Continental Currency, One Third of a Dollar

In order to interact with this document, you must have the latest version of the Macromedia Flash Player.
Download Flash or View the Document

  • Artist/Maker: Hall & Sellers
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • February 17, 1776
  • Paper and Ink
  • Gift of the Lasser family
  • 1994-210,45

Among the United States' founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin stands out not only as a brilliant, talented statesman and ambassador but also as a clever inventor and designer. Clearly understanding the symbolic and functional importance of a new nation's currency, he was also involved in many different aspects of numismatics.

In mimicking the earlier patriotic mottos and vignettes created by the Dutch during their struggles with Spain, Franklin created a number of his own tailored for the American cause. Used on the fractional (less than a dollar) Continental Currency notes of the February 17, 1776 issue, the designs below also appeared on the Continental dollar coin of that same year and the Fugio copper of 1787.

The fronts of these notes have an image of the sun shining down on a sundial and exclaiming "fugio," Latin for "I fly." Below is the motto "Mind your Business." Taken together, Franklin is expressing the moral that time flies, so one should make the most of every day.

For the reverse, Franklin designed an endless chain of 13 links, each inscribed with the name of one of the original colonies. At the center is a starburst inscribed "American Congress" and "We Are One." This perfect visual metaphor for the union of the 13 colonies was universally understood in its day.

Browse Content By Theme