STORY OF THE FUGIO CENTS
"The Early Coins of America" by Sylvester S. Crosby, with
modifications by Ron Guth
were the earliest coins issued by the authority of the United States.
The records relating to them are very meager, and the papers
therein referred to cannot be found.
The ensuing copies of the entries in the Journal of Congress
contain all the information that can now be procured regarding the
proceedings of the authorities in relation to this coinage:
these we copy according to their dates.
April 21, 1787
The Committee, consisting of Mr. Johnson, Mr. King, Mr. Pierce, Mr. Clark,
and Mr. Pettit, to whom was referred a report of the Board of Treasury on
certain proposals for coining copper have reported,
the board of treasury be authorized to contract for three hundred tons of
copper coin of the federal standard, agreeably to the proposition of Mr.
James Jarvis, provided that the premium to be allowed to the United States
on the amount of copper coin contracted for be not less that fifteen per
cent. That it be coined at
the expense of the contractor, but under the inspection of an officer
appointed and paid by the United States; that the obligations to be given
for the payment of the copper coin to be delivered under such contract be
years after the date thereof, with an option of discharging the
same at an earlier period; that they bear and interest not exceeding six
per cent per annum, and that the principal and interest accruing thereon
be payable within the United States; that the whole of the monies arising
from the said contract shall be sacredly appropriated and applied to the
reduction of the domestic debt.
motion was made by Mr. Madison, seconded by Mr. Few, to strike out the
last clause, and on the question, shall the last clause stand, viz that
the whole of the monies &c, the yeas & nays being required by Mr.
Pettit, the question was lost, and the clause was struck out."
the clause was stricken out, the original article was amended by inserting
in the blank the word “twenty”, and instead of the rejected clause,
the following was inserted;
the whole of the aforesaid loan shall be sacredly appropriated and applied
to the reduction of the domestic debt of the United States, and the
premium thereon towards the payment of the interest on the foreign debt."
form it was passed, and is so entered in the printed Journal of Congress.
subsequent action relating to this coinage follows:
May 8, 1787
On the motion of Mr. King
That the board of treasury be and hereby are authorized to dispose of the
public copper on hand, either by sale of contract for the coinage of the
same, as they shall judge most for the interests of the United States."
July 6, 1787
"On the report of a committee, consisting of Mr. Pierce, Mr. Kean,
and Mr. Holten, to whom was referred a letter of the 11th May
from the board of treasury:
That the board of treasury direct the contractor for the copper coinage to
stamp on one side of each piece the following device, viz: thirteen
circles linked together, a small circle in the middle, with the words 'United
States,' round it; and in the center, the words 'We are one;' on the other
side of the same piece the following device, viz: a dial with the hours
expressed on the face of it; a meridian sun above, on one side of which is
to be the word 'Fugio,' and on the other the year in figures '1787' below
the dial, the words 'Mind your Business.'"
committee, consisting of Mr. Clark, Mr. Dane, Mr. Carrington, Mr. Bingham,
and Mr. Williamson, having been appointed to inquire into the department
of finance, they reported, Sept. 30, 1788. Their report upon this subject was as follows:
are two contracts made by the board of treasury with James Jarvis, the one
for coining three hundred tons of copper of the federal standard, to be
loaned to the United States, together with an additional quantity of
forty-five tons, which he was to pay as a premium to the United States for
the privilege of coining; no part of the contract hath been fulfilled. A
particular statement of this business, so far as relates to the three
hundred tons, has lately been reported to Congress.
It does not appear to your committee that the board were authorized
to contract for the privilege of coining forty-five tons as a premium,
exclusive of the three hundred mentioned in the act of Congress.
other contract with said Jarvis is for the sale of a quantity of copper,
amounting, as per account, to 71,174 pounds; this the said Jarvis has
received at the stipulated price of eleven pence farthing, sterling, per
pound, which he contracted to pay in copper coin, of the federal standard,
on or before the last day of August 1788, now past; of which but a small
part has been received. The
remainder it is presumed, the board of treasury will take effectual
measures to recover as soon as possible.”
last sentence of the foregoing report leads us to expect some further
mention of the subject in the records: no such mention is to be found, and
we are left in ignorance as to the quantity of coin struck, and the date
and manner of settlement with the contractor.
If, however, we may judge from the numbers of dies, and the
plentiful supply of specimens still found, a large quantity must have been
issued, and it may be that the whole of the contracts were fulfilled.
most prominent points of variation in the obverses are found to be in the
order of the words UNITED STATES, which are often transposed to STATES
UNITED. In one die...UNITED
is above, and STATES below...and in another,...these words are separated
by two stars of eight. The
words WE ARE ONE also vary considerably in position, and in the spacing of
principal differences of the reverses are in the different punctuations of
the legend..., in the punctuation of the motto, MIND YOUR BUSINESS, (which
on some specimens has five diamond-shaped dashes, on others, four, and on
others, none while one die...has two light dashes, and a point;) and in
the sun’s rays, which in some dies...are very heavy, and are known as
"club rays." [Clashed
dies] often seen, and on some, the impression of the reverse is visible on
are, besides the regular issue of these coins, other pieces of the same
general character, supposed to be patterns...
re-strikes frequently seen...are from dies found in a store at New Haven,
Connecticut, formerly occupied by Messrs. Broome and Platt.
coins have been known by various names, as "Franklin," "Sun
Dial," "Ring," and “Mind your business” cents, as well
as by the name at the head of this chapter.
Another name is proposed for them by Mr. Bushnell in the annexed
coin was issued by authority of Congress in 1787.
It is generally known as the Franklin cent, but should properly
called the Rittenhouse Cent, if named after any individual...It was first
coined in the city of New York. A
number of sets of dies were made, and the piece was subsequently coined
not merely in New York, but also New Haven, Connecticut, Rupert, Vermont,
and other places. The dies
were made by Abel Buel, of New Haven, and the coins were struck by means
of a drop press."
ensuing notice of these coins was circulated in the papers of that time:
coinage of federal CENTS, coppers, at New York, we are told, is carrying
on, and we may expect soon to see them in circulation among us—these
will free us from the impositions to which we are now exposed from the
floods of light half-coined British half-pence, introduced among us—and
as, from the excellent monitorial caution, 'MIND YOUR BUSINESS,' impressed
on each of these, they may prove an antidote to insurgency, they will
doubtless be held in high estimation."