. The entry refers to the annual payment of £20 to Massachusetts Bay as stated in the seven year contract renewal of June 3, 1675. The agreement simply stated "the sajd minters are to pay in to the Treasurer of the Country, in mony, twenty pounds per Anno during abouesajd terme" (Crosby, p. 82). The "above said term" mentioned in the document was "this Seven yeare next to Come." Although the contract did not stipulate the reason for the payment Hull refers to it as a "debt to the Countrey." I believe he is referring to an annual payment for the right to hold the exclusive coining agreement with the Commonwealth which is the subject of the agreement of June 3, 1675. It does not appear to be a fee paid for use of the shop or mint building.--------------------------
[134r] "1678 by 16 gold Rings for funerall of Mr Symonds at 10s - - - - 8 · 0 · 0"
Comment: On some unspecified date in late 1678 Hull was paid £8 for producing 16 gold rings at a cost of 10s each for distribution at the funeral of Mr. Symonds. Rings were commonly made for distribution to family members and dignitaries attending the funeral of a community leader. In his diary Judge Samuel Sewall mentioned he owned a cup full of funeral rings. Samuel Symonds was the Deputy Governor of Massachusetts Bay, his death was recorded in Hull's diary as occurring on October 12, 1678 (Hull, Public Diary, p. 244).--------------------------
[133v] "November · 20 To sterling silver Put in to ye shop - - oz. 159 · 3/4
January · 20 To sterling silver Put in to the shop - - - - - - - 1132 · 1/2
[the two deposits are joined by a bracket and totaled] }1292 · 1/4"
[134r] "January · 27 by mony received £300 ounces sterling - - £100 · 12 · 0
30 by mony received 300 sterling - - - - - - - - - - - - 100 · 12 · 0
February 6 by mony received 300 sterling - - - - - - 100 · 12 · 0
18 by mony received 392 1/4 sterling - - - - - - - - - - 131 · 7 · 0
[the four sums are joined by a bracket then totalled below] £433 · 3 · 0
by Coynage of £ 433 · at 12d per pound by agreement - - - - 21 · 13 · 0"
Comment: On November 20, 1678 a customer deposited 159.75 troy ounces of sterling silver at the mint to be turned into coins; then on January 20, 1679 an additional 1132.25 ounces of sterling was deposited for a total of 1292.25 troy ounces. These two deposits of sterling were divided into four installments and turned into coins. Three of the installments were of equal weight, each containing 300 troy ounces of sterling and each of which produced £100 12s in coins which were delivered on January 27, 30 and February 6, 1679. A final installment of 392.25 ounces of sterling, producing £131 7s in coins, was delivered on February 18 to complete the consignment. The turn around time was quite fast on this consignment, the majority of the coins were produced within one month from the date on which the silver was deposited in the shop.
Hull listed the full quantity of coinage produced so we can calculate the yield per ounce of sterling. Each of the first three shipments consisted of 300 troy ounces of sterling and produced £100 12s in Massachusetts silver coinage, which is an average of 80.48d per troy ounce. The final installment of 392.25 troy ounces of sterling produced £131 7s in Massachusetts silver coinage, which is an average of 80.367112d per troy ounce. Combining the four shipments together, 1292.25 troy ounces produced £433 3s in Massachusetts silver, which is an average of 80.445734d per troy ounce.
Hull continued to work at the 12d per £1 rate which was a smaller mint fee than he was due under his contract with Massachusetts Bay. Hull produced £433 3s in coins and therefore was entitled to £21 13s1.8d which he rounded down to £21 13s. Based on the full allowance as stipulated in the 1675 agreement Hull was allowed a mint fee of 4d per ounce plus a wastage allowance of 1d per ounce. Using this rate Hull would have had a mint fee of £21 10s9d and a wastage allowance of £5 7s8.25d for a total fee of £26 18s5.25d.--------------------------
[134v] [the two mint fees and the price of the rings are totalled as income to]
"£63 · 4 · 0 [carried to the far right column] 63 · 4 · ··"
Comment: On the credit side of the account Hull added the income from the two mint fees and the price of the rings he made for Mr. Symonds' funeral to obtain a total of £63 4s, which he added to the far right column representing credits to the shop account.-------------------------
[133v] "February · 24 To money Spanish sterling Put to Coyne - - - ounces 400 ·"
[134r] "March 12 by mony received 400 ounces sterling 133 · 18s. Coynage at 12d - - - - - - - - - 6 · 14 · 0 [this is carried to the far right column] 6 14 · ·"
Comment: On February 24, 1679 a customer brought in 400 troy ounces of Spanish sterling, this was probably Spanish American cob coinage which was considered to be equal to sterling. In a little over two weeks the Spanish silver had been transformed into Massachusetts Bay coinage which was delivered on March 12th. Hull stated from the 400 troy ounces of sterling he produced £133 18s in Massachusetts coinage, which is an average of 80.34d per troy ounce.
Hull continued to work at the 12d per 20s rate which was a smaller mint fee than he was due under his contract with Massachusetts Bay. Hull produced £133 18s in coins and therefore was entitled to £6 13s10.5d which he rounded up to £6 14s and the placed in the far right column as an additional credit to the shop. Based on the full allowance as stipulated in the 1675 agreement Hull was allowed a mint fee of 4d per ounce plus a wastage allowance of 1d per ounce. Using this rate Hull would have had a mint fee of £6 13s4d and a wastage allowance of £1 13s4d for a total fee of £8 6s8d.--------------------------
[134r] "£ · 75 · 3 · ·
Comment: Hull added the March 12, 1678 mint fee to the running total of the shop income to arrive at £75 3s in credit for the shop. The double slash // was used by Hull to show the end of the final entry in the space allotted for an account.--------------------------
[133v] "March · 12 To Ballance Carried to folio 171 - - - - - · · 9 18 · ·
[followed by a long line, then:] £ · 75 · 3 · ·
Comment: After adding the March 12, 1678 entry on folio 134 recto Hull included a comment on the opposite side of the account that he was carrying a balance, namely a credit, of £75 3s to the continuation of the shop account which was found on folio 171 recto. On the following line Hull added the double slash // designating the final entry in the space allotted for the account. However, on folio 171 recto Hull did not forward the funds. On folio 171 recto between the entries of October 18 and November 21, 1679 Hull carried forward £9 18s, which was the amount needed to balance the account. Hull drew a line above the £75 3s and then added £9 18s above to show it was the amount carried over (see the comments on the entry for 171 recto). Although the £9 18s seem to be aligned with the February 24, 1679 entry on the 400 ounces of Spanish sterling, it is actually below that entry and does not relate to it.
Shop ledger - text and commentary, section three: 170 verso - 171 recto
Folio 170 verso
|Account of the shop as debtor|
|To 4 rings as fol. 27 left in ye shop 1 · 12 · 74 ·||********|
|April · 11||To 286 · 1/2 ounces of sterling|
|May · 6||To 131 · 1/2 of plate for which I paid Mr. Dummer - - - -||£39 · 9 · 0|
|July · 21||To 278 ounces sterling silver|
|To [balance, crossed out] due to the Countrey June 3 · 1679 for yearly rent of the mint as per Agreement June 3 · 1675||- - - - - - -||· 20||· ·||· ·|
|November · 8||To 58 ounces of plate allowed 2 ounces to make it sterling||- - - - - - -||· · ·||· ·||· ·|
|21||To put into ye mint sterling silver to Coyne ounces
325 · 2
} 770 1/2 ounces
|August · 3
|To put to the mint fine silver ounces
220 · 3
538 · 3
547 · 1
[totalled to] 1306 · 3
|gets at · 6 · 6 £ [i.e., per pound]
£ 424 · 9 · 0
|June 3 · 80||To due to the Country for yearly rent as per Agreement June 3 · 76||· 20||· ·||· ·|
|£ · 40||· ·||· ·|
Folio 171 recto
|July · 16||by mony received out of ye mint for Mr. Dummer plate||- - - £39 · 9 · 0|
|by 96 ounces sterling - - - - - - - £32 · 2 · 0||
} £189 · 2 · 0 Coynage whereof at 12d per £
· · 9
|30||190 1/2 sterling - - - - - - - 63 · 17 · 0|
|October 18||by 278 ounces sterling - - - - - - - 93 · 3 · 0|
|by Ballance brought from folio 134||- - - - - - - - - - - - -||· · 9||18||· ·|
|November 21||by 56 ounces in mony made £ 18 · 14s ·||by Coynadge - - -||· · ·||18||· 9|
|December 9||by 445 ounces in money made 149 · 5||Coynage at 12d -||· · 7||· 9||· 3|
|26||by 325 1/2 in money 109 · 6||Coynage at 12d -||· · 5||· 9||· 3|
|33||33 · 4||3|
|1680||August 29||by 538 ounces 3/4 at 6.6d||- - - £ 175 · 2 · 0|
|September 4||by 220 ounces at 6.6d||- - - · 71 · 15 · 0|
|September 10 & 27 10 & 2||547 · 1 at 6.6d||- - - 177 · 12 · 0|
|- - - £424 · 9 · 0|
|by money received out of the shop in June||· · 6||15||· 9|
|[the sums are totalled to]||£ · 40||· ·||[· ·]|
In the discussion below, debit and credit transactions for a specific entry are treated as a unit. A transcription of the entry is given in quotation marks, followed by an explanation or commentary. Each distinct entry is divided by a line of short dashes.
[170v] "To 4 rings as fol. 27 left in ye shop 1 · 12 · 74 ·"
Comment: This entry on folio 170 verso, the debit side of the account, stated that four rings brought into the shop on February 1, 1675 were still on deposit in April of 1679. This deposit had been previously recorded in the ledger on folio 26 verso. Hull referred to the folio as folio 27, meaning the opening covering 26 verso through 27 recto.-------------------------
[170v] "April · 11 - To 286 · 1/2 ounces of sterling
July · 21 - To 278 ounces sterling silver"
[171r] "by 96 ounces sterling - - - - - - - - - - - £32 · 2 · 0
30 190 1/2 sterling - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 63 · 17 · 0
October 18 by 278 ounces sterling - - - - - - - - 93 · 3 · 0
[the three above totals are combined by a bracket to equal] £189 · 2 · 0 Coynage whereof at 12d per £ - - - - - - · · 9 · 9 · ·"
Comment: On April 11, 1679 a customer deposited 286.5 troy ounces of sterling silver at the mint to be turned into coinage, a little over three months later, on July 21, 1679, an additional consignment of 278 troy ounces of sterling silver was brought to the mint. On the credit side of his ledger John Hull added the two consignments together as a single job totaling 564.5 troy ounces, it is likely these two shipments were from a single customer. We learn these two shipments of silver were turned into £189 2s in Massachusetts silver coinage in three installments. The first and smallest installment was undated but presumably occurred between the date of the previous entry, which was July 16, 1679 and the date of the second installment, which was dated July 30th. These two installments equalled the 286.5 troy ounces of silver brought in on April 11th, thus the customer was required to wait about three and a half months, from April 11 until July 30th to have the silver turned into £95 19s in Massachusetts coins. It seems about the time the April 11 deposit was ready to be picked up the customer deposited another almost equal shipment of sterling to be coined. This second shipment of 278 troy ounces was deposited on July 21st and was delivered on October 18th, which was a wait of just a few days less than three months for £93 3s in coinage.
Because Hull included the full quantity of coins produced, the yield per ounce of sterling can be determined. In the first installment Hull produced £32 2s in Massachusetts silver coinage from 96 troy ounces of sterling, which is an average of 80.25d per troy ounce. In his second installment Hull produced £63 17s in Massachusetts silver coinage from 190.5 troy ounces of sterling, which is an average of 80.44d per troy ounce. In the third installment Hull produced £93 3s in coinage from 278 troy ounces of sterling, which is an average of 80.417266d per troy ounce. For the entire consignment of three installments Hull averaged 80.3968d per troy ounce of sterling.
In this entry we also see Hull took a smaller mint fee than he was due under his contract with Massachusetts Bay. Hull was allowed a mint fee of 4d per ounce plus a wastage allowance of 1d per ounce which, for this consignment of 564.5 troy ounces of sterling would result in a mint fee of £9 8s2d and a wastage allowance of £2 7s 1/2d for a total fee of £11 15s 2.5d for this consignment of 564.5 ounces. However, Hull stated he had agreed to a fee of "12d per pound" of money struck (that is, pound as the value £, not as a weight). Hull produced £189 2s in coins and therefore was entitled to £9 9s 1.2d. Hull was allowed .6d per shilling but in his calculations he simply used the £189, yielding him a fee of 189s or £9 9s. Formerly Hull retained any extra coins that were produced from a consignment above the authorized 80d per troy ounce, so that if Hull made the coins slightly underweight he would retain any extra coins produced. By this agreement Hull's fee was directly based on the quantity of coins produced for the customer, thus any silver not wasted or any overages in production went to the customer. Of course Hull would obtain a higher fee if more coins were produced but by this agreement the customer made out significantly better than previously.--------------------------
[170v] "May · 6 - To 131 · 1/2 of plate for which I paid Mr. Dummer - £39 · 9 · 0"
[171r] "July · 16 by mony received out of ye mint for Mr. Dummer plate - - £39 · 9 · 0"
Comment: On May 6, 1679 Hull purchased 131.5 troy ounces of silver plate from his former apprentice Jeremiah Dummer at a cost of £39 9s. On July 16, 1679 Hull was reimbursed for this purchase as he recorded that he took £39 9s out of the mint account. It is not stated if the plate was used for coinage or for silversmithing but it may have been used for coinage as Hull specified he was reimbursed from the mint. However, Hull sometimes used the term shop when referring to the mint and he may have used the word mint when referring to the shop.
Hull had an active account with Dummer, the Dummer account is on folios 44 verso through 45 recto and lists several deals between the two men. The extant portion of the account covers the period from July 3, 1672 through November 21, 1679 during which their dealings amounted to £204 9s8d. Some dealings refer to partnerships in which Hull paid 1/3 of the total (Dummer may have paid 2/3rds or there may have been additional partners), most entries simply record the dates on which an amount of money was agreed to be paid and the date on which it was actually paid, without further explanation of what was being purchased. A few entries mention payments in "Ryales" and "Pillar Pieces" which of course, refer to Spanish American cob coinage. The May purchase of plate is not mentioned in Hull's account with Dummer, it is only in the shop account. There is no mention of the fineness of the plate, however, if it was sterling this was a good deal for Hull. The purchase price equalled 72d per troy ounce, which was below the 80d market value of sterling minted into Massachusetts coinage.--------------------------
[170v] "To [balance, crossed out] due to the Countrey June 3 · 1679 for yearly rent of the mint as per Agreement June 3 · 1675 - - - - · 20 · · · ·"
Comment: This is the annual payment of £20 to Massachusetts Bay as stated in the seven year contract renewal of June 3, 1675. The agreement simply stated "the sajd minters are to pay in to the Treasurer of the Country, in mony, twenty pounds per Anno during abouesajd terme" (Crosby, p. 82). The "above said term" mentioned in the document was "this Seven yeare next to Come." Although the contract did not stipulate the reason for the payment Hull refers to it as the annual rent "of the mint." I believe he is referring to an annual rent or payment for the right to hold the exclusive coining agreement with the Commonwealth which is the subject of the agreement of June 3, 1675. It does not appear to be a rental fee paid for use of the shop or mint building.--------------------------
[171r] "by Ballance brought from fol. 134 - - - - - - - · · 9 18 · ·"
Comment: This undated entry was added sometime between the previous entry of October 18, 1679 and the following entry of November 21st. Hull simply stated he was bringing the balance forward from the previous space allocated to the shop account. The amount is found on folio 133 verso. Hull originally stated he was going to forward £75 3s as mentioned in his note at the bottom of folio 133v. This equalled the credits found on folio 134 verso. However, Hull must have used a portion of this money for some payment not listed in the shop account since on folio 133 verso the shop debits equalled £9 18s. Thus, rather than carry forward the entire £75 3s in credits, Hull only carried forward the amount required to balance the shop debits.--------------------------
[170v] "November · 8 To 58 ounces of plate allowed 2 ounces to make it sterling - - - - - - · · · · · ·"
[171r] "November 21 by 56 ounces in mony made £ 18 · 14s · by Coynadge - - - - - - - · · · 18 · 9"
Comment: On November 8, 1679 a customer deposited 58 ounces of plate which Hull determined to be below sterling fineness. Hull made an allowance of 2 troy ounces to bring the plate up to the fineness of sterling. We know from an English statute passed on March 6, 1697 during the great recoinage that, "Any wrought Plate of any sort or kind whatsoever" could be brought to the mint. If the silver did not have a goldsmith's mark, verifying it to be of sterling fineness, the individual could accept an offer made by the mint or request an assay (8&9 Guilielmi III cap. 8, Statutes vol. 7, p. 196). As Hull used the wording "allowed 2 ounces" rather than a statement such as "determined 2 ounces needed" or "by assay 2 ounces needed" it is possible Hull followed a similar procedure as was later used at the London mint and simply made an offer to accept the plate as equal to 56 troy ounces of sterling or he may have performed an assay and simply used the word "allowed" rather loosely. The plate was deposited on November 8, 1679 and was delivered about two weeks later on November 21st. Hull stated he turned the plate into 56 troy ounces of sterling and produced £18 14s in Massachusetts silver coinage, which is an average of 80.142857d per troy ounce.
Hull continued to work at the 12d per 20s rate, which was a smaller mint fee than he was due under his contract with Massachusetts Bay. Hull was allowed a mint fee of 4d per ounce plus a wastage allowance of 1d per ounce which, for this consignment of 56 troy ounces of sterling, would result in a mint fee of 18s8d and a wastage allowance of 4s8d for a total fee of £1 3s 4d. However, Hull agreed to a fee of 12d per 20s. Hull produced £18 14s in coins and therefore was entitled to 18s 8.4d. Hull was allowed .6d per shilling but in his calculations he rounded up his fee to the nearest whole penny yielding him a fee of 18s9d.--------------------------
[170v] "21 To put into ye mint sterling silver to Coyne ounces
325 · 2
[the two numbers are joined by a bracket and totalled] } 770 1/2 ounces"
[171r] "December 9 by 445 ounces in money made 149 · 5 Coynage at 12d - - - - · · 7 · 9 · 3
26 by 325 1/2 in money 109 · 6 Coynage at 12d - - - - · · 5 · 9 · 3"
Comment: On November 21, 1679 a customer deposited two quantities of sterling silver in the mint to be turned into coins; one lot contained 445 troy ounces and the other lot contained 325 1/2 troy ounces for a total of 770 1/2 troy ounces of sterling. In the figure 325 · 2, the 2 following the middle dot is not a decimal. When designating sums of money Hull used the middle dot as a divider between pounds, shillings and pence as £32 · 2 · 0 for £32 2s or he used it as a place holder, hence £40 would be £ · 40 ·· ·· so the middle dots would designate zeros for the hundreds of pounds as well as for the two place holders for shillings and the two place holders for pence. However, in this example of 325 · 2, Hull was designating weight rather than monetary units; when referring to weight Hull used the middle dot to represent quarters, thus the 2 represented 2/4th or 1/2 troy ounce. The plate was deposited on November 21, 1679 and was delivered in two installments, the first installment of 445 ounces was ready in about two and a half weeks on December 9th while the second installment of 325.5 ounces was ready in just over an additional two weeks on December 26th.
Hull lists the full quantity of coinage made so we again can calculate the yeild of coinage per troy ounce of sterling. Hull stated the 445 troy ounces of sterling produced £149 5s in Massachusetts silver coinage, which is an average of 80.494382d per troy ounce. The second installment of 325.5 troy ounces of sterling produced £109 6s in Massachusetts silver coinage, which is an average of 80.589861d per troy ounce. Combining the two shipments together 770.5 troy ounces of sterling produced £258 11s in Massachusetts silver, which is an average of 80.53717d per troy ounce.
Hull continued to work at the 12d per 20s rate, which was a smaller mint fee than he was due under his contract with Massachusetts Bay. Hull was allowed a mint fee of 4d per ounce plus a wastage allowance of 1d per ounce. For the first installment of 445 troy ounces the full allowance would result in a mint fee of £7 8s4d and a wastage allowance of £1 17s1d for a total fee of £9 5s5d. However, Hull agreed to a fee of 12d per 20s. Hull produced £149 5s in coins and therefore was entitled to £7 9s3d which is exactly what he took. For the second installment of 325.5 troy ounces the full allowance would result in a mint fee of £5 8s6d and a wastage allowance of £1 7s1.5d for a total fee of £6 15s7.5d. However, Hull agreed to a fee of 12d per 20s so for the £109 6s in coins produced Hull was entitled to £5 9s3.6d which Hull rounded down to £5 9s3d. His total fee for the complete job came to £12 18s6d. Based on the full allowance Hull would have received a mint fee of £12 16s 10d and a wastage allowance of £3 4s 62.5d for a total fee of £16 1s 1/2d.--------------------------
[171r, in the final column the coinage fee sums are totalled as:] "33 · 4 3"
Comment: On the credit side of the account Hull added up the mint fees received between October 18 and November 26, 1679 along with the £9 18s balance carried forward. The total was £33 4s3d.-------------------------
[170 verso] "August · 3 To put to the mint fine silver ounces 220 · 3
[Directly below the date is 4 for August 4] 4 [then to the right of the date the 4th but lined up directly below the 220 of the previous entry is:]
538 · 3
547 · 1
[the three deposits of August 3 and 4 are totalled to:] 1306 · 3
[Just to the right of this list of the deposits Hull wrote that the three deposits] gets at · 6 · 6 £ [a total return to the consignor of] £ 424 · 9 · 0"
[171r] 1680 August 29 by 538 ounces 3/4 at 6.6d - - - - - - - - - £ 175 · 2 · 0
September 4 by 220 ounces at 6.6d - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ·71 · 15 · 0
September 10 & 27 10 & 2 547 · 1 [for 547 1/4] at 6.6d - - - - - - 177 · 12 · 0
[The three above sums are totalled to:] £424 · 9 · 0"
Comment: The August entry on folio 170 verso is not dated to a specific year. From the credit side of the account on folio 171 recto we discover this entry is dated 1680. This is one of the few instances where Hull neglected to include the change of the year in his entry. On August 3, 1680 a customer deposited 220.75 troy ounces of fine (that is, sterling) silver at the mint to be turned into coinage. As discussed above, in the entry for November 21, 1679, Hull used a middle dot in weight to represent quarters so, 220 · 3, represents 220 3/4th or 220.75 troy ounces. On August 4th two additional quantities of silver were deposited, one shipment was 538.75 troy ounces and the other was 541.25 troy ounces, in both instances Hull used the middle dot to designate fourths. Hull then added the total amount of fine silver deposited at the mint in this consignment as 1,306.75 troy ounces. On the credit side of his ledger we find the quantity of Massachusetts silver made from each of the three shipments and learn when the coins were ready for delivery. The first installment was the coinage made from 538.75 troy ounces of fine silver and was ready in about a month on August 29, 1680. The second installment, from the 220.75 ounces of silver, was ready six days later on September 4th. The date of the final installment of 547.25 ounces of silver is somewhat problematic. The date reads "Sept 10 & 27 10 & 2" in which the final 2 was originally another number overwritten as a 2, further a 7 appeared directly after the 2 but was overwritten as the 5 in the weight 547·1. It appears Hull first put the 10 directly under the 4 of the previous entry to designate the date as the 10th of the same month, that is September, and then added "& 27" but then he realized he would not be able to align the weights from the three installments as the 7 was directly over the hundreds place for the weight. It seems Hull then decided to align the three weights and wrote the 5 of 547·1 directly over the 7 of 27. To make up for obscuring the date he added "Sept. 10 & 27" in a more cursive script in the open left margin. Thus, it seems the third installment was delivered in two parts, or was ready on one day but not picked up until later. In any event is seems the entire consignment was completed and delivered by the end of September.
On folio 170 verso Hull wrote the total consignment "gets at · 6 · 6 £ [and then below and to the right] £ 424 · 9 · 0." This is confirmed on folio 171 recto where Hull included the yield. Here Hull gave the weight of each installment, he then stated "at 6.6d" (referring to a mint fee of 6.6d) and gave the yield from the installment. Unlike the previous entries Hull did not calculate his mint fee from this yield, nor did he state "in money made" or some other phrase that would suggest the amount represented the entire yield. Rather it seems to me that Hull treated this entry somewhat differently from the previously entries. Like the entries from earlier years it seems Hull did not record the total yield from the silver, rather he simply recorded that a specific number of ounces at an agreed mint fee of 6.6d per 20s would return a specific amount of money. I suspect this was not the total yield but rather was the quantity of money that was to be given to the customer.
If we interpret these quantities as the total yield, then it seems the individual coins were significantly overweight. Hull was authorized to produce 80d in coinage from each troy ounce but if we take the figures Hull gives for this total consignment, namely 1306.75 ounces of sterling to produce £424 9s, then Hull averaged only 77.955232d per troy ounce of sterling. Assuming the entire consignment was in shillings (8489s) the average weight per shilling would be 73.888561 grains without an allowance for wastage; assuming the maximum wastage the average weight of a shilling drops to 72.964954 grains. Clearly, this would not be profitable and it does not correspond with the weights that can be calculated from Hull's other entries. It would indeed be uncharacteristic of Hull to be compromising his already reduced profits by producing overweight coins.
Alternatively, if we treat these amounts as the sums allotted to the customer, the average weight of the coins seems more reasonable in relation to Hull's other entries. However, before attempting to estimate the total yield and average weight of the coins from this consignment we need to address the mint fee. In this entry we see Hull took an even smaller mint fee than in his previous agreements. Under his contract with Massachusetts Bay Hull was allowed a mint fee of 4d per ounce plus a wastage allowance of 1d per ounce which, for this consignment of 1306.75 troy ounces of sterling would result in a mint fee of £21 15s7d and a wastage allowance of £5 8s10.75d for a total fee of £27 4s 5.75d. However, Hull stated he had agreed to a reduced fee, this time it was not the fee he used in 1679 of "12d per pound" of money struck, but only slightly more than half of that fee, namely 6.6d per 20s of money (in this instance the dot is lower down and represents a decimal rather than a middle dot representing a fraction or a divider). Hull did not calculate his fee in this entry, he simply stated the fee rate. We must extrapolate the fee by calculating 6.6d per 20s in each of the three installments. For the first installment of £175 2s the fee would be £4 16s3.66d, rounded to £4 16s4d, while in the second installment of £71 15s the fee would calculate to £1 19s5.55d, rounded to £1 19s6d and for the third installment of £177 12s Hull's fee would be £4 17s8.16d, rounded to £4 17s8d, for a total fee of £11 13s6d. Adding this fee to the amount Hull lists as going to the customer, namely the £424 9s, we arrive at a total minting of £436 2s6d, which is rounded to £436 3s (8723s). Assuming this was the total mintage from the 1306.75 troy ounces of fine silver we arrive at an average yield of 80.1d in coinage per troy ounce (or an average of 71.9 grains per shilling), which is slightly higher that usual. This is in line with Hull's other consignments, thus in my estimation, adding the mint fee to the quantities given by Hull in this ledger entry produces a more reasonable interpretation of the information. Of course, it is possible Hull produced even more coins, possible as much as 80.44d per troy ounce, which would yield a total of 8760s (averaging 71.6 grains per shilling), and that he simply kept the additional 37s (£1 17s) in coinage, as had been done in earlier periods.--------------------------
[170v] "June 3 · 80 To due to the Country for yearly rent as per Agreement June 3 · 76 · 20 · · · ·
[total is added] £ · 40 · · · ·
Comment: This is the annual payment of £20 to Massachusetts Bay as stated in the seven year contract renewal of June 3, 1675. The agreement simply stated "the sajd minters are to pay in to the Treasurer of the Country, in mony, twenty pounds per Anno during abouesajd terme" (Crosby, p. 82). The above said term mention in the document was "this Seven yeare next to Come." Although the contract did not stipulate the reason for the payment Hull refers to it as the annual rent for the mint. I believe he is referring to an annual rent or payment for the right to hold the exclusive coining agreement with the Commonwealth which is the subject of the agreement of June 3, 1675. It does not appear to be a rental fee paid for use of the shop or mint building.
On the following line Hull added up the two annual payments in this listing for a total of £40 owed. The double slash // was used by Hull to show the end of the final entry in the space allotted for an account.--------------------------
[171recto] "by money received out of the shop in June · · 6 15 · 9 ·
[The sums are totalled to:] £ · 40 · · [· ·]
Comment: This is the final entry on the shop income side of the account. Hull needed to zero out the £40 in payments shown on the debit side of the account before allocating the account some additional space in one of his two later ledgers. The total income listed amounted to £33 4s3d but the total paid out on the other side of the ledger was £40. Apparently Hull knew the bill had been paid so, in late September of 1680, he simply added the amount necessary to balance the account with the statement that the account had been credited with £6 15s9d from money that had been received in June. Hull then added the amount as income to arrive at £40, which then made the two sides of the account equal. The bottom corner of the page is missing so the final two dots representing the pence in the total are missing and have been added in brackets. The double slash // was used by Hull to show the end of the final entry in the space allotted for an account.
There were at least two, or possibly three, individuals in Massachusetts Bay during the first half of the Seventeenth century with the name of John Hull. The first settler with the name John Hull came to Massachusetts in 1632, becoming a freeman on August 7, 1632. He settled in Dorchester, where he was granted a sixteen acre lot on January 16, 1633. The last known reference to this individual was from March 9, 1642. Thereafter he was no longer mentioned, suggesting he either died, moved or returned to England. Another Hull from Dorchester, possibly a relative, by the name of George Hull, moved from Dorchester to Windsor, Connecticut sometime after May of 1636 but before May of 1637 (Anderson, vol. 2, pp. 1040-1044). The possibility exists that John Hull also moved from Dorchester. He may (or may not) be the same John Hull who settled in Newberry.John Hull of Newbury
Regardless of the disposition of the first John Hull, what is especially important to remember when searching primary sources is that in the 1650's and 1660's there were two individuals residing in Massachusetts Bay with the name John Hull. In addition to the Boston mintmaster another John Hull, listed as living in Newbury, is mentioned in three General Court documents. He is first mentioned in the General Court records of May 18, 1653 in a description of the road from Rowley to Newbury, which was described as going over John Hull's bridge then through the edge of his "plaine" and on to Mr. Woodman's bridge near the mill at Newbury (Shurtleff, vol. 3, p. 305 and vol. 4, pt. 1, p. 139). Then on May 14, 1654 a petition was forwarded to the House of Magistrates by this John Hull and his wife Margaret, concerning some land they had sold to a John White. The documentation concerning the sale of the land had been destroyed in a fire and therefore the petition requested the oral recollections of the participants be recorded (Shurtleff, vol. 4, pt. 1, p. 190). Further information on the petition is found in the May 15th record from the House of Deputies where the request was acted upon and entered into the record stating, "Uppon the request of John Hull, of Newbery, & Margartt, his wife, this Court doth confirme & allow the sale of a parcell of land at Watertowne, sometimes in the possession of the said Margaret, unto John White & his heires for ever, the evidences being burned" (Shurtleff, vol. 3, p. 347). John Hull of Newbury is also mentioned several times in the records of the Essex County Courts. In the court held at Ipswich on March 29, 1670 it was stated that this John Hull had died intestate and that the administration of his estate was being granted to his widow, Margaret Hull (Dow, Records, vol. 4, p. 231).
It is unknown if the John White who acquired the land in Watertown was the same John White who was listed as an inhabitant of Kittery, Maine in a document from a local court session convened in Kittery at the house of William Everett between 8:00 and 9:00 AM on November 16, 1652, requiring the inhabitants to submit to the government of Massachusetts Bay. This document and related reports were forwarded to the General Court and recorded in the session of May 18, 1653 (Shurtleff, vol. 4, pt. 1, p. 124). Also, a John White is listed in a document of July 5, 1653 as an inhabitant of Wells, Maine, as recorded in the General Court session of September 7, 1653 (Shurtleff, vol. 4, pt. 1, p. 158 in the House of Magistrates and in the records of the House of Deputies under September 14, 1653, Shurtleff, vol. 3, pp. 332-333).
For several centuries coin weight had been expressed in royal decrees in terms that were based on practical considerations of economics and the limitations of available technology. In terms of economics the definition of coin weight had to address the value of the metal used, be it gold, silver or copper, while in terms of technology the definition had to be within parameters that could be reasonably and efficiently followed by workmen using available machinery. Working under the implicit assumption that minters would employ quality control techniques that would produce a product which was as standardized as possible, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain decreed in 1497 that 67 reales would be cut from a marco of silver of a specific fineness; similarly, Elizabeth I of England decreed in 1601 that 62 shillings would be cut from a troy pound of sterling silver. By wording decrees in this manner the monarchs were actually legislating the value of silver; in the case of Elizabeth, a troy pound of sterling silver was rated at 62 shillings. In these promulgations there was no specific authorized weight for an individual coin, simply an average weight mathematically calculated from the number of coins authorized to be produced per unit of metal. Generally, any detailed specifications affecting coin weight, such as an allowance for wastage, were not part of the public legal promulgation but were included in a private contractual agreement between the ruler and the minter known as a mint indenture.
In Massachusetts Bay the situation was somewhat different, in that all aspects of the coining agreement were part of the public record and were included in the legislation passed by the General Court. Thus, the minter's fee was not part of a private mint indenture but rather, it was publicly stated in the 1652 Massachusetts law that the minter would be allowed to retain a fee of one shilling out of every twenty shillings produced. Also, the law did not define coin weight in terms of production per unit of silver but rather precisely defined the weight of an individual coin, stating, "euery shilling to weigh three penny Troy weight & lesser peeces proportionably..." (Crosby, p. 38). Thus, it was quite clear a shilling was authorized at a weight of three pennyweight in the troy scale, which is equivalent to 72 grains. Clearly, the legislators considered definitions based on a shilling would be more meaningful to the public than definitions stated in terms of a troy ounce. The same information on mint fees and coin weight could have been worded so that it stated the minter was allowed a fee of 4d per troy ounce of sterling minted and the coin weight defined by simply stating 80d in coinage was to be cut from a troy ounce of sterling, with no further elaboration. Neither of these statements were found in the legislation. By using the shilling rather than the troy ounce as the focus of the definitions, the May 26/27, 1652 Massachusetts Bay mint act may be the first English legislation to specifically authorize a weight for an individual silver coin.
Nevertheless, although the act specified an exact weight for a shilling, it is clear from Hull's surviving ledger, the application of the statute was based on the requirement of producing a full 80d in Massachusetts coinage from each troy ounce of sterling, rather than focusing on the requirement of producing every shilling at a uniform weight. It is also clear the legislators understood the concept of production per troy ounce even though they chose to express values in terms of shillings rather than troy ounces. This concept had been used earlier by the General Court when defining the value of sterling for the 1640 Massachusetts Bay tax rate, where sterling had been rated at 5s per troy ounce. Additionally, the concept of pricing coins based on the value per ounce of silver was used later by the General Court in legislation of October 12, 1682, when the House of Magistrates issued an explanation of an earlier law of May 24th that had stated the eight reales would be put on par with Massachusetts silver but the May law had not explained if eight reales were to circulate by weight or by tale. The October clarification stated eight reales would be paid and received at, "Six Shillings and Eight Pence the ounce, troy weight," that is, they were to trade by weight at 80d (6s8d) per troy ounce. Further, the concept of the value of coins based on the legislated value of a troy ounce of silver was central to the legislative debate concerning the acceptance of the Proclamation of 1704. Although the production rate of Massachusetts silver was not specifically stated in terms of producing 80d in Massachusetts coinage per troy ounce of sterling in the 1652 mint legislation, this relationship was clearly understood. Indeed, it was critical to the solvency of the mint since the rate defined the value of silver when minted into Massachusetts money. As long as Spanish silver cob coinage was rated below 80d per troy ounce it would be profitable to mint Massachusetts coinage. In practice, this meant Hull had to be sure he would always be able to mint the required number of coins from an ounce of sterling.
Immediately following the passage of the May 27th version of the mint act Hull was greatly concerned about his ability to produce 80d in coinage at the authorized weight from an ounce of sterling and remain solvent, as the legislated mint fee had been reduced to 4d per troy ounce. If Hull should miscalculate and produce shillings just one grain overweight (that is, 73 instead of 72 grains) he would be loosing 6.66 grains per troy ounce, which would reduce his income by just over 25% from 4d to slightly under 3d per ounce. A similar miscalculation of one grain per coin with 6d coinage would be twice as costly, since twice as many coins would be produced, so Hull's income would be reduced by just over 50% to slightly under 2d per ounce. If the same error was made with threepence coins, the result would be catastrophic resulting in a loss of slightly more than the entire 4d mint fee! Hull may have also been concerned about fineness, as any silver that happened to be refined even slightly above the sterling standard would also reduce his income. Basically, unlike earlier acts which legislated an average weight but gave minters some tolerance in individual coin weight, the Massachusetts Bay mint act specified a precise weight as well as designating an exact fineness. A strict reading of the Massachusetts law could be interpreted as quite onerous on the minter, as there was no tolerance for error at any step in the coining process. Clearly, Hull was rather vociferous on this issue, complaining to the mint committee that it would be difficult for him to make a profit from this venture based on the specification in the May 26/27, 1652 statute. The minutes of the mint committee from June 20, 1652 alluded to Hull's complaints in their answer to him stating, "And that the mint master may not have Just Cawse to Complajne," (Crosby, p. 40) then the committee when on to increase his fee to 15d per 20s minted, which equalled a fee of 5d per troy ounce of sterling.
Even with this fee increase Hull was concerned about the viability of the enterprise, as Hull knew some silver would be lost in the minting process. This complaint was also addressed in the June 20th mint committee meeting. In reply to Hull the committee further granted him an additional 1d per troy ounce allowance for wastage. For each troy ounce of sterling silver (480 grains), Hull was allowed an additional 1d fee for waste. These modifications to the May legislation made during the June 20th mint committee meeting were approved by a vote of the full court during the October 1652 session of the General Court and became amendments to the statute.
Once the mint went into production several issues surfaced that had not been anticipated in the original legislation. Some issues, such as legends and other designs to deter clipping were legislated in the October session of the General Court, while other issues, such as those related to the order of the steps in production and allowable tolerances, were left to Hull to interpret. In regard to these concerns Hull seems to have made an effort to follow the minting statute but he appears to have reinterpreted specifics when he felt it to be necessary.
Hull had to tackle a significant problem that had not been anticipated in the legislation. In England, there was a wastage fee specifically related to the loss of sterling during the melting process. Even though the London mint employed professional melters who specialized in this process and performed their task in special rooms (one room was reserved for gold melts and another for silver melts), it was inevitable that some sterling would be vaporized. Silver has a very high melting point (960.8° Celsius or 1761.4° Fahrenheit). It must be melted in an enclosed furnace with what Georgius Agricola, in his 1556 work on metals called a "fierce fire" and which Lazarus Ercker in his 1574 treatise called a "strong heat" (Agricola, pp. 486-487 and Ecker, 1951, pp. 54-56 and 1683, pp. 51-54). Naturally, there was no way to precisely regulate the fire to the melting temperature. In fact, until the mid Twentieth century the specific melting point of silver was not known because molten silver adsorbs large quantities of oxygen making it difficult to determine the precise moment of melting (Butts, pp. 105-106 and 304-309). However it had long been know that when the temperature rose above the melting point, silver began to volatilize, in the form of a pale blue vapor. Although he does not specify the exact quantity of silver being used, Agricola mentioned silver would melt in about an hour (Agricola, p. 487). Clearly, vaporization would begin before all the silver in the crucible was melted, further, if the silver needed to be refined to sterling it would remain on the heat longer thus causing additional vaporization. Volatization of silver was considered the largest unrecoverable loss in the entire minting process. The standard melting allowance at the London mint seems to have been 3d per pound of sterling or one farthing per ounce, that figure was in use in 1422 when the pound was the Tower pound and it was also in use in 1591 when the pound was the troy pound (Craig, pp. 86 and 127). As this figure comes from the period when the shilling was 96 grains, the one farthing per ounce allowance was equivalent to a loss of two grains per troy ounce.
It was certainly well understood the melt was a critical operation and would be a potential problem in Massachusetts Bay as there were no professional melters nor any special melting facilities. The original Massachusetts Bay legislation indirectly addressed this concern by stating the actual melting and refining process would take place in the presence of the customer at the time of the deposit and that the customer would be given a receipt for the quantity of refined sterling that resulted from the melt. In this chain of events the sterling loss from the melt would not be a factor, as it would be an unrecorded loss at the customer's expense before any consignment receipt had been written. However, as we shall see in the production section, Hull found it impossible to follow this procedure. Basically, we shall see from the ledger records it was uneconomical for Hull to do a melt on request therefore he simply assayed the consignment, gave the customer a receipt and then backlogged the consignment until there was enough silver to perform a more economical large melt. However, since Hull had to change the order of operations from what had been directed in the statute, he had to consider how to recover the costs related to sterling loss during the melting process.
Concurrently, Hull needed to establish some guidelines in relation to acceptable weight variation for minted coins, as it was clear product loss would not allow an average weight of 72 grains per shilling if 80d were to be minted from a troy ounce of sterling. In England there were allowable tolerances in minting specifications issued in the regulations for the trial of the pyx. The pyx, derived from the Greek word pyxis, meaning a container or a vase, refers to a chest in which the mint secured samples of the coins it minted. The coins were submitted to an independent testing group who verified if they were within allowable parameters for weight and fineness. The official weights from the office of the Exchequer were used to test coin weight and members of the goldsmith guild tested the coins for fineness. From the period of Elizabeth in 1560 the tolerance, or as they called it, the remedy, was two pennyweight (24 grains) per troy pound (12 ounces) of sterling. This equalled a tolerance of two grains per troy ounce of coinage in both fineness and in weight (Craig, pp. 394-407 and Challis, Tudor Coinage, pp. 25-27, and 322-325). Although this was not meant to be a license to reduce the standards by that amount it was sometimes interpreted as such by the minters (Challis, Tudor Coinage, pp. 134-140). In Massachusetts Bay there was no independent testing of the coinage, thus no formal tolerances were set. However, it is clear Hull needed to have some tolerance guidelines. It would be impossible for him to make all shillings average 72 grains because of sterling loss during the minting process, so he needed some measure to determine if a coin was simply too light to issue.
It appears Hull dealt with both the tolerance issue and the melt loss problem by recourse to the wastage allowance. Hull's ledger confirms he understood the wastage allowance as an additional 1d supplement to the mint fee and that he charged the 1d fee to his clients. But, when we examine the production records in the ledger it appears Hull also interpreted the 1d per troy ounce wastage allowance as allowing the mint a six grains wastage allowance per troy ounce of sterling minted (as six grains in sterling equalled 1d in Massachusetts coinage). That is, it appears Hull charged the allowance as an outright fee and secondly he used it as a guide to create an average tolerance standard that allowed the loss of six grains per ounce of sterling minted. Apparently, Hull did not use this as an outside tolerance but rather took it to be the acceptable average weight. In effect, it appears Hull used the wastage allowance to justify a reduction in the legal average weight for Massachusetts coinage so that he could produce 80d in coinage that would weigh a total of 474 grains of sterling. This was a six grains reduction from the original May 26/27 statute, which required 80d to weigh a full troy ounce of 480 grains. Based on this revision whereby 80d in coins could be produced from 474 grains of sterling, the average weight of a shilling calculates to 71.1 grains (for the other denominations: 6d is 35.55 grains, 3d is 17.775 grains and 2d is 11.85 grains). This six grains allowance was somewhat more generous than the British allowance, which equalled a two grains per ounce for the sterling lost in the melt and an additional two grains per ounce tolerance or remedy during the trial of the pyx. The pyx tolerance was not specifically meant to be an allowance but some minters treated it as such. As shown below, this six grains weight reduction was slightly more (approximately .44d or 2.64 grains more) than what Hull needed to produce an average of 80d per troy ounce of sterling. It appears in using a six grains allowance per troy pounce of sterling Hull set 71.1 grains as an average weight for each 12d in coinage. Thus, a shilling would average 71.1 grains with some shillings lighter and some heavier, however as long as Hull kept to this average it seems he felt he was working within the parameters of the coinage legislation.
We have some indication of how Hull put the wastage parameters into practice from information in the surviving ledger. The mint production records for 1679 are more revealing in this regard than the records from any of the other years, as during 1679 Hull included in his ledger both the quantity of silver minted and the total value of coins produced. During the final years of the mint Hull based his mint fee on a percentage of the value of the coins minted; he took a predetermined amount from each 20s of coins produced. In earlier years Hull had simply recorded in his ledger the quantity of silver deposited and the return to be given to the customer without recording the quantity of coins produced or exactly what income he made from the transaction. Only in the later entries do we have the exact value of the coins produced from a specified quantity of sterling.
I have used four of the six consignments recorded for 1679 in Hull's ledger for the following calculations. A small consignment from November 8, 1679 for coinage from 56 ounces of sterling has been excluded as the quantity of silver is questionable since Hull stated he was reducing the quantity by two troy ounces as the silver was not of sterling fineness. It is not clear if this reduction was an educated guess by Hull or the result of an assay. Also, I did not include a consignment from August 3-4, 1679 for coinage from 1306.75 troy ounces of sterling as Hull did not include the value of the coins produced from that silver. What I have included were the following: a consignment placed on November 20, 1678 and completed on February 18, 1689 for 1292.5 ounces of sterling used to produce £433 3s in Massachusetts silver; a consignment of February 24, 1679 that was completed on March 12th for 400 ounces of sterling used to produce £133 18s; a consignment of April 11, 1679 that was completed on July 21st for 564.5 ounces of sterling used to produce £189 2s; and a consignment of November 21, 1679 that was completed on December 21st for 770.5 ounces of sterling used to produce £258 11s. The combined total of these four consignments represent 3027.5 troy ounces of sterling used to produce £1014 14s in Massachusetts coinage. This averages out to a production rate of just under 80.44d (or more precisely 80.438645d) in Massachusetts coinage per troy ounce of sterling. From this it is clear Hull was producing more than 80d in coinage per troy ounce of sterling. Hull seems to have averaged 80.44d which would yield an additional .44d in income per troy ounce of silver minted into Massachusetts coinage. Clearly, Hull could not have consistantly produced more than 80d per troy ounce of sterling unless he interpreted the wastage allowance as authorizing shillings at a weight that averaged below 72 grains.
Next, we must estimate for actual waste, as we cannot be certain of the average weight of a shilling minted at the rate of 80.44d per troy ounce unless we can determine how much sterling was actually wasted or lost during the production run. Fortunately, using these four ledger examples and making a few assumptions, we can estimate the quantity of silver actually wasted in the minting process at Massachusetts Bay. By waste I mean sterling silver that was lost to the consignment during the production run. At each step in the processing of a consignment of sterling into coinage there was the possibility of some product loss. As we have seen, the most significant unrecovable loss was from vaporization during the melting process. Some smaller amounts of sterling could also be lost at other steps. There was always the possibility of some loss when ladling the silver from the melting pot and pouring it into the wet sand molds or when rolling the molded strips to the specified thickness. Obviously a small amount of silver would turn to dust when the planchets were cut. Larger quantities of sterling would be lost if the sharp edges on the newly cut planchets were filed down and even more sterling would be removed from the production run from uncut stock called scissel. Scissel could be remelted along with defective planchets in a second pass, but at some point there would be some scissel remaining that could not be used for the consignment but had to be put in Hull's inventory. Again there could be some small loss when the planchet was struck with the dies. Most of this loss, other than the vaporized sterling, was recoverable by treating the tools and work surfaces with mercury. Mercury will attract silver and over a few days it will form an amalgam. Once the amalgam is heated the mercury will vaporize leaving only the silver. We can assume Hull used this process as his ledger records the purchase of 21 pounds of mercury in 1677. However, even this recovered silver would be lost to the consignment, as the recovery process would only be performed after a production run had been completed. Basically, this recovered silver would simply be additional inventory for Hull, it would not be reflected in the weight of the coins produced from the consignment.
Clearly, like all other mints, the Massachusetts Bay mint lost some silver as waste during the minting process. Realizing there had to have been some loss, and also realizing Hull produced more that 80d in coinage per troy ounce, it is clear the average coin weight was below 72 grains per shilling. As the mint committee allowed a wastage allowance of 1d per troy ounce, it seems Hull interpreted this regulation as giving him a remedy or tolerance of six grains of sterling per troy ounce. This was not a per coin toleration but a per ounce toleration, thus individual shillings may be above or below the 71.1 grains average but the sum total of the coinage per ounce was limited to a loss of six grains. Thus, I shall use six grains per ounce as the maximum wastage or loss in the caluculations below. However, it is quite possible Hull was actually able to control wastage so that the average waste per troy ounce was less than six grains. Therefore, I shall review the 1679 consignments for average coin weight estimating absolutely no wastage, then estimating the maximum six grains per ounce of wastage and finally estimating a median actual wastage of three grains per troy ounce.
For simplicity, I have assumed all of coins produced in these four consignments were shillings. If some portion of the coinage was in smaller denomination coins, the number of coins produced would differ but the per unit weight and wastage results would be the same, as all the denominations were proportional and the wastage actually refers to grains lost per 12d of coinage rather than specifically to a shilling. For example, the facts from Hull's ledger state 3027.5 troy ounces of sterling were used to produce £1014 14s in Massachusetts coinage. Precisely how that coinage may have been distributed between shillings and lower denomination coinage is unknown. If the entire amount was in shillings it would total 20,294 shillings, if in threepence the number of coins would be triple, however the overall weight per every 12d in coinage would not change, as the weight per value figures are the known facts taken from the Hull ledger. Obviously, the weight per value would remain the same no matter what combination of threepence, sixpence and shilling coins were used, as long as the total added up to £1014 14s in coinage produced from 3027.5 troy ounces of sterling. Thus, for purposes of estimating the actual wastage and then calculating an average coin weight, it is simpler to assume the entire run was in shillings rather than create some artificial divisions among the three denominations of coinage. Essentially a shilling is used here to represent 12d in coinage. Furthermore, the four consignments under discussion were from 1679, during the final years of the mint, and certainly reflect the period when the majority, if not all of the coinage production, was in thick planchet shillings produced on a screw press. [Some additional comments on when Pine Tree threepence and sixpence coins may have been minted are found below in part three under the heading. "Interpreting the consignment information in Hull's ledger."]
Assuming only shillings were produced, the four consignments would combine to a total of 20,294 Massachusetts shillings from 3027.5 troy ounces of sterling. The next step is to calculate the weight of an individual shilling. At one extreme is the average weight of a shilling assuming there was absolutely no wastage at all during the entire minting process. At this end the average weight of one of the 20,294 shillings produced from the 3027.5 troy ounces of sterling (that is, 1,453,200 grains), would be 71.6 grains (or exactly 71.607371 grains). We have seen the authorized weight of a shilling was 72 grains. Clearly, Hull was averaging less than 72 grains, as with absolutely no wastage a shilling from the four 1679 production runs averaged only 71.6 grains. Further, the 71.6 grains average is undoubtedly too high, as contemporary technology did not allow for production with absolutely no loss of product. Interestingly, even this highest end weight estimate suggests Hull was allowing for over two grains of waste per troy ounce. At two grains per ounce the maximum acceptable loss from 72 grains per shilling would be 71.7 grains. It seems clear that Hull was using a wastage allowance well beyond two grains per troy ounce.
At the other extreme, if the mint actually lost six grains of sterling per ounce during the production process, the total loss would be 37.84375 troy ounces (that is, 18,165 grains), so the 20,294 shillings would actually weigh 2,989.6562 troy ounces (that is, 1,435,035 grains); thus the average weight of a shilling would drop to 70.7 grains (or exactly 70.712279). This would calculate to a loss of 8.67 grains per troy ounce (the reduction is more than six grains because Hull produced 80.44d in coinage per ounce of sterling). Although it is clear some shillings might weigh 70.7 grains or even less, it is quite unlikely that was an average weight as there is no interpretation of any mint related document that could suggest an 8.67 grains per ounce waste allowance. Thus, there is no evidence to suggest Hull actually lost an entire six grains per troy ounce of sterling minted.
Interestingly, if we assume a loss of three grains of sterling per troy ounce, the total loss from the four consignments would be 18.921875 troy ounces (that is, 9,082.5 grains), so the 20,294 shillings would actually weigh 3,008.5718 troy ounces (that is, 1,444,117.5 grains); thus the average weight of a shilling would be just about 71.1 grains (or precisely, 71.159825 grains). This almost exactly equals the weight calculated from a six grains per troy ounce wastage allowance. Thus, if one interprets the 1d per troy ounce wastage allowance as also allowing a loss of six grains per troy ounce, then the 71.1 grains average weight could be justified. Further, an estimated actual production loss of just a little more or less than three grains of silver per ounce assumes Hull produced as many coins as possible per troy ounce of silver while keeping the average weight close to what I suspect he interpreted as the minimum standard, based on a wastage allowance of six grains per ounce. Thus, it seems Hull used a six grains per troy ounce allowance, which meant 71.1 grains was his standard for an average shilling. Further, it appears that during production he actually lost about three grains per troy ounce, which allowed him a yield averaging 80.44d per troy ounce of sterling.
It should be remembered that an estimated loss of three grains per troy ounce at the Massachusetts Bay mint refers to any sterling lost from the consignment, including silver that was recovered at the end of the production process. This represents all sterling that did not end up in the coins minted from a specific consignment of sterling deposited in the mint. I suspect some, if not most, of this waste was recoverable and found its way into Hull's inventory. Loss at the London mint referred to sterling that was vaporized or otherwise unrecoverable; it did not include recoverable sterling which was simply added to the next melt. Since Massachusetts melts were for specific consignors, sterling lost from one consignment could not be recovered by adding it to the next consignment. Thus, the loss of a little more or less than three grains of sterling per troy ounce at Massachusetts Bay is higher than the London melt allowance of a loss of two grains (the actual loss at London may have been less), but they do not measure the same thing.
If the average output of these four consignments from 1679 could be generalized as an estimate of production rates from earlier years, it appears Hull was able to produce coinage at a rate of close to 80.44d per troy ounce, allowing him an extra income of .44d per ounce. Further, if we assume Hull tried to keep the average weight of a shilling close to 71.1 grains, we may speculate that on average Hull lost about three grains per ounce of sterling during the production run as waste.
Using three grains per ounce of sterling as an estimate of the actual wastage, we can subtract that amount from the original consignment weight for each of the four consignments discussed above to find the estimated weight of sterling that was actually minted into coins. If we take that estimate and then divide by Hull's stated production rate for each consignment we can arrive at an average shilling weight for each consignment.
|Date of consignment||troy ounces and grain equivalent||coinage minted||coinage per troy ounce||revised weight at a loss of 3 grains per ounce||average weight per shilling|
|Nov. 20, 1678 -
Feb. 18, 1679
| Feb. 24 -
March 12, 1679
|80.34d||190,800 gr.||71.247199||April 11 -
July 21, 1679
| Nov. 21 -
Dec. 21, 1679
The Massachusetts mint act of May 26/27, 1652 stated a customer bringing silver bullion or Spanish silver coins into the mint to be turned into Massachusetts coinage could watch the refinement process being performed and would then be given a receipt for the weight of the final quantity of sterling silver obtained from this process. As explained below, it is more likely the customers saw an assay performed rather than the actual refinement process. For those customers bringing in lower quality silver the assay would determine the specific quantity of impurities, thus allowing Hull to calculate the difference from the sterling standard. Once an individual had a receipt for the sterling weight or its equivalent, it would be possible to calculate the customer's return in Massachusetts silver because the quantity of coinage to be produced per troy ounce of sterling was legislated and the various mint fees to be incurred by the customer were defined in the legislation.
One point of contention in the mint act of May 26/27, 1652 was the mint fee. The mint fee originally included in the earliest extant draft version of the act was 1s6d (18d) out of every 20s minted. This was the fee assigned to Hull in the version of the act that was originally passed by the House of Magistrates on May 26th. However, as noted in the postscript to the draft, the fee was reduced by the House of Deputies to 1s (12d) in the version passed by that house on May 27th. The reduction was accepted by the Magistrates and the fee was revised in the legislation.
As we learn in the document quoted below, Hull complained about this reduction. Although the 1652 spring session of the General Court ended a few days after the mint act was passed, Hull took his concerns to the mint committee, since they had been authorized to continue to meet and expedite the implementation of the mint act. The committee members were busy planning the construction of a mint house and arranging for the appropriation of the necessary minting tools. They honestly explained they really did not know how to calculate a suitable and just fee for the mintmaster's service. Therefore, based on the concerns expressed by Hull, as part of their action of June 20, 1652 announcing the construction of a mint house, the committee raised the mint fee to a maximum of 15d per 20s coined, that is, half way between the lower figure proposed by the House of Deputies and the original figure, which had probably been proposed by Hull. Additionally, as mentioned above, based on a suggestion from Hull, the committee made an allowance for waste of 1d per troy ounce of silver. In effect, this brought the total charges to the customer back up to the amount of the original request of 18d per 20s minted.
The text of the mint committee document explained that the legislators were unsure how to calculate an appropriate refining fee, as some silver objects brought into the mint would require more refining that others, while sterling silver items brought in would not need any refining at all. Indeed, the document states 15d was the maximum allowable mint fee, in some instances it was thought Hull should charge a customer less. Once the operation was running it was hoped more information would be available on an acceptable fee and the legislators could revisit the question during their fall session. The June 20th committee action explained a mint house was to be built and the necessary coining tools were to be acquired and that initial steps had already been taken towards these ends (or as they said, "all which is in Acting"). The committee then went on to discuss the mint fees:
"And that the mint master may not have Just Cawse to Complajne, wee cannot but Judge it meete [meete = what is suitable or sufficient] to Allow the said mint master, for Refyning and Coyning such bulljon, plate & mony, that shall be brought vnto them, what was in his Judgment and Conscience, on his experience he shall Judge aequall, so as he exceede not 15d in twenty shillings ouer and besides a penny in euery ounce allowed for wast till the next sessions [that is, the October session of the General Court] Against which tjme, Itt is to be hoped such experjence will be had of what is necessary to be Allowed, as there will be no Just occasion of Complainte only wee doe desire and Advise the sajd John Hull, (there being a likely hood of seuerall sorts of worke: in which he is to be Implojed where there is no Refjning and so lesse labor, he would take lesse : and where both Refining and Coyning is necessary there ; if he finde he Cannot subsist with lesse he may take fiveteene pence, for euery twenty shillings." Crosby, p. 40 [Crosby does not include any closing parenthesis in the final section of this quote. For meete see the Oxford English Dictionary, volume M, p. 305, meaning 3]Added to the document was a comment by Edward Rawson the Secretary of the General Court that on October 28, 1652, during the fall session of the General Court, it was agreed to approve the "Allowance of 15d per 20s" minted. The text read:
"Voted by the whole Court. that they Allowe ye Act of the Committee for minting of mony, Respecting the howse & Allowance of 15d per 20s. 28 8mo. 1652: Edward Rawson Secretary." Crosby, p. 40A similar notation was made in the record of the General Court:
"The whole Courte by their Gennerall vote did Allow and Approove of the acte of the Committee about minting of money & Respecting their building of the mint howse at the Common charge, and allowance of the officers 15d in euery twenty shillings for their paines and Ordered the Committee to Continew in their power till the next Election." Crosby, p. 41As the statements did not specify that the Court approved a mint fee "up to" 15d it appears the legislators believed Hull regularly charged the full rate. However, the two records of the endorsement were simple brief notes signifying the General Court agreed with the actions of the mint committee and cannot be taken to have revised or modified the committee decisions. For example, it is assumed the acquisition of the coining tools and the wastage allowance were also approved although not specifically stated in the endorsement. Indeed, the wastage allowance continued in force through the history of the mint, even in the final contract renewal of June 3, 1675 where the mint fee was reduced, the wastage allowance was specifically mentioned and allowed at the same rate as it had been since 1652.
The 1652 mint act stated anyone consigning silver to the mint could watch the silver be refined to sterling fineness and would then be given a receipt for the weight of sterling silver consiged to the mint. The legislation went on to explain that at the end of the minting process the customer was to be paid the receipt weight in Massachusetts coins minus any mint fees or allowances authorized to Hull by the General Court. The text of the mint act, in the version passed on May 27, 1652 by the House of Deputies stated:
"& It shalbe in the liberty of any person who brings into the mint howse any bullian plate or spanish Coyne as afforsaid to be present and se [see] the same melted & refined Allayed & then to take a receit of the master of the mint for the weyght of that which is good silver allayd as aforesaid, for which the mint master shall deliver him the like weight in Current money viz. every shilling to weigh three penny Troy weight & lesser peeces proportionably deducting allowances for coynage as before exprest." (Crosby, pp. 37-38)According to a strict reading of the statute, Hull should have deducted his allowances from the sterling weight on the receipt (at the converstion rate of six grains in sterling being equal to 1d in fees) and then delivered all coinage made from the remaining silver to the customer.
In Hull's surviving ledger there are several examples of how the mint fee, or more correctly, the customer's return, was calculated and collected from October of 1671 through September of 1680. From these examples we see the methodology specified in the statute was reinterpreted at the mint. Each ounce of sterling silver would theoretically yield 80d (6s8d) in full weight Massachusetts silver if there were no waste or loss of silver in the minting process; from this amount the maximum mint fee was 5d per troy ounce of sterling with a wastage fee of 1d per troy ounce for a total of 6d in fees, leaving a return to the customer of 74d (6s2d) in Massachusetts coinage per ounce of sterling brought into the mint. In section three we shall see Hull assayed the silver consigned to the mint to determine its fineness. He then weighed the silver, if the silver was not of sterling fineness he calculated the diffential, and gave the consignor a receipt for all silver consigned to the mint. According to the 1652 mint act, Hull should have used the consigned silver to produce as many coins as possible at the authorized weight. Next, he should have calculated his mint fee based on the troy ounces of sterling deposited and then deducted his fee from the total coinage produced. Using this method any overproduction would go to the customer. However, from the ledger we see Hull multiplied the number of ounces of sterling consigned to the mint by 74d (6s2d) to arrive at the return to the customer; the unspecified remainder of the coins were retained by Hull as income. As an example of how Hull calculated a customer's return, in his ledger under the date of August 25, 1673 Hull noted: "To put in to ye mint house to be coyned 265 oz. sterling at 6s · 2d is £81 · 14 · 2" (New England Historic Genealogical Society, MS CB 110, vol. 1, folio 26 verso). At the rate of 74d (6s2d) per ounce of sterling the return to the individual would be exactly what Hull calculated £81 14s2d. Thus, Hull calculated the minimum amount he was obligated to give to the customer based on the ounces of sterling silver received and he retained whatever was left as his income. Technically, the mint act stated the opposite methodology, namely Hull should calculate his authorized fee and then the customer would retain whatever remained.
Further, from the ledger we see Hull made some additional income. In addition to charging clients a 1d per ounce wastage fee Hull seems to have also used the parameters of that clause to justify a wastage allowance of six grains per troy ounce of sterling. This allowed him to produce lighter weight shillings averaging 71.1 grains, so even with some wastage he could produce 80.44d from a troy ounce of silver (that is, more than 80d per troy ounce). In this context one must remember mint fees, as interpreted by Hull, were calculated on the amount the customer was to pay the mint based on a return of 80d per ounce of sterling. Any actual return above 80d per ounce was additional income for Hull, hence Hull's income was more than the total of the mint fees. Basically, the customer's return was a stable rate whereby the customer received 74d in coins per ounce of sterling. Hull would then receive the remainder, which would come to 6d if he produced 80d in coinage per ounce of sterling, but it could be higher or lower based on his production rates. The extant data shows Hull was able to average about 80.44d in coinage per ounce of sterling, which would give him a total return averaging about 6.44d per ounce.
As the economies of the British colonies in the West Indies and the Atlantic seaboard began to flourish during the later 1660's there was an increased demand for silver coinage. As a result, the value of silver and especially the value of eight reales coins increased. Many colonies legislated rates for Spanish American cob coinage that were above the British value for the silver content of the coins, in effect overvaluing or as the colonials stated "crying up" the value, so that the coins would not be exported. As the value of Spanish cobs rose closer and closer to the value of Massachusetts silver, which had been legislated at the rate of 80d per ounce of sterling, it became less profitable for individuals to bring Spanish cobs to the mint, resulting in declining production of Massachusetts silver coinage.
In order to make the transaction of converting Spanish cobs into Massachusetts coinage more profitable there were several suggestions to lower the mint fees. Indeed, the situation became so serious, the goal of reducing customer fees became an objective of the General Court. Whereas the focus of the earlier General Court mint committees formed on October 16, 1660 and May 15, 1667 had been stated as negotiating additional revenue for the Commonwealth, the stated objective of the third renewal committee (this is the fourth mint committee, as the first mint committee was appointed in 1652), included in the record of the General Court under the date of May 12, 1675, was to make an agreement that, "may be most encouraging to all persons who have bullion to bring in the same mint" (Crosby, pp. 71, 78 and 81). The result of these negotiations was the contract renewal of June 3, 1675 in which the mint fee was reduced to 1s (12d) per 20s (240d) or 5% while the allowance of 1d per ounce for waste continued, bringing the total fee down to 6.25%. This represented a reduction in fees from 6d per ounce of sterling to 5d per ounce, so that the return for the customer per ounce of sterling silver increased from 74d (6s2d) to 75d (6s3d). Hull's surviving ledger includes a record of what may represent the first consignment calculated at the new rate. Under the date of June 17, 1675 is the following entry: "To 217 oz. sterling silver dollars into ye mint house to be coyned. 6 · 3d · £67 · 16 · 3" (New England Historic Genealogical Society, MS CB 110, vol. 1, folio 26 verso). At the rate of 75d (6s3d) per ounce of sterling the return to the individual would be exactly what Hull calculated £67 16s3d.
The 1d increase to the customer's return did not bring much silver into the mint. Apparently the small increase was not a sufficient inducement. Also, just a few weeks after the reduced rates were put into effect Massachusetts Bay became involved in a costly and prolonged struggle against the Indian sachem known as King Philip, lasting from June 20, 1675 - February 12, 1677. Indeed, Hull was named treasurer of the War Committee and spent much time compiling three large ledgers of all Commonwealth payments relating to this war. The total mint production of Massachusetts coinage during this period listed in Hull's private ledger consisted of just two consignments. One consignment was deposited just a few days before the outbreak of hostilities, this was the consignment of June 17, 1675 for 217 ounces of sterling, which was the first consignment at the higher customer return as agreed to in the renewal of June 3, 1675. The only consignment actually placed during the war was probably a personal consignment for Hull (see the ledger commentary section for details), this was recorded in the ledger on June 14, 1676 as an consignment of 496.75 ounces of sterling.
With the end of the war shipments of silver began to increase. About six weeks after the war officially ended several shipments totaling 1575.5 ounces of sterling and 282 ounces of Spanish plate were delivered between April 20-27, 1677 and on July 13, 1677 an additional consignment of 125 ounces of sterling was delivered. At this point Hull reduced his fee in the hope of attracting more customers to the mint. An entry in Hull's ledger stated between May 3 and August 29 several parcels of silver were delivered to the mint, but the weight of these parcels was not recorded. However, Hull calculated the return to the customer quite differently from what been done in earlier entries. Hull explained the face value of the total amount of money minted from the silver was £671 12s and that his fee was to be 12d per £1, that is, 1s (12d) per every 20s (£1) produced or 5% of the money coined. Interestingly, this was the exact fee proposed by the House of Deputies in 1652. Hull calculated his fee for these several parcels at £33 10s (although a full 12d per 20s would entitle him to £33 11s 7.2d). By using this method Hull was limiting his income to a fixed sum of 5% of the total return; any overage above 80d per ounce of sterling would be split with 5% going to Hull and 95% going to the customer. This fee continued to be used for all shipments through the shipment received on December 26, 1679, in each instance Hull wrote in his ledger that by an agreement with the customer he was to receive 12d per 20s as his fee.
The return to Hull in terms of a fixed fee of 12d per 20s coined was lower than the June 3, 1675 agreement; essentially his return was about equal to a 4d per troy ounce mint fee, while the customer benefited by an increase of 1d per ounce in the return as well as acquiring 95% of any production over 80d per ounce. From an entry on February 24, 1679 we learn 400 troy ounces of Spanish sterling were brought into the shop and used to produce £133 18s in Massachusetts coinage, for a rate of 80.34d in coins per troy ounce. At 12d per 20s Hull took £6 14s as his fee (although strictly speaking he was only entitled to £6 13s 10.5d). Based on the June 3, 1675 rate Hull would have taken a mint fee of 4d and a wastage allowance of 1d for a total of 5d per ounce, giving the customer a return of 75d per ounce. This would have yielded Hull a mint fee of £6 13s4d and a wastage allowance of £1 13s4d for a total fee of £8 6s8d plus the entire extra .34d per ounce for an additional 11s4d bringing his return to £8 18s, while the customer would have received £125. Clearly, in relation to the rate in the June 3, 1675 mint agreement, the revised rate of 12d per 20s was an incentive to the customer, as Hull's return dropped from £8 18s to £6 14s and the customer's return increased from £125 to £127 4s.
Although the new rates improved customer return it was not enough of a concession to keep a supply of silver coming into the mint. As previously mentioned, the last shipment received under the 12d per 20s fee agreement was on December 26, 1679. For the next eight months no new shipments were recorded in Hull's ledger.
During this post war period several proposals were sent to the Massachusetts General Court to remedy the silver shortage at the mint. On June 2, 1677 a committee of the General Court in consultation with John Hull proposed two options, one option was to either raise the value of the current coins or reduce the weight of a shilling by nine to twelve grains, while the other option was to abolish mint fees. The proposal candidly stated both alternatives were "attended with Difficulty" but that they were worthy of further consideration. The difficulties referred to political problems Massachsuetts Bay had with the British government concerning several issues, including the right to mint coins. This debate began soon after the restoration of Charles II, when Massachsuetts Bay had sent two agents to London to defend their positions. As these political problems continued to strain the relations between Britain and Massachusetts Bay, it was suggested until the difficulties were resolved the General Court could double the tax on wine, brandy and rum and then use the money to partly finance the mint. A similar tax had been instituted in Britain in 1663 to finance the royal mint. However, Massachusetts Bay had severe financial problems and a general tax to support the mint was not popular. The 1677 proposal died in committee, it never came up for a vote (Crosby, p. 108).
In May of 1680 several additional proposals recommending the abolition of mint fees were forwarded to the General Court. Basically, the proposals stated the mint should be a free service to the public with the mintmaster being paid a salary out of the government treasury rather than relying on customer fees (Crosby, pp. 109-111). Hull had served as treasurer of the Commonwealth from May of 1676 through May of 1680 and realized the Commonwealth did not have the funds to pay his salary. Indeed, Hull had loaned Massachusetts Bay money on several occasions and much of that money had never been repaid. On June 6, 1680, Hull, who had recently been appointed to the House of Magistrates, forwarded his own proposal to the General Court suggesting the government revalue Massachusetts silver in an attempt to make the minting concern profitable once again. Hull proposed reducing the authorized weight of a Massachusetts shilling from 72 grains sterling to 60 grains sterling. This would cry up the value of an ounce of sterling silver in Massachusetts money from 80d per ounce to 96d per ounce. As an eight reales of 408 grains was valued at 72d (6s), the value of a troy ounce of Spanish silver was 84d. At the new rate Massachusetts silver would once again be more valuable than Spanish silver. Hull suggested the customer would gain 7d to 7.5d by converting a full weight eight reales into Massachusetts shillings. Clearly, this would attract silver back to the mint. (Crosby, pp. 111 -112)
The General Court was forced to reject this proposal. At the time Massachusetts Bay had two agents in London defending the Commonwealth's actions to the Committee of Trade and Plantations against accusations put forward by several detractors who sought to have the Massachusetts Bay charter revoked. Many complaints had been lodged against Massachusetts Bay including the fact that they operated a mint without royal permission. The General Court knew that on February 8, 1679, Henry Slingesby, Master of the London Mint, had made a presentation before the Committee of Trade and Plantations regarding the Earl of Carlisle's request to establish a mint in Jamaica. Slingesby was adamant that any coins minted in Jamaica must adhere to the British standards for both weight and fineness. On June 20th the earl wrote a reply to the committee (read at the committee meeting of October 9, 1679) that Jamaica would not be able to build a mint as they could not comply with Slingesby's restrictions. Further, the earl implied this ruling was unfair as Massachusetts Bay did not follow British weight standards. Faced with such opposition in London, the Massachusetts Bay General Court could not afford to further alienate the Committee of Trade and Plantations by allowing any additional reduction of the weight standard.
Hull's June 6, 1680 weight reduction proposal was quickly dismissed. Left with no alternative, Hull was forced to take matters into his own hands and further reduce his fee to attract silver into the mint. In his surviving ledger we see that a shipment of sterling in three installments totaling 1306.75 troy ounces was deposited in the mint on August 3-4, 1680. To attract this shipment Hull slashed his fee in half, from 12d per 20s coined to 6.6d per 20s. Unfortunately the ledger entry does not give the full information on the value of the coinage produced, Hull simply included the value of the coins returned to the customer, thus we are unable to determine if Hull continued to share overages with the customer. For specifics on this entry see the commentary on Hull's ledger.
The surviving portion of the Hull ledger stops at this point. The ledger did continue, as there are citations to accounts that were carried forward to subsequent ledgers, but those ledgers have not survived. We have no further records on minting activities for the final two years of the mint contract, which officially expired on June 3, 1682. The ledger entries for the mint that have survived, covering the period 1671-1680, show that during the years of the final mint agreement (a seven year agreement signed on June 3, 1675) Hull struggled to bring in new business, slashing his fees and deeply reducing his profit margin, in order to keep the mint in operation.A comparison of the mint fees in Massachusetts and England
In the January 15, 1685 report concerning the Boston mint, produced by the London Mint Commissioners (Philip Loyd, Thomas Neale, Charles Duncombe and James Hoare) the topic of mint fees was briefly mentioned. The commissioners based their comments on a printed copy of the Massachusetts Bay act of May 26/27, 1652 which stated the mint fee was to be 12d for every 20s coined, or 5%. The commissioners had no knowledge of the June renegotiations which increased the mint fee and added a wastage allowance bringing the total fees to 18d per 20s or 7.5%; nor did they know of the June 1675 negotiations reducing the total fees to 6.25%. Further, they were unaware of the private agreements Hull made with customers in the final years further reducing his income. Using the 5% allowance found in the original act the commissioners commented that in Boston, "a third more is allowed for the Coynage then what hath been allowed for the Coynage of his Majsts Silver Mints in England" (Crosby, p. 88). The commissioners used the past tense "hath been allowed" when they referred to English mint fees because on December 20, 1666 Charles II had abolished seignorage charges and decreed mint fees would be paid by the exchequer from a series of new taxes, this was done in an attempt to increase the quantity of bullion brought into the mint. Mint workers producing gold and silver coins were to be paid by the government from a customs duty imposed on liquor, wine, beer, vinegar and cider. Under this new system the total mint charges came to 17.5d for every troy pound of silver (that is, per every 62 shillings coined) or about 2.35%. It should be noted the government mint subsidy only applied to the production of gold and silver issues, regal copper coinage was just being initiated at this time and was produced under contract. During earlier periods of the century, when the London mint had collected fees, the charges had amounted to about 3.35%, hence the statement by the commissioners that Massachusetts fees at 5% had been about 1/3 higher. In 1623 mint fees in London were 25d per troy pound or just above 3.36% of which 10d went to the king and 15d to the mint. By 1663 this was down slightly to 24d (about 3.225%), of which 5d went to the king and 19d went to the mint (Craig, pp. 424-425). In comparison, the actual percentages allowed to Hull and Sanderson of 6.25% and later 5% seems quite generous, and that does not even include the 1.25% wastage allowance.
Of course, comparing mint fees between England and Massachusetts is not an equitable correlation. There was a more skilled labor force available in London through the guild of goldsmiths and the machinery was more advanced so that the London mint was certainly more efficient. Also, minting equipment was more difficult to obtain in Massachusetts and often needed to be special ordered or imported, increasing the costs. Further, the quantity of coins minted in London was much higher than in Massachusetts. As has been often observed in modern numismatic discussions of colonial minting, the set up costs of coining, especially diecutting, were quite expensive. It has been said, if one did not amortize, the first coin minted from a die could cost twenty to fifty pounds or more while subsequent coins would cost only a few cents to produce (excluding the intrinsic metal value). In such businesses the profits increase as production volume increases and clearly the volume was much smaller in Massachusetts than in London, necessitating a higher fee for solvency. The London mint could certainly be profitable with lower fees than were required in Massachusetts. The real question was how much more did the Massachusetts fee need to be. This was the question the 1652 mint committee could not answer and so they accepted Hull's arguments, which turned out to be quite adequate for Hull until the price of Spanish silver rose to the level that made it unprofitable to convert Spanish cobs into Massachusetts coinage. At that point Hull had to decrease his fees in order to stay in business. Clearly, as his income continued to dramatically decrease during 1679 and 1680 there was less incentive for Hull to remain in the minting business.
The minting specifications discussed in the Massachusetts coinage act of 1652 and in the related mint committee documents were based on three factors. First, and most obviously, was the face value of the coinage. Massachusetts silver coins were denominated in English monetary units of 3d, 6d and 1s (1s = 12d), with a 2d denomination added in 1662. Related to the face value of the coin were two crucial factors that defined the intrinsic value of the coin, these were fineness and weight. Pure silver is rather soft and not practical for coins as it would wear down quickly. In order to make silver more durable it is combined (alloyed) with other metals. During the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries each country, or sometimes individual mints or cities, defined their own ratio of precious metal to alloy in minting silver and gold coins. Therefore, the weight of a coin alone would not give its precise value, for one needed to know the percent of alloy (sometimes called impurities) in the silver. The purity of silver is known as its fineness and is measured in millesimals.1. Sterling fineness, debasements and coin weight
From the reign of William the Conqueror in 1066, and probably going back even earlier to the later Anglo-Saxon era, the alloy for British silver coinage had been set at a standard known as sterling fineness. Sterling referred to an alloy in which 925 parts pure silver were alloyed with 75 parts copper resulting in a product containing a 92.5% silver content expressed as 925 or .925 fine silver. Although we now measure silver content in millesimals, in earlier periods other measurement systems were used. During the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries the measurement system in use was the troy weight scale. The troy system was created at the medieval fairs in Troyes, France, where it was used for weighing precious metals. During the later middle ages the Troyes fair became the most significant gold and silver exchange in medieval europe, consequently troy weight became the standard for the international bullion trade. Between July 24 and November 5, 1526 the London mint updated their measurement system from the Tower pound, which was equal to 5,400 troy grains to the heavier and more widely used troy pound which equaled 5,760 troy grains. (Ruding, vol. 1, pp. 303-306 and Craig, pp. 102-103). The troy scale is:
24 blanks = 1 peritUsing the troy nomenclature sterling fineness was defined as 11 oz. 2 dwt. of fine silver per troy pound. This assumed the additional 18 dwt. would be copper to produce a troy pound of sterling silver.
20 perits = 1 droit
24 droits = 1 mite
20 mites = 1 grain (gr.)
24 grains = 1 pennyweight (dwt.)
20 pennyweight = 1 ounce (oz.)
12 ounces = 1 troy pound (lb.)
During the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI both silver and gold coins were debased in an attempt to increase revenues. The process started with a mint indenture of May 16, 1542 debasing silver coinage from .925 to .771 fineness. As the debasement continued silver went far below the sterling standard with the lowest point occurring in an order issued on April 30, 1551 which remained in effect until September authorizing silver coins that were only .250 fine silver, in other words the coins were three quarters copper! During the end of the reign of Edward VI the standard came close to sterling at 11 oz. 1 dwt. of fine silver per troy pound, that is a .9208 fineness. Under Mary silver coinage contained 11 oz. of fine silver per troy pound, which was a fineness of .9166 and then under Elizabeth silver coinage was restored to the sterling standard. On October 8, 1560 Elizabeth officially put her seal to a mint indenture for a new coinage that stated silver coins were to be of sterling fineness and were to be minted at 5s per ounce of sterling (or 60s per troy pound). This meant a shilling would contain 96 grains (or 4 dwt.) of sterling silver. Production of the new coinage commenced in February of 1561 and continued into 1578. In the mint indenture of April 19, 1578 the fineness was lowered slightly for then next four and a half years but it was returned to sterling fineness again in the indenture of January 30, 1583. By her order of July 29, 1601, the fineness remained at .925 sterling silver but Elizabeth reduced the weight of the shilling from 60 per troy pound to authorizing them to be produced at 62 per troy pound, effectively reducing the average weight of a shilling from 96 grains to 92.9 grains. This weight reduction was continued under James I and Charles I and was renewed by the new government created during the Commonwealth. A Parliamentary act of July 17, 1649 stated a Commonwealth shilling was to weigh exactly 3 pennyweight, 20 grains, 18 mites, 1 droit and 10 perits in sterling silver, which equals 92.9 grains. (Feavearyear, pp. 46-87, Craig, pp. 106-132, Challis, Tudor Coinage, pp. 44-198 and 303-325; Ruding, vol. 1, pp. 342-343, 349, 350, 357, 362-363, 410-411 and Firth, vol. 2, pp. 191-194).
In the final draft of the Massachusetts coinage legislation of May 1652 the third article stated:
"And further the sajd master of the mint aforesjd is heereby Required to cojne all the sajd mony of good Silver and of the Just allay of new sterling English mony, & for valew to stampe [three] two pence in a shilling of lesser vallew then the prsent English Cojne & the lesser peeces proportionably" (Crosby, p. 34)This article clearly required Massachusetts silver to be of sterling fineness but mentioned a just alloy of new sterling money. In the quote given above I have displayed "new" in bold type to show it was an interlinear insertion added to the original draft. The phrase "new sterling English mony" probably does not refer to the restitution of the sterling standard by Queen Elizabeth about a century earlier in 1560, nor does it refer to the mint indenture of January 1583 restoring the sterling standard after a four year hiatus. More likely, it refers to the weight reduction of 1601 that had been recently renewed by the new Commonwealth government on July 17, 1649, whereby silver coins were of sterling fineness but reduced in weight. If we interpret the word "new" to refer to the weight reduction renewal of three years earlier it would mean the standard used by the Massachusetts Bay legislators for the British shilling would have been 92.9 grains of sterling silver, as was then in use in Britain. The word "new" was added to clarify that they were not using the older, pre-1601, weight standard of four pennyweight (96 grains) per shilling. 2. The "two pence" reduction in Massachusetts Bay
However, rather than mint coins at the British standard of 92.9 grains of sterling per shilling, which priced a troy ounce of sterling silver at 62d (5s2d), the Massachusetts Bay act further explained they would reduce the intrinsic value of the Massachusetts shilling. The text originally stated the Massachusetts shilling would be reduced by "three" pence but the word "three" was then crossed out and replaced by inserting the word "two."
The corrected "two pence" reduction has caused problems in interpreting how the legislators came to a decision on the ultimate weight of the Massachusetts shilling (for example, see Sumner, "Coin Shilling," p. 251). Using the contemporary British standard of 92.9 grains of sterling per shilling there were 7.7416666 grains of sterling silver per penny, or as the London mint expressed it, a penny worth of silver was to weigh 7 grains, 14 mites, 20 droits, 2 perits and 12 blanks. A two pence reduction per shilling would lessen the weight of the coin by 15.483333 grains resulting in a Massachusetts shilling of 77.416667 grains. Alternatively, if the Massachusetts Bay legislators had instituted a three pence reduction the weight per Massachusetts shilling would be 69.675001 grains. On the other hand, based on the older British standard of 96 grains, there would be 8 grains of sterling silver per penny. A two pence reduction per shilling would calculate to a reduction of 16 grains which would give a weight of 80 grains per shilling; using the three pence reduction the weight per shilling would be 72 grains.
Interestingly, the two pence reduction as stated in the Massachusetts Bay mint act of 1652 does not correspond to the weight specified for the Massachusetts shilling in article six of that act, where it stated [with the word troj inserted in the final draft to clarify the text]:
"Euery shilling to weigh three penny troj: weight & lesser peeces proportionably."This clearly specifies the shilling was to be minted at three pennyweight in the troy scale (72 grains) which does not reflect a two pence reduction at either the older weight of 96 grains of sterling per shilling or at the newer weight at 92.9 grains per coin. The only calculation that matches this weight is a three pence reduction based on the older weight of 96 grains per shilling. However, the legislation specifically stated they were using the new sterling standard, which was 92.9 grains. This lack of precision has caused confusion because it has been assumed these statements were an explanation as to how the General Court arrived at a valuation for their coinage. This assumption seems highly unlikely, not only because of the imprecision in the definition but also because silver was considered to be a commodity and was priced at a specific value per troy ounce. I suspect the weight of the Massachusetts shilling was derived by increasing the value of sterling from the then current British value of 62d (5s2d) per troy ounce of sterling to 80d (6s8d) per troy ounce. This upcrying of silver valued six grains of sterling at 1d or 72 grains per shilling. The terminology specifically stating a troy ounce of sterling would be valued at 80d is not mentioned in the 1652 legislation but, as mention earlier (see the section on coin weight as expressed in the legislation of May 26/27, 1652), this concept had been used several times by the General Court. Also, in his personal ledger Hull calculated mint returns due to the customer and due to him in mint fees based on a troy ounce of sterling at 80d minus the mint fees and wastage allowance. Thus, although it was not specifically stated in the legislation, it seems fairly clear the General Court calculated the value of silver coinage based on the price per troy ounce of silver.
In the 1652 mint act it seems the three pence reduction, which was then revised to a two pence reduction, was simply a rough estimate of the relative value of the proposed Massachusetts shilling of 72 grains (3 dwt.), which the General Court calculated at about 10d in British coinage, hence the 2d reduction. When the Commissioners of the Royal Mint wrote a report concerning Massachusetts coinage on January 15, 1685 they stated they had examined 12d, 6d and 3d pieces of Massachusetts silver and found them to be of sterling alloy but discovered them to be lighter in weight that English coinage by about 21 grains per shilling (based on examples at the full authorized weight of both an English shilling at 92.9 grains and a Massachusetts shilling at 72 grains, the Massachusetts shilling would be exactly 20.9 grains lighter), which the commissioners estimated at nearly 2 pence and 3 farthings less per shilling (actually, it would be 2 pence and 2.8 farthings) or just about 22.5% below the value of British silver coins. The report stated:
"Wee haue examened ye 12 pene, 6d, 3d pieces coyned at ye Mint in Boston in N E aforesaid, for weight & allay, & do finde as to ye allay it is equal to his Majesties silver Coyns of England, but different in weight, being Less by about 21 grains upon the shilling, & so proportionally in the other Coyns from his Majestys shilling Coyne, which is near two pence three farthings upon the shilling, & is about 22 1/2 per cent;" (Crosby, p. 88)There is no doubt the Massachusetts Bay legislators authorized the shilling at three pennyweight (72 grains). They certainly understood this was valuing sterling at 80d per troy ounce (or 1d = 6 grains of sterling) and realized this would be a very close to a 22.5% reduction from the British standard of 92.9 grains per shilling, which equalled 62d per troy ounce of sterling (or 1d = 7.74 grains of sterling). However, the Massachusetts reduction was not derived by calculating a percentage reduction from the British standard, rather it was based on a revaluation of a troy ounce of sterling. Indeed, the figure of 80d may have been used as the General Court was looking for a reduction in the area of 25% and 80d was the only valuation in that range that was evenly divisible into one troy ounce (480 grains), so that each penny equalled six grains, making the weight of any denomination coin they wished to produce (either to a whole or even to a half penny) easily calculated in whole grains. However, the legislators understood the Massachusetts shilling would have an intrinsic value that was very close to 2 pence and 2.8 farthings (or 2.7d) less that a British shilling (an exact 22.5% reduction would yield a coin of 71.9975 grains of sterling which is just .0025 grain less than the fully authorized weight of 72 grains). In the 1652 mint act the legislators expressed this differential to the whole penny. At first, in the original draft, they rounded the number up expressing the differential as a three pence reduction but after further consideration they amended the draft and rounded the number down to two pence, even though the actual intrinsic value of a Massachusetts shilling at 2.7d less that a British shilling, was closer to a three pence than it was to a two pence reduction. Apparently the Massachusetts Bay legislators felt that minimizing the magnitude of the reduction would be to their advantage, possibly helping to make the coins more readily accepted.
The lack of clarity in the pence reduction statement in the 1652 act has caused confusion in determining how contemporaries perceived and calculated the difference between the Massachusetts and British shillings. The 22.5% differential, based on a comparison of a British shilling of 92.9 grains and a Massachusetts shilling of 72 grains, was used by Edward Randolph, the British informer and the most vociferous critic of Massachusetts Bay. In a report to the Lords of Trade and Plantations made on October 12, 1676 Randolph stated concerning Massachusetts silver, "Their money is of the standard of England for finenesse, the shillings weigh three pennyweight troy, in value of English money ninepence farthing, and the smaller coins proportionable." Based on a British shilling of 92.9 grains, nine pence and one farthing would equal 71.610415 grains, or very close to the Massachusetts weight of 72 grains. This was also the comparison made by the Commissioners of the Royal Mint in their report on an assay of Massachusetts silver, written on January 15, 1685. As mentioned above, they discussed the reduction as being nearly two pence three farthings, which yields a final value for the Massachusetts shilling of nine pence and one farthing. Thus, both Randolph and the Royal mint understood the differential to be 22.5%.
However, it appears Massachusetts silver regularly traded at a 25% reduction in relation to British silver. As early as May 12, 1654 there is reference to this differential in the deliberations of the General Court in relation to prohibiting the exportation of Massachusetts silver from the Commonwealth. The statement explained Massachusetts silver coinage was intended for internal use only and not for payments outside the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Bay, as outside the Commonwealth individuals would sustain a loss of 25%. The legislation further explained the only way an individual could recover such as loss was to sell the purchased goods locally at an oppressively high price, hence the need to prohibit exporting Massachusetts coinage. The text stated:
"Whereas, the end of Coyning mony within this Commonwealth is for the more easy managing the traficque thereof within itself, & not Indended to make returnes to other Countrjes, which cannot Advance any proffitt to such as send it, but Rather a fowerth part Losse Vnlesse such persons doe oppresse & extort in the sale of theire goods to make vp the sajd losse..." (Massachusetts Archives, vol. 100, p. 46, no. 350, Crosby, pp. 104-105 also cited in Davis, vol. 1, original edition p. 725, reprint p. 25)This differential is also mentioned in a set of orders from Britain dated June 9, 1655. The British Commissioners responsible for managing expeditions to America, presented a set of orders and regulations to Robert Wadeson, Captain William Crispin and Thomas Broughton, who were charged with travelling to Massachusetts Bay to acquire £10,000 worth of provisions for the British army and fleet stationed at Jamaica. The fifth of the seven regulations stated:
"5. You are to take notice that the intrinsic value of New England money is less in weight by one quarter than at London. As for example a shilling in New England is of the same weight as ninepence is at London. Which is mainly to be considered if you take up money." (Manuscripts of the Duke of Portland, vol. 2, p. 94 and Sumner, "Coin Shilling," p. 252)
In late April of 1661 we again find this 25% differential mentioned in a petition of John Gifford. Gifford has resided in Massachusetts Bay during the 1650's and had been the principal agent for the Hammersmith Ironworks in Saugus, Massachusetts from 1650 through 1653, when he became involved in several lawsuits and ended up spending some time in jail. From October of 1658 through April of 1662 Gifford was in England bringing suits against just about everyone connected with the Ironworks enterprise. The summary of an unsigned letter, attributed to him, details several problems with the laws of Massachusetts Bay and contains the earliest mention of Massachusetts coining as an illegal act. Gifford stated Massachusetts coinage had an intrinsic value that was 25% below the British standard as a Massachusetts shilling had an intrinsic value that was 3d below the British standard so that a Massachusetts shilling (that is, a 12d coin) was valued at 9d in relation to a British shilling with a value of 12d. He also accused the Boston mint of melting British silver to make Massachusetts coinage. The summary of the letter in the Calendar of Colonial Papers states:
"they have acted repugnant to the laws of England ; they have allowed the King's coin to be bought and melted down in Boston to be new coined there, by which means they gain threepence in every shilling, and lessen his Majesty's coin a full fourth." (Sainsbury, Calendar 1661-1668, item 78 on p. 26. For Gifford see, Hartley, pp. 139-164 and 215-243)
In a small notebook of the British Secretary of State, Sir Joseph Williamson covering the years 1674-1677 is a recapitulation of the Gifford statement that in Massachusetts Bay British shillings were melted to produce 15d in Massachusetts silver. In an entry called New England dated to May of 1675 Williamson stated:
"They melt down all English money brought in there into their own coin, making every shilling 15d to avoid the carrying it out." [Sir Joseph Williamson was a member of the Privy Council and Secretary of State June 1674 - February 10, 1679] (Sainsbury, Calendar 1675-1676, pp. 154-163, item 405 with the quote on p. 156)
The melting of British silver and the 25% differential are also mentioned in an account of Boston by Captain John Wyborne that was read at the committee meeting of the Lords for Trade and Plantations on December 2, 1675. Captain Wyborne had spent three months in Boston in 1673 while his ship, the H.M.S. Garland, was being resupplied and refit. In his narrative on Massachusetts Bay Captain Wyborne complained of several irregularities, arbitrary laws and resistance to the king's commissioners. Concerning money he stated:
"as soon as any English money is brought there, it is melted down into their coin, making of each shilling fifteen-pence to keep it from being carried out again." (Sainsbury, Calendar 1675-1676, item 721 on pp. 306-308, with the quote on p. 306)
Another statement referring to a 25% differential was made by the Earl of Carlisle, who had presented a request to the Lords of Trade and Plantations for the establishment of a mint in Jamaica. In reply to this request Henry Slingesby, Master of the London Mint, stated the Earl would need to abide by the British standards for fineness and weight. On June 20, 1679 the Earl replied to the Lords of Trade and Plantations:
"If we should make our coin of the same weight and fineness as the coin of England, we should never keep any money in the Island, which is our principal difficulty. In New England they raise money one fourth, a ninepence goes for twelvepence, which fills them full of money;" (Sainsbury, Calendar 1677-1680, pp. 378-379, item 1030 with the quote on p. 379)
Lord Thomas Culpepper also used the 25% differential, but he specifically compared the Massachusetts shilling to the old British standard of a shilling at 96 grains. At the conclusion of his tenure as Governor of Virginia, Lord Culpepper visited Boston for about seven weeks from August 24 through about October 15 of 1680 before embarking on his return voyage to London. About a year later, after settling back in London, Culpepper was asked to testify before the Committee of the Lords of Trade and Plantations regarding accusations made by Edward Randolph and others against the government in Massachusetts Bay. On August 9, 1681 Culpepper provided the committee with a list of complaints against the Massachusetts Bay Puritans which included criticisms of the Massachusetts mint. Culpepper stated that the Massachusetts shilling was trading in Boston at a rate that was:
"... equal with the English shilling; and this though it is not so fine in itself and weighs but three pennyweight against the English four. It is impossible to prevent the loss by bills of exchange, for they value their bills as they please and exact six per cent. coinage of all silver brought in their mint, to say nothing of loss of time. If therefore it be no longer connived at, it is absolutely necessary that the English shilling be made current there by law or proclamation at sixteenpence, and so proportionally, the coinage made more moderate and speedy." (Fortescue, Calendar 1681-1685, pp. 99-100)Culpepper did not trust the fineness of Massachusetts silver which he incorrectly though was "not so fine" as British coinage. However, he correctly stated the Massachusetts shilling was three pennyweight (72 grains) and understood the trading differential between British and Massachusetts silver to be 25% so he incorrectly concluded the British standard was four pennyweight (96 grains). Additionally, Culpepper mentioned the Massachusetts mint fees, which he calculated at 6%. Actually, based on the negotiations of the June 3, 1675 mint contract renewal, which would have been the fees in effect when Culpepper visited Massachusetts, the total mint fees came to 6.25%, assuming the maximum wastage allowance. However, from Hull's ledger we know the mint fees had been reduced in 1677 by private agreement with the customers to approximately 5% and were further lowered to about 2.5% in 1680. Based on the differential in intrinsic value as well as the fees customers incurred when having Massachusetts silver produced, Culpepper suggested raising the value of a British shilling in Massachusetts by 33.33% from 12d to 16d; presumably this would account for the 25% differential as well as the stated 6% mint fees and 2.33% to round the total up to the nearest penny. This proposal was clearly beyond equity. It was made from the perspective of an English traveler who wanted the highest possible value for British coinage.
We also find the 25% trading differential in a paper from the Royal Mint. On September 23, 1686 a document written by the Commissioners of the Royal Mint was sent to the Lords of Trade and Plantations replying to an earlier memorandum that had enumerated reasons for the continuance of a mint in Massachusetts. The fourth point of the earlier memorandum stated, "The Renters of Houses and Land have been paid, and all Goods bought & Sold for many years in New England, by this measure." The measure had been mentioned in the previous point as "the shilling being in value nine pence farthing," (which would be a 22.5% reduction). In their reply the mint commissioners answered the fourth point as follows:
"That their Rents, Houses and Lands, and all Goods, have been negotiated at 9d for a shilling (wch is about 25 per cent less then the money of England,) ... as to former Rents & Debts care may be taken that they may be discharged at 15s per pound, wch holds proportion with the current money of England..." (Crosby, p. 93)Thus, the commissioners of the mint, who in January of 1685 had explained Massachusetts coinage was 22.5% below the weight of British coins were stating less than two years later that Massachusetts silver traded 25% below British silver. Further, although the memorandum on behalf of a Massachusetts mint had accurately followed the January 1685 mint paper in calculating the value of a Massachusetts shilling in British coinage at nine pence and one farthing the mint commissioners in their 1686 response to the memorandum calculated a Massachusetts shilling at only 9d, explaining 15 British shillings would equal 20 Massachusetts shillings (20s=£1). The reason for this shift from a 22.5% to a 25% differential seems to be that in their January 1685 document the Commissioners were explaining precisely how much Massachusetts silver was worth in terms of British coinage based on the authorized weights of the two coinages, so they accurately gave the differential as 22.5%. However, in the September 1686 response they were discussing the differential at which Massachusetts silver traded in daily commerce thus, instead of accepting the actual 22.5% differential they had earlier determined and that had been used in the pro mint document, the mint commissioners used the 25% differential.
The 25% conversion rate appears to have been the standard conversion rate used in colonial times; it was certainly much easier to calculate than a 22.5% conversion rate. If circulating Massachusetts silver was accepted at face value rather than by weight, the 25% conversion rate may have somewhat offset disparities related to underweight Massachusetts coinage, that had been clipped, filed or washed. Indeed, based on Hull's ledger we can calculate Hull produced an average of 80.44d per troy ounce, which, assuming an actual minting wastage of three grains per troy ounce, yields an average weight of 71.1 grains per shilling for a differential of almost 23% (22.9%). In any event, the 25% differential was not based on an assay of the silver content of newly minted coins but rather was based on the accepted rate at which Massachusetts and British silver were exchanged. As most Massachusetts transactions did not involve British silver this relationship was not a daily concern, it only came up when there was a necessity to convert from one coinage to the other. Based on the sources cited above, apparently in most transactions requiring equivalencies between Massachusetts and British silver, a Massachusetts shilling was calculated at nine pence in British coinage (a 25% differential) rather than calculating it at its fully authorized weight which yielded an intrinsic value of nine pence and one farthing (a 22.5% differential). Culpepper insinuated that sometimes the two coinages traded at face value as equals, this was probably a rare occurrence, if it ever happened at all. Obviously, conversion rates were taken to reflect the intrinsic values of these coins. Clearly, as most transactions were calculated at a 25% differential the misperception persisted, and is sometimes found in modern numismatic literature, that Massachusetts silver was authorized and minted at a 25% weight reduction from the British standard.
There is very little extant information concerning the specific procedures followed in producing coins at the Massachusetts Bay mint. Many basic questions remain unanswered. Therefore, in order to interpret production related information in the Hull ledger, or to deduce production information from the surviving coins, we need to have a basic understanding of the processes used in minting silver coinage during the third quarter of the Seventeenth century. Fortunately, the procedures followed in producing silver coins at the London mint during the reign of Charles II are fairly well documented. With the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Charles was determined to replace Commonwealth era coinage and older misshapen hammered coinage of his predecessors with a new, uniform royal milled coinage. Up to his reign only a few small runs of milled issues had been produced. Charles modernized the mint by implementing state of the art automated screw press technology to produce milled coinage; he first issued royal milled shillings in 1663.
With the advent of this new technology Charles needed to increase his supply of silver. During the early Stuart era the London mint purchased silver at discounted prices, usually from 4s4d to 5s per troy ounce of sterling and then minted 5s2d in hammered coins from the silver to produce a profit. Government regulations required individuals to sell the mint a portion of any silver imported into England at the reduced mint rates. Individuals brought in the required minimum amounts, but they did not readily sell additional silver to the mint. Some individuals consigned silver and split the profits with the mint but in general the mint had problems acquiring enough sterling. Charles II transformed the London mint. In 1666 he instituted a series of tariffs on imported alcoholic beverages to subsidize the minting process. These custom duties were sent to the Exchequer, where the money was reserved for the mint. The funds were used to pay mint employee salaries and to purchase silver. To attract as much silver as possible the mint paid the full price of 5s2d per ounce of sterling. Basically, an individual would bring silver to the mint where it was assayed and weighed. The mint then gave the individual a receipt for the value of the silver and the customer took the receipt to the Exchequer where it was redeemed for cash. In this way the London mint greatly increased its supply of silver and undertook a major initiative to produce milled silver coinage.
The minting process began by melting the purchased silver in a large iron crucible that was placed in a furnace over a wood charcoal fire. The melted silver was assayed and refined to insure it was of sterling purity. Obviously, if it was not of sterling fineness it was adjusted up or down accordingly to achieve the sterling standard of 11 dwt. 2 gr. of pure silver per troy ounce. Next, the molten sterling was ladled out of the crucible and poured into wet sand molds that shaped the silver into thin strips. The molten sterling was allowed to cool. Molten silver adsorbs up to ten times its volume in oxygen, however, as it cools the oxygen is vigorously expelled in a process known as "the spitting of silver." As the temperature of the silver falls below the 960.8°C (1761.4°F) melting point, it begins to spit, usually this starts at about 951°C (1744°F) and continues until solidification at 930°C (1706°F) (Butts, pp. 304-309). Once the silver strips had hardened, they were extracted from the sand and cleaned. The strips were then further flattened to the specific thickness of the coin that was being produced by sending each strip between a pair of wrought iron rollers. The two rollers were set at a measured distance from each other so that when the strips were sent between the two rollers they would be flattened to a predetermined thickness. Usually several passes through the rollers were necessary, each pass gradually reduced the strips until they were the precise thickness required.
The prepared strips were then used to produce planchets. The strips were fed into a punch press. A sharp circular cutter with the precise diameter of the specified coin to be minted was mounted on the central screw shaft of the press. This cutter it did not drop down by gravity but was forced down by turning a horizontal bar on top of the press, bringing the cutter down with a rotating motion. This action cut a circular blank planchet out of the strip, which fell through a slightly larger hole directly under the cutter in the plate or base of the press allowing the planchet to drop into a container below. The sterling strip would be slid forward and the process would be repeated. After the strip had been completely fed through the cutter some excess sterling remained on the strip between the holes where the planchets had been extracted. This excess was called scissel and was remelted. The twisting force used to punch out the coin blanks caused the blanks to bow somewhat so that the top face took on a slightly convex shape, therefore the blanks were next sent to be flattened. A column of blank planchets was lined up in a drop press, which simply struck the column with force straightening the planchets. The flattened blank planchets still had sharp edges on the side at the end of the cut so the planchets were sent for rounding and edge markings.
Edge marking was an early pre-collar process whereby the edges of each blank were set between two parallel straight bars. The planchet was laid on the flat surface of the apparatus and the two parallel bars were brought together so that the rim of the planchet was secured tightly between them. One bar was held in place by a strong spring and could move sideways so that as the bar was moved the planchet edge rotated along the bar and was impressed with whatever secret edge markings or grain lines had been engraved on the bar. This process also confirmed the circularity of the planchet and smoothed the rim. Occasionally this process was replaced with early experimental trials that employed a collar. A collar is a small round strip of pliable steel placed on the bottom die at the time of minting. When the planchet is struck by the force of the upper die the planchet metal is somewhat flattened forcing it to expand outward. The collar acts as a retaining wall, stopping the flattening or outward expansion of the metal, it makes the edges straight and smooth as well as giving the coin a perfect circular shape and impresses the edge with any letters or grain lines engraved in the collar. Edging was not added to Massachusetts silver, nor did later colonial or Confederation era minters adopt the use of collars, as edge markings were considered an unnecessary expense.
Once the planchets had been rounded and edged, they were individually weighed, overweight planches were "adjusted" by filing them down on the face while disfigured or severely underweight planchets were remelted. The planchets were then annealed (that is, they were heated and then gradually cooled, a process that softened the metal and made it flow better during striking). The sterling planchets were then made whiter in color by soaking them in a solution of alum and water, the planchets were then dried in sawdust. Finally, the finished planchet was laid on a stationary lower die in a coining press, the upper die was affixed to a central screw shaft and was brought down with great force, striking the planchet and forcing the metal to flow into the engraved areas of the dies. This action impressed an image in raised relief on the planchet, transforming the planchet into a coin. The coining press was operated by five people, four pressmen, working in teams of two, turned the two heavily weighted horizontal bars on the upper screw shaft that forced the upper die downward impressing the planchet. Also, one other person was the planchet feeder. With a single motion this individual knocked off the finished coin with his middle finger and placed a new planchet on the lower die with his thumb and first finger. The actual stamping of the planchet and the positioning of a new planchet was a fast process that took about two seconds when working at top speed. Most planchet feeders at the London mint had lost at least part of one finger due to the constant, repetitive motions they had to perform at the point of impact in the one or two seconds between strikes. (Craig, pp. 161-164).Consignment acceptance at the Massachusetts mint
Production at the Massachusetts Bay mint was certainly on a far smaller scale than at the London mint and the procedures were less rigorous. The Massachusetts Bay Treasury did not have the funding to purchase silver. Also, as there was very little silver in Massachusetts, the General Court was not in a position to impede silver importation by requiring some portion of imported silver be offered to the mint at a reduced price. Since no minting could take place without a supply of silver, the mint had to resort to alternatives other than the purchase of silver. As we have seen, the General Court increased the value of Massachusetts silver coinage by 22.5% over the value of sterling. This differential allowed the mint to make a profit and allowed a mint customer to benefit as well. With this incentive the mint was able to induce individuals to deposit silver at the mint on consignment, with the profit being distributed between the consignor and the mint.
We can derive some information on the method by which the mint accepted consignments from the details in Hull's ledger concerning a very small consignment for 56 troy ounces of sterling accepted on November 8, 1679. Whereas smaller consignments were usually backlogged for several months, this consignment was processes within a few weeks. However, it seems the consignment was put in the backlog when it first arrived but was taken out of the backlog around November 18th or 19th and processed within a few days, as the finished coins were delivered to the customer on November 21st. Very interestingly, on the same day this small consignment was completed and delivered, Hull accepted a rather large consignment for 770.5 troy ounces of silver that went into production within a week. This set of circumstances suggests Hull realized he was going to be accepting a large consignment on November 21st and therefore processed the smaller consignment in order to free up staff time for the larger consignment. These events suggests a potential mint customer would visit the shop and negotiate a mutually agreeable date on which to deliver a consignment. This insured that Hull or Sanderson would be available to accept the shipment so they could assay the silver and offer the customer a receipt. Thus, it appears the first step in processing an consignment was for Hull and the customer to arrange a date for delivery of the consignment to the shop.
In the 1652 mint act, the legislators specified that mint customers would have the right to be present while the silver they consigned to the mint was melted and then refined to sterling fineness. The customer was then to be given a receipt for the weight of the consignment after it had been refined to sterling silver. The text of the mint act, in the version passed on May 27, 1652 by the House of Deputies stated:
"& It shalbe in the liberty of any person who brings into the mint howse any bullian plate or spanish Coyne as afforsaid to be present and se [see] the same melted & refined Allayed & then to take a receit of the master of the mint for the weyght of that which is good silver allayd as aforesaid," (Crosby, pp. 37-38)
The legislators who composed this text probably understood some sterling would be lost during the melt and thus thought the most accurate weight to include on a customer receipt would be the post-melt weight in sterling. However, the legislators were not metallurgists and may not have understood the production issues involved in melting and refining consignments in the presence of the customer. They may not have understood the economic problems attendant with numerous small melts. Further, one might wonder - did they intend Hull to weight the molten sterling in the crucible or was the customer to wait until the sterling had been poured out of the crucible and cooled? Apparently the constraints this regulation imposed on production methods had not been fully considered. Possibly the lawmakers were remembering the situation at the London mint from the time before they travelled to America. From the account of the London mint during the hammer coinage era by Gerard Malynes, printed in 1622, the author related he brought his silver to the mint where it was assayed. He went on to say,
"...we stayed to see our silver molten and cast into ingots, for to be deliuered to the moneyers to sheire [that is, sheer or cut] the same by weight into small peeces for twelue pences & six pences ... and the Assay-master made another Assay of it (called the pot Assay) and found the same to be standard, whereupon we tooke our leaue and departed. ... The next weeke following I went to receiue my satiffaction in coyned moneys,..." (Malynes, pp. 280-286, with the quote from p. 286)As the London mint did two large melts a day when they were coining, it was sometimes possible for an individual to bring silver to the mint and then spend four or five hours and actually see the silver melted on the very day it was deposited. The Massachusetts legislators may have remembered this practice but confused the issue as to when the consignment was weighed. In any event the Massachusetts regulation did not precisely follow the London practice nor did it take into consideration the implications this regulation would have on the Massachusetts Bay mint, where much less silver would be minted than was the case in London.
In this situation, as in others, we know Hull did not always precisely follow the instructions in the legislation. We have seen the methodology he used in calculating the customer's return and mint fees differed from what was stated in the mint act. It is also clear from the ledger that when Hull accepted a consignment of silver he did not melt and refine the consignment in the presence of the customer, but he did give the customer a receipt for the quantity of sterling consigned. Clearly, the sterling weight on the receipt was not derived from the refining process. Rather, it appears Hull accepted British silver brought to the mint as being of sterling fineness, probably because British silver contained a silversmith's mark, which was a legal assurance by the London goldsmith's guild of the quality of the silver as sterling. This was actually a series of marks stamped into the silver consisting of the goldsmith's initials, a crowned leopard's head representing the guild, a lion passant for sterling and the fourth mark being a letter that represented a specific year, for example the letter I was used for 1676 (News, pp. 4-5 and Touchstone, with the marks illustrated on the plate opposite page 1, item 5 and pp. 19-24). Also, as was common practice in Britain and Massachsuetts Bay at the time, Hull accepted Spanish cobs as sterling. For instance, on May 8, 1675 he accepted 369.5 troy ounces in "sterling silver dollars," while in other consignments he sometimes simply used the phrase "sterling dollars" (as on June 14, 1676). Thus, it seems Hull accepted Spanish eight reales "dollars" and silver objects bearing a silversmith mark as equal to sterling, possibly without making an assay. He may have simply weighed the consignment and given the customer a receipt for the weight of the silver as sterling weight.
In other cases Hull seems to have conducted an assay to determine the fineness of the silver. Ledger entries demonstrate Hull did not melt and refine consignments as soon as they entered the mint. The consignments were usually backlogged for several weeks or months, in the hope additional silver would be available before another melt had to be undertaken. However, on the deposit date Hull regularly recorded the weight of the consignment in sterling ounces and calculated the customer return. For silver that was below sterling fineness Hull recorded the weight and calculated a return based the degree of fineness below sterling. He then gave the customer a receipt with the same information. What must have occurred is that, in lieu of a full melting and refining process, Hull made an assay of the silver to determine its fineness. In a consignment from April of 1677 Hull accepted some silver he referred to as "Spanish plate." While Hull offered customers a return of 6s3d (75d) per troy ounce for sterling silver at that time, he only offered the customer 6s (72d) per ounce for the "Spanish plate." Hull determined each troy ounce of the Spanish plate was deficient from the sterling standard by 3d. As 1d equalled six grains in Massachusetts sterling coins, apparently Hull assayed the silver and discovered a troy ounce of the Spanish plate had 18 grains less of pure silver (and therefore 18 grains more of impurities) than sterling, thus a troy ounce of the Spanish plate would equal 462 grains of sterling and would therefore only yield a customer return of 6s per troy ounce.
From the ledger entries it appears Hull either accepted a consignment as sterling fineness or performed an assay on the silver and used the result of the assay to determine the sterling value of the silver consigned to the mint. He then issued a receipt to the customer for the quantity of silver based on the assay performed in the customer's presence. At that point the silver was probably secured in a box bearing the customer's name. Then the customer departed and the box was put aside for processing at a future date. It is clear melting and refining were not performed until the consignment was ready for production.Assaying silver in the Seventeenth century
We do not know specifically how Hull conducted an assay, but we do know how assays were performed in England and Germany. The assay was critical in all silversmith work as it determined the purity or fineness of silver. The purity, along with the weight, was used to arrive at a price a shop would pay for a specific consignment of silver. The assay also determined the degree of refining performed by a silversmith and therefore determined the purity of the silver in the items produced by the shop. Seventeenth century assays were not as precise as individuals would have wished. Even as late as March 6, 1696 the masters of the London mint, Thomas Neale and Thomas Hall, wrote to the Lords of the Treasury stating assays at the mint and assays at the Exchequer, "often differ, and sometimes as much as two pennyweights 'and better'." (Redington, p. 492, item 40). Although the standard by which the two pennyweight difference was measured is not mentioned, it is clear this differential refers to a two pennyweight differential per troy pound. The troy pound was the standard measure used in British legislation and in the official pyx coinage trials. Thus a two pennyweight differential per troy pound would equal four grains per pennyweight (480 grains), which in fineness would translate to a variation of 8.2% from the standard .925 sterling, this results in a fineness range from a low of .9168 fine to a high of 933.2 fine.
This disparity in the results of an assay was partly due to the inability to accurately measure small differences. Assay equipment was made by the individual rather than purchased from a factory producing standardized products, so there were no two assayers with precisely the same equipment. Similarly, no two assayers had the same raw materials, nor did any assayer have a constant supply of the exact same raw materials as he used previously. The equipment used and the accuracy of the final measurement depended on the skill, ability and knowledge of the assayer to handle a variety of materials. Even the act of regulating the heat during an assay was a difficult task, it took constant vigilance to insure the fire was not too low nor too high. Considering the quantity and placement of fuel was never precisely the same for any two assays and there was no way to measure for several significant factors such as changes in humidity, air temperature or pressure, the individual performing the assay had to rely on experience to insure the heat was correct and consistent. The ability to perform an assay was truly an art that took many years to perfect; and the necessary skills went far beyond perfecting the procedures one followed during an assay.
Before an assay could be performed an individual had to be able to construct an assay oven and prepare the necessary equipment. These tasks required skill in both selecting the best raw materials as well as in producing the necessary items. Lazarus Ercker, Chief Superintendent of Mines and Assay Master General of the German Empire, wrote a detailed work on metals and assaying in German in 1574. A second edition was published in 1580 with reissues in 1598, 1629, 1672, 1673, 1684, 1703 and 1736. The work was translated into English by John Pettus and published in London in 1683 (with reissues in 1685 and 1686). This work goes into great detail on every aspect of an assay. It was the standard text in Seventeenth century Germany and, with the translation by Pettus, it became the most detailed discussion available to the English goldsmith. That Pettus found it worthy to translated in the 1680's and that it quickly went through three printings demonstrates it was considered quite useful and current in later Seventeenth century England. Clearly, it would not be the most recent word on the subject during the later Seventeenth century and in contemporary illustrations of the London goldsmith's guild, as is found as the frontispiece of the 1677 book A Touchstone for Gold and Silver, by a London goldsmith called W.B., we find the guild had equipment that was superior to the items discussed by Ercker. However, in relation to the facilities in London, the equipment described in Ercker would probably be closer to the equipment and procedures used by provincial English goldsmiths and most likely for American goldsmiths as Hull and Sanderson.
After describing several varieties of silver ore, Ercker gave detailed instructions on making an assay oven. He stated some ovens were made with iron plates or tiles but the most common variety of oven was one made of baked potter's clay. The base was about 11 inches square. The walls went straight up for about eight inches and then tapered inward with a total height of about 16 inches and a hole at the top about 7 inches wide, giving the oven a shaped somewhat like a beehive or a pyramid with the top of the cone cut off. The walls were about one and a half inches thick, with the base about three quarters of a inch thick. There was a semicircular arch opening in the front at the base of the oven about three inches high and four and a half inches wide that was used to view the assay. About two inches above this was a second opening three and a half inches high and four inches wide that was used for ventilation and to gain access to and move the coals that were put in the oven. In the back of the oven were two chutes for removal of ashes. The stove was strengthened with iron strapping. (Ercker, 1951, pp. 19-23 and 1683, pp. 8-14)
The most critical item for an accurate reading was the cupel. This was a single use filter in the shape of a very small bowl or ash tray about three inches in diameter. The cupel was molded from a mixture of ashes. The ash of light wood or vines was washed in boiling water several times, then it was strained and dried. A mixture of two thirds washed wood ash was combined with one third part bone ash. Bones without marrow were required, fish bones were best but sheep and calf bones were also very good; these bones were baked and then ground to a powder called bone ash. The wood and bone ashes were mixed together then a liquid was added, sometimes beer was used but one could also use water with a binder called glue water, sometimes an egg white acted as the binder. Once the ashes were moistened they were shaped into balls and coated with an outer layer of bone ash, preferably made of the bones from a calf's head. The balls were then molded into the shape of small dishs called cupels and baked in an oven for about an hour. The directions stated the quality of the cupel depended on the purity of the ashes and the completeness of the outer coating as well as on the proper baking time. Unless each step in the production of the cupel was meticulously followed, the final product might not filter properly (Ercker, 1951, pp. 26-34 and 1683, pp. 18-26).
The specific steps in an assay differed somewhat depending on the item to be assayed, various silver ores were treated in different ways depending on the type of silver and the other metals mixed with them. Further, refined items of different finenesses needed to have differing amounts of lead added during cupellation. Ercker has over thirty pages of instructions for assaying different ores and refined products of differing finesses. However, in every case, when someone came into a shop with silver to be assayed, the silversmith made a small cut in the item. For this example I shall use a coin as the item being assayed. The coin was beat thin so a piece could be easily clipped. The precise weight of the clipped section was recorded, usually this was about a quarter of a coin. That section of the coin was then melted in the assay oven with some lead, resulting in an alloy, which cooled into a blob called a lead bead or button. During this process the lead fused with any impurities in the silver. It was very important that the lead used in the assay was pure lead and had no silver in it. As most lead did contain some silver this meant the lead had to be filtered, or in contemporary terms, proofed, several times before it could be used for an assay. The quantity of pure lead used in the process differed based on the assayer's estimate of the kind of silver being assayed. Ercker stated for dollars, which presumably were Rix dollars, the ratio was nine parts lead to one of silver, for guilders the ratio was eight to one; Malynes said the ratio used at the London mint in 1622 for assaying sterling items was five parts lead to one of sterling (Ercker, 1951, pp. 45-46 and 60-63; 1683, pp. 40-41 and 59-60; Malynes, p. 285).
The silver and lead button alloy was then placed on a cupel with some flux. Ercker called the flux Clar, which was a clear by-product of a mixture of white pebble stone powder and a lead oxide called red litharge that had been heated with salt. Some individuals skipped the button alloy step. They simply cut the piece of the silver to be assayed and covered it in lead foil, which they then placed directly on the cupel with some flux. The cupel was then placed in the oven. Next a protective covering was placed over the cupel. This was known as a muffel. The muffel was a baked clay cover in the shape of an igloo. The cover over the cupel was a small dome, this was connected to an arched tunnel, like an entrance way to an igloo. The tunnel was lined up with the lower open arch in the furnace so one could look inside the furnace opening and view the cupel. Next, hot charcoal was poured into the furnace and surrounded the muffle. A plate or lid would be placed over the top opening in the furnace to stop the heat from escaping. The assayer would use some small tools to move the charcoal and regulate the temperature of the fire. After about an hour the button in the cupel would melt. Generally an assay took about an hour if the impurities in the silver consisted of copper, lead or other metals with low melting points, but it could be longer it the silver contained iron or other impurities with higher melting points. Once the substance was liquified a filtering process called cupellation occurred. The lead and the impurities from the silver were absorbed into the bone ash cupel as lead oxide while only the pure silver remained unfiltered on the top of the cupel. The difference between the weight of the silver before the assay and the weight of the silver after the assay revealed the weight of any impurities in the item being assayed. In sterling the impurities were 7.5% of the total weight, as sterling was 92.5% or .925 fine silver. Any variation over 7.5% determined the percent of deficiency from the sterling standard.
There were several possibilities for error in the assay. If the cupel was too small or did not contain either a sufficient quantity of ashes or ashes that were sufficiently pure, some lead might remain with the silver. If the fire was not regulated properly the cupel would become soggy and silver would drain to the cupel. Alternatively, if not enough lead was used in the cupellation some impurities might remain in the silver. Finally, if the lead used in the cupellation process was not completely free of silver the assay would show a higher silver content than was actually present in the object being assayed, for any silver that had been in the lead would remain in the cupel. Of course, there were additional possibilities for error in accurately weighing these small quantities of metal. Accuracy required diligence in insuring the balance was in no way out of alignment, that the weights were accurate and that the scales were used precisely with objects placed in the center of the pans. The weighing was to take place in a box with an open front so no wind or breeze would affect the measurement. Given the lack of standardization in equipment, supplies and procedures, it is astonishing there was not even greater disparity in assay results (on assaying see; Ercker, 1951, pp. 19-92 and 1683, pp. 8-69; Challis, Tudor Coinage, pp. 25 and 38 and Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th edition, volume 2, "Assaying," Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910, pp. 776-778).Production issues in the Massachusetts Bay mint act: the shape of Massachusetts silver and privy marks
In addition to changing melting procedures so that the mint performed an assay rather than a full melt upon acceptance of a consignment, there were other aspects of the mint act that had adverse effects on the production process and were revised. The text of the mint act, in the version passed on May 27, 1652 by the House of Deputies stated all silver consigned into the mint was to be:
"brought to the Allay of Sterling siluer by John Hull master of the said mint, & his sworne officers & by him to be Coyned into twelue pence Six pence & three pence peeces which shalbe for forme flatt & square on the sides & Stamped on the one side with N E & on the other side with xiid. vid & iiid according to the value of each peece together with a priuie marke which Shalbe appoynted euery three monethes by the governor & knowne only to him & the sworne officers of the mint" (Crosby, p. 37)This passage has two points directly related to production efficiency which never went into practice. One point was expressly reversed by the mint committee and the other seems to have been simply dismissed by Hull as impractical.
It seems almost as soon as the mint committee was formed Hull requested the shape of the coins be modified from square to round, undoubtedly to facilitate production. This was an easy decision for the mint committee and was quickly made. In a document dated June 11, 1652 the mint committee drafted an oath of office for Hull and Sanderson, immediately following the oath the committee added a passage revising the coin shape from what was stipulated in the original legislation. The committee stated:
"Whereas: by order of the Gennerall Courte It is Appointed that all monies Coyned heere, for forme should be flatt and square, wee, whose names are heere vnder written, Appointed by the Gennerall Court, as a Committee to Consider and determine of whatsoeuver wee should Judge necessary for the Carrying an end of the order Respecting minting of monyes doe hereby determine & declare that the officers for the minting of mony shall Coyne all the mony that they mints in A Round forme till the Gennerall Courte shall otherwise declare their minds" (Crosby, p. 43)
The second point, related to a privy mark, is not mentioned in any surviving mint committee document. Apparently the problems related to adding a privy mark were not considered until production was started and the specification was simply not put into practice. A privy mark or mintmark refers to a small letter or numeral or a special design such as a cinquefoil, pellet or cross, that was added to every coin from a specific mint to differentiate the coins from similar coins minted at other locations. Such marks had been used on English coinage since the 1330's during the reign of Edward III. This allowed officials to identify any mint or mintmaster who produced and emitted coins below the authorized standards.
The Massachusetts mint act stated a secret privy mark was to be added to the coins and the mark was to be changed every three months, thus it appears it was to be used as an anti-counterfeiting device. Clearly, there were administrative problems with this concept, in that there was no agency appointed to monitor coinage in circulation. Further, as the marks were secret, they would not assist the public in identifying counterfeits. As concerns the mint, the addition of such a mark added another step to the coining process. Since each NE coin was hammer punched this would not be a major inconvenience in processing time, but it would mean creating a series of punches to be used in some rotation that could put a secret mark on the coins. As punches were expensive this would increase production costs. When the mint changed to a rocker or roller press the privy mark would have been even more problematic, as it would require recutting a mark on each die every few months. This would be a time consuming process and it would wear out the dies more quickly. This is quite significant as the dies were the single most expensive expendable supply in the production process [By expendable supply I mean a periodically replaced non-capital expense. A capital expense such as a press or other major machinery or even the shop itself, was more costly than dies.]. Thus, it appears Hull, possibly in consultation with the Governor or certain of his Assistants who comprised the House of Magistrates, decided not to implement the statutory requirement to include a privy mark.
There are certainly no privy marks on surviving NE coinage. However some numismatists have suggested variations in the geometric dot designs, spelling variations and occasional backwards letters (usually a backwards N) on the Oak and Pine Tree coins represented privy marks. I suspect these variations were probably not intentional but rather demonstrate Hull and Sanderson did not spend the time required to slavishly copy every detail of a previous die, rather they simply kept to the same basic design. Indeed, there are no two varieties with the exact same tree design, lettering or spacing. Further, the lettering errors represent the kind of mistakes made by diecutters throughout the colonial period. A backwards letter was an easy mistake to make as diecutters actually engraved the mirror image of the design onto the die, thus they had to engrave backwards but sometimes mistakenly forgot to reverse the letter they were engraving. The N seems to have been particularly problematic for the Massachusetts mint, in the obverse legend the N in IN is backwards on several die varieties, such as Noe, Pine Tree shilling varieties 2, 4, 8, 11 and 12. The frequency of this error makes it an unlikely candidate for a mark that could be used to distinguish a unique production period. Further, these designs and lettering mistakes were not changed every three months, but rather are found on all coins minted from those dies. The only recutting of the dies seems to have been to strengthen the design in order to further extend the life of the die.Technological change at the Massachusetts mint during the late 1660's
Whereas the steps in accepting consignments were probably fairly consistent during the life of the mint, the methods used in processing consignments underwent substantial changes. When it was time to process a consignment, the silver would be removed from storage and placed in a melting pot or crucible. Ercker shows that the crucible was covered and then placed in a brace or stand to further stabalize the vessel. Next, a pair of iron thongs with long handles were used to put the crucible into and take it out of the furnace (Ercker, 1951, pp. 180-181 and plate 25 on p. 179; 1568, pp. 200-203 and plate 25 on p. 200). A wood charcoal fire was started in the furnace and a bellows would be used to get the fire hot enough to melt the silver (1761.4°F). The heat was extreme, usually there was an iron door on the furnace to protect the melter. When the melter had to open the door to see the molten mixture, he used a wooden paddle that had a slit in the center (Ercker, 1951, plate 19 on p. 139 and 1583, plate 19 on p. 153). The paddle protected his face from the heat for he would view the crucible through the center slot. Once the silver was melted, the molten mixture would be refined if necessary, to bring previously identified inferior silver up to the sterling standard. I suspect no specific assay check was performed at this point on items that had been accepted as equal to sterling, for Hull had already given the customer a receipt for a specific weight in sterling which promissed the customer a specific return. Once the sterling silver was melted, it was ladled out of the crucible and poured into wet sand molds that shaped the sterling into strips. After the strips cooled they would be extracted from the sand and cleaned. The cleaned strips were then rolled to make them thinner and give them a specified uniform thickness.
During the period of the use of a rocker or roller press (probably from about 1654 until sometime during the late 1660's), a strip of sterling silver would be directly fed into the press. The press stamped the coin images on each side of the strip by literally squeezing the strip between two engraved rollers. The rollers continued to operate until the entire strip had been sent through the press resulting in a sterling strip containing several impressed coins. The coins were then cut out of the silver strip using metal cutting shears. Quality control of individual coin weight occurred after stamping, most likely by clipping any overweight examples. Clearly, thinner stock was better for this process as it would be easier to cut and would move more easily through the press. If the sterling was thinner the coins needed to have a somewhat large diameter as a shillings was to weight close to an average of 71.1 grains. A larger surface was also an advantage as it was frequently difficult to properly align the obverse and reverse images on the roller dies. Since each side of the coin was independently impressed on the strip by a revolving roller die the two sides did not always line up perfectly. The smaller the surface the less room there was for a mistake. Errors in alignment were more perceptible on smaller surfaces as is evident from extant two and three pence Oak Tree coins, which are often missing a portion of one side. Naturally, both sides had been fully struck but were out of alignment, so when the coin was cut out of the strip the cutter had to work from one side thereby defacing the other side. Usually the cutter retained the reverse as that side included the denomonation of the coin, most surviving twopence and threepence Oak Tree coins are missing significant portions of the obverse or tree side. The stamping of thinner and broader shillings from sterling strips fed into a rocker or roller press was the method used to produce the Willow, Oak and early Pine Tree coins; these early Pine Tree coins are now somewhat inaccurately known as the "large planchet" Pine Tree varieties, even though they were made directly from strips of sterling rather than planchets.
With the arrival of a screw press at the Massachusetts mint, the minting process was transformed. Coins were stamped using the downward force of a die as it collided with a planchet resting on a stationary lower die. This process was quite different from earlier production practices whereby a rolling motion of two cylinders squeezed a design on a strip. The new process required the creation of planchets and relied on greater uses of force, both in planchet cutting and in stamping. It was a far more automated process as the dies on a screw press would automatically align each time, neither the obverse nor the reverse would be off center. Additionally, the use of a screw press required a large supply of ready made planchets. As we shall see below, between Friday, January 20th and Monday, Janauary 30, 1679 the mint processed 600 troy ounces of silver and produced at least 4,024 planchets (assuming all coins were shillings). In order to melt, process and coin the silver in that nine day work period it seems quite likely the Massachusetts mint, like the London mint, used some type of planchet cutting device rather than hand held shears as had been done during the roller press period.
Indeed, it is possibly the shift to smaller and thicker coins was the result of the introduction of a planchet cutting device.* Planchets cut from thicker strips of silver would better withstand the force necessary for planchet cutting. We have seen the London mint needed to straighten out planchets as they were somewhat bowed by the force of the cutter. Thicker stock would hold up better when being cut and therefore would not require the added step of planchet straightening. Also, the thicker planchets would hold up better under the force of the screw press. In Massachusetts, as the stock, and therefore the shilling planchet, was made thicker, it was necessary to reduce the diameter of the planchet, since the weight per coin continued to average 71.1 grains at sterling fineness. As the dies always aligned in the screw press there was no longer a need for a wider surface area to reduce misalignments. The new machinery required thicker and sturdier planchets rather than the thinner and broader surfaces that were more helpful with roller press technology. During the screw press period the mint produced what are now called the "small planchet" Pine Tree shillings. In this later period weight control was more likely examined before stamping, probably soon after the blank planchets were cut out of the sterling strips. In addition to weight control some additional preparation of the planchets, such as smoothing the sharp edges, probably took place before they were stamped in the press.
[*Note: The planchet cutting device may have been a smaller version of the planchet cutting machine used in London or possibly it was a "cookie cutter" punch that relied on hammer power. Based on surviving examples it is difficult to determine the degree of uniformity in the shape of Pine Tree coins when they left the mint, as examples may have been clipped, filed or worn while they were in circulation. However, small planchet varieties that are close to full weight are far more circular in apearance than full weight examples of earlier varieties, suggesting a more uniform planchet production process in the later period.
It should be noted several surviving "large planchet" Pine Tree shillings have been cut down and rounded to the small planchet diameter. Probably this practice began after the introduction of small planchet shillings. It appears some individuals made a profit by trimming down "large planchet" shillings and then passing the lightened coins as full weight small planchet varieties.]
Screw presses came in several sizes, many smaller models could be operated by one or two individuals. It is quite probable the screw press acquired by the Massachusetts Bay mint was much smaller than the massive screw presses at the London mint. It seems likely the Massachusetts mint acquired a screw press sometime near the end of the 1660's, when the mint was still receiving large consignments of silver, possibly Hull purchased the new press during his final trip to England from November of 1669 through August of 1670. As explained below, during the period 1672-1676 there was a dramatic reduction in the quantity of silver brought into the mint. It would not have been prudent, and would have been out of character, for Hull to make the considerable financial investment necessary for the acquisition of screw press technology during this period when the mint was receiving very little sterling and was struggling to survive. One must remember the technology required the acquisition of both a screw press and a planchet cutting device, together they automated coin production, allowing more coins to be produced in less time. Thus, I suspect the screw press was in operation by the time the extant portion of Hull ledger entries on the mint were written, which date from October of 1671 to August of 1680.
It should be noted the shift from broader and thinner shillings to smaller and thicker shillings may not have simply occurred overnight. That is, there was probably no designated day when all procedures were modified to optimize the use of screw press technology. More likely, this transformation was a gradual process based on techniques learned from trial and error. Naturally, there may have been a transitional period when both the roller and screw presses were in operation (see Hodder's C4 letter for some comments). Further, there may have been some transitional period during which the coin dimensions were adapted in response to the production changes related to the use of a screw press. Indeed, it is possible the first dies prepared for the screw press may have imitated the large shilling coinage that had been minted up to that time and that the first stock produced for the planchet cutting device would have been the same thin strips that the mint had been producing for the past fifteen to twenty years to be used with the roller press. Possibly the thinner strips of silver that were preferable for roller press technology did not work well with a planchet cutter, as thinner stock would produce planchets that warped or bowed. This was certainly a problem in London, where the mint had to add an additional step to flatten out the planchets. Also, it is possible the considerable force of the die strike on the screw press caused excessive damage to thinner planchets (and possibly to the dies themselves). Such problems may have caused the mint to experiment and adopt a thicker sterling stock that was more compatible with the machinery related to screw press technology. Naturally a thicker stock would necessitate a reduction in the diameter of the coin, as the weight had to remain constant. Of course, this is only speculation but it suggests the possibility there may have been some transitional period in moving from one technology to another. Thus, we cannot assume all roller press coining ceased on the day a screw press entered the mint, nor can we be absolutely sure every "large planchet" shilling was produced on a roller press. However, it seems safe to assume all small planchet shillings were products of the screw press.
There is no direct information on the presses owned by the Massachusetts Bay mint but it is possible a coin press listed in the estate of John Coney may represent a press formerly owned by Hull. Coney, who died on August 20, 1722, was one of Boston's leading silversmiths and was the engraver of the three plates used for the November 21, 1702 paper currency emission and several subsequent emissions. Unfortunately, it cannot be determined if Coney's coin press was a roller, rocker or small screw press, as the description is too brief. The itemized inventory of Coney's estate, dated October 15, 1722, included, "An Engine for Coining with all Utensils belonging thereto" valued at "£10 10s" (the third item on the second page of the inventory). Although there is no evidence as to the origin of this coining engine it is sometimes thought the machine may have passed down from Hull to his former apprentice Jeremiah Dummer and then to Coney, for Coney was related by marriage to Dummer. On November 8, 1694 Coney married his third wife, the former Mary Atwater, with whom he had six children. Mary's sister, Hannah Atwater, had married Dummer in 1672. The disposition of the Coney press is unknown. Apparently Coney's executors began selling off the estate soon after the inventory was completed, as an advertisement in the Boston Gazette for November 5-12, 1722 stated, "This evening the remaining part of the Tools of the late Mr. Coney are to be sold. About 5 a Clock." The notice implies that by early November all of Coney's tools had been sold. (Clarke, Coney, pp. 12-13, with four pages of unnumbered plates containing the inventory).
The entries in Hull's surviving ledger provide us with the opportunity to extrapolate some information on production issues at the mint from the years 1671-1680. Most mint entries in the ledger recorded the troy ounces of sterling consigned to the mint and both the date on which the silver was deposited at the mint as well as the date on which the consignment was ready for delivery to the customer in the form of Massachusetts coinage. However, because of a change in the way Hull calculated his fee, only the final records in Hull's ledger, primarily those from 1679, include the total pound value of the coinage produced from the consignment, which averaged 80.44d in coins per troy ounce of sterling. For the consignments from other years, Hull only included the weight of the silver and the quantity of coinage given to the customer, which Hull calculated at 74d per ounce of sterling (and from June 1675 at 75d). The coinage given to the customer was not the entire production run as it did not include Hull's fee nor did it reflect any production overruns due to producing coins that averaged less than 72 grains. I have estimated the total pound value of each production run for every pre 1679 consignment using 80.44d per ounce as an average yield. This value has been estimated to the nearest farthing.
One must remember the pound value assigned to each consignment before 1679 is an estimate based on Hull's average yield of 80.44d per troy ounce. From information on specific consignments in 1679 we know the yield varied from 80.417d to 80.537d per troy ounce. Clearly, the yield fluctuated somewhat depending on the individual weight of the coins produced. By assuming an average yield for those consignments before 1679, where Hull does not reveal the yield information, the value is only an estimate of the actual output for the consignment. However it is a rather close estimate that fluctuates no more than 10d above or 2d below the estimated value per 100 troy ounces. That the fluctuation above the estimated yield of 80.44d per troy ounce can increase by up to about 10d shows Hull was more likely to produce somewhat lighter coins and thereby increase his yield per troy ounce, but he rarely produced heavier coins so the downward fluctuation in yield per troy ounce is much smaller and never went below 2d less than the average yield. Specifically, 100 troy ounces of sterling at 80.44d per ounce yields £33 10s4d, while at the highest known production rate of 80.537d per ounce the yield would be £33 11s1d3f; using the lowest know production rate of 80.417d per troy ounce the yield would be £33 10s1d3f. Thus, the actual yield per 100 troy ounces may vary from the estimated average by as much as 9d3f above the estimated value to 2d1f below the estimate.
For purposes of comparing the relative size of consignments I often refer to the troy ounces per consignment and the average troy ounces produced per day. The weights in troy ounces are precise numbers that are recorded in the ledger. The next best measure is the estimated pound value of the coins produced from the consignment, as is explained above. Additionally, I have converted the pound value into shillings, rounding the value to the nearest shilling. In this way one has a quick estimate of the possible number of coins produced per consignment. I assume shillings were the predominant, if not the only, denomination minted in this period. Pine Tree sixpence were certainly contemporary with the earlier "large planchet" shillings as the obverse of one of the Pine Tree sixpence dies was joined with an Oak Tree reverse, leading one to suspect it was put in use at the end of the Oak Tree series and the start of the Pine Tree series. The threepence Pine Tree varieties need further study to determine specifically where they come in the emission sequence relative to other series. As there are only two die combinations for the sixpence and four die combinations for the threepence it seems the threepence coins had a longer minting history. However, it is unknown precisely when they were produced (see Hodder's C4 letter for some comments). If one assumes a specific portion of the coins minted in the 1670's were threepence, it would not alter the troy ounces or the pound value but it would increase the number of coins per consignment. Interestingly in the 1679 consignments where Hull actually gives the full pound value of each consignment the values are always to the shilling, they are never calculated to the nearest 3d. Of course, that does not necessarily mean threepence coins were not produced. However, I do not know when threepence coins were made, nor do I have any evidence in what quantities they were produced. We know the Oak tree twopence were produced at a proportional ratio*, if Pine Tree threepence were being minted during the later Pine Tree era and some proportional production quote system existed, then the number of coins per consignment would increase from the shilling estimates given here but the ratios between consignments would remain stable as all consignments would be altered proportionally.
[*Note: the ratio for Oak Tree twopence in 1662 was fifty pounds in twopence per every hundred pounds coined and for the following six years it was to be twenty pounds in twopence per every hundred pounds coined. I suspect the order is worded in production terms and therefore pounds would refer to troy pounds of sterling consigned to the mint rather than the value of the coinage produced in Massachusetts monetary pounds of account, but the text is not clear on this point (Crosby, pp. 73-74)].
Also, I have used Hull's deposit and delivery dates to calculate the number of work days each consignment was in the mint. This does not imply a consignment was actually being processed on all of those days, rather, it represents the number of days a consignment was in the shop including production time as well as any time the consignment was backlogged. I counted the number of work days exclusive of the date of deposit and the date of delivery as I assumed a consignment may have arrived later in the day so that work on the consignment could not start on the same day the consignment arrived. Further, I assumed production of each consignment was completed by the end of the work day preceding the pick up date, so that the consignment could have been picked up on the morning of the delivery date.
In the entries discussed below Hull included the deposit and delivery dates but he did not mention the day of the week. I have supplied the day. Interestingly, the dates in Hull's ledger recording the deposits of silver consigned to the mint as well as the dates for the deliveries of coinage produced from the consignments contain examples that date to every day of the week. I take this as an indication the mint was open Monday through Saturday and thus I have counted six work days per week. Sunday was a day of rest for the Puritans, but in Hull's ledger there were some consignments dated to Sunday. Hull was very religious and strictly observed the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Bay laws prohibiting any work on Sunday. Since Sunday was observed from dusk on Saturday evening to dusk on Sunday deposits or deliveries dated to Sunday probably occurred as the sun was setting on Saturday or after dusk on Sunday.
Finally, on the debit or receipt side of his ledger, Hull typically recorded the consigned ounces of sterling and calculated the return due to the customer based on a standard 74d (and later 75d) per ounce payment, with the unspecified remainder of the coinage being retained by Hull as his mint fee. Additionally, on the delivery date Hull included an entry on the credit or right hand side of his ledger showing a payment for the amount of coinage owed to the customer. In some consignments no return was calculated and there is no indication of a payment to a customer. In these instances I have assumed the silver was deposited by Hull, thus he retained the entire return. Quite probably these consignments represent surplus stock from the shop. For further details see the ledger commentary.Mint consignments in Hull's ledger
The following represent the consignments for Massachusetts Bay coinage recorded in Hull's surviving ledger:
On Sunday, October 18, 1671 Hull deposited 528.5 troy ounces of sterling at the mint. At a rate of 80.44d per ounce the consignment would yield £177 2s8d2f. Assuming the entire consignment was produced as shillings there would be approximately 3543s. As the consignment was delivered on Friday, November 13, 1671 Hull had 22 working days (Oct. 19 - Nov. 12) to complete the consignment.
On Saturday, October 24, 1671 Richard Truesdall deposited 208 troy ounces of sterling. At a rate of 80.44d per ounce the consignment would yield £69 14s3d2f. Assuming the entire consignment was produced as shillings there would be approximately 1394s. The consignment was delivered on Thursday, December 3, 1671 giving 33 work days (Oct. 26 - Dec 2) to complete the consignment.
On Saturday, January 2, 1672 a shipment of 255.25 troy ounces of sterling was deposited at the mint. This was probably a personal consignment for Hull. Part of this consignment went to coinage and part was turned into plate, that is, some type of bowls, cups or dishes. The ratio of plate to coinage cannot be determined. If the entire consignment was minted at a rate of 80.44d per ounce the consignment would yield £85 11s1f. Assuming the entire consignment was produced as shillings there would be approximately 1711s. The consignment was delivered on Saturday, February 6, 1672, so Hull had 29 working days (Jan. 4 - Feb. 6) to complete the consignment.
On Wednesday, June 29, 1672 there was a shipment of 179.5 troy ounces of sterling deposited at the mint. This was probably a personal consignment by Hull. If the entire consignment was minted at a rate of 80.44d per ounce the consignment would yield £60 3s3d. Assuming the entire consignment was produced as shillings there would be approximately 1203s. As the consignment was delivered on Tuesday, August 23, 1672 Hull had 46 working days (June 30 - Aug. 22) to complete the consignment.
On Friday, August 25, 1673 a customer deposited 265 troy ounces of sterling. If the entire consignment was minted at a rate of 80.44d per ounce the consignment would yield £88 16s4d2f. Assuming the entire consignment was produced as shillings there would be approximately 1776s. As the consignment was delivered on Tuesday, October 25, 1673 Hull had 51 working days (Aug. 26 - Oct. 25) to complete the consignment.
On Wednesday, December 12, 1674 there was a deposit of 275.5 troy ounces of sterling at the mint, probably made by Hull. If the entire consignment was minted at a rate of 80.44d per ounce the consignment would yield £92 6s9d1f. Assuming the entire consignment was produced as shillings there would be approximately 1847s. No delivery date was listed.
On Wednesday, May 8, 1675 there was a deposit of 369.5 troy ounces of sterling, probably made by Hull. If the entire consignment was minted at a rate of 80.44d per ounce the consignment would yield £123 16s10d2f. Assuming the entire consignment was produced as shillings there would be approximately 2477s. As the consignment was delivered on Wednesday, May 22, 1675 Hull had 11 working days (May 9 - May 21) to complete the consignment.
On Tuesday, June 17, 1675 there was a deposit of 217 troy ounces of sterling at the mint. If the entire consignment was minted at a rate of 80.44d per ounce the consignment would yield £72 14s7d2f. Assuming the entire consignment was produced as shillings there would be approximately 1455s. As the consignment was delivered on Monday, July 8, 1675 Hull had 17 working days (June 18 - July 6) to complete the consignment.On Sunday, June 14, 1676 a consignment of 496.75 troy ounces of sterling was deposited at the mint, probably by Hull. If the entire consignment was minted at a rate of 80.44d per ounce the consignment would yield £166 9s10d2f. Assuming the entire consignment was produced as shillings there would be approximately 3330s. As the consignment was delivered on Sunday, July 12, 1676 Hull had 24 working days (June 15 - July 11) to complete the consignment.
Between Tuesday, April 20 and Tuesday, April 27, 1677 a total of 1575.5 troy ounces of sterling and 282 ounces of Spanish plate (at 6s per ounce) was deposited at the mint. I have estimated the total consignment as yielding 1846.925 troy ounces of sterling. If the entire consignment was minted at a rate of 80.44d per ounce the consignment would yield £619 6d3f. Assuming the entire consignment was produced as shillings there would be approximately 12,381s. No delivery date was included.
On Tuesday, July 13, 1677 a customer deposited 125 troy ounces of sterling. If the entire consignment was minted at a rate of 80.44d per ounce the consignment would yield £41 17s11d. Assuming the entire consignment was produced as shillings there would be approximately 838s. No delivery date was listed.
Several parcels were deposited between Monday, May 3 and Sunday, August 29, 1677 that Hull stated was minted into £671 12s value in coinage. Assuming the entire consignment was produced as shillings there would be 13,432s. Unfortunately the exact quantity of silver was not given and no delivery date was specified. However, the consignment was most probably completed sometime before Saturday, December 4th, which was the date of the next entry in the ledger. Based on a production rate of 80.44d per troy ounce, I estimate the consignment to have consisted of about 2005 troy ounces of sterling.
On Sunday, November 20, 1678 a customer deposited 159.75 troy ounces of sterling with an additional 1132.5 ounces added on Friday, January 20, 1679, for a total consignment of 1292.25 ounces. The coins were delivered in four installments, each of the first three installments consisted of 300 ounces of sterling and Hull stated each of the first three installments was minted into £100 12s in coins (if all shillings this would be 2012s per installment). The installments were delivered to the customer as soon as they were available, the first on Friday, January 27th, the second on Monday, January 30th and the third on Monday, February 6th, 1679. Hull stated the fourth and final installment of 392.25 ounces of sterling produced £131 7s in coins (if all shillings this would be 2627s) and was delivered on Saturday February 18, 1679. It is unlikely Hull began work on this consignment before the second installment was received on January 20th. It is impossible to know precisely which delivery contained the sterling deposited on November 20th, but most likely Hull began his work with the second larger consignment dividing it into three installments of 300 ounces each and then adding the November 20th consignment in the with remaining 232.5 ounces of the January 20th consignment to produce the final installment which equalled 392.25 ounces. It is clear Hull used the 1132.5 troy ounces of sterling deposited on January 20th to produce some coinage equal to £379 14s (if all shillings this would be 7,594s) by February 18th. It seems the 159.75 troy ounces deposited earlier on November 20th were used to create additional coinage equal to £53 9s (if all shillings this would be 1,069s) delivered on February 18th. Thus, according to Hull the total consignment produced £433 3s in coins. Assuming the entire consignment was produced as shillings there would be a total of 8,663s.
On Friday, February 24, 1679 a customer deposited 400 ounces of sterling in the mint. Hull stated the consignment was turned into £133 18s in Massachusetts coinage and delivered in just over two weeks time, on Sunday, March 12, 1679. Assuming the entire consignment was produced as shillings there would be a total of 2678s. From February 25th through March 11th there were 13 work days (excluding Sundays) to complete the consignment.
On Tuesday, April 11, 1679 a customer deposited 286.5 troy ounces of sterling silver at the mint which was delivered in two installments. Hull stated the first and smaller installment of 96 ounces produced £32 2s in coins. Assuming the entire installment was produced as shillings there would be a total of 642s. No delivery date was given for the installment but presumably delivery occurred between the date of the previous entry in the ledger on the credit side of Hull's account, which was July 16, 1679, and the date of the second installment of this consignment, which was dated to Sunday, July 30th. Hull stated the second installment of 190.5 ounces produced £63 17s in coins. Assuming the entire installment was produced as shillings there would be a total of 1277s. These two installments equalled the total 286.5 troy ounces of silver brought in on April 11th. Assuming the total production was in shillings, it took Hull a little over three and a half months, or more precisely, 94 work days (April 12 - July 29), excluding Sundays to produce 1919s in coins. About the time the April 11th deposit was ready to be picked up the same customer delivered another almost equal shipment of sterling to be coined. This second shipment of 278 troy ounces was deposited on Friday, July 21st that Hull stated produced £93 3s in coinage. Assuming the entire consignment was produced as shillings there would be a total of 1863s. The consignment was delivered to the customer on Wednesday October 18th, which is a total of 75 work days (July 22 - Oct. 17), excluding Sundays, or a wait of just a few days less that three months.
On Wednesday, November 8, 1679 a customer deposited 58 ounces of plate which Hull accepted as equivalent to 56 ounces of sterling. Hull stated this plate was turned into £18 14s in coinage. Assuming the entire consignment was produced as shillings there would be a total of 374s. The consignment was delivered about two weeks later on Tuesday, November 21st. This was a total of 10 work days (Nov. 9 - 20), excluding Sundays, to complete the consignment.
On Tuesday, November 21, 1679 a customer deposited two quantities of sterling, one lot of 445 ounces and a second lot of 325.5 ounces. Hull stated the 445 ounces was turned into £149 5s. Assuming the entire consignment was produced as shillings there would be a total of 2985s. This lot was completed in about two and a half weeks, on Saturday December 9th, which is a total of 16 work days (Nov. 22 - Dec. 8), excluding Sundays. Hull stated the second lot of 325.5 ounces was turned into £109 6s in coins. Assuming the entire consignment was produced as shillings there would be a total of 2186s. This second lot was ready in about two additional weeks on Tuesday, December 26th for a total of 14 work days for the lot (Dec. 9 - 25, as Christmas was not a holiday for the Puritans), excluding Sundays. The two lots combine to a total of 30 work days for completion of the entire consignment.
On Saturday, August 3 - Sunday August 4, 1680 a customer deposited three quantities of sterling, a lot of 220.75 troy ounces, another of 538.75 troy ounces and a third of 547.25 troy ounces. The first installment to be completed was the lot of 538.75 ounces which was ready in about a month on Thursday, August 29th with the second installment of 220.75 ounces ready about a week later on Wednesday, September 4th. The third lot for 547.25 ounces, producing 3,650 shillings, was delivered on Friday, September 27, 1680. Hull listed the value in coinage delivered to the customer but he did not include his mint fee to reveal the total coinage produced. In the ledger commentary I explained how I calculated Hull's mint fee. Including his fee I have estimated the total value of each installment as: £179 18s4d for the 538.75 ounces, £73 14s6d for the 220.75 ounces, and £182 9s8d for the 547.25 ounces of sterling. Assuming the entire consignment was produced as shillings there would be a total of 3,598s from the 538.75 ounces, 1,475s from the 220.75 ounces and 3,650s from the 547.25 ounces for a total of 8,723s. Overall the entire consignment took a total of 46 work days, (Aug. 5 - Sept. 26) excluding Sundays.
Generally, sterling consigned to the mint did not receive immediate attention, so for the most part, it is impossible to determine exactly when production work began on a specific consignment based on the information in Hull's ledger. Fortunately, there is one consignment from January of 1679 that appears to have been given top priority from the moment it entered the shop with installments being delivered to the customer as quickly as possible. From the 1132.5 troy ounces of sterling that were deposited on Friday, January 20, 1679, mint personnel quickly began to work, dividing the consignment into three installments of 300 ounces each, with a final installment of the remaining 232.5 troy ounces that was combined with an earlier shipment of 159.75 troy ounces. The first installment of 300 troy ounces of sterling produced £100 12s in coins and was delivered to the customer on Friday, January 27th, just one week after the consignment had been delivered to the mint. The second installment, also consisting of 300 troy ounces of silver was ready two work days later on Monday January 30th. The third installment of 300 troy ounces was delivered on Monday, February 6th. Hull stated each installment yielded £100 12s in coins. Thus, each installment would equal 2,012s if the entire amount was minted into shillings.
It appears the minters started working on this consignment as soon as it entered the shop. In fact, in this case I am assuming half a day was devoted to processing the first installment on the day it was deposited and I am also assuming there would be a half day available for work on the installment on the delivery or pick up date. That the first three installments were produced so quickly, and that they were all for equal amounts of sterling allows us to extrapolate some valuable information on production runs. For example, it is quite likely each installment was in production for no more than six days. As to the first installment, if we assume a half day was available for work on the date the consignment was deposited at the mint, that is, on Friday, January 20th and half a day was available for work on the installment on the date it was delivered to the customer, that is, Friday, January 27th, there was a maximum of six workdays available (half a day on Friday the day of the deposit, all day on Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and half a day on Friday the day of delivery). Clearly, mint personnel worked on the first two installments simultaneously, so when the stamping of the first installment was completed, work immediately continued with the stamping of the planchets from the second installment. The second installment was finished and delivered only two work days after the first installment, on Monday January 30th. If we assume this second installment also took up to six days, production on that installment would have begun on Monday, January 23rd. I suspect the 300 troy ounces of sterling from the first installment was melted on the date of the deposit, Friday, January 20th and the melt was then poured into wet sand molds to be cooled into sterling strips. This process of melting, refining and pouring the sterling would only require a few hours of work. On Saturday the hardened sterling strips were probably taken out of the molds and cleaned. Over the next few days the planchets would be prepared. The molded sterling strips would be rolled to the required thickness, then planchets would be cut out of the strips. The sharp edges of the newly cut planchets would be smoothed and the planchets would be checked for weight and defects. At some point during the days devoted to planchet preparation the screw press would be prepared and dies would be affixed. If the obverse and reverse die axes were accurately lined up for a coin turn, the die alignment process could take several hours. The axes of existing Massachusetts Pine Tree coins are usually fairly accurately aligned, they are often at 0° (or 12:00 o'clock) or within 30° of alignment (that is between 11:00 and 1:00 o'clock), therefore the mint did spend some time aligning the die axes.
Planchet preparation would probably take several days. Clearly, the steps were sequential, the stock was sent through one step in the production process and that step was completed before the minters started the next step in the process. Possibly the stock was rolled out on one day, the planchets may have been cut on the following day, while smoothing and weight control may have been performed on the next day. The actual stamping of the coins did not take as much time as planchet preparation. During the Confederation era, copper coins were stamped at a rate of one coin every two to three seconds; assuming the Massachusetts silver mint had a smaller press, possibly operated by only one or two people, we can certainly assume at least one coin could be stamped every 10 seconds (in fact, it is likely stamping would only take half of that time). At the rate of one coin per 10 seconds it would take about 5.5 hours to stamp 2,012 finished planchets into shillings. Thus, the actual stamping of the coins probably occurred on the day before delivery, while on the delivery day the coins may have been inspected, counted and boxed for the customer. Following this time line, it would appear the melting of the sterling, as well as the molding and cleaning of the strips for the first consignment were steps performed on Friday and Saturday, January 20-21, while work on the second installment would have begun on Monday, January 23 with a hour or two spent melting the silver and pouring it into the sand molds.
Clearly, although some work may have been performed on each installment of 300 troy ounces every one of the six days each installment was in production, it did not take six full days of work by all of the mint employees to process each installment of 300 troy ounces. This is clear for work on the first two installments overlapped, so that in effect 600 troy ounces of sterling were prepared over eight work days. Thus, between the date the consignment entered the mint on January 20th and the delivery date of the second installment on Monday, January 30th the mint processed a total of 600 troy ounces of sterling in a period of eight work days for an average production rate of 75 troy ounces per day.
Work on the third installment probably began on Monday January 30th, the date on which the second installment was delivered, probably with a few hours spent on melting the silver and pouring it into the wet sand molds. This third installment of 300 troy ounces, which also produced £100 12s in coins, was delivered to the customer on Monday, February 6th. Again, allowing a half day of work on the initial day of Monday, January 30 and a half day of work on the delivery date of Monday, February 6th, there were a total of six work days available for the production of this installment. Thus, it is quite likely each of these three installments of 300 troy ounces of sterling took six days for the mint to process. This gives an average daily production rate per installment of 50 troy ounces of silver per day.
If each of these three installments were minted completely as shillings this would mean, combining the first and second overlapping installments, a total of 4,024 shillings were produced over a period of eight days for a production rate of 503 shillings per day. While, for the six days during which the third installment was in production a total of 2,012 shillings would have been produced for a production rate of 335.33 shillings per day. Naturally, the average production rate encompasses the time taken for the entire process. Thus, there would be no finished coins for several days during which the silver was melted and the planchets were prepared, while on one or two days at the end of the process an entire installment might be stamped, counted and boxed.
Actually, what we have in the January 1679 consignment is an installment of 600 troy ounces followed by an installment of 300 troy ounces. In no other consignment was the mint so anxious to deliver the coins to the customer. There were other consignments where Hull recorded large installments, close in size to 600 troy ounces, that were processed by the mint as single production runs (such as consignments and installments of 547.25 troy ounces, 538.75 troy ounces, 528.5 troy ounces and 496.75 troy ounces of sterling), but in all these other cases there was just one delivery date when the entire installment was completed. In order to deliver the coins from the first 600 troy ounces of the January 1679 consignment to the customer as soon as possible Hull processed the lot as two individual production units, so each unit could be delivered as soon as it was completed. In recording this pragmatic decision in his ledger Hull gave us some additional insight as to how larger consignments were processed. It seems likely the maximum capacity of the melting furnace was 25 troy pounds of sterling (which is equal to 300 troy ounces). This will be explained in more detail below. Thus, large individual installments in the range of 600 to 400 troy ounces were most likely done in two melts that were only a few days apart, allowing just enough time for the first melt to be hardened in the wet sand molds, then once the strips were removed from the molds, reshaping the wet sand molds for the second melt and proceeding with that melt, as was the case with the installment of 600 ounces of January 1679.
Further, it seems 600 troy ounces was the maximum quantity of sterling the mint could handle in a single production run. Clearly, two days after the second melt of 300 troy ounces the molds would have been free for the third installment of 300 ounces. However, that installment was not started until the first two installments of 300 ounces were completed and delivered to the client. Possibly there were not enough employees or workspace to simultaneously work on three installments. Thus, in the eight days the mint processed the 600 troy ounces of sterling, it appears the mint was working at full capacity. Another installment could not be handled until the 600 troy ounces was completed.
Full capacity does not mean all mint employees worked on minting for the entire eight days. Clearly, there were space and equipment limitations, for example two days seem to have been required before the sand molds were free and a second melt could occur. Thus, out of that eight day period, the first two days were devoted to melting and molding strips from the sterling of the first installment, and during that time no work was performed on the second installment. Further, as the first installment was completed and delivered to the customer on the sixth day, the final two days of the eight day cycle were devoted to the completion of the second installment. Therefore, the two installments would only be in simultaneous production for the middle four days of the eight day production period. The production rate average for the eight days would be 50 troy ounces for two days, 100 troy ounces for four days and then 50 troy ounces for two days for an overall average of 75 troy ounces per day. Thus, if production of 600 troy ounces over a period of eight days is defined as full capacity, then clearly half of the time (or four of the days) at full capacity did not involve as many mint employees as the other half of the time. For four days the average yield was 50 troy ounces while for four other days it was 100 troy ounces. Thus, it seems at some points during the eight days not all employees were working full time on minting. Hence, the average daily production level for 600 troy ounces is not double the rate for 300 ounces. Rather, the installment of 600 troy ounces, at 75 troy ounces per day, is only 50% higher that the production rate for 300 troy ounces, at 50 troy ounces per day.
Precisely what full capacity mint production meant in terms of man hours or full time work cannot be determined. It is tempting to say a melt of 300 ounces represented half time work (or full time work for half of the staff) and two staggered consecutive melts represented full capacity, averaging three quarters time work for the entire staff. However, we simply do not know how many man hours were required to process an installment of 300 troy ounces. It certainly appears that limitations of space, equipment and staffing did not allow production to proceed at a faster pace. However, even though much time was devoted to the installments, we cannot say that an installment was in production every minute of each day in was in process. The only mint employee we can track during this period is John Hull and it appears that even during the highest periods of production for these three installments of January 1679, Hull did not spend his entire day devoted to the minting process. From Hull's ledger we see Hull participated in several business dealings during the very days the first two installments of the January 20th consignment were being processed, namely from January 20th through 27th, 1679. On January 21st Hull agreed to purchase 103 quarts of codfish from Charles Lidget for £66 19s; on the 22nd he collected £7 9s from Thomas Wheeler; on the 27th he received £200 from John Alcock and £600 in bills of exchange from John Paige of London (New England Historic Genealogical Society, MS CB 110, vol. 1, folios, 166 recto, 167 verso and 168 recto). There are also transactions recorded during the production of the third installment, as the payment of £4 by Thomas Wheeler and a payment of £133 1s by Alcock, both on January 30th (New England Historic Genealogical Society, MS CB 110, vol. 1, folios 166 recto and 167 verso). It should be noted these business deals were found by looking through just three folios in Hull's ledger, namely the folios listing new accounts or accounts that were forwarded in the ledger with opening entries in late 1678 or early 1679. Additional business transactions dating to late January 1679 might be located anywhere throughout the ledger, I have not examined the first 160 folios for other entries from this period. Thus, it is quite likely other business was conducted on these specific days. Additionally, it is probable Hull attended the Thursday church lecture. As late as 1840 a descendant of the Sewall family owned a series of small notebooks in Hull's hand containing summaries of over two hundred Sunday sermons and Thursday lectures delivered at the First Church of Boston between 1655 and 1661 (Hull, Diary, Memoir, p. 123). These notebooks are now lost but they were probably part of a larger series. The fact that Hull compiled such a work indicates he regularly attended both the Thursday lectures as well as the required Sunday services. Also, Hull was Treasurer for Massachusetts Bay at this time (from 1675-1680) and may have had meetings relating to that position. It seems clear Hull performed several non-mint duties during the fourteen days when the first three installments of the January 20th consignment were minted. Thus, it appears during the processing of these installments Hull did not spend every moment on uninterrupted mint work.
Although Hull may not have been available for full time mint work during this period, we simply do not know what roles other individuals may have performed. It is certainly possible that some individuals, probably apprentices, were performing functions each day related to the various sequential steps that needed to be followed in producing planchets and processing the installments. However, each installment probably did not require six full days of uninterrupted work devoted solely to the installment. Thus, we cannot say precisely how many man hours were devoted to processing an installment. Nevertheless, it seems the 600 troy ounces caused the mint to work at the highest daily rate of production that they were willing to sustain. If that entailed the equivalent of four days at half time and four days at full time work for all mint personnel is unclear. What the record does indicate however, is that the mint was unwilling to begin an additional installment until the 600 ounces was completed. Thus, although we cannot precisely define full capacity in terms of man hours per day required for full capacity production, we may assume when the mint was working at highest capacity it was willing to undertake, it could sustain an average production rate of 75 troy ounces of silver per day.
The fourth and final installment of the January 20th consignment, consisted of 392.25 troy ounces of sterling that yielded £131 7s in coins. If the entire installment was in shilling this would equal 2,627s. This installment was delivered on February 18th. From February 6th, which was the date on which the third installment was delivered to the customer and thus was the day work could commence on the fourth installment, there were a total of 11 work days before the delivery of the fourth installment (counting a half day each on the 6th and the 18th). This yields an average production rate of 35.659 troy ounces per day (or 238.818s per day it the installment was entirely in shillings). As this is a considerably lower production rate than we find in the first three installments (of 75 and 50 troy ounces per day), it seems likely mint personnel temporarily turned their attention to other duties after the third installment was completed before taking up the final installment. Thus, we cannot use the final installment to help derive production rate data. From the January 1679 consignment we have extrapolated much production related information. Most helpful in assisting with estimating the actual mint processing time for other installments is that a production run of 600 troy ounces took eight days for an average production rate of 75 troy ounces per day and a 300 troy ounce installment took six days for an average daily production rate of 50 troy ounces per day.Productivity rates found in ledger entries: the consignment of August 1680
Some related production information may be gleaned from the final consignment recorded in the Hull shop account ledger, a consignment in three shipments totaling 1306.75 troy ounces of sterling deposited at the mint on August 3-4, 1680. As usual, the consignment was backlogged when it first arrived. The consignment was processed in three units, in the same quantities as the three shipments which were delivered to the mint; the first installment was for 538.75 ounces, the second was for 220.75 ounces and the third was for 547.25 ounces of sterling. The first installment was delivered to the customer on Thursday, August 29th. As we do not know the start date for this installment we cannot calculate a daily production rate. However, we find the 220.75 ounces was delivered just a few days later on Wednesday, September 4th. Clearly, the first installment was a large quantity of sterling, requiring two melts, and would not be produced simultaneously with another consignment. It seems, as soon as the mint delivered the first consignment on August 29th they immediately began work on the small 220.75 ounces installment. Allowing half a day for the melting of the installment on the same day the first installment was delivered, that is Thursday, August 29th, and half a day for inspection and counting of the final coins on the delivery date of Wednesday, September 4th, there were a total of five work days to process this second installment, for an average daily production rate of 44.15 troy ounces per day. I have estimated the total yield of the installment as £73 15s. Assuming the entire amount was in shillings this would equal 1475s, for an average production rate of 295s per day. As was usually the case with installments, there was a waiting period of a few weeks before the third installment was finally delivered on Friday, September 27th, which means the final installment was backlogged for some period, therefore of the three installments in the August 1680 consignment only the smaller 220.75 ounces installment can give us an indication of production time.
It should be recognized these averages are from 1679-1680 and certainly pertain to the period during which the mint was using a screw press. Average daily production output would have differed in the 1650's and 1660's when a rocker or roller press was in use, as the coining procedures would be different. Further, the rates are limited to the time required for planchet production and stamping, they do not reflect all the work related to the mint. The critical and time consuming job of diecutting is not included nor is any maintenance, repair or clean up of the machinery, tools or the building. These duties would be performed before or after a consignment was completed and therefore time spend on such activities would not be reflected in the data we find in Hull's ledger.The number of days spent minting coins from October of 1671 through September of 1680
From Hull's ledger we have discovered an individual installment of 600 troy ounces of sterling took a maximum of eight work days to be turned into coins for an average production rate of 75 troy ounces per day. Further a 300 troy ounce installment took a maximum of six work days to be turned into coins for an average daily production rate of 50 troy ounces per day. And finally, an installment of 220.75 troy ounces took a maximum of five work days to be turned into coins, for an average daily production rate of 44.15 troy ounces per day.
In calculating the number of production days per year one cannot simply use a single average daily production rate, as we have seen the production rate differed depending on the size of the production run. Basically, installments within a certain weight range took a specific number of work days to complete. Larger installments within that range took more time per day to complete and therefore yield a higher daily production rate. For instance, taking 600 troy ounces through the entire minting process would take eight days from the start to finish, if the installment was for 550 troy ounces the consignment would still take eight days to complete, but each stage in the process would be completed a little more quickly than would be the case for a consignment of 600 troy ounces, so that slightly less time per day would need to be devoted to minting. As minting was a process in which each step needed to be completed before proceeding to the next step we must look at the the number of days needed to process installments of various sizes, we cannot simply take the total weight of the annual consignments and then average them by a single daily production rate.
First, we must identify the troy ounces for each production run, whether the run is a complete consignment or simply an installment from a larger consignment, and then, we must treat each production run as an individual unit. A further complication is that from the Hull ledger we can only identify the number of production days for three different size production runs, namely a run of 600 troy ounces, a run of 300 troy ounces and a run of 220 troy ounces. Therefore, the number of production days assigned to each production run must necessarily be an estimate based on the available figures. Individual production runs from 600 troy ounces to about 400 troy ounces will be considered to have taken eight production days. As with the installment of 600 ounces from January 1679 discussed above, I suspect these larger quantities were divided into two melts and processed as a single unit. Production runs from about 350 troy ounces to 250 troy ounces will be considered to have taken six production days, similar to the installment of 300 troy ounces. Finally, production runs from 220 troy ounces to about 180 troy ounces will be considered to have taken five production days, similar to the installment of 220.75 troy ounces. By determining the number of production runs and then estimating the number of days each run was actually in production we can estimate the number of days the mint was in operation each year.
From this information we can estimate the maximum number of days per year the mint was actually producing coins. These numbers do not represent entire days spent minting coins, but rather they represent the number of days during which a consignment or installment was in production at the mint. Clearly, somewhat larger quantities of sterling would require more hours per day than somewhat smaller quantities. To give some relative indication of the quantity of time expended on minting for each production run I have calculated the average per day production rate in troy ounces of silver for each production run by taking the total troy ounces of sterling in production and dividing it by the number of days in production. For comparison, we have seen the maximum production rate found in the Hull ledger averaged 75 troy ounces per day, although as mentioned above, this probably does not represent continuous full time mint work by all shop personnel for the entire production period.
Notes to the table:
In the column detailing the troy ounces of sterling per production run, each consignment is separated by a blank line. For consignments that were divided into installments the specific quantities of sterling for each production run are listed directly under each other in a column without any blank lines separating them. Under the year 1677 Hull gave no indication in his ledger how the three consignments from that year were divided for production runs. I have simply divided the 1677 totals using what would be the most efficient production schedule. It is purely speculation. There was a consignment from April 1677 for 1846.925 troy ounces that I treated with four production runs. Later in the year two other consignments were made and I have combined those two consignments into a single series of four additional production runs. The two combined consignments consist of a large consignment the was delivered to the mint in several parcels between May 3rd and August 29th, altogether they yielded £671 12s in coins, which I have estimated as consisting of 2005 troy ounces. During this period another smaller consignment for 125 ounces of sterling was received on July 13th. I have combined this with the May-August consignment for a total of 2130 troy ounces in a single series of production runs. Beside the conjectural production runs for 1677 there are three other cases with some smaller modification. In three instances the quantities of sterling for the production run were outside the parameters discussed above for assigning the number of days one could reasonable expect the consignment to have been in production. In 1675 the first consignment, for 369.5 troy ounces, is above the 350 ounce maximum I established for a 6 day run but it is also below the ca. 400 ounce minimum established for an 8 day run, so I have estimated it as a 7 day run. Additionally, two very small production runs from 1679 had to be estimated, an installment for 96 troy ounces which yielded £32 2s in coins (if the consignment was all in shillings this would be about 624s), was estimated as a three day run and a 56 ounce consignment, yielding £18 14s in coins (if the installment was all in shillings this would be about 374s), was estimated at a 2 day production run. For these much smaller quantities I have assumed several different processes in planchet production could be completed in one or two days.
|Year||Troy ounces per production run||Number of days in production||Average troy ounces produced per day|
|Oct.-Dec. 1671|| 528.5
|August 1680|| 538.75
Having identified the individual production runs and the number of days the runs were in production we are now in a position to present a summary table with yearly totals. The following summary table contains the quantity of sterling consigned to the mint per year as recorded in the Hull ledger with an estimate of the total number of shillings produced from all production runs that occurred during that year, again this assumes all production was in shillings. Next is the number of operational days per year, derived from the previous chart. Operational days represent days during which some work was performed on a consignment. To give an indication of full time days per year devoted to minting I have estimated the equivalent number of full capacity days per year. As discussed above, we have seen full capacity work, as reflected in the eight day production run from January 1679, yielded an average production rate of 75 troy ounces per day. This level of production clearly did not require full time participation by all mint employees at all times, but it is the highest production rate documented in the Hull ledger and was probably the highest sustainable rate, thus I refer to that rate as full capacity. Sustained higher rates, such as 100 troy ounces per day, would require larger single melts. As larger melts are undocumented, they were probably beyond the capacity of the mint. Therefore, the number of full capacity days per year has been derived by taking the total ounces of sterling consigned to the mint per year and dividing that number by 75, assuming a 75 troy ounce per day production rate as full capacity. This reflects the number of days per year it would take to complete the entire year's consignments if the mint could have sustained full capacity work. Obviously, this rate could not be regularly attained, as it required 600 troy ounces of sterling to be available for each production run and presumably required most of the shop staff to be focused on mint production. However, this estimate gives some indication of the difference between the number of operational days used and the minimum number of days needed if the maximum amount of sterling that could be processed was available for each production run and most shop employees could focus on the mint consignment.
|Year||Quantity of sterling minted||Estimated number of shillings||Number of operational days||Equivalency in full capacity days at 75 troy oz. per day|
From this table it is clear that during the decade of the 1670's very little silver was brought to the mint for conversion into Pine Tree coinage. For the nine year period from October 18, 1671 through September 26, 1680 there were 930.16 troy pounds of sterling consigned to the mint that was transformed into approximately 74,777 shillings, if the entire production was in shillings. The period from October 18, 1671 through September 26, 1670 totals to approximately 2800 work days, excluding Sundays; during this period the mint was in production a total of 201 days or 7.178% of the time. However, production was not equally distributed over these years. In fact, most years had a very low annual mintage with almost two thirds of all coinage production concentrated in the two years 1677 and 1679. Interestingly, even in these higher production years the mint was in operation for only about 60 days per year. At six work days per week this is equivalent to a total of 10 weeks per year during which consignments were in production. The above production figures assume no new technological innovations occurred during the period, so that production rates from 1679 would be valid for earlier years in that decade. In other words, this assumes the shift from a rocker or roller press to a screw press had occurred before October of 1671.Silver shortages at the Massachusetts mint in the 1670's
Several contemporary sources indicate the 1670's was a period of reduced production with less silver brought into the mint than during previous decades. For example, the 1675 mint contract renewal documents from the General Court specifically addressed the need to consider ways of "Incouraging ... persons that haue bulljon, to bring the same to the mint" (Crosby, p. 81) and a proposal to the General Court from May 19, 1680, stated, "little of late yeares ... hath been coyned" (Crosby, pp. 109-111). Clearly, the production numbers from the 1670's in Hull's ledger support such statements. There are several reasons for this situation. In 1670 the West Indies island of Monserrat increased the value of the eight reales cob to 72d (6s), and other islands soon followed. As the eight reales was valued at 60d (5s) in Massachusetts Bay it was more profitable for individuals to export Spanish coins out of the Commonwealth rather than bring them to the mint. Clearly, this situation hurt the mint and from Hull's ledger we see far fewer coins were minted during the entire year of 1672 than had been produced in the last three months of 1671. On October 8, 1672 the Massachusetts Bay General Court passed a law raising the value of the eight reales to 72d (6s). This legislation took away the economic advantages of exporting Spanish silver and thus stopped the depletion of Spanish cobs from Massachusetts Bay. However, it did not help the mint as the legislation rated Spanish silver at just over 84d (7s) per troy ounce while Massachusetts silver was only 80d (6s8d) per troy ounce thus, one actually lost money when converting Spanish cobs into Massachusetts coinage! The situation was compounded by the hoarding of silver that occurred during the war against the Indian sachem known as King Philip (June 1675 - February 1677). Very little Massachusetts silver was produced through 1676, even after the mint fee was reduced in June of 1675. Indeed, from Hull's extant ledger we find from the first surviving entry, which dates to October of 1671, through the end of the war on February 12, 1677, there were only nine consignments of silver deposited in the mint and six of the nine consignments were personal consignments from Hull's inventory. During this five and a half year period customer deposits were reduced to a total of 690 troy ounces of sterling which was turned into an estimated £231 5s in Massachusetts coinage, while Hull deposited 2,109.5 troy ounces of sterling which produced an estimated £678 11s in Massachusetts coinage.
On April 20, 1677, about two months after King Philip's War ended, a larger consignment of silver was brought to the mint, but further consignments were not forthcoming. In order to attract more silver to the mint, in May of 1677 Hull reduced his mint fees to 12d per troy ounce of sterling, just two years after the June 1675 reduction. This second fee reduction worked temporarily, bringing in some additional consignments through August 29th. Overall, during 1677 customers deposited approximately 3,977 troy ounces of sterling that produced an estimated £1,332 11s in Massachusetts coinage. However, for the next fifteen months, from September of 1677 through November of 1678, no consignments were placed with the mint. In fact, there was probably no minting in 1678; the only silver consignment in that year was a small preliminary shipment of 159.75 troy ounces of sterling received on November 20th. The remaining 1,295.25 troy ounces of that consignment arrived in January of 1679, which was soon followed by an consignment from another customer for 400 troy ounces of sterling on February 24th; together the two consignments produced £567 1s in Massachusetts coinage. Additionally, two smaller consignments were placed during the year, one on April 11th for £95 19s and another on July 21st for £93 3s with one very small consignment on November 8th for £17 14s in Massachusetts coinage. Then there was a larger consignment for 770.5 troy ounces of sterling deposited on November 21st that produced £258 11s in coinage. This was followed by a nine month hiatus in new consignments. Clearly, Hull's inventory was very low during this period. Hull had not personally consigned any silver to the mint since June of 1676 and we see in the ledger that on May 6, 1679 he apparently was out of silver and needed to purchase 131.5 ounces of plate for £139 9s from his former apprentice, the silversmith Jeremiah Dummer. In 1680, with little inventory and no consignments Hull was forced to further reduce his fee to 6.6d per troy ounce, which brought in a consignment in August of 1680 for £436 3s in Massachusetts coinage. At this point the ledger ends.
In his testimony before the Committee of the Lords of Trade and Plantations on August 9, 1681, Lord Thomas Culpepper criticized the Massachusetts mint for requiring customers to wait an inordinate length of time for their silver to be turned into coins. Culpepper, who had served as Governor of Virginia and had visited Massachusetts Bay for about seven weeks from August 24 through about October 15 of 1680, suggested regulations be enacted requiring the mint to produce coinage "speedy" (Fortescue, Calendar 1681-1685, pp. 99-100). This is the only comment I have uncovered on what may be called the "turn around time" which reflects both the processing time and the time a consignment of sterling was backlogged at the mint.
Whether backlogged consignments had been a persistent problem is unknown. However, from the entries in Hull's surviving ledger we can glean some information on turn around time. We know the size of the various production runs for most consignments or installments and have been able to estimate the number of days each run was actually in production. Also, we have the date each consignment was deposited at the mint and the date on which the completed coins were delivered to the customer. The difference between the processing time and the length of time a consignment was in the mint represents the length of time the consignment sat in the shop, in a backlog, before it was processed.Turn around time from the consignments in Hull's ledger
In the mint consignments listed in Hull's ledger, which included both a deposit and a delivery date, there were a total of 6,908.5 troy ounces of sterling that remained at the mint for approximately 602 work days and produced an estimated 46,280 shillings, if the entire production was in shillings. Unfortunately four consignments, including the two largest consignments from this decade, documenting an additional 4,252.425 troy ounces of sterling that produced an estimated 28,506 shillings, did not list a delivery date and therefore a turn around time cannot be determined for those consignments (these are the consignments deposited on December 12, 1674; April 20-27, 1677; July 13, 1677 and May-August 1677).
In the following charts I have included the date of the consingment giving the month of the deposit and the month of the delivery, for the precise dates see the summary of the consignments above. Next, for comparing the size of the consignments, I have included the troy ounces of sterling deposited and an estimate of the number of shillings produced from the consignment. This is followed by the total number of work days the consignment was in the shop and was available for processing. This is based on a six day work week and does not include the day of deposit or the day of delivery. I then give the number of days each consignment was actually in production based the data found in the chart discussed above called, "On the number of days the mint actually processed coinage consignments." As the present discussion focuses on the length of time a consignment was at the mint, any time a partial installment for a consignment was in process has been counted as a day during which the consignment was in process. The number of days the consignment, or any installment of the consignment, was in production has been subtracted from the number of work days the consignment was in the shop to determine the number of work days the consignment was in the backlog. Thus, consignment backlog time represents the number of days when no work was being performed on any installment of the consignment. Further, I have calculated the percentage of time a consignment was in production based on the total number of work days the consignment was at the mint. Additionally, I have included the percentage of time a consignment languished in the mint backlog, based on the the total number of work days a consignment was at the mint. I rounded the production and backlog percentages to the nearest tenth of a percent. Generally, the period of backlog would precede the production period, for when a production run was completed the coins would be delivered to the customer. However, in a few cases larger consignments were divided into installments and initial installments may have been produced quickly while there might be some waiting period before the final installments. In the chart below I have averaged the entire consignment for larger consignments that had been divided into more than one installment, thus the backlog represents all of the non-production days from the time the silver was consigned to the mint to the time the final installment was delivered to the customer.
The consignments are arranged from those with the shortest periods of backlog to those with the longest backlogs. I have divided the data into two groups, the first group has the quicker turn around times for which the mint worked on the consignment at least 30% of the time the consignment was in the shop while in the second group the consignments were in production less than 30% of the time the consignments were at the mint.
|date of consignment||troy ounces||estimated number of shillings||number of work days the consignment was in the shop||days in production||days in backlog||percent of time in production||percent of time in backlog|
|Jan. - Feb. 1679||1,132.5||7,594||24||22||2||91.7%||8.3%|
|Feb. - March 1679||400||2,678||13||8||5||61.5%||38.5%|
|Aug. - Sept. 1680||1,306.25||8,723||46||21||25||45.7%||54.3%|
|Nov. - Dec. 1679||770.5||5,171||30||14||16||46.7%||53.3%|
|Oct. - Nov. 1671||528||3,543||22||8||14||36.4%||63.6%|
|June - July 1676||496.75||3,330||24||8||16||33.3%||66.6%|
|date of consignment||troy ounces||estimated number of shillings||number of work days the consignment was in the shop||days in production||days in backlog||percent of time in production||percent of time in backlog|
|June - July 1675||217||1,455||17||5||12||29.4%||70.6%|
|Jan. - Feb 1672||255.25||1,711||29||6||23||20.7%||79.3%|
|Oct. - Dec. 1671||208||1,394||33||5||28||15.15%||84.85%|
|Aug. - Oct. 1673||265||1,776||51||6||45||11.8%||88.2%|
|June - Aug. 1672||179.5||1,203||46||5||41||10.9%||89.1%|
|July - Oct. 1679||278||1,863||75||6||69||8%||92%|
|April - July 1679||286.5||1,919||94||8||86||8.5%||91.5%|
|Nov. 1678 - Feb. 1679||159.75||1,069||77||8||69||10.4%||89.6%|
The tables show larger consignments were processed more quickly than smaller consignments. The entries are organized by consignment, starting with the consignment having the highest percentage of time in production and therefore the lowest percentage of time in the backlog. However, although the tables were not arranged by consignment size, we see all the consignments above 300 troy ounces of sterling are found in the first table and all those consignments below 300 troy ounces of sterling are in the second table.
Totaling the consignments from the first table we arrive at a total of 5003.5 troy ounces of sterling that was in the shop for 170 work days and was used to produce an estimated 33,516 shillings, yielding a daily production average of 197.15s and an overall average turn around time for all the larger consignments combined, consisting of 88 days in production and 82 days in the backlog. This means, on average, larger consignments were in the production for 51.8% of the time they were at the mint and were backlogged for 48.2% of the work days they spent in the mint. Thus, on average, a larger consignment spent less than half of the time it was in the shop in a backlog. All the smaller consignments, under 300 troy ounces of silver, are found in the second table. Totaling the consignments from this second table we arrive at 1905 troy ounces of sterling that was in the shop for 432 work days and was used to produce an estimated 12,764 shillings, yielding a daily production average of 29.46s and an overall average turn around time for all the smaller consignments combined, consisting of 51 days in production and 381 days in the backlog. This means, on average, smaller consignments were in production 11.8% of the time they were in the mint and were backlogged for 88.2% of the work days they spent in the mint. From this evidence it is clear larger consignments were expedited.
If we look at the average daily production rate we see, on a per unit basis, the larger consignments, at an average of 197.15s per day, were produced about 6.69 times more promptly than small consignments, which only averaged 29.46s per day. As a point of comparison, a consignment from April of 1679 totaling 1,919 shillings was in the shop for 94 days of which it was in the backlog for 86 days. However, a few months later in November of 1679 a consignment totaling 5,171 shillings was completed in 30 days with only 16 days in the backlog. The November consignment appears to have been produced three times quicker, as it was completed in 30 days instead of 94, but when we allow for the fact that it was over 2.5 times larger than the April consignment we see, on a per unit basis, the turn around time was over 7.5 times quicker. Clearly, when a larger consignment was deposited at the mint Hull and Sanderson would give it special attention but smaller consignments would remain at the shop unprocessed for longer periods. Most likely it was hoped additional small consignments or a large consignment would arrive before the partners would need to turn their attention back to minting.
Unfortunately, the consignments from 1677 are not represented in the above tables. On February 12, 1677 the war against the Indian sachem known as King Philip was concluded. During the conflict very little silver had been consigned to the mint but once a treaty was signed larger quantities of silver were deposited; in fact the quantities were even larger than the consignments from the years preceding the outbreak of hostilities. In 1677 Hull recorded the quantity of silver deposited at the mint but he did not record completion dates for the consignments. Between April 20 and August 29, 1677 Hull listed three deposits totaling 3976.925 troy ounces of sterling that I have estimated to have yielded about 26,651 shillings. Clearly, 1677 was a time of increased production.The turn around time for consignments during Lord Culpepper's stay in Boston
Based on the entries in Hull's ledger the only consignment for coinage during the period of Culpepper's visit was the consignment of August 3-4, 1680 for coinage from 1306.75 ounces of sterling. This consignment was delivered in three installments at what would be considered an average rate for a large consignment. It was at the mint for 46 days during which it was in production for 20.2 days (44% of the time). Thus, in relation to other large consignments at the Massachusetts Bay mint it was not delayed and in relation to small consignments it was processed rather quickly. In an account of a consignment of silver at the London mint from 1622, we learn Gerard Malynes deposited an unspecified quantity of silver at the mint and was able to return the next week to receive his coinage (Malynes, p. 286). By the 1660's the London mint was purchasing silver rather than accepting consignments, but it is possible Culpepper was measuring the Massachusetts Bay mint against the efficiency of the much larger early Stuart London mint, rather than analyzing how quickly orders were being processed at the time he was in Boston relative to other production rates achieved at the Massachusetts mint.
I assume the August 3-4, 1680 consignment was not placed by or for Culpepper, as he did not arrive in Boston until August 24th, but it may have been placed by a friend or an associate who complained to Culpepper about the wait. Of course, it is possible Culpepper's comments may have been anecdotal, based on complaints from others about past waiting periods rather than based on a personal experience or a contemporaneous event. Indeed, Culpepper mentioned the Massachusetts mint fee was 6%. Actually, based on the negotiations of the June 3, 1675 mint contract renewal, the total mint fees came to 6.25%, assuming the maximum wastage allowance. However, from Hull's ledger we know the mint fees had been reduced in 1677 by private agreement with the customers to approximately 5% and were further lowered to about 2.5% in 1680. That Culpepper used 6% suggests he was referring to consignments placed before 1677 or that he was simply repeating stories he had heard and assumed the mint fee was unchanged.
Every production run started with the melting of sterling silver. At the London mint a large iron crucible or pot holding 800 troy pounds of silver was placed in a very large, specially constructed, furnace over a wood charcoal fire. The furnace was heated with a bellows to about 2,000°F in order to melt the silver. At these high temperatures the iron crucibles, which were two to three inches thick, would last for approximately 120 melts, during which time they would shrink in capacity by 15% or more. The first melt of the day took five hours, while the second melt took only four. If necessary, the mint could work overtime and produce a third melt. It was observed that one should use as small a crucible as possible as the larger the crucible the more copper was lost during the melt. The melted silver was assayed and then, if necessary, adjusted to sterling fineness. Once the mixture was confirmed to be molten sterling it was removed from the pot using a ladle that looked like a large iron skillet affixed to a six foot long wooden stick handle. This molten sterling was poured through a funnel into wet sand molds where the sterling was shaped into thin strips. A melt of 800 troy pounds could be extracted from the crucible and poured into the molds within twenty minutes (Craig, p. 161).The estimated size of a melt at the Massachusetts Bay mint
Some insights on the size of a melt at Massachusetts Bay can be gained from the production information in the Hull ledger. As discussed above, the consignment of 1,132.5 troy ounces of sterling from January of 1679 suggests the preferred size of a melt was 25 troy pounds (that is, 300 troy ounces). I suspect this means the capacity of the mint furnace was 25 troy pounds of silver. This probably meant the maximum size crucible the furnace could accommodate was one that held 25 troy pounds of silver. It is possible the crucibles were smaller and two or more were put into the furnace at one time, but it is more likely one larger crucible was used, as that would save time if any refining of the melt was needed. In any event it appears the capacity of the furnace was 25 troy pounds of silver.
The maximum production rate recorded in the Hull ledger was the concurrent production of two melts of 25 troy pounds, which together took a total of the eight days to complete. One melt of 25 pounds was started immediately upon arrival of the consignment and a few days later, presumably once the molds were available again, a second melt was performed so that for four of the eight day production period two melts were being processed simultaneously. When these two melts were completed the mint immediately started a third melt of 25 pounds. Clearly, the mint was trying to maximize production and elected to produce three full melts as quickly as possible. The installments from this consignment demonstrate the Massachusetts Bay mint was either limited to or preferred to do a melt of 25 troy pounds of sterling (that is, 300 troy ounces). For maximum productivity they performed what might be called a staggered double melt with a weight limit for the combined two melts of a total of 50 troy pounds of sterling (that is, 600 troy ounces).
Interestingly, when we look at the turn around time for all the consignments listed in the Hull ledger, we find all consignments above 25 troy pounds were expedited. In fact, five of the seven consignments over 25 troy pounds were backlogged less than 53% of the time they were at the mint. The only exceptions were two consignments personally placed by Hull, one of which was placed in 1671 for 528.5 troy ounces and the other placed in 1676 for 496.75 troy ounces of sterling which were backlogged 63.6% and 66.6% of the time they were in the mint. Yet even these consignments were produced at a faster rate than any consignment below 25 troy pounds. The most responsive production rates among the smaller consignments under 25 troy pounds, are from two consignments personally placed by Hull, one in 1675 for 217 troy ounces and another in 1672 for 255.5 troy ounces of sterling of sterling; they were backlogged 70.6% and 79.4% of the time they were at the mint. The seven additional smaller consignments were backlogged for an average of 85% to 90% of the time they were at the mint. This suggests a production run under 25 troy pounds was not considered efficient. It seems quantities of sterling under 25 troy pounds were put aside in the hope more silver would arrive so a more productive full melt could be performed.
The preference for the single melt of 25 troy pounds or the double melt of 50 troy pounds also holds up when looking at actual production runs. When possible, an entire consignment would be processed in a single production run, but larger consignments had to be divided into installments. What could be considered the largest single installment was the double run of what were actually two installments of 25 troy pounds each from the January 1679 consignment. It is only because Hull needed to deliver coins to the customer as quickly as possible that he treated this production run as two consignments. It is also because of this fortunate situation that we can discover how these larger installments were handled. If Hull had not needed to deliver the consignment as quickly as possible he would certainly have documented a single installment of 600 troy ounces that was delivered at the end of the eight day production run and we would not have known how the run was produced.
Unfortunately, Hull did not include the production runs for the 1677 consignments in his ledger, but he did detail the individual production runs for most other consignments, listing specific production runs in the following quantities of troy ounces of sterling: 547.25, 538.75, 528.5, 496.75, 445, 400, 392.25, 369.5, 325.5, 300, 300, [these two are the double installment], 300, 278, 275.5, 265, 255.25, 220.75, 217, 208, 190.5, 179.5, 96 and 56. All of the larger production runs, at least those down to about 400 ounces, were probably consecutive double melts as was done in the production run for the 600 troy ounces processed in January of 1679. It is possible the two production runs of 369.5 and 325.5 troy ounces of sterling were also double melts, consisting of a larger melt of 25 troy pounds (that is, 300 troy ounces) and a much smaller ancillary second melt of 69.5 and 25.5 ounces respectively, which were probably undertaken while the larger first melts were still in production. There is evidence from other consignments that Hull sometimes melted small quantities of silver in this weight range, however, there is no evidence as to how these two consignments were specifically handled other than Hull listed them as if they were each were processed as a single production run. The smaller melts listed above, that are below 300 troy ounces, represent the full amounts of the smaller consignments except for the melt of 220.27 ounces. This was an installment from the August 1680 consignment. The August 1680 consignment was produced in three installments of 538.75, 220.75 and 547.25 troy ounces. The smaller 220.75 installment was produced immediately after the completion of the 538.75 installment, but then production stopped for at least two weeks before the final 538.75 installment was put into production. The sizes of these three installments were the same as the size of the three shipments sent to the mint that comprised this consignment. By rearranging the sizes of the installments Hull would not have gained any advantage, as he would still need to perform two double melts and a single melt, so he retained the units as they had been consigned to the mint.
The two very small production runs of 96 and 56 troy ounces also need some explanation. The 96 troy ounces was a preliminary installment from a consignment of 286.5 troy ounces and was delivered to the customer before the second installment consisting of the remainder of the consignment. This was an unusual occurrence and probably represented a mint customer who quickly needed some coins (the 96 ounces produced £32 2s or 642s). The consignment of 56 troy ounces was also anomalous, in that this was the smallest consignment accepted by the mint, the next smallest consignment was over three times a large, it was a consignment for 179.5 troy ounces and was a personal consignment placed by Hull in 1672.
Based on the production runs listed by Hull and the turn around times calculated in the previous section, we see, when possible, the mint would put through an individual run consisting of up to 600 troy ounces of sterling. I suspect these larger quantities were produced as a double melt production run. When there were only smaller amounts of sterling available it seems the mint would expedite consignments in the range of 300 troy ounces. I suspect these consignments represented a full single melt. Smaller consignments were backlogged for longer periods in the hope more sterling would become available so a more efficient full or double melt could be performed. Of course, if no additional silver came into the mint within a few months Hull would need to satisfy the waiting client and process the smaller consignment. Additionally, the mint occasionally performed very small melts of under 100 troy ounces upon request.
We do not know the various sizes of crucibles or pots that were available at the mint. In his ledger Hull noted in his account for the shop that on July 17, 1675 he purchased twelve iron pots and three pounds of "small" wire for £5 6d. Unfortunately, Hull did not specify the size (or sizes) of the pots, nor did he state how the pots were to be used by the shop and the mint. The melting pots used in the furnace were probably made of cast iron and would need to be quite thick, like the melting pots used in London, as the furnace temperatures were so high. From the mint production evidence in his ledger, it appears the furnace at the Massachusetts mint would accommodate a melting pot that held up to 25 troy pounds of sterling (that is, 300 troy ounces). The mint may also have had some smaller pots available for smaller melts. It seems a single melting session at the Massachusetts mint in the 1670's consisted of up to 25 troy pounds of sterling with a double melt producing up to 50 troy pounds. Thus, a Massachusetts melt was only 3.125% of a contemporary London melt of 800 troy pounds. However, by performing a double melt the Massachusetts mint could maximize its production capacity, as two 25 pound melts could be processed in eight days instead of performing two independent 25 pound melts that would take six days each to process. Whenever the opportunity arose the mint tried to process sterling in production runs that were as close to 50 troy pounds of sterling as possible. However, even at the full 50 troy pounds, a Massachusetts production run was only 7.5% of a London production run.The disposition of odd lots
Interestingly, almost all the consignments listed in Hull's ledger, including the smaller consignments, consisted of sizable quantities of sterling that contemporaries would have considered to have been of significant value. Very rarely are there consignments under 200 troy ounces, or, to state this in monetary terms, the minimum acceptable consignment was about £70 in Massachusetts silver. There were a few exceptions in the 160 - 180 troy ounces range, but only one consignment was substantially smaller, a consignment equal to 56 troy ounces of sterling, having a monetary value of £18 14s. Based on these figures Phil Mossman has asked the question as to whether Hull accepted small consignments of under 50 ounces. There is no direct evidence in Hull's ledger concerning his acceptance of small odd lots of silver. However, there were at least six consignments in the ledger that were probably deposited by Hull, these were the 528.5 troy ounces deposited on October 18, 1671; the 255.25 troy ounces deposited on January 2, 1672, the 179.5 troy ounces deposited on June 29, 1672; the 275.5 troy ounces deposited on December 2, 1674; the 369.5 troy ounces deposited on May 8, 1675 and the 496.75 troy ounces deposited on June 14, 1676. It is quite likely these consignments represented sterling in Hull's inventory. Apparently, when an individual came into the mint with a small odd lot of sterling Hull immediately paid the person for the silver. As to what value Hull may have given the customer is unknown, he may have offered the same rate as was offered for larger consignments or he may have offered a somewhat reduced price, as the individual would not need to wait to receive payment. Because the customer was paid immediately no receipt would be issued, and since there was nothing due back to the customer at a future date, Hull would not have included such transactions in his ledger. Hull would probably simply pay the individual from cash on hand and add any small lots he acquired to his stock. However, when his stock became sizeable it appears Hull would convert it to coinage and reap his profit (depending on what he had paid for the silver), as well as benefiting from his mint fee and any extra income from coinage over 80d per ounce.
The blacksmith Robert Hull seems to have encouraged his children to enter the goldsmith profession. As previously mentioned, Robert Hull married Elizabeth, the widow of Paul Storer. At the time of the marriage, Elizabeth had a young son named Richard, who became Robert's stepson. When John was a child of about four and a half years old, Robert Hull encouraged his stepson Richard to apprentice as a goldsmith. In the records of the London goldsmith guild on July 21, 1629 it stated,
"I Richard Storer, the son of Paul Storer of Harborrow in the County of Leicester (deceased) Barber do put myself apprentice unto James Fearne of London Goldsmith for the term of ten years to begin at the Feast day of the Nativity of St. John Baptist last past." [that is, June 24, 1629] (Clarke, Hull, p. 30, footnote 2)Clearly, Richard was able to complete no more than six years of his apprenticeship, as the family left England for Boston on September 28, 1635. At the time of their departure John Hull was ten years old and had not entered any profession. According to John Hull's postdated diary entries describing the family's early years in Boston, John mentioned he had briefly attended school and then spent seven years assisting his father in planting corn on the family acreage at Muddy River and learning the trade of a goldsmith from his stepbrother Richard Storer. Hull stated:
"After we arrived here, my father settled at Boston; and, after a little keeping at school, I was taken from school to help my father plant corn, which I attended for seven years together; and then by God's good hand, I fell to learning (by the help of my brother), and to practising the trade of a goldsmith, and, through God's help, obtained that ability in it, as I was able to get my living by it." (Hull, Private Diary, p. 142, a transcription more accurately reflecting Hull's original spelling and capitalization is found in Clarke, Hull, pp. 26 and 30)
When the Hull family arrived in Boston on November 7, 1635, John was about a month away from his eleventh birthday (Hull stated he was born "in the year 1624, about December 18." Hull, Private Diary, p. 141). As discussed above, Robert Hull received his allotment of farm land on December 12, 1636. Therefore, it is likely John Hull began attending school in late 1635 or early 1636 soon after the family arrived in Boston and remained in school until early in the spring of 1637 when the family had their first opportunity to begin clearing their newly acquired farmland and planting their first crop. This would have afforded John the opportunity to attend school from the time he turned eleven until a little beyond his twelfth birthday. Probably by March or April of 1637 John left school to assist the family with clearing the land and planting as well as beginning to learn his trade. As mentioned above, Richard Storer appears to have married and moved to Braintree by November or December of 1639, just as John was turning fifteen years old. Thus, John had no more than three years, at the most, to learn goldsmithing on a regular basis with his stepbrother. Presumably, from January of 1640 and for the next few years, Storer resided in Braintree (then called the Mount) and possibly was able to continue to instruct John on occasion. We do not know how long Richard Storer remained in Braintree. All we can say with certainty is that in the December 15, 1646 promissory deed from Robert Hull to his son John, it stated Richard Storer had sold his Braintree holdings to his stepfather. It is presumed that Storer returned to England following the sale of his Braintree homestead (some years later John Hull's English cousin Edward Hull wrote to John that he had been unable to persuade Richard to return to America, see Clarke, Hull, pp. 30-31). Storer's departure may have occurred soon after the death of his mother on May 7, 1646 or he could have left a few years earlier. Storer seems to have spent at least a few years on the Braintree allotment, for at some point after receiving his initial twelve acres allocation on November 25, 1639, he acquired nine additional acres. It seems Storer sold his acreage and departed the area sometime between the time John was around the age of eighteen and twenty one (that is, between about 1642 and December 15, 1646).
Once Storer left Braintree, John had to rely on the assistance of his father, a blacksmith, for any further instruction. The only other local inhabitant with training as a goldsmith was John Mansfield of Charlestown who had apprenticed in London before immigrating to Boston in 1634. However, as discussed below, there is no evidence Mansfield practiced the goldsmith trade in America, as no documents mention him as a goldsmith nor can any work be attributed to him. Further, Hull did not mention Mansfield in his diary nor is there any evidence Hull apprenticed with him. Once Robert Sanderson moved to Boston in the late 1640's it is possible Hull may have had an association with him. There is no doubt they knew each other as Sanderson was a deacon at Hull's church (Hull became a member of the First Church of Boston on October 15, 1648). Further, when Hull wrote about the founding of the mint in his private diary he referred to Sanderson as his friend, implying their friendship predated the mint partnership.Hull and Sanderson as goldsmiths
In his informative biography of John Hull, Hermann Clarke has suggested Hull began practicing the silversmith trade about 1644 or 1645, when he was about 19 or 20 years old; that is, about the same time his stepbrother moved away and about two years before he married Judith Quincy (Clarke, Hull, pp. 30 and 114). We do not know when Hull started business dealings but it may have predated 1650, as we have documents regarding a bill of exchange from that year which could be interpreted as showing Hull to be active in business. On April 17, 1650, John Parris of London drew a bill of exchange for £20 to be paid to John Hull [Thomas Parris was John's uncle and became his London agent; John Parris is thought to have been a relation to Thomas]. When Hull received the bill he directed it to the sea Captain James Cranedg of London, who regularly traveled from England to the colonies. Hull requested that Cranedg pay the £20 to Hull's cousin in London, Daniel Hoare. When the bill was presented at Cranedg's house Captain Cranedg was at sea and his wife refused to pay, resulting in a formal written protest by the notary Hoare hired to collect the funds. The final disposition of this affair is unrecorded. Hull is also mentioned in another bill of exchange from this period. In a document dated March 26, 1651 from Barbados, John Allen of Charlestown, who was Commander of the ship William and George promised to pay "John Hull gould smith of Boston in New England,... thirty pounds sterling in good & lawfull moneys of England." The document stated Hull had the option of accepting the funds within ten days of the arrival of the ship in Boston or he could assign the money to someone in London. The subscriptions show Hull requested the funds be paid to "Tymothy Proute" and that Allan promised to satisfy the debt within thirty days after the arrival of his ship in London (Clarke, Hull, p. 45 and Whitmore, Aspenwall, pp. 336-338 and 381-382; Clarke dates the second document to 1652, but as the British new year began on March 25th, the year as given on the document of "the 26th of March 1651" is probably correct). The precise nature of these payments cannot be determined but it is possible among Hull's pursuits was some goldsmith work as Captain Allan referred to Hull as a goldsmith. Clarke has suggested one fairly simple silver cup from the First Church in Boston that bears only Hull's identification mark stamped on it may predate the Hull and Sanderson partnership. All of the twenty eight other surviving objects with Hull's mark, also contain the mark of Robert Sanderson and are considered to date to the period of their partnership which is generally assumed to have commenced with the coining venture. Thus, this one cup, lacking the Sanderson mark, is considered to be before the inception of the June 1652 coining partnership (Clarke, Hull, pp. 115-116).
Whereas there is one item by Hull thought to predate the partnership, four intricate silver pieces (three caudle cups and a tankard) survive with only the stamp of Robert Sanderson. These four items are thought to date to after the partnership ended (Clarke, Hull, p. 126). Clarke suspected Hull was the first person to practice the silversmith trade and as such was, "one of the prime movers in the establishment of the mint," while Clarke felt that Sanderson, a fully trained goldsmith, was the more skilled craftsman and took the more active role in the daily operation of the partnership, both in the mint and in the silversmith shop and continued practicing the trade after the partnership ended (Clarke, Hull, pp. 67 and 114).Hull as a soldier, politician and entrepreneur
In addition to his silversmith and mint businesses, Hull participated in several other activities throughout his career. Hull joined the militia as a corporal in 1648, rising to a sergeant on June 28, 1652, just eight days after the mint committee had taken action to erect a mint house. Hull was commissioned as an ensign in 1655 and became recorder for the military company in 1656. In 1660 Hull was admitted into the prestigious artillery company, where he was promoted to ensign in 1663, lieutenant in 1664 and held the rank of captain from 1671 until his retirement in 1678.
Hull also held numerous political positions. He was elected as one of the seven Selectmen for Boston from 1657-1663, except for 1662, which he spent in England as an advisor to the two agents sent to defend the rights and privileges of Massachusetts Bay. During three of his terms as selectman (1658, 1661 and 1663) Hull was also appointed treasurer for Boston. In 1668 he accepted the position as the representative for Wenham in the House of Deputies, which was the lower house of the General Court and from 1671-1674 he held the same position for the town of Westfield. In 1675 Hull was appointed as a member of the committee for the war against King Philip and was named treasurer for the war. In May of 1676 he was appointed Treasurer of Massachusetts Bay and held that post until May of 1680; during this period he also held the seat in the House of Deputies from Concord in 1676 and the seat from Salisbury in 1679-1680. In May of 1680 Hull was chosen as one of the eighteen Assistants, sitting in the upper house, the House of Magistrates. He continued in that position until his death. On September 6, 1683 he attended his last meeting, a preparatory meeting before the fall session of the General Court. Hull became too sick to return and died on October 1st, nine days later the fall session of the General Court was called to order.
Hull was also an entrepreneur involved in several major ventures. He was a partner in numerous shipping ventures, as early as November of 1653 Hull mentioned in his diary that two ships were seized by the Dutch in which he lost £120 value in beavers and other furs bound for London (Hull, Private Diary, p. 156 and Clarke, Hull, p. 45). Hull avidly acquired real estate as well as investing in speculative land deals. In addition to his Boston holdings on Cotton and Copp's Hills, Hull owned about 500 acres in Braintree, some 300 acres in Brookline and about 1,000 acres in Boxford and some 1,150 acres in Wilmington as well as holding interests in a lumber mill in New Hampshire (on the Piscataqua River at Salmon Falls) and a horse raising venture in Rhode Island (at South Kingston). Hull also participated in an unsuccessful mining operation and was in a partnership that purchased warehouses and a wharf in Boston. Further, Hull exported and imported commodities on some fifteen different vessels and was a merchant of hats, shoes, rugs, cloth and numerous other commodities using his uncle Thomas Parris and then his cousin Edward Hull as his agents in London. In his surviving personal ledger from the 1670's Hull lists ongoing accounts with well over three hundred individuals and several business partnerships. (Clarke, Hull, pp. 71, 76, 85-92, 102-110, 164-165, 170, 176 and 185; Noe, Silver, p. 145 [which is his, The Pine Tree Coinage, p. 3]; Hull, Diary, Memoir, see pp. 121-129 and Hull's ledger as discussed above). Due to these numerous military, political and business commitments, as well as the higher quality of Sanderson's attributable silver, Clarke suspected Hull's major contributions to both the silversmith and the coining partnerships were primarily political and financial while Sanderson was the more skilled craftsman.Conclusions
It is clear Robert Sanderson had a major role in the silversmith shop and mint, indeed he certainly ran the operation while Hull was away in England from February through September of 1662 and again from November 1669 through August 1670. Sanderson was also responsible for the operation while Hull was diverted with his numerous other duties and commitments. However, Hull did call himself a goldsmith (the term contemporaries used for both goldsmithing and silversmithing) and he took on apprentices. In fact, the most accomplished Boston silversmith of the next generation, Jeremiah Dummer, apprenticed with Hull and became his lifelong friend. It is also clear Hull kept the account books for the business. Certainly Hull was quite involved in the daily operations, but it does appear Sanderson had a significant and growing role in the business. As early as the initial oath ceremony from the summer of 1652 it was stated that Hull and Sanderson were to be equal officers in the mint, "...the Oath here under written shall be the oath that John Hull and Robt Saunderson shall take as aequall officers In the minting of mony..." (Crosby, p. 41). However, the mint was on Hull's property and Hull was regularly named first, the business was generally referred to as the partnership of Hull and Sanderson. But, by the final contract renewal of June 1675 Sanderson preceded Hull; the text stated "That the former masters of the mint, vizt, Robert Saunderson & John Hull, doe Continue to mint what Siluer bulljon shall Come in..." (Crosby, pp. 82-83).
We have no document explaining the role of each partner in the production of coinage. It seems quite likely both partners performed assays and refined silver to the sterling standard. It is also probable they both produced or supervised the production of the silver strips that were fed into the roller press and, in the later period, were cut into blank planchets from which the coins were made. In the Massachusetts Bay mint the fineness of the silver and coin weight were critical to the solvency of the operation, any over calculation would reduce the profit margin. Skill and precision in refining silver and in regulating coin weight (and in regulating planchet production during the screw press era) directly impacted mint profits, thus it is likely the partners would have performed these critical operations themselves or, if apprentices participated in these functions they would be closely supervised. It is also likely the partners engraved the images onto the steel cylinders called die blanks to create the dies. These were the most time consuming operations and required the greatest skill. Quite likely both Hull and Sanderson were proficient in all of these operations; as to which one was more skilled in each job is a matter of conjecture. However, it is clear that Hull spent more time away from the shop than Sanderson and it appears that over time Sanderson became the more proficient partner in making elaborate silver objects. Interestingly, the task most often associate with the mint, that of stamping the final coin, was the noisiest and least important part of the process. I suspect the actual stamping of the coins may have regularly been performed by assistants or apprentices. Also, as mentioned above in the section on the references to the mint, based on the wording in the contract renewals it seems possible the actual stamping of the coins was performed in a nearby storage building rather than in the shop. It is also possible for the earlier varieties, made on a roller or rocker press, that the apprentices cut the finished coins out of the silver strips and trimmed them down to the authorized weight, but this process would have been closely supervised as miscalculations could be costly.
In addition to Deacon Robert Sanderson, one other individual in the Boston area had trained in the goldsmith profession, namely, John Mansfield of Charlestown. Mansfield immigrated to Massachusetts Bay in 1634 at the age of 33. References to him are sparce. He was listed as a witness to the Suffolk County will of Jonathan Waymouth, dated November 19, 1639 (The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, vol. 2 (1848), p. 261). He was also listed as taking the oath of a freeman on May 10, 1643 (Shurtleff, vol. 2, p. 293, column 2).
As mentioned above, in the section on contemporary references to the mint house, it seems likely that by 1654 the mint had obtained some type of coining press and was seeking to hire a trained diecutter. Indeed, based on the work of Michael Hodder and Richard Doty it seems likely the first press was some type of roller or rocker press rather than a screw press. Clearly, the process of cutting dies on steel roller or rocker die blanks, with a curved surface, was more challenging than engraving images on the flat surface of a screw press die blank. We know Joseph Jenks of Hammersmith wrote to John Hull's brother in London in 1654 asking him if there was an experienced diecutter available who would be willing to move to Boston. At that time Mansfield was in serious financial difficulties and apparently heard the mint was looking for an experienced diecutter. Being desperate for employment the 53 years old Mansfield begged the General Court to allow him to be employed in the government coining operation run by Hull. His petition to the General Court requested that they, "take into considderation the poore Estate of John Mansfield, of charlestoune." His plight had been brought to the attention of an earlier General Court that ordered the family to be put on relief. However, Mansfield protested as he discovered the family could not obtain relief,
"unlesse wee part with our Children ... which Children, being young, will pine away, to the greate hassordinge of there lives, if wee should give them away; besides, they are the greatest comfortt in this world, and doe learne there bookes & thrive better with us, & are soe loveing to us, & wee to them, that wee can not till [tell] how to part One from other. And I, for my part, do verryly beleeife my wife would runne quite Madd if anny of them should be taken from hir [her]."Mansfield then asked for some assistance and that he be allowed to work at the mint as an employee of the Commonwealth (or as he stated, a servant of the country) since he had eleven and a half years experience as a goldsmith apprentice and had sworn the oath of allegiance to Massachusetts Bay,
"And alsoe your poore humble petitioner most humbly desires your worshipps would be pleased to graunt me to be the Country searvantt for helping to quine [coin] & melt & fine silver with mr. Hull & good man Saundres, in the country howse withe them, for I served 11 yeares & 1/2 prentiz [apprenticed] to the same arte, & am a free man of London, and am also sworne to be trew to the Country, as I hoope I shall, which, if soe greate a favor be now graunted me, your poore Supplicants, my selfe, my wife, & Children, shall have Cause Ever after to pray for your Worshipps' health, peace, & prosperitie heare in this life & everlast reward with God above."He then continued,
"our howse do take fire manny times because it wants mendings, is like to fall uppon our headds before we be awarr, & wee are not able to mend it; but it is great want of foode & other nessessaries both for ourselves & Children, my selfe broaken bellied, my Wife much troubled in hir Mind because of som Wrongs & to see how hard it is with us and how wee run our selves in debt & all for the belly, and No worke stirring; nor are wee respected heare [here] because we are soe poore & can not have imployment in our callings; & we have both ben Wronged both in our Estats & good Name, & noe healpe [help] as yet, but patiently abide the Lord's pleasure. Your poore petitioners, John Mansfeilld, & Mary Mansfeilld his wife." (full text in Crosby, pp. 103-104)
There is no evidence Mansfield ever worked at the mint as he was not mentioned in Hull's diary, ledger or letters nor was he mentioned in any documents from the mint; it appear this petition was rejected. Apparently Hull did not believe Mansfield had the required diecutting skills and concluded it would be more economical for the two partners to assume the diecutting duties. Interestingly, Mansfield did not apply directly to Hull for a position, or if he did so, his request had been denied. Rather, Mansfield hoped the Commonwealth would appoint him as a mint employee. However, the mint had not been set up as a government operation but rather was subcontracted to Hull, a distinction Mansfield may have not understood. Further, Mansfield stated he had eleven and a half years experience as an apprentice, which was somewhat longer that the usual eight to ten years for a London apprenticeship, but he did not specify that he had ever practiced the trade after his apprenticeship. Based on the desperation of his plea one would suppose he would have included any relevant experience in the profession as a craftsman or master. As Mansfield had been born in 1601 his apprenticeship had to have ended ca. 1625, some thirty years before he made his petition.
Based on the surviving evidence it appears John Mansfield did not work as a silversmith. However, it does seem his family became financially solvent and saw better times. On December 5, 1655 John Grove of Charlestown promised to pay his brother Edward Grove 50s in full payment of a debt due to his brother from his father-in-law John Mansfield and that "neither he nor I will ever trouble my father and mother for any more debts or house from the beginning of the world to this same day" (The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, vol. 19 (1865), p. 73). On November 15, 1656 a son was born to John and Mary Mansfield which they named John (The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, vol. 13 (1859), p. 214). This John Mansfield later moved to Saugus (then called Lynn) where his family prospered. On January 2, 1660 we find in the will of Joseph Farnworth of Dorchester that £18 5s was left to his daughter Elizabeth, wife of John Mansfield (The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, vol. 9 (1855), p. 140). Finally, we see the family was prospering soon thereafter, for in a document of July 26, 1662 John Mansfield purchased some land in Charlestown from Peter Nash (A Report of the Record Commissioners; Containing Charlestown Land Records, 1638-1802, 2nd edition, Rockwell and Churchill, City printers: Boston, 1883, p. 159).
Although Hull and Sanderson were trained silversmiths and presumably skilled engravers, we do not know if they made their own steel punches and die blanks. Clearly, when the mint opened in 1652 there were few people in Massachusetts Bay that had the skill to make hardened steel punches and die blanks. The most logical place to look for such skilled labor was to the master ironsmith at the only iron foundry in the colonies. That was Joseph Jenks (sometimes spelled Jynks or Jencks) who worked at the iron foundry in Hammersmith, which is now Saugus, Massachusetts (see Hartley, pp. 126, 184 and 208-210 and Kenny, p. 13).
Joseph was the son of John Jenks, a cutler, and John's second wife, Sara Fulwater, the daughter of a German family that had moved to England. On November 5, 1627, Joseph Jenks married Jone Hearne. In October of 1628 their first child, John Jr. was born and soon the family moved to Isleworth, Middlesex where Jenks gained employment as a swordmaker at the steel factory of Benjamin Stone in Hounslow, Middelsex. Stone had imported several German master swordmakers to help build his business. Jenks was adept at his trade and became one of only two Englishmen that were able to rival the German craftsmen in producing steel blades. In fact, an example of his work from this period still survives, a 38 inch broadsword signed "Ioseph Ienckes." In 1635 his wife died and three years later his daughter Elizabeth died. Soon thereafter, during the summer of 1639, Jenks left Middlesex with his son for Northumberland. By 1641 the two had immigrated to Maine where Jenks operated a blacksmith shop on the Agamentticus River (Carlson, pp. 2-5). By 1646, Jenks was in Boston, where on May 10th he petitioned the General Court for a fourteen year monopoly, "to Build a Mill for making of Sithes; and alsoe a new Invented Saw Mill, and divers other Engines for making of divers sorts of edge tooles;"(Carlson, Appendix B, pp. [21-23]). On June 5th the General Court stated they had been "sufficiently informed of the ability of the Petitioner to perform such workes" and granted his petition (Shurtleff, vol. 2, p. 149 and vol. 3, p. 65). By December of 1647 Jenks was living in Saugus, the site of the Hammersmith iron foundry.
The Hammersmith foundry operated the only blast furnace in Massachusetts Bay and regularly produced both cast iron items such as pots, anvils and various tools as well as wrought iron bars for the colony. The furnace was a massive granite lined pit that was 21 feet deep with walls that were two feet thick. The top opening was about 30 inches in diameter, it gradually expanded out to six feet near the center of the furnace and then tapered back down to about 30 inches at the bottom; it had a capacity of 340 cubic feet of material. The furnace was located near the side of a slope. From the upper area at the top of the slope day laborers loaded the furnace with wheelbarrows full of charcoal, iron ore and flux. Bog iron ore (limonite) was available locally and gabbro, transported about five miles by sea from Nahant, was used in place of limestone as the flux. A fully charged furnace held 265 bushels of charcoal, three tons of iron ore and two tons of gabbro. The materials were alternately loaded into the furnace in measured units or layers of charcoal, iron ore and gabbro with each grouping represented about a twelve hour melt. A full furnace would contain six groupings of three layers per grouping that was tapped at twelve hour intervals. A full load would last for three days but the furnace was continually kept full so that it ran day and night with out stop, except when the water froze during the winter or when the furnace needed repairs.
At the base of the furnace was a large wooden shed. The shed protected the furnace, the workers and the iron from rain and also housed two massive eighteen foot bellows. These bellows were operated by a water wheel attached to a cam shaft which pushed the arm of the bellows up, while a box of stone weights attached to the top of the arm forced the bellows arm back down expelling the air into the fire. The two bellows were in alternate positions so one bellows was always blowing the fire in the furnace. The furnace regularly held a temperature of 3,000°F, hot enough to melt iron, which has a melting point of 1,538°C or 2,800°F. Every twelve hours the slag was raked off the top of the molten iron and then a clay plug was broken allowing the molten iron to flow out of the furnace into V shaped furrows that had been made in the sand floor. This iron was cast iron, sometimes called pig iron, because the main furrow was said to be a sow and the tributary or offshoot furrows were said to represent suckling pigs. A main sow iron bar was about four to five feet long, about six inches deep and about nine inches across at the top of the V, while a pig was about four feet long and about five inches wide at the top. Both sows and pigs weighed several hundred pounds. In addition to these bars some molten cast iron was ladled out of the furnace and poured directly into molds to produce pots, tools and other items.
Cast or pig iron is an alloy containing more than 1.5% carbon and is somewhat brittle, shortening the life of cast items. For example, the 500 pound hammer heads used at the ironworks forge were made of cast iron but needed to be replaced about six times a year. Large or intricate items had to be cast, but smaller, plain items like horseshoes and hinges could be shaped from more durable iron bars that had been refined. The refined iron was produced from cast iron bars in a nearby building called a finery. In one half of the finery building were two open hearth furnaces, each of which had a set of two seven foot bellows operated by a water wheel. The cast iron sows and pigs were fed into the open hearths and reheated until the iron was malleable. This refining process burned off much of the carbon producing wrought iron, which contains less that .5% carbon and is much stronger that cast iron. The malleable iron was heated three times and then kneaded with long metal hooks into balls of about 75 pounds called loops, one could get about 8-10 loops per sow. Each loop was beat with a sledge hammer into a four inch square rod called a bloom. The bloom was cut lengthwise into two pieces. Each half bloom was taken to the other side of the room where finishing work was performed, shaping the metal into merchant bars. The half bloom was held in a pair of tongs and heated once again. Once it was hot the iron was beat with a 500 pound water powered hammer into lengths of about five feet long and from 1 to 2 inches square. The two inch square merchant bars represented about 75% of the output on the ironworks and were sold to blacksmiths to be reheated and shaped into horseshoes and other items. The one inch bars were sent on to the rolling and slitting mill.
At the rolling and slitting mill the bars were heated again and then passed through two or three sets of rollers that were powered by water wheels. The one inch square bars were gradually flatted to about two inches wide and half an inch thick and were appropriately called "flats." Some flats were sold to be used to make saws, iron tires for wagons or hoops for barrels, while others flats were sent on to the nearby slitting station. In this operation the flats were fed through a pair of sharp grooved rollers that slit them into small rods about a quarter of an inch square called nails rods. Any blacksmith could heat these rods and quickly make a supply of nails (about 1,200 nails could be produced per day). Orders for merchant bars, flats and nail rods as well as for finished cast metal objects produced at the foundry were taken by the Hammersmith company agent stationed in Boston and products were distributed through him. No doubt John Hull's father, the Boston blacksmith Robert Hull, acquired some items from Hammersmith (on ironmaking at Saugus see, Hartley, pp. 165-184).
Jenks, who was actually an independent contractor associated with the foundry, made the more difficult special order requests. In January of 1648 Jenks obtained permission from Joseph Leader, the agent for the Company of Undertakers of the Iron Works in New England, to build a private toolmaking shop near the forge. The document stated Jenks had:
"libertie to build & erect a mill or hammer for the forging and making of sithes or any other ware by water at the taile of the furnace & to have full benefit of the furnace water when the furnace goes provided he damnifies not any works that may hereafter be erected..." (quoted in Hartley, p. 208)The shop was completed by June 24th. Archaeological excavations of the site from 1952 revealed the Jenks shop was located just east (to the left) of the blast furnace, near the Hammersmith boat landing on the Saugus River. He had three waterwheels, a hearth, an anvil block, water powered grindstones and possibly a water powered tilt hammer (Carlson, p. 10 and footnote 25). Jenks began his business as an independent master craftsman taking special orders for all kinds of items. Most likely he made some steel items, as he had been a master steel swordmaker in England and some locally made steel items have been discovered on the Hammersmith site. Steel is the strongest iron alloy, containing between .5% to 1.5% carbon. In the Seventeenth century steel was made by cementation, a process whereby wrought iron bars were packed with charcoal and sealed with clay. The mixture was heated at 900°C for several days which diffused sufficient carbon into the wrought iron to convert it to steel. Typically, steel was used for swords, knives and scythes. It was also possible to make case hardened wrought iron, with a hard "outer skin" of about .05" thickness, by limiting the cementation process to eight hours (Tylecote, pp. 105-106).
Jenks could make steel and case hardened wrought iron and he produced the more intricate iron items. Jenks did some work for the Hammersmith Company making saws, broadaxes and repairing iron fixtures on the company's boat. However, it appears the bulk of his business was for other clients since for the years 1648-1653 records show he received £18 10s for work performed for Hammersmith but during that same period he paid Hammersmith £32 for one and a half tons of wrought iron bars. Unfortunately, we have no surviving records of his other customers except for an order from John Winthrop for several saws in February of 1653 (Carlson, p. 11). However, we do know Jenks was sought out for his skill. For instance, it was agreed at the Boston town council meeting of December 1, 1653 that, "The select men have power and liberty hereby to agree with Jospeh Jynks for Ingins to Carry water in Case of fire, if they see Cause soe to doe." (Boston Records, p. 118). Just what these engines were or how they transported water was not mentioned, nor is it known if they were actually produced. However, it does demonstrate how Jenks was called on when a difficult special order item was needed. Also, we discover in May of 1655 the General Court granted Jenks a seven year monopoly to produce an engine "for the more speedy cutting of grasse" (Shurtleff, vol. 3, p. 386 and vol. 4, pt. 1, pp. 233-234).
There is no document directly linking Jenks to the mint. However, there is some suggestive evidence. A letter of 1654 survives, which was written in London by John Hull's brother Edward Hull to Joseph Jenks. In this letter Edward Hull told Jenks he knew of a German die cutter willing to immigrate to Boston, but there is no evidence this person ever came to Massachusetts Bay (Morison, p. 152). Interestingly, the master craftsmen at the sword factory in Hounslow, Middelsex, where Jenks had been employed, were Germans that had been brought from the continent specifically to develop the English sword industry. It seems unlikely that Jenks would be trying to open an illegal competing mint when he was busy with his own business and it is even more unlikely he would correspond with Hull's brother about such an enterprise. However, if Jenks was making the tools or die blanks for the mint it would seem quite logical for him to pursue leads on a diecutter among his former acquaintances in the profession. That he was corresponding on this topic with Hull's brother strongly suggests the request was made in relation to the recently opened mint. Jenks may have been pursuing a diecutter as a personal favor to John Hull, who was probably one of Jenks' customers, or, if Jenks produced items for the mint, he may have been doing this as part of a business deal.
In additon to this letter from the early years of the mint, there is a document from the later period. In the proceedings of the Massachusetts Bay General Court there is a record from May 15, 1672 stating the Court denied a petition brought forward by Joseph Jenks in which he requested permission to be allowed to open a mint (Crosby, pp. 79-80). It is generally assumed Jenks would not have gone through the expense and trouble to submit a petition unless he knew the trade and felt he could have successfully competed with Hull. This was during the final decade of the mint when the operation was less profitable and less silver was being brought in for minting into Boston shillings. It was also the time when the Hammersmith foundry was shutting down. Exactly when the Hammersmith ironworks ceased operations is unknown but records show production sharply declined in the 1660's. The demise of the plant seems to have occurred sometime between the last recorded use of the blast furnace in 1668 and a document of June 1676 where it stated that there were "neither utensils nor stock" at Hammersmith (Hartley, 258-262 with the quote on p. 262). With the demise of Hammersmith Jenks seemed to have been searching for a new profession and felt he could be successful as a coiner. If Jenks had produced the steel die blanks or possibly some of the tools necessary for the continued operation of Hull's mint he would certainly be in a position to enter the coining business. Based on his reputation as a master ironsmith and interpreting both his 1654 inquire with Edward Hull about a diecutter and his unsuccessful 1672 petition in the manner stated above, it is probable Jenks made some items for the Hull mint.
Specifically, what Jenks may have produced for the mint is entirely conjectural. It is possible Jenks produced various metal objects such as wrought iron rollers to roll out the molded sterling sheets and possibly metal tools such as crucibles, ladles, tongs and metal parts for the furnace. However, the items most frequently suggested are punches and die blanks. Punches would refer to sets of hardened punchs used to impress the letter grouping NE on the obverse and another punch for the reverse used to impress the denomination in Roman numerals directly onto each of the NE coins. Based on surviving examples we know there were at least three obverse and three reverse punches for the shillings and at least one set of obverse and reverse punches for the sixpence and threepence coins. It is possible these punches were made of steel. Both Hull and Sanderson also had punches of their initials which they used to impress their mark into the bottom of the silver items they produced (primarily cups and chalices). The letters, numbers and images on the Willow, Oak and Pine Tree varieties of Massachusetts silver were hand cut into the dies. This hand cutting required hardened steel engraving tools, which could have been produced at Hammersmith or imported from England. Dies, or more properly die blanks, refers to the metal blanks which would be provided to the mint for use in the minting press; these would be cylinders for a screw press, rollers for a roller press or rockers for a rocker press. Roller die blanks would probably have been cast, but rocker or cylindrical die blanks could have been made of case hardened wrought iron. Die blanks would be engraved with an incuse mirror image (sometimes called a reverse or negative image) of the coin design so they could be used to strike a positive image in relief on the coins. The engraving of the coin images onto those die blanks, turning them into usable dies, was most likely performed by Hull and Sanderson at the mint as there is evidence they recut several of the dies to extend their life. Further, there is evidence they created the original designs as there are four sketches for the design of the Massachusetts coins found on the back of a sheet containing the minutes of a mint committee meeting from June of 1652 that was signed by John Hull. It is quite likely Hull was responsible for the sketches.
Many long held assumptions concerning the minting and emission of colonial coins have been modified or overturned in the past few decades. It is now no longer assumed that the smaller St. Patrick coins were considered to be farthings and we know that some New Jersey coppers dated 1786 were produced in 1787. In this climate the question of who made the die blanks for Massachusetts silver is now often passed over without comment. Sometimes, as in the recent editions of R. S. Yeoman's guide popularly known as the "Red Book" it is stated Jenks may have made the punches, without commenting on the dies. If we assume the partners did the recuting of the dies, it is also possible they did the original engraving on the die blanks. However they needed to acquire the blanks that would be engraved into dies. If it is assumed the partners did not have the skill or did not have access to the necessary blast furnace needed to produce the punches for the NE coinage, it is also likely they needed access to a relable supply of die blanks and the various metal items needed in melting and refining silver. Jenks is identified as the otherwise unknown craftsman who could have produced the punches for the NE coinage as well as the die blanks and the engraving tools that were necessary to impress the letters and images into those blanks for the other varieties of Massachusetts silver and possible other mint related metal items. He may also be the source of several other metal tools and supplies needed by the mint.
Interestingly, Hartley, in his book on the Saugus Ironworks mentions Jenks had been credited with making dies for the Pine Tree shillings as well as constructing the first fire engine, but he was suspicious of those claims (Hartley, p. 11). Certainly, John Hull and Robert Sanderson knew silversmithing for they melted down and refined foreign silver plate and bullion in order to produce the correct fineness of silver needed for minting coins. It also seems quite probable they did the original engraving and were the ones to recut the dies. Further, Hull may have acquired some engraving tools through his London contacts or during his two voyages to London. However, during the 1650's, when the mint was first in operation, the only blast furnace in the colonies hot enough to melt iron to make either steel or case hardened wrought iron punches and die blanks as well as wrought iron rollers for a rolling machine, crucibles for melting silver and other iron products needed by the mint, was the furnace located at Hammersmith.
Due to Britain's limited supply of precious metals various laws had been instituted making it illegal to export any silver or gold, including all silver and gold coins. During the reign of Edward III a law was passed in the Parliament of 1351 prohibiting the export of gold and silver coinage (Ruding, vol. 1, pp. 226-227). This prohibition was renewed several times up through the reign of Henry VI in 1423 with the proviso that money could be exported for payment of war expenses and military pay (Ruding, vol. 1, p. 270). However, merchants continually tried to circumvent the law so in 1477 Edward IV established a commission to look into the matter. The result was a new regulation making it a felony to export gold or silver coinage, either English or foreign unless one had previously been granted a special license from the king (Ruding, vol. 1, p. 288). In 1553 Edward VI renewed this prohibition but included a provision that a merchant could export £4 in coinage, undoubtedly for expenses, as well as any gold or silver signets or rings worn on the fingers (Ruding, vol. 1. p. 325). The export prohibition was renewed by Elizabeth in 1559, by James I in proclamations of July 9, 1607 and June 11, 1622 and by Charles I in a proclamation of May 25, 1626 (Ruding, vol. 1, pp. 333, 365, 377 and 383-384).
During the Commonwealth several royal regulations were reversed, however it was difficult to get a consensus on allowing the exportation of silver. On September 23, 1648 an ordinance was passed to prevent the exportation of bullion, stating that Edward Watkins and others had been appointed under the seal of the Court of the Exchequer as "Commissioners for Discovery of Transporters of Coin and Bullion" (Firth, vol. 1, p. 1218). Additional legislation against exporting gold or silver was brought forward in 1649 and read twice but no vote was taken, the bill was resurrected on April 12, 1653 but again the legislation did not come up for a vote (Ruding, vol. 1, p. 417). However, on January 9, 1651 a law was passed to encourage the importation of bullion. In order to encourage importation the law relaxed some export restrictions by allowing merchants to export "two third parts of such Bullion or Foreign Coyn as shall be so imported..." and that bullion could be sent "to any part of Flanders or Holland, or to ship it away at their pleasure..." (Firth, vol. 2, p. 495). Thus, a merchant was allowed to export two thirds of any bullion they imported. But in the last days of the Commonwealth, under Richard Cromwell, a motion was referred to the council of State on July 11, 1659 to investigate allegations of illegal exportation of bullion and to seize any bullion being illegally exported. Finally on May 21, 1660 it was voted to prohibit any exporting of bullion without the approval of Parliament (Ruding, vol. 1, p. 422). During this more liberal period some limited export of foreign bullion was possible but several lawmakers continued to believe that specie should remain in the country.
Soon after he was restored to the throne, Charles II issued a proclamation on June 10, 1661 confirming and reactivating previous royal commands against exporting coins or bullion (Ruding, vol. 2, pp. 3-4). However, his advisors quickly came to the realization that these restrictions were detrimental to the British economy, as British merchants could not easily participate in international agreements. Further, it was felt export restrictions made foreign merchants reluctant to bring specie into England. Therefore, in 1663 the act of June 10, 1661 was modified so that as of August 1, 1663 it became legal to export foreign coins as well as gold and silver bullion (Ruding, vol. 2, p. 11). This act allowed individuals to legally export foreign silver from England but it did not allow English coinage to be exported. The intention of the law was to both encourage trade and increase the specie supply in London, it was not meant to assist the colonies. The inability to legally import British coinage caused serious problems for the British colonies in North America. Obviously, some British silver circulated in America as British soldiers in the American colonies could be paid in British sterling. Further, it is clear many travelers and émigrés departed England for America with some sterling coinage. However, the supply of sterling in Massachusetts Bay was far to small to sustain daily commerce, so the colonists needed to look elsewhere for coinage. The most abundant supply of silver coinage was found in the Spanish colonies.
During the Seventeenth century silver from the rich and seemingly endless mines in Spanish America was transformed into substantial quantities of crude cob coinage that was then sent to Spain on treasure ships. At the Spanish American mints small cigar shaped ingots of refined silver were simply cut into chunks of the appropriate weight. In fact, the term cob is derived from the Spanish word "cabo" which means the end; in this instance, the clump of silver clipped off the end of the bar. Each small silver clump was then hammer struck between dies. The size and shape as well as the impressions on these cob coins were highly irregular, many cobs were quite thick and disfigured with large cracks. If a cob was overweight the minter simply clipped a piece off, further disfiguring the coin. The intention in minting these crude but accurately weighed cobs was to produce an easily portable product that could be sent to Spain. In Spain the cobs would be melted down to produce silver jewelry, coins, bars and other items. Cob coinage also circulated in Spanish America and became the standard coinage of the British West Indies. Massachusetts Bay and the other British colonies along the Atlantic coast regularly traded with the British possessions in the West Indies such as Jamaica and Barbados, therefore significant quantities of Spanish American cobs found their way to these mainland colonies. Spanish, and particularly Spanish American silver, quickly became the predominant coinage throughout the British colonies in North America.
As the Spanish American cobs were crude, misshapen chunks of silver it was quite easy for colonial settlers to clip or file some silver from a coin and then pass the lightened coin off at full value. Obviously as a coin went through various hands and was repeatedly clipped it became lighter and lighter. Also, because of their crude shape and design it was easy to make lightweight counterfeit cobs using the clipped silver. Indeed, the reason most often given in contemporary sources for the opening of the Massachusetts mint was to produce a uniform coinage to replace the numerous clipped, lightweight Spanish American cobs then in circulation.
The survival of the Massachusetts mint was contingent upon the public bringing Spanish American silver cobs to the mint to be transformed into Massachusetts coinage. This process was dependent on the rate of exchange between Spanish American silver and Massachusetts silver. The Massachusetts mint would continue to operate as long as it was profitable for individuals to convert Spanish silver into Massachusetts coinage. To understand this relationship we must review the history of the most prominent Spanish American silver coin to circulate in Massachusetts Bay, the eight reales.
In 1474 Isabella succeeded as the ruler of Castile and soon initiated a coinage reform. In a decree of February 20, 1475 she proclaimed a standard value for each of the various local medieval coins then in circulation. Soon thereafter, on June 26, 1475, Queen Isabella sent a letter to the mint in Seville ordering the mint to produce 67 reales from a Spanish mark of silver that was 11 dineros and 4 granos in fineness.
In 1479 Isabella married Ferdinand of Aragon uniting the two most powerful Catholic kingdoms in Spain. Over the next twelve years the monarchs consolidated their power, finally driving out the Moors and Jews in 1492. Once they had united all of Spain under their rule, the monarchs undertook a series of new initiatives, one of which was a coinage reform. Essentially the minting specifications issued by Isabella in 1475 became universal for all of Spain and the entire Spanish Empire, which had significantly expanded in late 1492 when Christopher Columbus claimed the West Indies and all of the Americas for Spain. The coinage reform was promulgated at Medina del Campo, the site of the largest silver and gold exchange fair in medieval Spain. In the Pragmática of Medina del Campo issued on June 13, 1497 it was declared that a Spanish mark of silver at a fineness of 11 dineros and 4 granos would be minted into 67 reales. The first article of this law discussed gold coins, then article two began:
"Otrosi, ordenamos e mandamos, que en cada una de las dichas nuestras casas de moneda se labre otra moneda de plata, que se llame reales, de talla e peso de sesenta e siete reales en cada marco, e no menos; e de ley de onze dineros e quatro granos, e no menos. E que destos se labren reales e medios reales e quartos de reales e ochavos de reales; los quales todos sean salvados uno a uno, porque sean de ygual peso; e que de la plata se labre el un tercio de reales enteros, e el otro tercio de medios reales; e el otro tercio se labre de quartos e de ochavos por meytad, e que los ochavos sean quadrados; e que en los reales se pongan de la una parte nuestras armas reales, e de la otra parte la divisa del yugo de mi rey, e la divisa de las flechas de mi reyna; e que diga enderredor continuando en ambas partes: FERDINANDUS E ELISABET REX E REGINA CASTELLE E LEGIONS E ARAGONUM E CECILIE E GRANATE: o lo que dello cupiere." (Calbetó de Grau, vol. 2, p. 536, Gil Farrés, p. 231 and Heiss, vol. 1, pp. 322-324)The law went on to explain that a Spanish mark of silver at eleven dineros and four granos fineness was worth sixty five reales but was to be minted into 67 reales, with one of the two extra reales retained by the mint and the other given to the owner of the silver.
[Furthermore, we order and mandate that in each one of our said mints that another money be made of silver, to be called reales, of size and weight of sixty seven reales in each mark and not less, and by law of eleven dineros and four granos and not less. And that from these be made reales and half reales and quarters of reales and eighths of reales; all of which be proportional one to the other so that they may be of balanced weight; and that a third of the silver be worked into whole reales, and from another third half reales; and the other third equally divided between quarters and eighths, and that the eighths be square; and that on one side of the reales our royal arms be put, and on the other side the device of me the king, the yoke, and the device of my queen the arrows; and that it may say around the rim continuing from one side to the other: FERDINAND AND ISABELLA KING AND QUEEN OF CASTILE AND LEON AND ARAGON AND SICILY AND GRANADA : or that part which will fit.] (Note: A double yoke or collar, as used to harness oxen to a plow, was adopted by the king as his emblem or device. The queen's emblem was a bundle of arrows tied together in the center of the shafts, similar in appearance to the arrows held in the eagle's talon in the Great Seal of the United States of America.)
During this period the largest denomination silver coin was the real, with fractional coins called a half, quarter and an eighth real; these were the only coins specifically mentioned in the Pragmática. The weight of these silver coins were proportional to each other and the fineness remained constant. Later, when higher denomination silver coins such as the two, four and eight reales, began to be minted they conformed to the authorized standards. The first eight reales coins carried the inscription, shield and devices of Ferdinand and Isabella but it is now believed these undated coins were struck posthumously during the reigns of Charles I (1516-1555) and Philip II (1556-1598). The minting of these posthumous eight reales probably did not begin much earlier than the Cédula of Charles I of November 18, 1537 authorizing the Viceroy of New Spain to mint eight reales coins and they cannot be after the Pragmática of Philip II of November 23, 1566 which called for his own name to be used on future coins (Tomás Dasí, vol. 1, p. 49; Calbetó de Grau, vol. 2, p. 552; Gil Farrés, pp. 236-237 and Heiss, vol. 1, pp. 161-162). Significant quantities of eight reales were minted in Spain and Spanish America during the reign of Philip II (1555-1598) and production continued under his successors. However, although Philip had his name added to coins in 1566 a date was not included until 1589. Thus, we do not know if the undated issues were minted sporadically, or, if they were produced annually like the later dated varieties (see Calbetó de Grau, vol. 1, pp 32-34 and vol. 2, pp. 406-408, 432-436, 552-560).
There was actually no specific authorized weight for the eight reales. Rather, the Pragmática of Medina del Campo had only stated that a Spanish mark of silver at a specific fineness would be used to produce 67 reales in coins. We can calculate the average weight of an eight reales assuming a Spanish mark of silver was precisely weighed to the authorized weight and that all the coins from that mark of silver were exactly equal. Further, we must assume no silver was lost as waste during the minting process. Obviously, precise standardization in the minting process was not possible, so that the "authorized weight" is only a mathematical average. Individual examples could legitimately be above or below this weight as the only stipulation in the law was that 78 reales be produced from each mark of silver.
According to the Spanish weight system a Spanish mark equalled 8 Spanish ounces which equalled 4608 Spanish grains. At 67 reales to a Spanish mark the authorized weight of a real was 68.776119 Spanish grains, thus an eight reales was authorized at 550.20895 Spanish grains. In the troy weight system a Spanish mark was equal to 3550.16 troy grains which put the "authorized weight" of a real at 52.987462 troy grains and an eight reales at 423.89969 troy grains, which Phil Mossman has rounded to 423.9 troy grains.
To calculate the sterling value of an eight reales at the full authorized standards we also need to know the silver content or authorized fineness of the coin. The Spanish fineness scale was based on the dinero. Dinero is a Spanish word for money, originally silver money, deriving from the Latin denarius. In the present context, as a measurement of fineness, the closest English equivalent is the troy ounce, where 12 troy ounces equalled a troy pound of pure silver. In this system the British defined sterling (.925 fineness) as 11 ounces and 2 pennyweight of silver per troy pound (the other 18 pennyweight being copper). Rather than use the misleading translation of "Spanish troy ounce" which would be the closest equivalent but could be confused with the Spanish ounce or the troy scale, numismatists simply leave the measurement in Spanish as dinero. Keeping with this practice I have not translated the fineness terms. In the Spanish fineness scale 12 dineros is pure silver or, as it would be currently expressed, a 1.000 millesimal fineness. The basic unit, a dinero, is just a fraction over .083333 fineness and is divided into 24 granos, so that one grano is just a fraction over .0034722 fineness; therefore Spanish silver coinage with a fineness of 11 dineros (just a fraction over .916663) and 4 granos (just a fraction over .0138888) calculates to a total fineness of .9305518, which Aloïss Heiss rounded up to .931 fine. Thus, according to the specifications in the Pragmática of Medina del Campo an eight reales coin should average close to 423.9 troy grains of .931 fine silver. (see, Mossman, p. 55, Gil Farrés, pp. 18-23, 226-7 and 230-231 and Heiss, vol. 1, pp. 413-418 for similar results, but Sumner, "Spanish Dollar," pp. 607-609 gives slightly different numbers).
The specifications in the Spanish coinage law of 1497 remained the official standard for all Spanish American silver coinage until 1728, when the eight reales was reduced to 417.6 troy grains of .9166 fine silver. However, silver coinage minted in Spain had been reduced in weight back in 1642. The Pragmática of December 23, 1642 authorized 83.25 reales to be cut from a Spanish mark of silver at .93055 fineness. In relation to the earlier laws authorizing 67 reales per mark this law increased the number of reales per mark by 16.25 or almost 25% (a full 25% increase from 67 would be 16.75 reales); the new real was authorized at 42.644564 troy grains and the new eight reales at 341.15651 troy grains. As this law was limited to coins produced in Spain, the relationship between Spanish and Spanish American silver shifted. The Spanish American eight reales, at its fully authorized weight of 423.89969 troy grains, was equal to just a fraction over 9.94 reales of the new lighter Spanish coinage, called new plate, and traded at 10 new plate reales (Calbetó de Grau, vol. 2, pp. 578-579 and Heiss, vol. 1, pp. 186-187). In the Pragmática of October 14, 1686 mainland Spanish coinage was reduced once more but only slightly, so that 84 reales were to be cut from a Spanish mark (42.2638 troy grains per real with the eight reales at 338.1104 troy grains). This small reduction did not affect the exchange rate of Spanish American silver, which continued to trade at 8 Spanish American reales for 10 Spanish reales. The Spanish American eight reales went from 2.54594 grains below the equivalent of 10 new plate reales at the 1642 rate to actually being 1.26169 grains more than 10 Spanish reales at the 1686 rate (Gil Farrés, pp. 242-246 and 326-328 and Heiss, vol. 1, pp. 382-384).
These laws reducing the weight of Spanish reales did not affect the acceptance of Spanish silver in Seventeenth century Britain or British America. Throughout the century all Spanish eight reales put into circulation were crude cob coins. The only fully struck coins were the rare presentation strikes produced at the royal mint in Segovia. Fully struck coinage for general circulation was not produced until 1700 in Seville and 1709 in Madrid. All the circulating coinage made between the 1642 weight reduction and the introduction of fully struck coins continued to be crude cobs. As these lighter cobs were of the same fineness as the pre-1642 cobs, they continued to be accepted and were simply traded by weight, just as if they were examples of pre-1642 underweight clipped cobs that were so common in colonial America.
Spanish American silver cobs continued to be authorized at the 1497 standards throughout the Seventeenth century. These standards were closely followed at the central mint in Mexico City and at most other Spanish American mints with the exception of the mint in Potosí, Bolivia where a major scandal was uncovered in 1648. It was discovered that from the opening of the mint in 1640 the Potosí assayer had been in collusion with a silver merchant issuing coins that were significantly debased. When the news of the debasement became public the debased coinage was discounted as much as 50%. As most of South America was part of the Viceroyalty of Peru the debased coins were called "Peruvian." In order to keep the public from rejecting or discounting post scandal coins the Potosí mint changed the reverse design from displaying the Hapsburg shield on the debased coinage to a "pillars" design. By an order of February 17, 1651 Potosí cobs were to be returned to the mint and melted down to make full weight examples of the new pillar coinage (Freeman, p. 9).
Pre-1652 Potosí coins were shunned or heavily discounted by the British colonists. Although most Spanish American cob coinage in the British colonies had been reduced in weight by clipping, filing or washing, the colonists could rely on the fineness of the coins and thus accepted them as sterling silver based on weight. However, the debased Peruvian coins were considered to be below sterling fineness and needed to be assayed to determine their actual value, so they could not be reliably traded even by weight! I do not know of any document from Massachusetts Bay during the late 1640s or early 1650s specifically referring to the Potosí debasement uncovered in 1648, however as Phil Mossman has suggested (Mossman, p. 79) it seems possible the news of this scandal and the specter of debased coins may have acted as a catalyst prompting the Massachusetts legislature, now under the new English Commonwealth government, to take action against the daily inconveniences of clipped coinage that are mentioned by Hull and others as the reason for instituting the coinage act of 1652. In the same year that the Massachusetts mint opened, 1652, the Potosí mint produced their first pillar coinage. (See Sumner, "Spanish Dollar," pp. 609-614 and Mossman, pp. 55-56).
Interestingly, Massachusetts Bay legislation distinguished three categories of eight reales: the Seville, pillar and Mexican varieties. A fourth variety, mentioned in legislation from several other British possessions such as the island of Monserrat and the colony of Connecticut, was the debased Potosí coins called "Peruvians," which were only accepted at a discount (Chalmers, p. 64 and Hoadly, vol. , August 1689 - May 1706, pp. 166-167 and 176-177). By specifically mentioning the Seville, pillar and Mexican varieties the Massachusetts General Court was intentionally leaving the debased Potosí coinage out of their legislation. Of the varieties mentioned in the Massachusetts Bay legislation, the "Sevil" eight reales referred to mainland Spanish coins, as the central mint was in Seville. These coins displayed the crowned Hapsburg shield with the mintmark and denomination on the obverse while the reverse was divided into quadrants by a cross with a castle representing Castile in the upper left and lower right quadrants and a lion representing Leon in the other two quadrants. This design, often called the shield style, was similar to the debased Potosí "Peruvians." The Potosí coins had a slightly different design to the crown on the obverse above the shield and some Potosí varieties had a slightly different reverse border design around the cross than was found on the Spanish coins, but generally the mintmark was the most significant point of differentiation. The "pillar" style referred to the reverse design of the eight reales coins made at Lima, Peru and the post debasement coins from Potosí, Bolivia as well as the post 1652 coins from the smaller mints in Columbia at Bogatá, La Plata and Cartagena (see Lasser on the Columbian mints). This is now called the pillar and waves design showing the Pillars of Hercules with an abbreviation of the Spanish motto PLUS ULTRA (More beyond) as had appeared earlier on the first Spanish American coins made in Mexico under Charles I and Joanna. The obverse of the post debasement coins were initially issued in 1652 with the lion and castle quadrants within a crowned shield but subsequent issues starting in 1653 transformed the shield into a cross of Jerusalem with a perpendicular bar extension on each extremity. The "Mexico pieces of eight" were similar in style to the Seville coins, which as mentioned above, had also been used at Potosí and in Columbia until 1651. However, the Mexican design included a very distinct cross with each extremity having a wedge shape followed by a round sphere, whereas the other varieties had a simple Greek cross with no design at the extremities or a Jerusalem cross with the perpendicular bar extensions. Varieties did include mintmarks such as, M or Mo for Mexico, P for Potosí and S for Seville, but as these issues were crudely produced cobs it was sometimes difficult to read a mintmark and on the poorest examples it was even challenging to distinguish significant design differences between the varieties! Mexican eight reales were the predominant variety found in Massachusetts Bay because of the widespread use of these coins in the West Indies.
The colonists residing in Massachusetts Bay in the 1650's were British subjects and, for the most part, had emigrated from England. Their traditions, laws and customs were modeled on those of England with modifications necessitated by colonial life. Further, they depended on England and the other British colonies for trade and supplies. The value and the role of the eight reales in England was central to how the Massachusetts colonists conceived, defined and valued this currency.The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
During the reign of Philip II of Spain (1556-1598) the eight reales, which was minted in both Spain and the Americas, became one of the preferred international currencies. The coins were rather plentiful and were produced with a consistent weight and fineness, furthermore, they had a higher silver content than other crown size coins such as locally produced German thalers and Dutch lion dollars or the nationally regulated French écu and British crown. However, although eight reales were regularly used for international trade, the role and valuation of the eight reales in Sixteenth century England is difficult to determine. This is partially due to the several Tudor debasements of the sterling standard so that British coinage frequently fluctuated in relation to the Spanish eight reales. The situation did not stabilize until 1601 at the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth. By her order of July 29, 1601, the fineness of English coinage was set at .925 sterling silver with shillings authorized at 62 per troy pound of sterling silver, or 92.9 troy grains per shilling. This remained the British standard throughout the American colonial period; it was not revised until 1816.
In addition to the fluctuating value of English coinage during the Sixteenth century an even more significant impediment to understanding the role of the eight reales in England was the English prohibition of foreign coinage. Several laws had been passed prohibiting the importation of foreign coinage into England. During the parliament of 1400 - 1401, early in the reign of Henry IV, it was noted that nobles of Flanders were quite common in England and traded at face value with English nobles even though the Flemish coins had a lower intrinsic value. To stop this damaging situation a law was passed (2 Henrici IV, cap. 6) stating, "all money of gold and silver of the coins of Flanders, and of all other lands and countries beyond the sea, and also of Scotland, shall be voided out of the realm of England, or put to coin to the bullion of the same realm..." Merchants were required to exchange foreign coins at the English stronghold of Calais in northern France, any foreign coins brought into England were to be forfeited to the king (Ruding, vol. 1, pp. 249-250). This law was not repealed until the Parliament of 1623-1624 (21 Jacobi I, cap. 28, Statutes, vol. 4, part 2, p. 1239), however it is clear the regulation was antiquated and long out of date by that time. Indeed, such a regulation was impossible to enforce after the English lost Calais in battle in 1558 (on April 2, 1559, in the first of two treaties signed at Cateau-Cambrésis, the British ceded their rights to Calais to the king of France in return for a payment thus terminating any British claim to the city). Even before the loss of Calais it is likely foreign coins, including some eight reales, found their way into the British Isles, but clearly following the loss of Calais several varieties of foreign coins were in circulation in England.
Queen Elizabeth attempted to regulate the value of foreign coins in 1560 and then issued a proclamation on June 12, 1561 explaining that numerous foreign coins had been received by her subjects at rates above their intrinsic value therefore, no foreign coins except the French, Flemish and Burgundian crowns (to be valued as 6s) were to be current, all other foreign coins were to be exchanged at the London mint for English coins based on the intrinsic value of the foreign coins (Ruding, vol. 1, pp. 340-341). There are no Elizabethan regulations concerning the eight reales and many have questioned if the coin had a prominent place in Elizabethan England. Challis has examined extant Exchequer records concerning bullion brought to the mint. From the few records he was able to uncover he discovered only 7.36% of the bullion from the second half of 1567 was in Spanish coinage and in 1568 only 2.1% of the total bullion was from Spainsh coinage. However, the situation changed in late 1569, as from September of 1569 through February of 1570 Spanish coinage made up 81.4% of all bullion brought to the mint. Thus, it seems during Elizabeth's reign the eight reales grew in significance (Challis, Tudor Coinage, pp. 192-198). It is clear by the later part of her reign this coin was considered to be a significant international monetary unit by the British. In a commission to the mint of January 11, 1601 it was stated that the "Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies," commonly known as the East India Company, had several times requested to be allowed to transport Spanish silver coins to the Indies. Because this request had been denied, Queen Elizabeth was authorizing trade coins of eight, four, two and one testerns to be minted in London for circulation in the East Indies; the weight and fineness of these coins, known as portcullis money because of the gate depicted on the reverse, was based on the Spanish eight reales rather than on English coins (Ruding, vol. 1, p 353).The proclamation of May 14, 1612
The role and value of the eight reales in Britain becomes clearer in the Seventeenth century. On May 14, 1612 James I issued a proclamation with the objective of increasing the quantity of foreign silver and gold coinage taken to the London mint. Previously, the price the mint offered for foreign coins had been set rather low in order to increase mint profits. This policy was causing difficulties as individuals preferred to sell their foreign silver and gold coins to merchants and goldsmiths, who offered higher prices than the mint. The King's proclamation was designed to increase the flow of bullion to the mint by setting new higher values at which the mint would purchase bullion or foreign coinage; further it commanded that anyone who either sold or purchased foreign coins or bullion above the rates issued in the proclamation would be fined double the value of the transaction and would be imprisoned. Individuals were free to sell or purchase bullion and foreign coins at the mint rate or at a lower rate but they could not legally offer to purchase coins or bullion above the mint rates. As to how the new rates were established the proclamation stated:
"the said rates are not precisely reduced to the fineness of the said pieces and bullion, yet the same were guided by the valuation of the merchants, which are best acquainted with the severall rates at which they are accepted abroade, where use sometimes prevaileth more than any exact computation." (Ruding, vol. 1, p. 368)In the rates a troy ounce of Spanish silver coins from Seville was rated at 60d (5s) as was an ounce of sterling plate, while an ounce of silver coins from Mexico was valued at 58d (4s10d). This rate implied Spanish silver was at sterling fineness since an ounce of Seville silver and an ounce of sterling were of equal value. Sterling plate at 60d (5s) per troy ounce was the rate at which the mint purchased the metal, of course the mint made a profit by producing 62d (5s2d) in silver coinage per troy ounce of sterling. The mint profit from Spanish and Mexican coins depended on the fineness of the specific coins. Spanish and Mexican silver were authorized at the same fineness, which was slightly higher than sterling, although we know from various assays individual coins were often slightly over or slightly under sterling fineness. Assuming a fineness at the authorized rate, which equalled just about .931 fineness, Spanish silver would yield a profit for the mint that was a fraction over 2d per ounce while Mexican silver would yield a profit of just over 4d per ounce.
Interestingly, this proclamation treated Spanish silver and other foreign coins as commodities. It did not define what was considered to be a full weight eight reales, rather the value was given by the troy ounce instead of by the coin (or as was said at the time, by weight rather than by tale). A troy ounce of silver equalled 480 grains, thus, at the mint purchase price of 60d per ounce of Seville silver, the exchange rate for Spanish silver can be calculated at 8 grains per 1d, while at 58d per troy ounce for Mexican silver the rate was 8.275862069 grains per 1d. If we assume a 420 grains (that is, a 17.5 pennyweight) eight reales as a full weight coin, a Seville eight reales would have a market value of 52.5d (4s 4.5d) and a Mexican eight reales would be 50.75d (4s 2.75d). As stated above, this did not reflect the intrinsic or assay value but rather was the rate adopted by the king as the highest allowable rate and also the rate at which the mint would purchase these coins.
In a proclamation of James I from May 13, 1613 we learn there were large quantities of lightweight clipped Spanish coins in circulation that were passing at the value of full weight coins, causing a loss to the receiver of such coins of up to a third in intrinsic value. The proclamation prohibited the passing of lightweight coins with offenders being fined or imprisoned. All lightweight Spanish coinage was to be taken to the Tower mint where the customers would receive payment based on the bullion weight and the coins would be melted down to produce English silver (Ruding, vol. 1, p. 370).The alteration debate of 1626
Some specific information on the value of eight reales coins in England is part of a debate that occurred in 1626 based on a proposal to Charles I initially put forward on April 25, 1625 by the former Warden of the mint in Scotland, John Gilbert. Gilbert proposed that English coinage be secretly reduced in weight so more coins could be minted from the same amount of silver and thereby increase the king's coffers. A mint indenture was authorized on August 14, 1626 to produce silver coins at 70s per troy pound. The mint purchased silver at 60s per troy pound and since 1601 had produced 62s in coin per troy pound, for a 2s profit. According to the new scheme profits would increase by 8s per troy pound, of which the King was to receive an additional 5s6d and the mint an additional 2s6d per pound of silver coined. As soon as the indenture was approved a debate ensued contesting the "alteration," of the coinage. Within a few weeks the King issued a proclamation on September 4, 1626 rescinding the August 14th indenture and returning to the weight standards that had been in force before the indenture was issued (Shaw, Selected Tracts, pp. 3-20).
During the final days of the debate Sir Robert Cotton spoke before the Privy Council against the alteration. Fortunately, Cotton's speech and some related documents survive because they were published in 1651 in an anthology of Cotton's works edited by James Howell called the Cottoni Posthuma. Along with Cotton's speech the Posthuma contained supplementary material including, "The Answer of the Committee appointed by your Lordships to the Propositions delivered by some Officers of the Mint, for inhancing his Majestie's monies of Gold and Silver, 2 September 1626." In this document the committee, which had been appointed by the Privy Council, stated concerning the eight reales, "But having examined it by the best Artists, we find it to be 11 ounces, 2d. weight fine, and in weight 17 penny weight, 12 grains,..." [2d. weight is an abbreviation for two pennyweight] (Postuma, p. 297, also in Shaw, Selected Tracts, p. 31). This phrase has been taken to refer to a mint assay (as in Sumner, "Coin Shilling," p. 248). The examination clearly refers to an assay in which the fineness and weight of the coin were measured, but there is no specific evidence as to who performed the assay. It may have been performed by a government agency such as the exchequer or possibly the assay was contracted to some London goldsmiths. As the committee was investigating the veracity of statements made by the officers of the mint and the report was in opposition to their statements, it is quite likely the assay was not performed at the mint.
Unfortunately the entire passage on the eight reales in the "Answer of the Committee" is rather brief and does not stand alone. One needs to read the preceding two paragraphs about the duties of the mint masters and the situation with the rix dollar to understand the argument. The statement basically says the officers of the mint had "untruly" informed the Privy Council concerning the intrinsic value and the exchange rate of the rix dollar and the eight reales. The committee stated the mint officers had affirmed the weight of a "Royal of Eight" was 17dwt. 12 gr. (which equals 17.5 dwt. or 420 grains) but then the mint officers had incorrectly asserted the coin was only 11 ounces (that is, .91666) fine. The difference between the fineness reported in the assay performed at the request of the Committee of the Privy Council and the assay reported by the mint was a full two pennyweight. As mentioned above in part three on production issues, early assays were not as precise as individuals would have wished and sometimes the results varied by as much as two pennyweight per troy pound. It was not until the more scientific assays of Sir Isaac Newton, especially in his major assay of 1702, that standards were set requiring a specific coin to be cut into pieces and assay results on the coin replicated before issuing a statement on the silver content of a coin. Although this two pennyweight differential could have been a legitimate disparity, the Privy Council committee did not trust the veracity of the mint report.
The committee further charged that the mint had misrepresented the exchange rate, for the mint had stated a Royal of Eight passed in trade at 5s. The committee announced an assay "by the best Artists" showed the eight reales was indeed 420 grains in weight but that it was at sterling fineness of 11 oz. 2 dwt. (that is, .925). They then explained the eight reales,
"doeth equal 4s. 4d. ob. of our Sterling moneys, and passeth in London at that rate, and not otherwise, though holding more fine Silver by 12 grains and a half in every Royal of Eight, which is the charge of coynage, and a small overplus for the Gold-smiths gain." (Shaw, Selected Tracts, p. 31)The additional 12.5 grains of silver that were above the 4s4d (52d) exchange rate would equal just a little over 1.6d, which the committee stated was the mint charge, that is, the difference between what the mint paid out for the item and the profit the mint would make when recoining the item. Adding the 1.6d to the 52d (4s4d) yields a value of 53.6d, which the committee stated was slightly low, as an eight reales of 420 grains, which they calculated as equivalent to sterling, would have an intrinsic value of 54.25d. The difference between the 53.6d and the full intrinsic value of 54.25d is .65d which is the "small overplus" for the goldsmith. Essentially an individual could take eight reales to a goldsmith and exchange each full weight eight reales for 52d (4s4d) in English silver coinage. The goldsmith would then refine the silver to sterling bullion or plate and would gain .65d from each coin, or slightly more if the coin was heavier than 420 grains or had a fineness above .925 fine. The silver might then be taken to the mint where the goldsmith would be paid 52.65d for the sterling extracted from the eight reales. The mint would then use that sterling to produce 54.25d in coins for a profit of 1.6d.
The committee completed their discussion of the eight reales by questioning the exchange rate of 60d (5s) per eight reales stated by the officers of the mint to be the current rate. The committee assured the Privy Council this rate was incorrect and that "Merchants do all affirm" that the eight reales "passeth only at 4s. 4[d.] ob. of the Sterling moneys, and no higher ordinarily." [the d was inadvertently left out of the text, but it is found elsewhere in the same paragraph when mentioning the rate] (Shaw, Selected Tracts, p. 31 and Sumner, "Coin Shilling," p. 248).Lightweight eight reales in the southwestern counties, 1644
In a pamphlet printed in London in 1644 called A Remedie against the Losse of the Subject by Farthing Tokens, (p. 6) it was stated that in the southwestern counties of Kent, Sussex and Hampshire numerous foreign coins were circulating above their intrinsic value including several varieties of German rix dollars and Spanish pieces of eight. The pieces of eight were valued at 4s4d (52d), which the text said was the correct value for full weight Seville coins, but these coins were lightweight; the author suspected they were overvalued by about 4d. It appears this problem was limited to the southwestern coastal area where several individuals were engaged in smuggling operations with partners on the continent (Ruding, vol. 1, 403).Rates for the eight reales during the Commonwealth
The market rate for a full weight Spanish eight reales remained unchanged at 4s4d (52d) until the establishment of the Commonwealth. With the overthrow of the monarchy the Commonwealth government tried to replace the system whereby special privileges and monopolies had been issued by the king to a few select nobles in return for favors or cash. Regarding trade and commerce the Commonwealth instituted policies that would give all merchants an opportunity to prosper and keep the population employed. On August 1, 1650 a commission was formed to advance trade and manufacture, "to the end that ye poore people of this Land may be set on work, and their Families preserved from beggary and Ruine, and that the Commonwealth might be enrighed thereby, and no occasion left either for Idleness or Poverty" (Firth, vol. 2, p. 403). Among the twelve charges to the commission was:
"Seventhly, They are duly to consider the value of the English Coyns, and the Par thereof, in relation to the intrinsic value which it bears in weight and fineness with the Coyns of other Nations : Also to consider the state of the Exchange, and of the gain or loss that comes to the Commonwealth by the Exchange now used by the Merchants." (Firth, vol. 2, p. 404)Soon thereafter, on January 9, 1651 regulations on importation of bullion and foreign coins were relaxed. As mentioned above, importation of foreign coinage was made legal during the Parliament session of 1623-1624. Foreign coins were to be treated like bullion in that merchants were required to sell one third of their shipment to the mint and pay a two percent duty on the reminder, and that remaining two thirds could not be taken out of England. In 1630 Charles I had issued Lord Cottington a special license to import Spanish silver whereby he was required to sell one third to the mint and was allowed to transport the remaining two thirds as he wished (Ruding, vol. 1, p. 386). Further, in 1632 due to the repeated requests of Thomas Mun, a director of the East India Company, that company was granted a license to export foreign silver (Ruding, vol. 1, p. 387 and Feavearyear, p. 95) but in other cases export was forbidden. On February 26, 1644 the Commonwealth reaffirmed the earlier regulations encouraging the importation of bullion (Firth, vol. 1, p. 391). However, the legislature recognized it would be difficult to encourage the importation of bullion while at the same time prohibiting its export, therefore additional concessions were offered under the new regulations of 1651. Merchants were still required to sell one third of their shipment of bullion or foreign coins to the mint, but for the remaining two thirds of the shipment they only needed to pay a one percent duty instead of the former two percent. Further, merchants were permitted to ship their remaining bullion or plate out of the country (Firth, vol. 2, p. 495). During that year the commission also fulfilled their seventh charge regarding the valuation of coins based on their intrinsic value. The British standard for the eight reales was defined as a 17.5 pennyweight (420 grains) coin at sterling fineness with a value of 54.25d. We find this rate in an exchange chart that is among the Commonwealth state papers, endorsed by the mint on November 18, 1651 listing the "realles of eight" at "4s6d1f" (54.25d) (Shaw, Selected Tracts, p. 86). This valuation, rounded to 4s6d (54d), held quite constant in England through the period of the operation of the Massachusetts silver mint. The Restoration
After the Restoration of the monarchy under Charles II the king realized English participation in international trade would suffer if he devalued foreign coinage to increase minting profits. Further, with the recall of all Commonwealth coinage and the need to replace earlier hammered royal coinage with milled coins displaying the new king's portrait, Charles needed to induce his subjects to bring bullion to the mint. Thus, an act was passed for the encouragement of coinage that was to continue for five years from December 20, 1666 through December 20, 1671, but the central provisions of this law were regularly renewed up through 1925. By this law individuals were to be given the full intrinsic value of any gold or silver coin, plate or bullion brought to the mint, without any deduction whatever. Accordingly, a full weight eight reales would yield about 54d depending on the fineness and the exact weight of the specific coin. To defray minting costs during this period a tax of 10s per ton was levied on imported wine, vinegar, cider and beer while there was to be a tax of 20s per ton on brandy and "Strong Waters." (Ruding, vol. 2, pp. 12-13; Statutes, vol. 5, pp. 598-600, 18-19 Caroli II, cap. 5 and Feavearyear, pp. 95-97). The specific value of a Spanish eight reales coin was not mentioned in this act, nor was the value of any foreign coin mentioned. These coins were treated as commodities with a value based on the quantity of sterling silver in the item, which would value a full 420 grains eight reales at 54d (4s6d). However, while London was recovering from the plague of 1665 and the fire of 1666, a proposal was put forward in 1667 by Fabian Phillips to debase English coinage. Phillips stated goldsmiths and bankers were acquiring rix dollars and pieces of eight for 51d (4s3d) each and then sending them to France where they received 58d (4s10d) for each coin or sending the coins to Ireland or Scotland where they traded at 60d (5s). This proposal was not adopted and the statements made by Phillips were never verified (Ruding, vol. 2, p. 13).Eight reales in Ireland
In Ireland foreign coinage was far more common than in England. Charles II sent a letter to the Lords Justice and Council for Ireland dated October 30, 1660 expressing concern at the quantity of base foreign coins in circulation there. He proposed they raise the value of the better quality coins and depress the value of the base coins, so as to keep the better quality items in the country and drive the base items out. Complying with the king's wish they issued a proclamation on January 29, 1661 to be effective on February 2nd listing the weights and rates of several foreign coins. In this proclamation the Mexico and Seville eight reales along with the rix and cross dollars were listed as full weight examples at 17 pennyweight (408 grains) with a value of 57d (4s9d), while a Peru eight reales along with a French Lewis, also considered full weight at 17 pennyweight, were valued at 54d (4s6d). For each pennyweight deficiency there was to be a 3d deduction in value (Ruding, vol. 2, p. 3).
There were several difficulties with the execution and enforcement of this decree as was explained in another proclamation of June 6, 1683. At that time it was stated there were numerous problems with the weights used to balance and weigh the coinage. Apparently merchants used heavier weights when receiving money but used another set of lighter weights when making payments. Further, numerous Peru eight reales were imported into Ireland which frequently passed by the tale at the full value of 54d (4s6d) even though they were significantly underweight. But the document went on to explain that recently several merchants were only accepting these coins at 36d (3s) or 42d (3s6d), which was below their intrinsic value! The June 6th proclamation stated the value of Mexico, Seville and pillar eight reales as well as rix and cross dollars and the French Lewis was to be a 17 pennyweight coin at 57d (4s9d) while the Peru eight reales was to be a 17 pennyweight coin at 54d (4s6d), with the 3d deduction for each pennyweight deficiency (Ruding, vol. 2, pp. 19-20). Thus, we see a crying up of the value of the eight reales in Ireland in comparison to England, as the English valued a 17.5 pennyweight (420 grains) eight reales at 54d (4s6d) while in Ireland a 17 pennyweight (408 grains) eight reales was valued at 57d (4s9d). Based on the English rate, a 408 grain coin would be valued at about 52d (that is, 52.45d, which would be rounded down to the nearest penny), thus the Irish 57d value represents about a 5d crying up or about 9.25% above parity. However, we discover the rates used in daily commerce varied from the proclamation values and there was a continuous struggle to keep the merchants honest (using correct weights) and to keep them from renegotiating the proclamation rates.
In 1689 after James II fled England he occupied Ireland until William defeated his forces at the battle of the Boyne on July 1, 1690. A day after James triumphantly entered Dublin with the support of the population, he issued a proclamation on March 25, 1689 increasing the value of the coins then in circulation. The Mexico, Seville and pillar eight reales of 17 pennyweight was raised to 75d (6s3d) while the Peru eight reales of 17 pennyweight was valued at 57d (4s9d), with the same 3d deduction for each pennyweight deficiency (Ruding, vol. 2, p. 23). Further, the proclamation of James II was the only decree on Irish coinage valuations from the period to include English silver, with an English shilling given a value of 13d in Ireland. However the rates of James II did not last very long, if they were ever enforced at all. Clearly, valuations were lower during the period of 1690 through 1696, for on May 29, 1696 under William III a proclamation was issued raising the value of foreign coins in Ireland to keep them from being exported. At this time the Mexico, Seville and pillar eight reales of 17 pennyweight was raised to 64d (5s4d) while the Peru eight reales was valued at 58d (4s10d) (Li in his book The Great Recoinage of 1696-9, dated this proclamation to 1695 and assumed it related to values in England, pp. 32 and 58). The deficiency allowance was the same as in the past but here it was expressed to the half pennyweight as three halfpence for each half pennyweight wanting (Ruding, vol. 2, p. 39).The recoinage of William III and the value of the eight reales in England
After many problems in England with older clipped coinage William III asked Parliament to consider the situation. Over then next few years the older clipped hammered coinage was demonitized and replaced with new milled coins in what is now known as the "Great Recoinage of 1696-1699." For this recoinage the mint required large quantities of silver. Initially, a law was passed on January 21, 1696 to take clipped coinage out of circulation and send it to the mint for recoining. All clipped English coinage was to be accepted in payment of taxes at full face value through May 4th, also clipped coinage would be accepted at par by the Exchequer in payment of loans through June 24th. This brief window of opportunity brought £4,706,003 of clipped coins to the mint but large quantities remained in circulation (Feavearyear, pp. 136-137 and 139). Further, laws were crafted to encourage people to bring plate to the mint by offering a bonus above market value, but the extra inducement was not offered for foreign coins. It was ordered that for a six month period between May 4, 1696 but before November 4, 1696 "Wrought Plate or any vessells or other sort of Manufacture of silver" could be brought to the mint where the individual would obtain a troy ounce of lawful money (that is, 5s2d) for each ounce of sterling silver; additionally, the individual would be given a receipt to be taken to the Exchequer for a supplemental "Reward" of 6d per troy ounce of sterling silver brought to the mint. This act was soon amended so no reward would be given unless the individual made an oath that the plate or other objects brought in had been manufactured on or before March 25, 1696. According to this statute only wrought plate or manufactured products such as vessels were acceptable. The amendment was structured to prohibit individuals from melting any foreign (or English) coins to be turned into plate (7&8 Guilielmi III cap. 19 and amended in cap. 31, Statutes vol. 7, 94-97 and 147).
On November 24, 1696 the House of Commons passed legislation ordering that after December 1, 1696 hammered English coinage would no longer be current except by weight at 62d (5s2d) per ounce. To encourage the exchange of hammered English silver and to bring more plate to the mint an order was enacted that for the eight month period from after November 4, 1696 to before July 1, 1697 the mint would purchase all hammered English silver coinage brought to them at the rate of 64d (5s4d) per sterling ounce. This was a premium of 2d above the rate at which sterling coinage was produced (8&9 Guilielmi III cap. 2, Statutes vol. 7, pp. 162-164 and Ruding, vol. 2, pp. 48-49). In order to pay these premiums, a bill was passed in the House of Commons on February 24, 1697 levying a tax on paper, parchment and vellum for a period of two years from March 1, 1697; the tax was £20 per £100 value on paper and £25 per £100 value on imported paper, over and above the current duties. Importers were give a 10% discount for ready cash or were given the option of making the duty payment within a three month period if they gave security (8&9 Guilielmi III cap. 7, Statutes vol. 7, pp. 189-196).
As additional silver was needed, the act encouraging silver plate to be brought to the mint was extended and revised so that it was similar to the act concerning hammered coinage. On March 6, 1697 the House of Commons passed an act with a retroactive starting date that, "Any wrought Plate of any sort or kind whatsoever" with the mark of the Hall of Goldsmiths in London (thus verifying its purity as sterling) could be brought to the mint between January 1, 1696/7 and November 4, 1697 where it would be purchased at 64d (5s4d) per troy ounce. The earlier stipulation on when the plate had been produced was dropped. If the silver did not have a goldsmith's mark the individual could accept an offer made by the mint or request an assay. As the mint was now accepting hammered English coins there was no need for stipulations that would exclude coinage. However, to prevent newly minted milled English coins, which were issued at 62d per troy ounce, from being melted down into plate for the 2d per ounce profit, it was stipulated all wrought plate produced after March 25, 1697 was to be above the sterling standard (which was 11 oz. 2 dwt.) at 11 oz. 10 dwt. of fine silver per troy pound (8&9 Guilielmi III cap. 8, Statutes vol. 7, p. 196). It is quite likely several eight reales were melted by goldsmiths into sterling silver to be traded at the mint as this would represent the highest rate offered in England for the eight reales, at 64d (5s4d) per ounce, or 1d per 7.5 grains, at this rate a full weight eight reales of 420 grains would be valued at 56d (4s8d). Of course, this valuation was only for a short period.Newton's assays
Following the recoinage Isaac Newton, the master of the mint, was asked to perform a major assay of foreign coinage so precise exchange rates could be determined. In Newton's assay of 1702 the pre-1642 Spanish eight reales, which he called "The Piastre of Spain or Sevil piece of 8 Reaus now raised to 10" was found to be 17.5 pennyweight but slightly under sterling fineness at .919 fine and was valued at 53.88d, which would have been rounded to 54d (Shaw, Selected Tracts, p. 140). In 1704 Newton assayed several varieties of eight reales and found all the examples to be at the full 17.5 pennyweight. He reported the weights and fineness but did not include values. William Sumner has reported these results and calculated the intrinsic value of each coin. The Seville and Mexican eight reales were slightly under sterling fineness at .921 which Sumner calculated at a value of 54.012d, the pillar coin was above sterling at .933 fine calculated by Sumner at 54.7387d while the Peru eight reales has the lowest fineness at about .905 fine for an intrinsic value of 53.06d (Sumner, "Spanish Dollar" pp. 614-614). From this period and throughout the remainder of the American colonial period a full 17.5 pennyweight eight reales usually traded as currency in England at 54d (4s6d). Thus, we see the eight reales traded at 52d (4s4d) until 1651 when it was raised to its full intrinsic value of 54d (4s6d). With the exception of a brief period during the great recoinage, when eight reales could be sold at a premium of 56d (4s8d), the value of the coin remained at 54d (4s6d). In Ireland the eight reales traded at various rates with legislated rates averaging about a 10% crying up from the English standard.The exportation of silver and the use of the eight reales as a bullion substitute in late Seventeenth and Eighteenth century England
As mentioned above, Charles II authorized legislation that as of August 1, 1663 it became legal to export foreign coins as well as gold and silver bullion (Ruding, vol. 2, p. 11). From this point foreign silver coins and especially the eight reales, were treated as silver bullion and traded on the international market at fluctuating prices. Some indication of the quantity of eight reales and related foreign coins that found their way to England during the later part of the century can be gleaned from the following figures. A petition of several London goldsmiths was read in the house of Commons on April 9, 1690 stating that during the six month period from October 1, 1689 - March 31, 1690 a total of 286,120 troy ounces of silver bullion and 89,949 dollars in foreign coins had been exported from England. Also, John Houghton, the author of a weekly newspaper called A Collection for Improvement of Husbandry and Trade, wrote that between the thirteen month period from March 19, 1690/1 through April 16, 1692 there were 169,953 ounces of silver and 84,756 foreign silver coins exported through the London customs office. Further, in an anonymous booklet probably published in 1695 called, The True Cause of the Present Scarcity of Milled Money, it stated that between May 24, 1689 and the date the essay was composed, a total of 2,315,615 ounces of bullion or melted silver had been exported to Holland along with 481,357 "Pieces of Eight and Dollars" (Li, p. 53). The most common silver coins, frequently called dollars, were the Spanish dollars or eight reales and the Dutch and German rix dollars or thalers. Although none of these figures are comprehensive they all indicate a large number of eight reales and other foreign coins were imported into and then exported out of England to pay foreign debts. Interestingly, the coins were always mentioned in relation to silver bullion. This is because the coins were used as bullion to pay debts and traded on the international market at bullion prices. These prices fluctuated daily and were always a point of negotiation. In December of 1693 an ounce of sterling was valued at 5s3d on the precious metals market, while in December of 1694 it was at 5s4d and rose to 6s5d by December of 1695 but was down to 5s2d by December of 1696 (Li, pp. 10-11). This fluctuation did not affect the face value of an eight reales in daily commerce just as it did not affect the face value of an English shilling. It simply meant sometimes the intrinsic value of the silver content of a coin would be worth slightly more or slightly less than the face value; a shilling traded at 12d even through the commodity price of the silver in the coin fluctuated daily slightly above or below the face value of the coin. If the commodity price of silver dramatically increased it was more profitable to melt coins rather than to spend them at face value. However, rather than actually melting down eight reales, they were often traded on the international market as if they were bullion, when used in this way their value fluctuated daily with the price of silver.
The earliest indication of the price of silver in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Bay is found in an order of the General Court from May 13, 1640 regarding the value at which specific items were to be accepted by the Commonwealth when individuals presented these items as payment of their tax assessment. The record of the General Court stated:
"And it was ordered, that in payment silver plate should passe at 5s the ounce; good ould Indian corne, growing hear, being clean & marchantable, at 5s the bushell; summer wheate at 7s the bushell; rye at 6shs the bushell./" (Shurtleff, vol. 1, p. 294)Thus, anyone wishing to pay their tax with sterling dishes, bowls, cups or other forms of British plate would be offered 60d per troy ounce. This rate of 60d (5s) per troy ounce (480 grains) of sterling plate was the rate current in England, for the London mint purchased silver at 60d (5s) per troy ounce and then used it to mint 62d (5s2d) in silver coinage. At the rate of 60d (5s) per ounce, a Spanish American eight reales at the British standard of 17.5 pennyweight (420 grains), which the British considered to be of sterling fineness, would be valued at only 52.5d (4s 4.5d). Indeed, in 1640 an eight reales traded in London for 52d (4s4d). As both Britain and Massachusetts Bay rated a troy ounce of sterling at 60d in 1640, it is quite likely an eight reales in Massachusetts Bay traded at 52d (4s4d) as it did in London. The crying up of silver
The relationship of parity in the value of silver between Massachusetts Bay and Britain soon changed. Indeed, it is quite likely the scarcity of silver coinage in Massachusetts Bay had caused some disparity between Massachusetts and Britain before 1640, even though sterling plate was rated at parity. As we have seen, in Britain a full 17.5 pennyweight (420 grains) Spanish American eight reales dollar traded at 52d (4s4d). However, in Massachusetts Bay the colonists regularly accepted a 17 pennyweight (408 grains) Spanish American eight reales as a full weight coin. This was also true in Ireland, where exchange rates survive from the 1661, 1689 and 1695 all listing a full weight Spanish eight reales at 17 pennyweight (Ruding, vol. 2, pp. 3, 23 and 39). Thus, even though the eight reales was rated at 52d in both Britain and the American colonies in 1640, it is possible the colonists maintained a lower standard if the one half pennyweight differential, which is documented after 1650, was in effect earlier. This somewhat subtle distinction, indicating a possible divergence from parity, was soon made more apparent as the demand for silver coinage to conduct daily commerce became acute in Massachusetts Bay. Contemporaries stated there was a need to "cry up" the value of silver. During the General Court of June 14, 1642, Massachusetts Bay increased the value of the eight reales by 4d from 52d to 56d (4s8d) ["It was voted that ryalls of eight should passe at 4s8d a peece./"], then three months later, during the General Court session of September 27th, the value was raised a further 4d to 60d (5s) (Shurtleff, vol. 2, pp. 20 and 23-24). When the Boston mint opened in 1652 a 17 pennyweight eight reales was trading at 60d (5s) in Massachusetts Bay, while in London a 17.5 pennyweight eight reales was then trading at its full intrinsic value of 54d (4s6d).The relative rates of Massachusetts and Spanish silver
The value of the Spanish American eight reales was central to the operation of the Massachusetts mint. Essentially the function of the mint was to transform the crude and underweight Spanish American cob coinage, then in circulation, into a uniform coinage that could be accepted at face value. The text of the mint act specified precisely what items were to be accepted by the mint. In the version of the act passed by the House of Deputies on May 27, 1652, it stated:
"That all persons whatsoeuer haue libertie to bring in vnto the mint howse at Boston all Bullion plate or Spanish Coyne there to be melted & brought to the Allay of Sterling siluer" (Crosby, p. 37)Later in the document the same three items were mentioned again:
"& It shalbe in the liberty of any person who brings into the mint howse any bullian plate or spanish Coyne as afforsaid to be present and se [see] the same melted & refined Allayed" (Crosby, pp. 37-38)These items were also mentioned in the June 20, 1652 document of the mint committee:
...wee cannot but Judge it meete to Allow the said mint master, for Refyning and Coyning such bulljon, plate & mony, that shall be brought vnto them,..." Crosby, p. 40Thus, according to a strict reading of the mint act the mint was to accept and refine only bullion, plate and Spanish coins, althouth the mint committee simply mentioned money rather than specifically stating Spanish coinage. Bullion refers to bars or ingots of silver of any fineness, while plate refers to dishes, bowls, cups, utensils and other household items made of silver, whether they were British items of sterling fineness or lower grade foreign silver. Spanish coins would primarily consist of Spanish American cob coinage rather than cobs from mainland Spain. These were the only items the mint was required to accept. From Hull's ledger we cannot determine precisely what items were consigned to the mint as he usually just recorded the sterling weight, although he sometimes specifically stated the silver was as "sterling dollars," which meant Spanish American eight reales coins. He also mentioned some Spanish plate that was below sterling fineness and another consignment of 58 ounces of plate for which he made an allowance of two ounces to make it sterling. We also know there were also several critics of the mint who stated British coins had been melted at the Boston mint. Thus, there is evidence for cobs, plate and possibly some small amount of British silver coinage. However, if we look at the surviving records from London, we discover as early as the Elizabethan era any bullion or plate was accepted at the mint and coins from the French, Dutch and Spanish territories were quite common with coins from other areas present in smaller quantities, but clearly Spanish silver coinage was the predominant item (Challis, Tudor Coinage, pp. 192-194). It seems probable that the silver consigned to the Massachusetts mint was predominantly Spanish American cobs and plate, this is certainly the impression from the Hull ledger. However, it is quite likely that, as in London, the Massachusetts Bay mint accepted any silver individuals were willing to consign, including all "mony" (to quote the mint committee terminology), such as Dutch, French and German silver coins.
However, the mint act clearly focused on the crude Spanish cob coinage that was predominant circulating medium. In order to economically transform Spanish cobs into new Massachusetts silver coinage there needed to be some profit for both the mintmaster and the customer in the conversion process. When the mint opened in 1652 Massachusetts coinage was 22.5% overvalued in relation to British silver; since Spanish American silver was only overvalued by 11%, conversion to Massachusetts silver was advantageous. A mint customers would typically bring in a quantity of silver items to be melted down and refined to sterling, a hypothetical example of a consignment might contain 500 eight reales, 25 Dutch Lion dollars and a silver goblet bearing the mark of a London goldsmith. The reales and the goblet would be accepted as sterling fineness and the customer would then be given a receipt for the total weight of these items. The non-sterling items, in this case some Dutch Lion dollars, would be assayed if the fineness was unknown and a per ounce return would be calculated based on the reduction from the sterling standard, then the weight of the non-sterling silver with the reduced return rate would be recorded on the customer's receipt. The total silver consigned to the mint would be used to make Massachusetts coinage and the customer would be given 74d in Massachusetts coinage per ounce of sterling consigned. The remainder of the coins would be retained by Hull as his mint fee. In the following example I wish to show the profit accrued from bringing eight reales to the mint so I am using a hypothetical example based on a single coin, although as discussed above Hull may not have accepted such a small consignment. If a customer in 1652 happened to bring to the mint a Spanish American eight reales at the full authorized weight of 423.9 grains Hull would accept the coin as equivalent to sterling. Assuming this cob would be used to produce coinage at 72 grains of sterling per shilling with no wastage, the yield would be 70.65d (5s 10.65d) in Massachusetts money. Allowing for the mint and wastage fees, totaling 18d per 20s coined (or .9d per shilling), the fees for this item would be 4.54875d. Thus, of the total 70.65d, the customer would receive 66.10125d or 5s 6.10125d. Rather than pass the coin at the legislated rate of 60d (5s), even with the mint fees, the customer would profit by 6.10125d per full weight eight reales. It was advantageous to bring full weight coins to the mint for conversion into Massachusetts shillings.
Sumner has explained the precise break even point was a Spanish American eight reales at 389.18 grains (Sumner, "Coin Shilling," p. 255). With the mint fees, the net return for the customer bringing a coin of this weight to the Boston mint would be 60d (5s) in Boston money, exactly the legislated value of a full weight eight reales. Any eight reales below this weight, that could be passed off as a full weight example at 60d (5s), would naturally be more valuable in its original state. However, because there were very few, if any, full weight eight reales in Massachusetts Bay it was common practice to trade these coins by weight rather than by the piece. Because the value of lightweight coins was determined by weight, bringing the coins to the mint was more advantageous than spending them. A clipped eight reales at say, 360 grains, would be valued at 51d in relation to a full 17 pennyweight (408 grains) coin at 60d (5s). However, if taken to the mint the same 360 grains coin would produce 60d in Massachusetts silver; subtracting the mint and wastage fees of 4.5d per five shillings, yields a return for the customer of 55.5d, which is 4.5d in profit. Basically, Spanish silver was overvalued by 11% while Massachusetts silver was overvalued by 22.5%, therefore even with the 7.5% mint and wastage fees an individual would gain 4% by converting Spanish silver to Massachusetts silver. Based on these exchange rates it was more profitable to bring all Spanish silver into the mint.
To put this another way, a troy ounce of sterling silver converted into Massachusetts coinage was valued at 80d while a troy ounce of Spanish American silver (with a 17 pennyweight eight reales at 60d) was valued at 70.58d. This was a price differential of 9.42d per troy ounce, which favored conversion into Massachusetts coinage. In theory, in addition to the price differential there would also be a small supplemental profit when converting Spanish cobs to Massachusetts sterling because Spanish silver had a higher silver content than Massachusetts silver. When Spanish cobs were deposited at the Massachusetts mint a troy ounce (480 grains) of Spanish cob coinage at the authorized fineness of just about .931 fine would theoretically be refined down to .925 fine sterling by adding 3.11 grains of copper, if there was no wastage this would result in 483.11 grains of sterling, for a net gain of just over three grains of sterling (or slightly more than .5d in Massachusetts silver) per ounce.
However, there were several factors that would impact this additional profit. Most importantly was the fluctuation in fineness. Just as the weight of individual coins differed, so also, the fineness of the silver fluctuated. In the assays performed at the London mint under Isaac Newton during 1702 and 1704, five different eight reales were measured of which one was above the average Spanish fineness at .933 fine while the other four were actually slightly under the sterling standard, with examples at .905, .919 and two at .921 fine. Clearly, there would be no additional profit if the Newton examples had been brought to the Massachusetts mint.
During the Seventeenth century people did not perceive authorized fineness as a fixed number in the same way as we do in the Twenty First century. There was always some tolerance in coin weight built into coinage acts, but fineness was usually precisely defined. However, it would be more accurate for us to consider the authorized fineness as a "target" rather than a precise measure. Even in London, the government coin test, called the trial of the pyx, accepted a two pennyweight tolerance in fineness per troy pound (that is, a tolerance of 48 grains per every 5,760 grains). For sterling, which was defined as 11 ounces 2 pennyweight of fine silver per troy pound or .925 fine, the ideal was 5,328 grains of silver to 432 grains of copper per troy pound. With the two pennyweight (48 grains) per pound tolerance, sterling could be as low as 5,280 grains of silver per troy pound, which would calculate to a low of .9168 fine, on the other hand it could range as high as 933.2 fine. Spanish silver was authorized at a fineness of .9305 which would calculate to 5,359.68 grains of silver and 400.32 grains of copper per troy pound. Using the British tolerance of two pennyweight per troy pound there would be an outside tolerance of 5,311.68 grains of silver per pound, which would calculate to .9222 fine. However, from the Newton assays we see the Spanish mints had a wider tolerance than the British, as three of the four Spanish examples were below .9222 fine. Indeed one example at .905 fine was below the low range for sterling, which was .9186 fine. Based on the technology of the times contemporaries accepted small fluctuations in fineness as unavoidable. It was understood Spanish coinage had a higher authorized fineness than sterling but that the Spanish mints had a wider tolerance for error. Occasionally Spanish silver may have dipped below the low range for sterling, which was .9186 fine, but some examples would have a higher fineness than the sterling standard, on average Spanish silver was within the same fineness range as the pyx tolerance for sterling, that is to say, between a high of 933.2 fine and a low of .9186 fine. Thus, Spanish silver was considered to be the equivalent of sterling in fineness. It was regularly traded as the equivalent of sterling in Britain and America and it was treated as such by Hull. From the evidence we have in the Newton assays, it seems there was no substantive fineness differential between sterling and Spanish cobs.
Further, even if there happened to be a consignment of Spanish silver that averaged at or above the authorized fineness of .9305 (or even .931 fine) it is quite unlikely there would be any advantage. The difference was so small it was almost impossible to reliably measure. There would only be 31.68 grains more of silver per each 5,760 grains (this is the difference between the sterling standard of 5,328 grains of silver per troy pound and the Spanish standard of 5,359.68 grains of silver per troy pound). Even in London such accuracy was not possible. As mentioned previously, as late as 1696 the masters of the mint Thomas Neale and Thomas Hall wrote to the Lords of the Treasury that assays at the mint and assays at the Exchequer, "often differ, and sometimes as much as two pennyweights 'and better'." (Redington, p. 492, item 40). I suspect Hull did not even spend the time and effort to assay a melt of cobs. However, even if Hull did happen to assay a melt, it would not be economical to try to make such minor adjustments in refining the melt as it would require keeping the silver melted for a longer period and therefore more silver would vaporize, negating any benefit. It appears that when a customer brough Hull Spanish cobs that averaged slightly above sterling fineness Hull simply produced slightly finer coinage (see Mossman, p. 79 for an assay of Massachusetts silver at .926 fine)*.
*Note - The citation in Mossman refers to George F. Chever, "Some Remarks on the Commerce of Salem from 1626 to 1740," Historcial Collections of the Essex Insititute, 1 (September 1859, number 4) 118-143, where in a footnote on p. 125 Chever cites the noted numismatist Matthew Stickney as his source that the U.S. mint had assayed some Pine Tree shillings and determined their weight at 65 to 67 grains with a fineness of .926. Many examples of Massachusetts silver were clipped or filed as they circulated, quite likely this was also true of the assayed examples.Spanish silver is rated above Massachusetts silver
For a period of twenty years after the opening of the mint in 1652, the value of Spanish American reales did not change in Massachusetts Bay, so it remained profitable to convert Spanish cobs into Massachusetts Bay coinage. However, during the 1660's several other British colonies followed the lead of Massachusetts and began crying up the value of Spanish American silver to keep it from leaving their jurisdictions. Shortly before 1662 the value of an eight reales was increased from 54d (4s6d) to 56d (4s8d) in Barbados. In January of 1663 Bermuda raised the eight reales to 60d (5s), a few years later on November 15, 1668 Barbados enacted the 60d (5s) rate. Then on September 29, 1670 Monserrat took an even bolder measure and rated the eight reales at 72d (6s) with Peru pieces at 60d (5s) and New England silver at face value. This law was copied and instituted in Antigua on August 14, 1672 and during that same year it was also enacted on the island of Nevis. During the first half of February of 1671 Jamaica was forced to compete with the other islands and raised the value of the eight reales to 60d (5s) (Chalmers, pp. 48, 153, 64 and 98). At these higher rates there was less economic incentive to take coinage out of the islands.
Faced with a diminishing supply of new silver in Massachusetts Bay, a proposal had been put forward in the House of Deputies as early as June 2, 1669 to increase the value of a full 17 pennyweight eight reales from 60d (5s) to 72d (6s). In effect, this law would have increased the value of a troy ounce (20 pennyweight) of Spanish American silver from 70.58d (just above 5s10d) to 84.7d (just over 7s), which was higher than the 80d per ounce rate of Massachusetts silver. The proposal would have favored debtors over creditors and would have taken away all economic incentive for bringing Spanish cobs to the Massachusetts mint. The legislation was defeated in the House of Magistrates and was not enacted (Crosby, pp. 105-106). Another undated proposal, attributed to 1671, was put forward by a Mr. Wharton. He proposed raising the value of a Massachusetts shilling to 14d and raising the value of Spanish silver to 90d (7s6d) per troy ounce. This would value a 17 pennyweight eight reales at 76.5d, which, at 14d per shilling, would equal just a halfpenny less that five and a half shillings in Massachusetts coinage, or almost halfway between the current 5s value and the defeated 6s proposal. The advantage of the Wharton proposal was that it would rate Spanish cobs higher than their value in the West Indies thus drawing more silver to Massachusetts Bay. Further, by raising the value of Massachusetts silver the proposal kept Spanish cobs (at 90d per troy ounce) at a lower rate than Massachusetts silver (at about 93.3d per troy ounce). However, the proposal had several problems. It did not address the problem that increasing the value of the shilling would favor debtors and hurt creditors who had agreed to prices based on a 12d shilling. Also, the differential between Spanish and Massachusetts silver was so small that once mint fees were added there was no advantage in converting to Massachusetts silver. Again the proposal was rejected (Crosby, pp. 106-107).
Starting in 1670 Monserrat increased the value of the eight reales to 72d (6s) and soon thereafter other islands followed. As the eight reales passed at only 60d (5s) in Massachusetts Bay, it was more profitable for individuals to export Spanish American cobs out of the Commonwealth instead of spending them or taking them to the mint to be transformed into Massachusetts coinage. From Hull's ledger, which survives for the period from October of 1671 through September of 1680, we discover only about £392 in coins were minted from October of 1671 through the end of 1672, and, of that amount all but £70 in coins was consigned by Hull from his inventory. The Massachusetts Bay economy was faced with both the exportation of Spanish cobs out of the Commonwealth and a drastic reduction in production at the Massachusetts mint. In light of these developments the House of Magistrates reassessed the situation and, in an attempt to keep Spanish American silver in the Commonwealth, concurred with the Deputies in passing a law on October 8, 1672 increasing the value of a full weight eight reales to 72d (6s).
The 1672 act regulating eight reales at 72d (6s) remained in effect for a decade. This law took away any profit from exporting Spanish cobs out of the Commonwealth thus halting the flow of Spanish silver out of Massachusetts but at the same time it took away the economic incentive that had previously induced people to bring Spanish silver to the mint. Spanish silver was now rated at just over 84d (7s) per troy ounce while Massachusetts silver was only 80d (6s8d) per troy ounce thus, one actually lost money when converting Spanish silver to Massachusetts coinage! During this period several proposals were put forward to keep the mint in operation. In 1675 the mint fees were decreased and in 1677 Hull further reduced his fees. In early 1680 several proposals were submitted to abolish the mint fees and debase Massachusetts coinage in an attempt to make it profitable once again to bring Spanish American silver to the mint. Hull understood the crying up of the eight reales to 72d (6s) had greatly hurt his business and on June 6, 1680 he put forward a proposal to cry up the value of an ounce of sterling silver in Massachusetts money from its current value of 80d per ounce to a new higher value of 96d per ounce while keeping Spanish silver at 84d per ounce. At the new rate Massachusetts silver would once again be more valuable than Spanish silver. Indeed, Hull suggested the customer would gain 7d to 7.5d when converting a full weight eight reales to Massachusetts shillings (Crosby, pp. 111 -112). However, because of political problems with the Committee of Trade and Plantations and the London mint, the General Court understood they would not be allowed to further deviate from the British weight standard of 92.9 grains per shilling and thus Hull's proposal was rejected. Following this disappointment, Hull had no alternative except to further reduce his fees if he wished to attract silver into the mint, but nothing he did seemed to help. Indeed, even if Hull had been able to offer his services at no charge, it was still more profitable for individuals to spend or export Spanish cobs at 84d per ounce that it was to convert them into Massachusetts shillings at 80d per ounce.
With a 4d per ounce differential one might wonder why any Spanish silver would be consigned to the mint. Although there was a premium to be paid for converting cobs into Massachusetts silver, some Massachusetts coinage was still minted. Of course, a portion of this coinage was produced from bullion, plate or foreign silver coins other than cobs, such as lion and rix dollars; but some Spanish cobs continued to make their way into the mint. Sometimes the convenience of Massachusetts silver outweighed the cost. Boston merchants had a need for coins that could be readily exchanged at face value, it allowed them to conduct transactions more quickly and efficiently. Also, coinage that could trade at face value rather than weight was better for the customer. There are several instances in the colonial period of merchants that did not have standard weights. Indeed, at Notre Dame we have a warrent from September 22, 1708 stating the Selectmen of the town of Bristol, Massachusetts were summonsed to the next general session of the county court, "for want of weights and measures (or rather for want of a standard in the town to try weights and measures)" (University of Notre Dame, Department of Special Colletions, Colonial American Documents, Bristol, MA 1708). Further, some merchants were accused of intentionally using a heavier set of weights when accepting payment from a customer and then switching to a lighter set of weights when returning change or making payments to others! Such situations could result in even greater losses to the customer than would be incurred by converting ones silver at the mint. However, it is clear in most instances individuals preferred to put up with the inconveniences of using weights rather than lose money in the conversion process.
To further complicate the silver problem in Massachusetts Bay, at the same time production of Massachusetts coinage was on the decline, larger quantities of Massachusetts silver were being illegally exported out of the Commonwealth. Since Massachsuetts coinage was first minted it had been much lighter than British coinage. A Massachsuetts shilling traded at a 25% differential from British coinage, thus a Massachusetts shilling was valued at 9d in British money. It was felt this low valuation would keep the coinage in Massachusetts Bay as one would sustain a 25% loss when using it outside of Massachusetts. However, with the crying up of Spanish reales, Massachusetts coinage was no longer the lower valued medium. At 72d for a Spanish eight reales of 408 grains, a shilling in reales would be equal to 68 grains. At that time a Massachusetts Bay shilling was legislated at 72 grains, thus based on the upcrying of Spanish silver a Massachusetts shilling would be equivalent to 12.7d in Spanish silver. Therefore, one would gain up to a .7d advantage by exporting a Massachusetts Bay shilling over spending it in Massachusetts Bay for 12d. However in some areas such as Monserrat, Massachusetts silver was legislated at face value, which seemingly took away the advantage in exporting it out of Massachusetts. However, even in those areas Massachsuetts silver would have a more favorable rate in regard to returns or debts paid to Britain. Since the first years of the mint, Massachusetts silver was generally accepted at the exchange rate of 15d in Massachusetts silver for 12d British value, while Spanish American cobs at 72d per eight reales at 408 grains, would require the value of 16.2d in cobs to equal 12d British value. Thus, one would save 1.2d per sterling shilling when paying British debts with Boston shillings. Because of the economic advantages from these higher returns in the West Indies, Massachusetts silver coins were being illegally exported in such quantities the Commonwealth searchers could not keep smugglers at bay. The higher returns for eight reales resulted in less coinage production in Massachusetts Bay and at the same time more circulating Massachusetts coins were being illegally exported. An anonymous proposal to the General Court from May 19, 1680 stated: "little of late yeares (compared to what is laid up and carried away,) hath been coyned; and of that little, much dispersed into other Colony's" (Crosby, 109-111).Spanish silver is reduced to parity with Massachusetts silver
To protect and promote the use of Massachusetts coinage within the Commonwealth the General Court passed an act on May 24, 1682 reducing the value of the eight reales so that it would be at parity with Massachusetts silver. Since the colonials assumed both Massachusetts and Spanish coinage were at the sterling standard, the law stated they would trade Spanish silver by weight at the same rate authorized for Massachusetts silver coinage. As Massachusetts silver was minted at a standard of 80d (6s8d) per troy ounce, Spanish silver was reduced from 84d (7s) per troy ounce to 80d per troy ounce; at the 80d per troy ounce standard, a full 17 pennyweight (408 grains) eight reales would be valued at 68d (5s8d).
The preamble to the act of May 24, 1682 is not quite clear. It stated that due to the export of Boston silver from the Commonwealth the law was being enacted, lowering the value of Spanish silver, in order to keep "Money" from being exported. This explanation could be interpreted as meaning that by lowering the value of Spanish silver it would be more attractive to export Spanish rather than Massachusetts silver, thus reducing the drain of Massachusetts silver from the Commonwealth (but once again increasing the export of Spanish silver). It could also be interpreted as an attempt to take away the economic disadvantage of converting higher value Spanish silver into lower value Massachusetts silver and thereby increasing the production of Massachusetts silver. However, as the customer was required to pay the mint fees, the equalization of value would not be enough incentive to bring Spanish silver into the mint, as there would still be an economic disadvantage to the customer when bringing equal value Spanish silver to the mint for conversion into Boston silver.The eight reales at 72d (6s)
Although the May 1682 legislation to reduce the value of Spanish silver was passed by the General Court, it is not known if this law was actually enforced in the marketplace. The law was clearly a source of contention and was soon overturned. Indeed, the final contract for the Massachusetts mint expired on June 3, 1682, just nine days after the May 24th legislation was passed, but it had no effect on the minting operations as neither Hull nor Sanderson sought to renew the minting contract. Further, on October 23, 1684 Charles II abolished the charter of Massachusetts Bay, invalidating all of the laws of the Commonwealth including the minting act of 1652 and the acts revaluing Spanish silver coinage. A new government was instituted under the royal governor Edward Andros, who took office on December 20, 1686 as Governor of the Dominion of New England. Andros was given extensive authority including the right to regulate the value of foreign silver. Soon thereafter, on March 10, 1687 Andros enacted legislation returning the valuation of a full weight eight reales to 72d (6s).
On March 18, 1689 the citizens of Massachusetts rebelled against the oppressive Andros, imprisoning him and setting up a provisional government that continued in power until a new charter was granted to Massachusetts on October 7, 1691. The new government was constituted in May of 1692. Soon thereafter, in the fall session of the Assembly, on November 24, 1692 the eight reales was again legislated at 72d (6s) as part of an act against counterfeiting. However, because of concerns about the punishments handed out to counterfeiters, the King's Privy Council nullified the entire law on August 22, 1695. About a year after Massachusetts was notified of this event the Assembly passed another act, on October 19, 1697, regulating the eight reales at 72d (6s). This act stated that full weight eight reales had long circulated at 72d (6s) each. The wording was:
"Whereas for many yeares past the money coyned in the late Massachusetts Colony hath passed currant at the rate or value it was stampt for, and good Sevil, pillar, or mexico pieces of Eight of full Seventeen penny weight, have also passed Currant at Six Shillings per piece... the Coynes before mentioned shall stil be and continue currant money... at the respective values aforesaid, according as hath heretofore been accustomed." (Crosby, pp. 100-101 and Acts and Resolves, vol. 1, p. 296, Acts of 1697, chapter 16)The eight reales in Massachusetts following the proclamation of 1704
The 1697 act remained in place until the proclamation of Queen Anne in 1704, which set the value of the Spanish American eight reales at 72d (6s), but caused some concerns in Massachusetts. Crosby gives the essential documents relating to the proclamation through June of 1705 but overlooks at letter of July 1705 by Jospeh Dudley that explains some of the problems the legislature had with the proclamation. The Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, Joseph Dudley, felt there would be some discrepancies to be resolved in that the colonists had regularly legislated a Spanish American eight reales at 17 pennyweight was a full weight coin, this valued silver at 84d (7s) per troy ounce. However, in Britain the mint recognized a 17.5 pennyweight eight reales as a full weight example, which slightly decreased the value of silver to 80d (6s8d) per troy ounce. Dudley further discovered the legislature was unwilling to halt the circulation of lightweight silver. Although clipping was outlawed, there were no rules against passing clipped coins at a proportionally reduced rate. Indeed, most Spanish American silver coins in circulation in Massachusetts were underweight, clipped examples. In fact, the proliferation of clipped coinage had been given as the reason for the opening of the Massachusetts mint in the act of May 26/27, 1652. Also, the Massachusetts act of October 8, 1672 had candidly stated concerning full weight Spanish American eight reales: "inasmuch as few or no peeces of eight are of that weight" (Crosby, p. 80). Because of the shortage of hard currency within the colony it was important to be able to use all of the silver available including lightweight coins.
Additionally, a further complication arose. On June 30, 1705 the Massachusetts legislature voted to levy a tax on individuals and estates. Although not stated in the act there was a debate over the value at which Spanish American silver was to be credited when using silver to pay the tax. The legislature wanted silver to be valued at 96d (8s) per troy ounce, which equalled 72d (6s) per 15 pennyweight coin and would therefore value a 17 pennyweight Spanish American eight reales at 82d (6s10d) [or at the British standard of 17.5 pennyweight the Spanish American eight reales would be just over 84d (7s)]. This very favorable valuation, which exceeded the normal 72d (6s) rate, had been used in the past to encourage individuals to pay their tax with silver coinage in lieu of Massachusetts paper currency. These issues: the continued use of lightweight silver, increasing a full weight coins from 17 to 17.5 pennyweight and the rate for Spanish American silver when accepted in payment of taxes, became stalling points in accepting the proclamation. On July 25, 1705 Dudley wrote to the Lords of Trade and Plantations:
"I have pursued the affair of the weight of money, in obedience to her Majesty's most gracious commands and that matter is thus: Seven Years since there was a Law of this Province allowed of by the late King, that all pieces of eight seventeen peny weight should pass for six shillings, and pretty well observed [this refers to the act of October 19, 1697]; So that I thought I had little to do only in obedience to Her Majesty's proclamation to add the half penny [that is, add the half pennyweight differential as Massachusetts at 17 pennyweight was below the British standard of 17.5 pennyweight for a full weight eight reales]; and accordingly, at the next immediate Session, the General Assembly agreed to the publication of Her Majesty's order, and their own affirmance of it in this Province unto the next General Assembly which sate in May last, when I expected and accordingly directed, in my Speech whereof a Copy is inclosed, That they would proceed to inforce Her Majesty's commands by adding just and severe penalties to any hereafter offering clipt money, or other light money by tale; but could not obtain so much as a Committee upon that affair till I would leave out the word Penalties, whereby I perceived plainly the representatives minds were altered, which they soon further declared in sending up their Vote to pay the tax of twenty two thousand pounds in silver at eight shillings the ounce, which is scarce fifteen peny weight for six shillings; and this they insisted upon for five weeks sitting, but I would not accept it and so refused their Votes peremptorily and have gotten the tax upon the old usage of seventeen penny weight, but nothing at all done to inforce the Proclamation, nor any penalty, and thereby the Country will be emboldened to use their late way of payment at fifteen penny, though I shall take care that the Court and officrs of receipt keep steady and allow no legal payment but of due weight." (Acts and Resolves, vol. 1, p. 579, Acts of 1705-1706, chapter 3, note)The Lords of Trade and Plantations simply did not understand the problem of the lack of available full weight silver coinage. In their reply to Dudley they viewed the issue as a simple situation in which universal standards would promote prosperity and trade and would also curtail malefactors who clipped coins. In their letter of February 4, 1706 the Lords stated:
"We observe what you write about the proceedings of the Assembly in relation to her Majesty's Proclamation for settling the rate of foreign coins in the Plantations, and have represented the same to her Majesty. You will do well to continue your endeavours to convince them of the necessity of complying with her Majesty's pleasure therein. Her Majesty's care in that matter is a great instance of her goodness, and her desire of the welfare of her subjects, which will evidently appear to them if they reflect that most contracts and bargains have their original from a demand of money, and must terminate in payment; That silver is the standard in proportion to its weight and fineness; That if adulterated coins be permitted to pass at the standard (above their intrinsic value) or be alterable at pleasure, it must have the same effect as a general allowance of false weights and measures, the consequence of which is deceit and confusion. You are further to represent to the Assembly that there lies a particular obligation on them to enforce a due obedience to her Majesty's commands herein, For that the regulation of the Rates at which Foreign Coins are to pass was calculated from a Law of their own ... You may likewise acquaint the Assembly that it is absolutely necessary to settle a true and uniform standard, in order to prevent clipping and coining and other deceits in Trade by crafty and designing men, by which means fair and honest dealings will be settled among yourselves and with your Neighbors, and Trade established upon a solid foundation, agreeable to equity and justice. The particular interest of some designing men ought not to over-ballance these considerations." (Acts and Resolves, vol. 1, pp. 579-580, Acts of 1705-1706, chapter 3, note)Spanish silver priced as a commodity in Eighteenth century colonial Massachusetts
Clipped eight reales cobs continued to circulate in Massachusetts at a prorated value based on a full 17 pennyweight example at 72d (6s). Also, Spanish American silver coinage was treated as silver bullion and traded as a commodity based on an agreed price per ounce of silver, usually, as we have seen, between 7s and 8s per troy ounce for the period through 1710 [which valued a full weight eight reales from 72d (6s) to 82d (6s10d)]. In later years the price of silver rose dramatically as the value of a Massachusetts shilling of account declined. The Massachusetts shilling was no longer based on sterling coinage but rather on paper currency. As more and more paper money was printed the value of paper currency declined, therefore it took more paper money to equal a troy ounce of sterling. The rate continued to rise, in 1719 it took 144d (12s) in Massachusetts paper money to equal a troy ounce of sterling, which valued a 17 pennyweight eight reales at 122.4d (10s2.4d) while by 1729 it took a little over 240d (20s) in Massachusetts paper money to equal an ounce of sterling, putting a 17 pennyweight eight reales at 204d (17s). By 1739 it took slightly over 348d (29s) in paper to purchase an ounce of sterling sliver, giving the 17 pennyweight eight reales a value of 295.8d (24s7.8d). During the 1740's inflation was dramatic so that by 1749 it took 696d (58s) in Massachusetts paper money to equal a troy ounce of sterling silver, which valued a 17 pennyweight eight reales at 591.6d (49s3.6d) in Massachusetts money of account (see McCusker, pp. 151-152).
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|Section Contents||Massachusetts Bay Silver: General Introduction|