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   Issue 27, Spring 2017

Print shows the harbor in Boston, Massachusetts, two ships at anchor, British soldiers and men working, merchandise on shore; an idealized view depicting Boston as a typical European city.


Many of the resources for researching money, currency, exchange rates, prices, and banking overlap so those topics have been grouped together in this section. This section includes only some of the resources on these topics – for more granular discussions, additional articles and other books would be needed to supplement what is here.

This section does not look at sources that are more about numismatics though books on that topic can sometimes be helpful.  It also does not repeat sources that are in other parts of this guide that may also overlap with these topics.

BERA - Business & Economics Research Advisor - A Quarterly Guide to Business & Economics Topics

Issue 27: Spring 2017

The Colonies in America: Commerce, Business, and the Economy

Table of Contents

General History
The Local Perspective
Trade & Mercantilism    New resource
   Atlantic Slave Trade   New resource
Money, Prices, & Banking   New resource
Statistics & Data
Internet Sources & Map Collections
LC Subject Headings

Caption (image left): Vuë de Boston. Prospect von Boston gegen der Bucht am Hasen Vuë de Boston vers le Cale du Port.
Habermann, Franz Xaver, 1721-1796.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Bezanson, Anne, Robert D. Gray, and Miriam Hussey. Prices in Colonial Pennsylvania. Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, 1935.
LC Call Number: HB235.U6 B4
LC Catalog Record: 35023891

Covering the time period beginning in 1720 (start date/coverage may vary depending on the commodity) and ending with 1775. Monthly and annual presentation on: wheat and flower; bread/ corn; tobacco; rice; beef and pork; staves; pitch, tar, and turpentine; iron; sugar; molasses and rum; indigo; cotton; Madeira; salt as well as information on Sterling trade, additional commodities, rate of exchange. There are also Appendix table that correspond. Available via De Gruyter for those with a subscription.

Brock, Leslie V. "The Colonial Currency, Prices, and Exchange Rates." Essays in History 34 (1992):70-132.
Available online External Link
Data tables External Link

This article contains data available on colonial bills of credit in circulation and serves as an update of what is found in his book The Currency of the American Colonies 1700-1764. A Study in Colonial Finance and Imperial Relations.

Brock, Leslie V. The Currency of the American Colonies 1700-1764. A Study in Colonial Finance and Imperial Relations. Arno Press, 1975
LC Call Number: HG508 .B7 1975
LC Catalog Record: 75002576

One of the best surveys of the monetary history of the American colonies for the period it covers. It discusses the historical evolution of colonial currency in each of the colonies and is an edited version of his dissertation. It was updated in his article in Essays in History above.

Calomiris, Charles W. "Institutional Failure, Monetary Scarcity, and the Depreciation of the Continental. The Journal of Economic History 48 no. 1 (1988): 47-68.

This article looks at the case of money quantity and fiscal/monetary policies for improved economic welfare and to better facilitate transactions.

Davis, Andrew McFarland, ed. Colonial Currency Reprints, 1682-1751, Boston, Prince society, 1910-
LC Call Number: E186 .P85
LC Catalog Record: 10025574

This title was designed to reprint a number of pamphlets that looked at the currency question which were mostly published in the first half of the 18the century. There are also a number of letters as well as some communications published in newspapers. This is a multi-volume set that was originally published in 1910 and then republished in 1964 and 1971. There is also a digitized version available via HathiTrust and the Internet Archive.

Davis, Andrew McFarland External Link

This is a list of digitized works done by Davis on a variety of topics including money and banking. It includes links to: Origin of the National Banking System, The Massachusetts Bay Currency, 1690-1750, Papers relating tho the Land bank of 1740, Colonial Currency Reprints, 1682-1751, A search for the beginnings of stock speculation, Two forgotten pamphleteers in the Massachusetts currency controversy, 1720-1740, Currency and banking in the province of the Massachusetts-Bay, etc.

Denzel, Markus A. Handbook of World Exchange Rates, 1590-1914. Farnham, Surrey, England ; Burlington, VT : Ashgate, c2010.
LC Call Number: HG3815 .D46 2010
LC Catalog Record: 2010931187

While this title covers a large swath of time that is outside of this guide, it is still a good resource for data. Also helpful is the discussion around the topic and the limitations about the data as well as the resources used by the author. There are a number of chapters devoted to discussing the topic and limitations on the data, but most of the title is devoted to presenting the data by country.

Derks, Scott. The Value of a Dollar : Colonial Era to the Civil War, 1600-1865. 1st ed. Millerton, N.Y. : Grey House Pub., 2005.
LC Call Number: HB235.U6 D47 2005
LC Catalog Record: 2006275331

Chapters one and two cover up to the American Revolution. Each section includes data/information on: currency, selected incomes, services & fees, financial rates & exchanges, slave trades, commodities, and selected prices. Much of the data has been pulled from newspapers and other historical documents.

Hart, Adolphus M. History of the Issues of Paper-Money in the American Colonies, Antetior to the Revolution, St. Louis, Union, print, 1851.
LC Call Number: HG515 .H2
LC Catalog Record: 06017744

An interesting mid-19th century perspective on money in the Colonial period. A digital version is available via the HathiTrust.External Link

Humpage, Owen F. “Paper Money and Inflation in Colonial America.” Economic Commentary, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, May 13, 2015. External Link

Krooss, Herman Edward, comp. Documentary History of Banking and Currency in the United States. Introd.: Paul A. Samuelson. Editor: Herman E. Krooss. New York, Chelsea House Publishers [1969]
LC Call Number: HG2461 .K76
LC Catalog Record: 69016011

Volume one for this four volume set includes a section on "Colonial Experiments" with transcripts of documents related to commodity money, coinage, bills of credit, and colonial banks.

McCallum, Bennett T. "Money and Prices in Colonial America: A New Test of Competing Theories." Journal of Political Economy, 100 no.1 (1992):143–161.

This article should be helpful in understanding the difference between two opposing theories – classical or quantity theory (Leslie Brock, Bennett McCallum, Ronald Mischener) and anticlassical or backing theory (represented by Bruce Smith, Charles Calomiris, Elmus Wicker) – of monetary experiences in the colonies.

Maddison, Angus. The World Economy : Historical Statistics. Paris, France : Development Centre of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, c2003.
LC Call Number: HF1359 .M333 2003
LC Catalog Record: 2004371607

Much of this title offers data and discussion outside of the Colonial period, but section HS-1 covers western European countries and HS-2 focuses on the U.S. and other British colonies. It includes source notes and estimates for 1500, 1600, 1700, and at decade intervals after 1820 for population and GDP. The web based Angus Maddison Project is an effort to keep Maddison's project going.

Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics of Labor. Comparative Wages, Prices, and Cost of Living. Boston, Wright & Potter printing co., 1889.
LC Call Number: HD4973 .M45 1889
LC Catalog Record: 07028681

The author creator for the state was Carol D. Wright. The period of time this title covers is 1752-1860. There is analysis but as the title indicates it includes prices and wages by occupation and by commodity. There are is a series of tables and some of the occupations covered include: blacksmith, bookbinder, butchers, carpenter, glass makers, mason, millwright, printer, painter, shoemaker, etc. Some of the commodities covered include: clothing, dry goods, fish, fruits, fuel, furniture, liquors and beverages, lumber, meat, nuts, paper, tallow, tobacco, etc.

Michener, Ronald. "Money in the American Colonies". EH.Net Encyclopedia, edited by Robert Whaples. June 8, 2003, revised January 13, 2011. External Link

Michener, Ronald. "Fixed Exchange Rates and the Quantity Theory in Colonial America." Carnegie-Rochester Conf. Ser. Public Policy 27 (Autumn 1987): 233-307.

Murphy, Sharon Ann. Other People's Money : How Banking Worked in the Early American Republic. Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017.
LC Call Number: HG2472 .M87 2017 CABIN BRANCH
LC Catalog Record: 2016017127

The time period is a little out of scope as it begins with the Revolutionary period up to the Civil War but can be helpful in understanding the latter part of the Colonial period. It is broken down by theme not time period and looks at how banking and money worked before the federal government created a national system of US paper currency. Chapters one and two may be the most helpful: chapter one is on how money worked and two is on how banks worked. An excerpt is available in a Time Magazine piece External Link in the February 27, 2017 issue.

National Bureau of Economic Research External Link

This site has a list and copies of many of Farley Grubb's works. Grubb is a professor at the University of Delaware's Alfred Lerner College of Business & Economics. The articles related to his position on Colonial currency including "The Paper Money of Colonial North Carolina, 1712-1774" (2017) and "Non-Legal-Tender Paper Money: The Structure and Performance of Maryland's Bills of Credit, 1767-1775" (2014).

Nettels, Curtis Putnam. The Money Supply of the American Colonies Before 1720, by Curtis Putnam Nettels ... Madison, Wis., 1934.
LC Call Number: HG508 .N4
LC Catalog Record: 34028365

This title coves period 1660-1720 as a series of studies looking at mercantilism and public finance. Specific chapters look at English trade with Spanish-America, southern colonies, and New York and New England. Other chapters include economic relations of the colonies, British payments to the colonies, English currency and coinage, commodity money, the beginning of paper money, etc. This title was republished in 1964.

Perkins, Edwin J. American Public Finance and Financial Services, 1700-1815. Columbus : Ohio State University Press, c1994.
LC Call Number: HJ241 .P47 1994
LC Catalog Record: 93028736

This book examines the development of financial services in North American from the Colonial period though confederation and early national eras. It highlights the colonial past and the institutional innovations after American independence.

Rabushka, Alvin. Taxation in Colonial America. Princeton : Princeton University Press, c2008.
LC Call Number: HJ2368 .R33 2008
LC Catalog Record: 2007026175
Table of contents

This book is a pretty complete history of taxation in colonial British North America – all taxes in all the British colonies – starting with the establishment of Jamestown and ending with the Revolution. There is an extensive index as well as 3 appendix charts covering the years 1610-1780 with the data presented by colony – the first with estimated populations, the second is for the estimated white population, and lastly there is one for estimated Negro population.

Smith, Bruce D. "American Colonial Monetary Regimes: The Failure of the Quantity Theory and Some Evidence in Favour of an Alternative View." Canadian Journal of Economics 18 (August 1985):531-65.

This article explores the importance of how money was introduced versus the quantity of money in the Colonial period.

Smith, Bruce D. "The Relationship Between Money and Prices: Some Historical Evidence Reconsidered." Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Quarterly Review 12 (Summer 1988):18-32. External Link

While the article is substantially about his school of thought regarding the topic of money in Colonial America, there is a part that discusses what is meant by money in Colonial America.

Weiss, Roger W. "The Issue of Paper Money in the American Colonies, 1720-1744." The Journal of Economic History 30 (December 1970):770-84.

This article explores the different interpretations of monetary history of the colonies from the Jacksonian period's William M. Gouge to the 1890s with Charles Bullock and Davis, through to Richard A. Lester and Leslie Brock, and lastly to E. James Ferguson's Power of the Purse : A History of American Public Finance, 1776-1790.

West, Robert C. "Money in the Colonial American Economy." Economic Inquiry 16 (January 1978):1-15.

The purpose of this article was to examine the relationship between paper currency issues and price inflation and to look at developing a monetary model of the colonial economy.

Wicker, Elmus. "Colonial Monetary Standards Contrasted: Evidence from the Seven Years' War." The Journal of Economic History 45 (December 1985):869

This article explores how the different colonies different money systems impacted how each financed the Seven Years War and how that impacted inflation.

Wright, Robert E. Origins of Commercial Banking in America, 1750-1800. Lanham, MD : Rowman & Littlefield, c2001.
LC Call Number: HG2466 .W75 2001
LC Catalog Record: 2001030739

Issues addressed cover a lack of liquidity, the impact of the Revolution, as well as business and banking after the Revolution.

Section TOC Back to Top

LC Subject Headings

There are additional subject headings in other sections of this guide that may also be helpful including those that are broader in nature that are found in the LC Subject Headings section of this guide. Also, information related to specific states can be found replacing United States with a particular state name.

Last updated: 02/20/2018

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