Monday, April 25, 2016

The Dollar -- Note for a lecture, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United"

The New York Times, 4/25/2016

Back Story

The redesigns of the $5, $10 and $20 bills will be unveiled in 2020, about 500 years after the word “dollar” came into use.

It comes from the German word “thaler,” derived from Joachimsthaler, a coin first minted in a town of the same name in Bohemia.

The dollar was chosen as the monetary unit of the new United States in 1785. Colonists had printed their own paper bills, called Continentals, during the Revolutionary War.

Before that, British pounds, shillings and pence were used in the colonies. But Spanish dollar coins — which were in wide circulation in the Americas — and Indian beads were also used.

The Spanish dollar — also called a peso — was abbreviated as P, with an S behind it when more than one peso was indicated.

But accountants had to spell out the word “dollar” for U.S. currency or abbreviate it as “Doll” in lengthy ledgers.

They got tired of doing that and, according to “A History of Mathematical Notations” (1929), the abbreviation for the Spanish dollar was tweaked to become the U.S. dollar sign.

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