In the late 1600s, Britain and France both owned property in North America, and they were prone to periodic attacks on the colonies belonging to the other. On December 10, 1690, when the Massachusetts Bay Colony launched an ill-fated attack on Quebec, the result was a near-mutiny that forced the Massachusetts Bay Colony to issue the first paper currency in the history of the Western Hemisphere.

Sometimes, these “little skirmishes” put the governments in a position of a cash flow problem. They sometimes had to resort to IOUs to pay the men. In 1690, during one such war, Governor William Phips of Britain’s Massachusetts Bay Colony made a promise to his men that he could not keep. Phips was just back from a successful invasion of the French colony of Acadia. When it went so well, he decided to raid Quebec City. For their participation, Phips promised his volunteer troops half the loot. This loot was to be in addition to their usual pay. In those days, the soldiers were usually paid in coins, but sometimes shortages of official currency in the colonies forced armies to temporarily issue IOUs. Sometimes, even that was difficult, for lack of paper, so in one case, the men were actually paid with cut-up playing cards. The troops were then allowed to exchange the playing cards for goods and services until they received their actual pay.

As to Phips…he found himself with a rather large dilemma, because while he made a grand promise, the raid was a failure, when he didn’t manage to take the city. He was forced to return to Massachusetts with a damaged fleet and no treasure. With a shortage of coins and nothing else to pay the troops with, Phips faced a potential mutiny. So…out of options, on December 10th, 1690, the General Court of Massachusetts ordered the printing of a limited amount of government-backed, paper currency to pay the soldiers. It was the first such printing of paper money in North America. A few months later, with tax season approaching, a law was passed removing the limit on how much currency could be printed, calling for the immediate printing of more, and permitting the use of paper currency for the payment of taxes, which seems odd considering it had no value.

People didn’t trust the paper currency, making it unpopular for anything except paying taxes and before long, it was phased out. Nevertheless, within a few years, paper currency returned to Massachusetts. The Bank of England began issuing banknotes in 1695, also to pay for war against the French, and they became increasingly common throughout the 18th Century. Paper money has continued to cause controversy throughout the early history of the United States, and in many cases, remains so to this day. It was tied to the value of gold for a surprisingly long time, but in 1973 President Richard Nixon officially ended the international convertibility of the US dollar into gold. The printing of paper currency has always been a bit of a shady venture, because it is almost always done without the backing of gold. Without gold to back up the value of the paper currency, the economy is in danger.

I suppose that if I lived in Quebec, Canada, I might have heard the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region and maybe even the Western Quebec Seismic Zone. Since I don’t, these areas are new to me. Maybe they were new to a lot of people, but on November 1, 1935, a lot more people knew about them. On that day, a 6.1 magnitude earthquake with a maximum Mercalli intensity of VII (Very strong) occurred. The epicenter occurred on a thrust fault in the Timiskaming Graben, a little over 6 miles northeast of Témiscamingue, at about 1:03am ET.

While the earthquake was in Canada, it was felt over a wide area of North America, extending west to Fort William (now Thunder Bay), east to Fredericton, New Brunswick, north to James Bay and south as far as Kentucky and West Virginia. Occasional aftershocks were reported for several months. That seems extreme for a 6.1 magnitude earthquake, but I suppose it’s all in the connections. Fault lines aren’t just in a small area, they run for hundreds and even thousands of miles.

The most significant damage from the earthquake, both in the immediate area and as far south as North Bay and Mattawa, was to chimneys. In fact, 80% of the chimneys in that area were destroyed. A railroad embankment near Parent, which is 186 miles away, also collapsed. It looked like the embankment slide was already imminent, but the quake vibrated the last holds loose. There were some rockfalls and structural cracks reported as well. Thankfully, there were few major structural collapses aside from the Parent embankment. The sparseness of the area’s population played a big part in the relative lack of major damage, despite the fact that it was a strong earthquake. The water of Tee Lake, close to the epicenter was discolored by the earthquake…due to a stirring up of gyttja, which is freshwater mud with abundant organic matter, rather than silt input from tributary streams. The relative lack of major damage, despite the fact that it was a strong earthquake, has been attributed primarily to the sparseness of the area’s population.

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