Fayette County History & Genealogy

History of Fayette County


From R. S. Dills' History of Fayette County

SHARP-SHINS OR CUT MONEY

From the abundance of her agricultural products, and especially her live stock, Fayette County, though in her infancy, sent many supplies to the army during its operations in the northwest, in the war of 1812.

The almost impassible condition of the roads rendered transportation towards the north very expensive and difficult, requiring all the assistance that could be obtained for that purpose. While the snow was on the ground, sleds were used in preference to wagons, for carrying supplies to the St. Marys, thence to be forwarded north by water. A good deal of money was put in circulation by the sale of army supplies to the government; as many as eight hundred hogs having been furnished at one time, principally from this county. In these transactions the government paid partly in specie, but mainly through the banks in Cincinnati: Miami Exporting Company, Bank of Cincinnati, and John H. Piatts' bank. Piatt was a heavy army contractor, and his notes obtained an extensive circulation during the war.

A noted peculiarity of the money put in use in the Miami and Scioto valleys, previous to and during the war, was what they denominated cut money. This is said to have originated in Kentucky; the object being to keep silver in home circulation, where it was current at par in ordinary business transactions, while it was not receivable in exchange for public lands, or merchandise outside of the county. The Spanish milled dollar, or quarter, was taken to the blacksmith, who, placing it on his anvil, with a cold chisel cut it into two, four, and sometimes five pieces, keeping the fifth for toll, and yet having four quarters remaining. Occasionally it was cut still smaller, its vernacular names being quarters, bits, and tips. Again, you would often hear the term, eleven-penny-bit, and fivepenny- bit; hence, eleven-pence, fip-and-a-bit—undoubtedly taken from the English, and brought into this country by Pennsylvanians

The name "sharp-shins" arose from the sharp edges exposed after cutting, not unlike the tibial angle of that unfortunate class who can not boast of adipose tissue, otherwise known as sheep shanks. Sharp-shins could not be carried in the pocket, but a stout leather bag was provided, which confined it until spent for a hunting shirt, or some other useful article. Though metallic in its nature, it did not possess that tendency to burn through the pocket of the youth of 1812, as we now so often observe in the modern greenback.

Shortly after the beginning of the war state banks were instituted, shin-plasters became the medium of circulation, and sharpshins took their departure.