American History Stories—Volume I - Mara L. Pratt

Pine-Tree Shillings

There is one very pretty story told of these early days of the Massachusetts colony. The only money in use among the people was the gold and silver coins which were made in England and Spain. These coins were very scarce, so that the people had to trade in goods when they wished to make a purchase, instead of being able to pay in money as we do now.

That is, if in those days you had wanted to buy a yard of ribbon, or a top, or a ball, you would very likely have paid for it with butter or eggs—anything that you happened to own that the storekeeper was willing to take.

But as the people were growing more and more in number, and trade increased, this kind of bartering grew very troublesome. The people needed some sort of money; and so a law was passed, a kind of coin was decided upon, and Captain John Hull was made mint-master. The largest of these coins had stamped upon them a picture of a pine tree. This is why they were called "Pine-Tree" shillings.

As payment for his work, it was decided that the mint-master should have one out of every twenty coins he made.

Captain John Hull was an honest man; and although he put aside for himself only one in every twenty coins, his strong boxes got to be very, very heavy.

Captain Hull had a daughter; a fine, plump, hearty girl, with whom young Samuel Sewell fell in love. As Samuel was a young man of good character, industrious and honest, Captain Hull readily gave his consent to their marriage. "Yes, you may take her," he said in his rough way, "and you'll find her a heavy burden enough."

In due time the wedding day arrived. There were John Hull, dressed in a plum-colored coat, with bright silver buttons made of the Pine-Tree shillings; the bridegroom, dressed in a fine purple coat and gold lace waistcoat, big silver buckles on his shoes; and last, but by no means least, the fair bride herself, looking as plump and smiling and rosy as a big red apple.

After the marriage ceremony was over, Captain Hull whispered to his men servants, who at once left the room, to return soon with a great pair of scales. Everybody wondered what could be going to happen.

[Illustration] from American History Stories - I by Mara L. Pratt

"Daughter," said the mint-master, "get into one side of these scales." Then turning to his servants, and pointing to a big, iron-bound box, he added, "Bring hither the chest."

The servants tugged and pulled at it, but it was all they could do to get it across the floor. Then Captain Hull unlocked it and threw open the cover.

The guests stood breathless, for behold! the chest was full of bright, shining Pine-Tree shillings.

"Put them into the other side of the scales, lively now," said the mint-master, laughing, as he saw the look of amazement on the faces of the people.

Jingle, jingle, went the shillings, as handful after handful were thrown in, till, big and plump as she was, the fair young bride was lifted from the floor.

"There, son Sewell," said the honest mint-master, "take these shillings for my daughter's portion. Use her kindly, and thank God for her. It isn't every wife that's worth her weight in silver."