August 14

Ep. 0021: A History of the US Dollar Part 1: Through the Revolution

Why cover this topic?  First off, because the history of money is a lot more interesting than you might  think, and it’s absolutely crucial to understanding the world, past, present, and future.

This will be part 1 of a multipart series (right now I estimate it will probably be around 4 parts) covering the history of the United States dollar.  The series will be non-contiguous — ie, interspersed with episodes on other, probably non-related topics.

Join Prof CJ as he discusses:

  • Why money matters to understanding the world
  • British money of the colonial era, bimetallism, and Gresham’s Law
  • Other things the colonists used as money when coinage wasn’t readily available
  • Some of the desirable qualities in a commodity that make it work better than others as money, and some of the reasons why gold and silver function so well as money historically
  • The origins of the dollar — originally a Spanish coin modeled on a Bohemian coin, actually
  • The first paper money inflation in the Western World — in colonial Massachusetts
  • How overprinting of paper money in MA (and later in other colonies) disrupted their economy, and reinstating of hard money revived it
  • The Revolutionary War Continental Dollars, and the hyperinflation that resulted
  • A few updates on the show, how it’s going, ways to support it, thank-yous to those who have, and a few remarks about the future of the show

External links

An excerpt from the TV show DuckTales which shows how increasing the money supply dilutes the value of the money (Uncle Scrooge has more economic sense than our leaders!)

Prof CJ’s Picks (buy from Amazon via these links to help support the show at no additional cost to you)

Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved.

Posted August 14, 2014 by profcj in category "American History", "Economic History", "Podcasts


  1. By Rhesa Browning on

    This was a very interesting and important podcast. I didn’t know really any of this about the dollar or much about money as an entity. Very very good.

    I have one example from history that is relevant and you might find interesting. A few years ago I read a biography about Sam Houston, a founding father of Texas. He served as the first President of the Republic of Texas, 1836-1838. During his first term the economy was okay. It was a new country and had its problems but over a couple of years had a relatively stable economy. Mirabeau Lamar was elected as the second President in 1839-1841. He immediately printed more money in order to fund ambitious building projects and military expeditions. The Republic was bankrupt by the end of his term. Houston was re-elected in 1842. He quickly got rid of the worthless currency and restarted another while carefully controlling the money supply to maintain value. The economy improved rather quickly.

    I don’t know if the paper currencies in question were backed by gold or silver or not, but it clearly demonstrates how those in power can ruin an economy by not controlling the money supply.

    1. By profcj (Post author) on

      Thanks Rhesa. I know relatively little about Republic of Texas history other than the basics, so that’s very interesting. Funny how, no matter the time or the place, state monetary expansion never ends well except for certain special interests — namely, the state itself and whoever gets the new money first, before it’s sluiced through the economy and bid up prices.

  2. By Rick Doogie on

    Thanks for the great episode. Lots of good info. I’m a big history fan and I’ve read a lot, but most every episode gives me some things that are new to me. I’m checking out some Duck Tales on YouTube.
    Your reference to that cartoon series brings to mind a recent SpongeBob special episode where the gang journeys to the lost city of Atlantis. Mr. Crabs (the Scrooge-like character) exclaims when he hears that the streets are paved with gold and the lamp lights are all diamonds, “I wonder what their money is made of”. In my mind, I was already thinking how worthless gold and diamonds would be if they were so ubiquitous. Then came the great line from Mr. Crabs. A good joke for viewers who know Austrian economics.


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