This is the time of year we could all probably use a little more sun.
The sun appears within the familiar Fugio iconography, used on
Continental paper money, the 1776 Continental dollars, and the 1787
coppers issued at the behest of the Continental Congress. The Fugio
motif was designed by Benjamin Franklin for use on the fractional
denominations of Continental Currency that were authorized in February 1776.
Hundreds of thousands of notes with the Fugio designs were printed,
all in denominations from a ninth of a dollar to a half dollar. The
face of the note shows the sun over a sundial with the inscription
FUGIO / MIND YOUR BUSINESS. The word “fugio” is Latin for “I fly,”
evoking passage of time and need to accomplish your tasks.
The rising sun peeks over mountains on two beloved early American
coin designs: the Vermont landscape coppers of 1785 to 1786 and the
1787 Brasher doubloon. While the design for Ephraim Brasher’s famous
gold coin was borrowed from the New York state seal, the evocative
wide-eyed sunrise scene on the Vermont coppers was an original
composition by an unknown artist. The Vermont landscapes remain among
the most popular of all pre-Federal coppers today.
Sun motifs appear on several issues of early American paper money.
The Massachusetts Rising Sun notes, engraved in 1779 by Paul Revere,
are among the most well known. The depiction of the sun varies by
denomination. Some show a pleasant face, while some renditions look
more like a sea urchin. Just so the symbolism would be evident, each
of the suns on these notes is captioned RISING.
On Continental Currency, identical design elements incorporating the
sun appear on the backs of the rare May 10, 1775, $20 issue and the
Nov. 2, 1776, $30 note, with a caption reading CESSANTE VENTO
CONQUESCEMUS, or “when the storm relents we shall rest.”
Smaller suns also appear on the Massachusetts notes of 1744, New
Jersey notes of the 1750s through 1770s, and the back of several
Pennsylvania notes of the 1770s. The 1744 Massachusetts notes are so
rare that most collectors will never encounter one, but the New Jersey
and Pennsylvania notes are both available in plenty. The New Jersey
notes depict a single sunface on the £3 note, two for the £6 note, and
a half a sunface on the 30-shilling note as a graphic means to
discourage fraud, perhaps the first numismatic indication of the
truism that “sunlight is the best disinfectant.”