Skip to main content
Go to accessibility options


    John Ward Gilman Engraved June 20, 1775 Copper Plate

    Copper Printing Plate New Hampshire June 20, 1775 40s; 20s; 6s; 1s.
    New Hampshire June 20, 1775 copper printing plate comprising 40 shilling, 20 shilling, 6 shilling, and 1 shilling denominated engravings for the New Hampshire June 20, 1775 Treasury Notes, cut by the hand of John Ward Gilman. Authorized by the New Hampshire Provincial Congress, June 9, 1775, and mandated to be similar in form, style, and content to the Colony of the Massachusetts Bay's copperplate issue of May 25, 1775, which was engraved and printed by Paul Revere. The vignettes contained within each engraving were later modified circa 1855 by an unknown hand.

    The engravings of the four denominations for the New Hampshire June 20, 1775 issuance of £10,050 of indented Treasury Notes authorized by the June 9, 1775 Resolve of the Provincial Congress are hand cut on the face of this rectangular copper plate. The back is blank. Measuring 13 inches high by 8 ½ inches wide, the plate has a thickness of .08 of an inch and a weight of 1256.5 grams.

    The uppermost engraving on the copper plate is of a forty shilling note. It contains ten lines of text entitling the possessor to receive out of the treasury, said sum of lawfull (sic) money on December 20,177_ , with interest at the rate of 6% per annum, or redeemed at the treasury prior to said date in full without interest. The engraving contains spaces within the text for the purpose of entering by hand upon the printed note, the serial numbers and unfilled numerals in the dates contained therein. Also, along the bottom there is a space for the signature of Ebenezer Thompson, and on an engraved line, a space for the signature of the Receiver General, Nicholas Gilman. Along the right side (the left side when printed), this topmost engraving contains a vignette consisting of a large spreading tree with crossed trunks.

    Below the engraving for the 40 shilling note, the engravings for the 20 shilling, 6 shilling, and 1 shilling notes have been incised upon the plate, in descending order, with essentially the same form and text as the uppermost engraving, excepting changes for their respective denominations, ad slight spelling and punctuation changes, presumably made as an added complication in an effort to foil counterfeiters. Each denominated engraving also contains its own distinctive vignette.

    The vignette cut into the 20 shilling engraving is a stylized two leaf design upon irregular cross-hatching. The vignette within the 6 shilling engraving is of a squirrel upon a large tree branch. The 1 shilling engraving contains a vignette of a large leaning tree. All the vignettes are designed, in combination with the designated space for the duplicate serial number above them, to result in a unique receipt for each Treasury Note after printing, numbering, and indenting.

    The creation of this printing plate was the result of the June 9, 1775 Resolve of the New Hampshire Provincial Congress, authorizing the printing of £10,050 in indented Treasury Notes. It was 'Voted thet Ebr (Ebenezer) Thompson Esq (Esquire) & Coll (Colonel) Nich (Nicholas) Gilman be a Committee to procure the plates & see y (the) Notes struck off." Furthermore, it was "Resolved, That the Receiver General of this Colony, appointed by this Congress be hereby impower'd (empowered) to give his Notes of hand on the faith of the Colony payble (payable) to the Possessor for the sum of ten thousand & fifty pounds of the present currency or Lawfull money to be paid into the Treasury aforsd (aforesaid) by a Tax on the Polls & Estates of the Inhabitants of this Colony in the following manner, viz."

    "Four Thousand pounds to be paid by the 20th Decr (December) wch (which) will be in the year of our Lord 1776, and six pr (per) cent Intt (interest) from the date, and the sum of three thousand and fifty pounds the 20th Decr (December) 1778, and the said Notes shall be struck by Copper plates, to be graved under the direction of this Congress, for the several sums following, to compleat (complete) said sum of Ten thousand & fifty Pounds, viz, Six Thousand Pounds in forty shilling Notes. Three Thousand Pounds in Twenty shilling Notes, nine hundred pounds in six shilling notes and one hundred & fifty pounds in one shilling notes: & the form of said Notes shall be in the following words (with such other devices as may be ordered by the Congress,) viz."

    The resolve then specifies the exact form of the printed notes:

    The above specifications of the New Hampshire Provincial Congress are virtually identical to the specified requirements of the Massachusetts Bay Provincial Congress May 25, 1775 issuance of indented Notes engraved and printed by Paul Revere. New Hampshire is substituted for Massachusetts Bay, the issuance and payment dates are changed, and there are slight spelling differences in the text, such as "Entitled" rather than "Intitled." However, it is clear that the New Hampshire Provincial Congress, in their June 9, 1775 Resolve, mandated a virtual copy of the Massachusetts design, apparently to facilitate acceptance and circulation of the currency. (It should be noted that although the New Hampshire Provincial Congress form specifies June 8, 1775 as the issue date, the copper plate was ultimately engraved June 20, 1775, presumably to facilitate the interest calculation.)

    On June 10, 1775, the New Hampshire Provincial Congress "Voted That All Bills of Credit on the faith of the Colony of the Massachusetts Bay have a free currency in this Colony of New Hampshire." The Congress further "Voted That Geo. (George) Frost Esqr (Esquire) be one of the committee with Ebenr (Ebenezer) Thompson Esqr (Esquire) instead of Colo (Colonel) Nichs (Nicholas) Gilman to procure the Plates, see the money struck off, signed & deliver'd (delivered) to the Receiver Genl (General)." This change in the committee was almost certainly due to the potential conflict of interest posed by Nicholas Gilman's position as Receiver General.

    Because of the similarities of form, layout, and style of the two Massachusetts copperplate issues of May 25 and July 8, 1775, with the New Hampshire issue of July 20, 1775, it has been assumed that Paul Revere was responsible for the engraving and printing of both colonies' emissions. It is well established that Revere created the two Massachusetts issues. In Paul Revere's Engravings, Clarence Brigham writes, "Revere submitted to the Congress his bill for engraving and printing the notes, on June 22, 1775. The original bill is in the Massachusetts Archives, Volume 157, number 477. It shows a charge for engraving four copper plates of the Province notes... The four plates comprised of the large plate for the £100,000 loan, and the three small plates for the soldiers' pay notes."

    "The nine engraved notes for soldiers pay were engraved on three plates - the 20, 14, and 6 shilling bills on one plate, the 10, 18, and 12 shilling bills on another plate, and the 16, 15, and 9 shilling bills on a third plate." These were the three plates used to produce the Massachusetts May 25, 1775 copperplate issue. Revere, as directed by the Committee, later modified the date on these three plates in order to print the July 8, 1775 copperplate emission.

    The large plate for the £100,000 loan referred to, is for the issuance of Colony of Massachusetts Bay loan certificates authorized by the Provincial Congress on May 3, 1775. These bonds, engraved by Revere, contain a vignette of the Wampanoag chief, King Philip, and represent the very first attempt to finance the American Revolution.

    The three copper plates used for the May and July 1775 Massachusetts emissions were reused by Revere from previous engravings. His 1767 engraving of Harvard College was cut down and the back was engraved with the 20, 14, and 6 shilling denominations. The back of Revere's 1770 engraving of the Boston Massacre was cut with the 10, 18, and 12 shilling denominations. The back of an engraving of Reverend Samuel Willard was cut with the 16, 15, and 9 shilling denominations. These printing plates remain in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts archives. Due to Revere's thriftiness and the scarcity of copper, Revere commonly engraved each side of his copper plates. In hindsight, the fact that the back of the New Hampshire plate is blank, suggests that it was not produced by Revere.

    No primary sources have been found connecting Revere to the production of the New Hampshire issue. All links have been circumstantial, relating to form, style, and content. However, two new documents, recently discovered by Dr. Frank Mevers, head archivist of the New Hampshire State Archives, shed new light on who actually engraved and printed the New Hampshire issue.

    The first document shows committee authorization of payment to John Ward Gilman of £13 for the acquisition and engraving of the copper plate, and the printing of the notes. Dated 1775, it is titled, "The Colony of New Hampshire to George Frost & Ebenr (Ebenezer) Thompson Esq.

    A Committee appointed to get Treasury notes stamped ye Dr - - ." The section below itemizes the authorized payments by the committee totaling £31 - 4 - 0, (31 Pounds, 4 shillings, and 0 pence). The first entry is, "To John Ward Gilman for cutting the Plate (&) Stamping ye £13 - 0 - 0." Further items include remittances to various persons for binding and numbering the books of notes, and authorized payments. Thompson's signature appears at the bottom.

    The second document is John Ward Gilman's account to the committee and itemizes his various efforts to produce the printing plate, acquire and prepare the press, and perform the actual task of printing, for which he has paid £13 (as listed in the first document). The document heading states: "George Frost Ebenr (Ebenezer) Thompson Esq. Committee to get Colony Notes Printed, to John W Gilman." To the left of this heading is 1775, with June 10 written below it. What follow are itemizations by Gilman for his efforts including: 11 shillings 6 pence for the plate, 6 shillings for his journey to Newburyport for the plate, 3 pounds for engraving the plate, 11 shillings 3 pence for a carriage with driver to transport the press from Newburyport to Exeter, 3 Pounds 15 shillings for his labor printing for 12 ½ days, 3 Pounds 12 shillings for his brother's labor of twelve days, 3 shillings for returning the press to Newburyport, and other items totaling 13 Pounds. Below Gilman's itemization, next to the date July 6, 1775, is stated "a True acct Errors Expected." The document is signed by Ebenezer Thompson and John Ward Gilman. The verso is a signed receipt by Gilman, dated July 11, 1775, acknowledging the payment of thirteen Pounds from Thompson.

    These documents prove unequivocally that John Ward Gilman engraved and printed the New Hampshire June 20, 1775 issue of indented Treasury Notes and provide a detailed account of the labor involved. The Committee account records the payment for the engraving and printing by John Ward Gilman. It lists the payments for binding by Noah Emery and numbering by William Parker and John Taylor Gilman. Both George Frost and Ebenezer Thompson were paid for 17 days at the rate of 8 shillings per day for planning and overseeing the printing of the Notes. These duties would have included security for the plate, the press, and the Treasury Notes. Frost and Thompson would also have been required to certify that no extra sheets were printed.

    John Ward Gilman's account provides a narrative of his role in the production of New Hampshire's first endeavor to finance the cost of the Revolutionary War. He traveled to Newburyport on horseback in order to procure the copper plate; he hired a carriage and driver to make the journey to transport the press to Exeter and return it to Newburyport. The supplies he purchased are detailed: flannel, baize, whiting, coal, oil, and a plank for the press. Additionally, there was the cost of mending the press. The printing itself was a monumental task; it took John and his brother, Benjamin, a combined 24 ½ days of labor to complete.

    Purchases of paper and ink were recorded on a separate 1775 document, which was accomplished by Receiver-General Nicholas Gilman. On May 20th, one and a half quires of "best foolscap paper" were purchased. On June 19th, the account records the cost of "Frankfort Black for making money," as well as the cost of an additional fifteen quires of paper. Since no New Hampshire paper money had been produced since 1763, it seems certain that the paper and ink purchased by Nicholas Gilman were used with this copper plate to produce the June 20, 1775 emission.

    John Ward Smith, a renowned silversmith and engraver, was born in Exeter in 1741 and resided there until his death in 1782. The various branches of the Gilman family had an illustrious and influential history in New Hampshire from its earliest days as a British colony. Generations of John's family were accomplished artisans and metalworkers. Benjamin Clark Gilman, John's brother, was also a silversmith; in addition, he engineered the water systems of Portsmouth and Exeter, New Hampshire and designed those of Boston and Salem, Massachusetts and New London, Connecticut.

    Like his contemporaries, Paul Revere of Boston and Amos Doolittle of New Haven, John was a silversmith, engraver, and patriot. Well known for his craftsmanship, he fashioned buckles, spoons, seals, scabbards, and swords; the New Hampshire Historical Society possesses a rare sword and scabbard that Gilman made for Carr Leavitt, who served at the 1777 Battle of Bennington under General John Stark. In addition to signing a protest against the Stamp Act in 1765 and serving in the militia in 1775, John contributed to the Revolutionary cause by marking and numbering guns and casting musket balls. He crafted both the Colony Seal and the first State Seal of New Hampshire.

    Gilman shared another specialty with Revere and Doolittle: they all engraved music on copper plates. In the latter part of the eighteenth century, there was a movement to improve psalm singing with education and practice in the various townships. To this end, a number of tunebooks containing music theory and compilations of sheet music were produced. In 1771, Gilman engraved, printed, and sold his own version of A New Introduction to Psalmody, the title page of which states, "The whole Engrav'd on Copper-plates." This is unequivocal evidence that Gilman had printing experience prior to 1775 and was capable of the task of printing the New Hampshire emission. Gilman also engraved a number of tunebooks printed by Daniel Bayley, the organist and choir leader of St. Paul's church in Newburyport. It is probable that Bayley supplied the rolling press used in printing the New Hampshire issue of June 20, 1775.

    Between the time of the original usage of the plate in 1775 by the Colony of New Hampshire, and what is believed to be sometime in the decade of the 1850s, when the plate was used for an unofficial reprinting by Joshua Cohen, each vignette on the plate was modified be re-engraving and strengthening certain design features and adding others. It is apparent that the re-engravings on all four vignettes were cut with a heavier touch than the hand that created the original engravings.

    The vignette within the forty shilling engraving has several extra branches added to the tree trunks, and another small bare tree added to the left of the main tree (to the right when printed). The vignette contained in the twenty shilling engraving has newly created top and bottom borders, the bottom border also having small diagonal lines added to it for approximately one third of its length. Multiple leaf tips and veins have been strengthened. Regarding the six shilling engraving, no less than ten branches have been strengthened or added, and the squirrel's face and tail have been reworked. As for the one shilling engraving, it appears that numerous leaves and twigs have been added and strengthened and another small bare tree has been placed to the right (left when printed) of the large leaning tree. Furthermore, the word "June" in the second line of the text has been partially effaced on each engraving. Why these modifications to the plate were done remains a mystery.

    How the plate came to be in the possession of Joshua Cohen (1801-1870) is also an unanswered question. According to Eric Newman in The Early Paper Money of America, "Dr. Joshua I. Cohen of Baltimore, Maryland, beginning in 1828, gathered the first extensive and scientific collection of early American paper money." A prominent physician from a distinguished family, he belonged to a number of organizations including the Maryland Historical Society, the American Philosophical Society, and the Hebrew Benevolent Association; with his family, he participated in the cause of Jewish civil liberties. Dr Cohen also collected letters and documents of signers of the Declaration of Independence, members of the Continental Congress, and other prominent Americans. His brother, Colonel Mendes I. Cohen, possessed one of the largest American coin collections of his day. He was stationed at Fort McHenry during the bombardment, was involved in the family's banking business, belonged to the Maryland Historical Society, and served in the Maryland legislature.

    From 1828 to 1865, Dr. Joshua Cohen amassed a collection of over 2,700 specimens of Colonial Currency. It sold in 1930, during the Depression for $8,250. Today, it is housed in the Henry Ford Museum. Cohen obtained the original plates for at least six different New Hampshire issues and made unofficial reprints. The other printing plates used for Dr. Cohen's reprints are presumed to exist, but their whereabouts are currently unknown to the authors. It has been speculated that he received the June 20, 1775 plate, along with the other printing plates, from Dr. John E. Tyler, physician and superintendent of the New Hampshire Asylum for the Insane at Concord from 1852 to 1858. During Dr. Tyler's previous six years of practice in Salmon Falls (now part of Rollinsford, NH), he represented the town in the State Legislature. The hospital in Concord was located quite near to the State House. Dr. Tyler's relationships with his former fellow legislators may have enabled him to obtain the plates. Any connection with Joshua Cohen is unknown, although both were well-regarded physicians and may have been acquainted through colleagues or the professional and historical organizations with which they were affiliated.

    The significance of the 1775 New Hampshire Treasury Notes in numismatic and American history is as important to us today as it was to Joshua Cohen in the nineteenth century. The documents discovered in the New Hampshire State Archives provide clear and indisputable evidence that John Ward Gilman, rather than Paul Revere, was the engraver of the New Hampshire June 20, 1775 copper plate and printed the entire emission. It is notable that New Hampshire's first emission of paper money to finance the American Revolution was produced in New Hampshire by one of her native sons.

    Contributed by guest catalogers Maureen and Stuart Levine.

    Selected Bibliography:
    - Brigham, Clarence S., Paul Revere's Engravings (New York, 1969).
    - Currier, John J., History of Newburyport, Mass. 1764-1909 (Newburyport, 1909).
    - Gilman, John Ward, A New Introduction to Psalmody, (Exeter, 1771).
    - Joyce, William L., Hall, David D., D. Brown, Richard D., and Hench, John B., eds., Printing and Society in Early America (Worcester, 1983).
    - Cohen Collection, 1773-1945, Maryland Historical Society, .
    - Newman, Eric P., The Early Paper Money of America, Fifth Edition (Iola, WI, 2008).
    - New Hampshire Historical Society Newsletter, volume 46, no. 4, Winter, 2010.
    - The New York Times, January 12, 1930.
    - The Numismatist, February, 1930.
    - Pine Tree Auction Galleries, Inc., Duplicate Selections from the John Carter Brown Library of Brown University, Part 2 (May 22, 1976).
    - Thomas, Isaiah, History of Printing in America (New York, 1970).
    - Wroth, Lawrence C., The Colonial Printer (New York, 1994).

    Additional References:
    - Correspondence with Donna-Belle Garvin of the New Hampshire Historical Society regarding the New Hampshire Seals.
    - Correspondence with David Sundman, owner of Littleton Coin Company, regarding the New Hampshire Numismatics and John Ward Gilman.
    - Historical manuscripts from the New Hampshire State Archives.
    - Public laws and records in printed and electronic form. (Total: 2 items)

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    September, 2018
    5th-11th Wednesday-Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,712

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    20% of the successful bid (minimum $19) per lot.

    Sold on Sep 5, 2018 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2022 April 22 Paper Money Fair - Netherlands World Banknote Signature® Auction - .

    Learn about consigning with us

    Thank you for your quick response. I am a member of Heritage Auctions and I am happy to say that it is truly a great platform.
    Mohammed J.,
    Durban, KZ
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search