(reblogged from Nicholas C. Rossis)
I interrupt my multi-part series in ancient and Medieval wonders for a quick nod to my friends over the Atlantic. In honor of today’s Independence Day, here is the amazing tale of one of the best-known symbols of all time: the dollar, or $. No keyboard is complete without it, nor any Scrooge Mc Duck comic.
So, how did this symbol came to be? The answer is to be found in a fascinating post by Atlas Obscura.
A Wealthy Irish Merchant Named
Wars cost money. So when the Revolutionary War broke out, the Colonies turned to a number of sources for backing. The top contributors to America’s Independence were the Kingdoms of France and Spain, the Dutch banking conglomerate, and a single Irish merchant based in New Orleans. His seldom remembered name was Oliver Pollock.America was a British colony in revolt, so the preferred currency became the Spanish dollar, also known as Spanish peso. This was commonly obtained through illicit trade in the Spanish Caribbean, and Pollock had made a fortune this way. As an Irish, he believed that fighting Britain was his duty. So, he reached into his own deep pockets and made available to the American war cause 300,000 Spanish pesos – or roughly one billion US dollars in today’s currency.
It was a massive sum, even for someone as wealthy as Pollock, but he gladly parted with it in order to back the revolution. The primary beneficiary of Pollock’s finances was General George Rogers Clark, whose successful campaigns across the American frontier and especially in Illinois opened up the Northwest for the Colonial forces. In fact, the accomplishments of Clark would have been impossible without the contributions of Pollock.
Pollock the Diplomat
Not satisfied to simply pay for the cause, Pollock became active diplomatically as well. After being named the official representative of the Colonies in New Orleans by the Continental Congress, Pollock approached “neutral” individuals, providing support however needed.