Images courtesy of Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles
Varieties: 1796 Myddleton Token in Silver 1796 Myddleton Token in Copper 1796 Myddleton Token / Copper Company of Upper Canada Mule
The following information was provided by Mark Collier:
The Myddelton Token is a historically relevant issue, proposed as a circulating coin by Philip Perry Price Myddelton to attract farmers and laborers to settle his large track of land on the Ohio River in Kentucky. Myddelton, an Englishman, planned to form a farming community there and promised steady employment.
The tokens were struck by Matthew Boulton with dies almost certainly engraved by Conrad Küchler. The copper specimens were the intended issue, but for some reason a number of silver pieces (thought to have been 53) were struck first by Boulton on March 8, 1796.
Research indicates that Myddelton originally contracted with Boulton's Soho Mint for copper coins, and in the surviving correspondence there is no reference to the silver pieces. Perhaps these silver pieces were struck for advertising purposes most likely for use by the Soho Mint and Boulton, since Myddelton was scheduled to sail to Kentucky within days of these silver coins being struck and would have had little time to present the silver coins to prospective colonists.
However, Myddelton was arrested for "enticing artificers to emigrate to the United States". Myddelton ended up in Newgate Prison, where his one year sentence lasted over 3 years, when he was finally able to pay the £500 fine and gain his release.
Of the 53 silver pieces struck, 50 were put into Myddelton's account, and shortly thereafter 46 were returned to Boulton's Soho Mint, where they were quietly distributed over the next few years. Boulton feared reprisals from the government and wanted to distance himself from the problems that had entangled Myddelton.
We don't know if Myddelton ever made it to Kentucky, but he did resurface in Britain as the plaintiff in another lawsuit in 1806.
The Myddelton tokens represent one of the pinnacles of die engraving of the period. The complex design elements are rich in minute details and speak volumes in their symbolism.
The obverse shows a youthful Liberty, her right arm outstretched while her left arm holds a pole which supports a loose cap (the Phrygian cap on the pole has been traced back to Roman times when slaves, who wore such caps, placed their caps on poles to assert their freedom). Behind Liberty is a cornucopia, which is spilling forth fruit symbolizing the abundance of the new colony in Kentucky, and a small Liberty tree or branch, ringed with a wreath of Laurel near her feet (for peace). The image of Hope is on the left, presenting two children (genii, or supernatural spirits which take human form to serve their summoner) that represent the freedom and opportunity of the new colony. The ships anchor perhaps speaks of the long voyage to the new land, and once arriving being anchored to the land, as the anchor rests on the land as opposed hanging from a ship or on deck.
Britannia dominates the reverse, leaning on her shield, her head lowered and weeping, her spear pointed down. The symbols of Liberty - scales of justice, the fasces and Liberty cap - lie in disarray at her feet, suggesting that Britain had become a land devoid of justice and liberty in recent times.
All these elements combine to entice people to move to the new settlement. Interestingly, Matthew Boulton wrote to P. P. P. Myddelton on January 7, 1796 to inquire about Myddelton's request that Britannia be presented in such a manner on his proposed token. "In regard to the device I do not think myself qualified to speak of it, as I do not clearly see what point you aim at, or what passes in your mind, or why you should prefer Britannia weeping over your plantation, as I hope both you & Britain will have cause to rejoice."
Myddelton didn't see it that way, and stuck to his original concept of a weeping Britannia.
Sources: Richard Margolis, The Colonial Newsletter, December 1999 Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles, www.goldbergcoins.com