University of Delaware Professor Farley Grubb has developed an impressive body of work examining colonial-era money. He and his former student Cory Cutsail have a new working paper in which they reconstruct North Carolina’s history from 1712 to 1774 issuing its own money, and what exactly that money was. A previous version of the paper provides an example of the complexity of the question, which had implications for North Carolina’s participation in wars and its relationship with the king.

North Carolina was an early adopter of paper money, being the second of the southern colonies, after South Carolina, to emit paper money. It was also the only colony to emit paper money from the beginning of its existence as a separate colony through the rest of the colonial period. Spanning from 1712 through 1774, North Carolina maintained one of the longest continuous paper money economies among the 13 colonies.

there was a sequence of paper money regimes across subsequent emissions rather than a singular regime over the entire colonial period. Some emissions paid interest, most did not. Some emissions were a legal tender, some were not. Some emissions were handwritten; other emissions were typeset on a printing press. Some emissions were loaned to citizens who pledged their lands as collateral; most were spent directly out of the treasury to pay military expenses, salaries, and other government debts.