Uncovering America's Heritage... Coin by Coin
Bill the Mint Buffalo here with January's coin of the month: the Higley copper. Why did I pick this coin for January? Because the Higley copper was made in Connecticut, and January is a big month for Connecticut!
In January 1639, several English Puritan settlements joined together to officially form the colony of Connecticut. The origin of the word Connecticut comes from the Mohegan word "Quinnehtukqut," meaning "long river place" or "beside the long tidal river."
The set of laws that Connecticut adopted, known as "the Fundamental Orders," is said to be the earliest written constitution in North America! Under these laws, Connecticut was to govern itself, meaning its citizens were loyal to the colony, not to England. That's why Connecticut's nickname became "the Constitution State."
In another famous January—this one in 1788—the state of Connecticut joined the Union by signing the Constitution of the United States. It was the fifth state to ratify (sign) the Constitution.
Between these two important Januaries—after the colony was formed but before it joined the Union—the Higley copper was made, starting in 1737. The reason it was made in Connecticut is simple: Dr. Samuel Higley lived there and owned a copper mine there!
Since there was no United States, there was no official United States money. Britain didn't allow colonies to strike their own coins, but Britain was far away, and the colonists were loyal to the colony of Connecticut first. Higley had copper and he knew how to make it into coins, so he did. He valued the coppers at three pence each.
But there was a problem. He made so many of these coins that people began to think they weren't worth as much as three pence. To make people happy, Higley began to inscribe "Value me as you please" on the coins...though he put "I am good copper" on the back to ease their minds, and still used the Roman number III for three pence. Wasn't he clever? I love American history!