This week's item is a small piece of paper for a small amount of money signifying a huge connection to New London's history in the Revolutionary War.
Offered by user keny56, the Connecticut state interest note was issued to Thomas Shaw on Feb. 1, 1790. Like modern day form documents, much of the note has been pre-printed, in this case by Hudson and Goodwin of Hartford. Certified by Connecticut state comptroller Ralph Pomeroy, it reads:
"I hereby certify that Thomas Shaw is entitled to receive the Sum of FIVE SHILLINGS Lawful Money, out of any Funds appropriated for the Payment of interest on the liquidated Debt of the State of Connecticut."
Thomas Shaw is a lesser-known member of New London's famed Shaw family. He was the son of Capt. Nathaniel Shaw and his brother, Nathaniel Shaw Jr., was especially active during the war. Following the authorization of privateering by the Continental Congress in 1776, Nathaniel Jr. was responsible for the outfitting of many of these vessels during New London's active service as a privateering port.
When Benedict Arnold attacked the city in 1781, the Shaw Mansion where Nathaniel and Thomas lived was one of the targets. Fortunately, the blaze was extinguished by a neighbor and the house continued to serve the Shaw family for five generations before it became the home of the New London County Historical Society in 1907. Upon Nathaniel's death in a hunting accident later in 1781, Thomas took over the family's business interests.
The interest note came to him as part of the newly formed United States' attempts to pay off its war debts following the victory in the Revolutionary War. The Connecticut comptroller's office was formed in 1786 to oversee public accounts, including the state's attempts to consolidate and pay off its debts from the war.
The large burden on individuals and states eventually led Congress to pass the Funding Act of 1790 on Aug. 4 of that year. A total of $21.5 million in state debts - including $1.6 million in Connecticut - were absorbed by the federal government. Spearheaded by Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, the act allowed investors to buy interest-bearing government bonds as a way of consolidating the debt, making it easier to pay interest payment, and allowing investors to make a tidy profit on the bonds.
In addition to the business pursuits, Shaw was a well-known Congregationalist who made a hefty contribution toward the former Zion's Hill meeting house in 1786 and donated a parsonage to the congregation in 1787. He remained a bachelor, living with his mother in the Shaw Mansion, and died in 1795 at the age of 57.
The note has been certified by Currency Grading & Authentication Inc. Initially offered for 99 cents, three bids have been made on the note and the price is now up to $26, plus $2 for shipping and handling. The auction ends at about 8:48 p.m. tonight.