This Is What NYC’s First Currency Looked Like


William Bradford, New York’s first printer, arrived within the North American colonies in November 1685 on the age of twenty-two. Settling initially in Pennsylvania, he established a printing store in Oxford, close to Philadelphia, the place he plied his commerce for the following seven years. After repeatedly working afoul of the Quaker authorities, nevertheless, he was invited by the Province of New York to return to the colony to determine its first public printing press. He arrived in Manhattan in 1693, opening his new enterprise at what’s now 81 Pearl Avenue (as we speak, a bar and grill). His was the one press in New York till 1726, when his former apprentice, John Peter Zenger, established his personal printing agency.

Throughout his lengthy years in enterprise, Bradford was liable for many printing milestones in New York, together with publishing the colony’s first ebook (1693), authorized statutes (1694), newspaper (1725) and map (1731). The New York Public Library holds copies of all of the aforementioned gadgets, together with the primary paper cash circulated within the colony, indented payments courting from 1709, additionally printed by Bradford.

The time period “indented invoice” derives from the stub lower from every word, which left an irregular, wavy edge. Supplied it match the corresponding stub saved on file by the federal government, such payments could possibly be redeemed by the holder for coin within the quantity of the acknowledged denomination. New York was solely the third colony to situation paper foreign money, following Massachusetts in 1690 and South Carolina in 1703.

Bradford’s indented payments will be considered together with 250 different uncommon and distinctive gadgets from the Library’s analysis collections as a part of the Polonsky Exhibition of The New York Public Library’s Treasures. The free present (which requires no foreign money, simply curiosity) opens Friday, September 24, 2021.

As famous beforehand, Bradford’s early years in Pennsylvania had been marked with controversy. In 1692, he was arrested and charged with printing a seditious broadside in addition to with violating a Parliamentary Act, which stipulated that publications should embrace the printer’s title within the imprint.

On the ensuing trial, Bradford performed his personal protection, arguing that the jury ought to resolve not solely whether or not he had printed the offending materials but additionally whether or not the subject material was really subversive. Whereas his protection technique—an early argument for freedom of speech—was actually ingenious, it was a fortuitous mishap that doubtless resulted in his acquittal. Eager on figuring out Bradford because the printer of the offending broadside, the prosecution launched as proof the forme of sort from which the work had been printed. Because the jury foreman started to go the kind round for inspection, nevertheless, it inadvertently fell to the ground, touchdown in a jumbled heap, thus destroying any proof of Bradford’s culpability.

Bradford retired in 1744, on the age of 81, having labored within the printing commerce for six many years. He died in 1752 and was laid to relaxation within the graveyard at Trinity Church. His legacy as a printer continued with the actions of his son Andrew and grandson William, each of whom loved notable careers as printers in the course of the 18th century. At present, Bradford is rightfully remembered as “the pioneer printer of the Center colonies.”

This story is a part of our partnership with the NYPL round the Polonsky Exhibition of The New York Public Library’s Treasures, which showcases gadgets spanning 4,000 years from the Library’s analysis collections. The objects and the tales behind them are supposed to encourage, spark curiosity, and encourage deeper excited about our historical past and world—we’ll be publishing one NYC-related object a day all through September, and you’ll see all the things at

The Treasures exhibition opens Friday, September twenty fourth, 2021 on the Stephen A. Schwarzman Constructing on Fifth Avenue and forty second Avenue. Free timed tickets are actually accessible right here.


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