Margaretta Furnace scrip to spend at the company store
In my recent column on Margaretta Furnace in Lower Windsor Township, I mentioned that the York County History Center has some examples of scrip issued by the company in the 1840s, and that it could only be used at the company store. I am sharing images of these notes as well as others courtesy of Bob Saylor. Some of these fragile bills have not aged well over the past 180 years, so I am posting the best examples of each. These are in the five cent, ten cent, 12 ½ cent and 25 cent denominations. I you have any that are of different value, please send a scan or photo to firstname.lastname@example.org. It would be interesting to see what other images might have been used.
The United States bills that we know today did not come into existence until during the Civil War in the 1860s. There have been changes over the years, but according to uscurrency.gov, all currency issued by the United States government since 1861 is still legal tender.
Continental Congress had currency printed by the Hall and Sellers press during the Revolutionary War, including one issue printed in York in April 1778 while Congress was meeting here. Because of rampant counterfeiting and inflation, the continental currency suffered from huge devaluation.
Paper money was also issued by the colonies/states until prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. Later, individual banks could print currency if they were authorized as National Banks.
Scrip was not legal tender that was accepted everywhere. It was printed for individual companies, such as the Margaretta Furnace firm, and could only be used to make purchases from them. Some employers used scrip to pay wages earned, while other scrip was an advance on future earnings. This could lead to debt high enough to make it difficult for a worker to leave his job. Some may remember Tennessee Ernie Ford’s song about owing his soul to the company store.
Local scrip is of historical interest because it could be tailored to the company. The images on the four different Margaretta Furnace denominations shown here seem to relate to their iron manufacturing enterprise.