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Fifty Dollars South Carolina Currency

Coram, Thomas __Engraver
Place Made:
Charleston South Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
paper and ink
WOA 4 7/8; HOA 3
Accession Number:
On February 8, 1779 South Carolina authorized an emission of $1,000,000 in bills of credit that could also circulate as lawful currency. Issued in $40, $50, $60, $70, $80, $90, and $100 denominations, the notes were engraved by the artist Thomas Coram. Each bill included a small vignette on the obverse and a larger vignette on the reverse. The $50 features Providence pointing to a globe on the front; Sisyphus carrying his rock.

ARTIST: Thomas Coram (1757-1811) emigrated from Bristol, England, to the colonies in 1769. He went into the mercantile business and joined with twelve other merchants and thirteen planters in an association “to discontinue the Importation of European and East-India Goods and Negroes into this Province.” After 1770 he became an engraver. In 1784 he advertised as a drawing master. An ardent supporter of the American Revolution, Coram engraved bills of credit for the State of South Carolina during the war. Coram was the first Charleston artist to use historical subjects; his most ambitious engraving is a three-part print called “The Battle of Fort Moultrie,” published in the 1780s. According to the city directories, Coram listed his profession as “engraver” until 1802. Thereafter he was listed as “painter and engraver.” He was instructed in oil painting by Henry Benbridge (1743-1812), another artist in Charleston. Coram is known for his portraits, as well as several small but intricate local landscapes. He was a benefactor of the Charleston Orphanage, to which he gave numerous works and money. Coram was buried in the cemetery of St. Phillips Church in Charleston.

RELATED OBJECTS: MESDA has another portrait by the artist, Ann (Coachman) Glover (MESDA acc. 2776.1). The Museum also has two examples of his engraving work: a masonic certificate (MESDA acc. 3540) and a 1779 £50 South Carolina Currency note (MESDA acc. 4603).

DESCRIPTION: South Carolina fifty pound currency note The front of the note has a descriptive inscription surrounded by a stylized floral border. The verso has a depiction of a bearded figure wearing only a loin cloth (thought to be Sisyphus) trudging up a hill with an enormous rock on his back.

Credit Line:
MESDA Purchase Fund