Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/532

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526
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

closest commercial touch with the Spanish colonies. After the conquest of Mexico and Peru, early in the sixteenth century, Spanish American mints, established in the various points in the Spanish possessions, poured forth the Spanish dollar in such profusion that it became a universal coin, reaching before the close of the century even the Philippines and China. In the seventeenth century the Spanish "piece of eight" was known in Virginia and much was done to promote the influx of Spanish money into that colony. The United States dollar, adopted in 1785, was avowedly modelled on the average weight of the Spanish dollar coins in circulation. Thomas Jefferson speaks of the dollar as "a known coin, and the most familiar of all to the minds of the people."[1] No United States dollars were actually coined before the year 1794.[2] We proceed to unfold our data and to show the evolution of the dollar mark by stages so easy and natural, that the conclusion is irresistible. There are no important "missing links" To enable the critical reader to verify our data, we give the sources of our evidence. No man's ipse dixit is a law in the world of scientific research.

We begin with information extracted from early Spanish printed books, consisting of abbreviations used for "peso" or "pesos."

 
Ivan Vasquez de Serna,[3] 1620, Pes., pes de 8 real.
Francisco Cassany,[4] 1763, p, also ps.
Benito Bails,[5] 1790, pe, seldom p.
Manuel Antonio Valdes,[6] 1808, ps.
 

Here we have the printed abbreviations Pes., ps, pe, p. More interesting and convincing are the abbreviations found in manuscripts which record commercial transactions. We can give only a small part of the number actually seen. In our selection we are not discriminating against symbols which might suggest a conclusion different from our own. As a matter of fact, such discrimination would be difficult to make, for the reason that all the abbreviations for the "peso," or "piece of eight" or "piastre" that we have examined point unmistakably to only one conclusion. We say this after having seen many hundreds of these symbols in manuscripts, antedating 1800, and written in Mexico, the Philippines, San Felipe de puerto, New Orleans

  1. D. K. Watson, "History of American Coinage," 1899, p. 15.
  2. Gordon, "Congressional Currency," p. 118.
  3. Ivan Vasquez de Serna, "Reducciones de oro," Cadiz, 1620, p. 263 ff. (In the Hispanic Museum, New York City.)
  4. Don Fr. Cassany, "Arithmetica deseada," Madrid, 1763. (In the Library of Congress.)
  5. Don Benito Bails, "Arismetica," Madrid, 1790. (In Library of the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia.)
  6. Don M. A. Valdes, "Gazetas de Mexico," 1808. (In Newberry Library, Chicago.)