Better Know Your Notes: Samuel Hillegas on $10 Large Size Gold Certificates

Welcome to the latest edition of “Better Know Your Notes.” This week we get to know Michael Hillegas, whose portrait appears on series 1907 and 1922 $10 Gold Certificates.

Michael Hillegas was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 22, 1729, to Margaret Schibenstock and George Michael Hillegas. His father was a wealthy land and business owner and that affluence allowed the younger Hillegas to receive the best education and upbringing that could be had in colonial Pennsylvania.

After his father’s death in 1749, Hillegas assumed control of the family businesses and was executor of the large estate left by his father. He married Henrietta Boude in 1753. In the following years he grew into a prominent member of Philadelphia society with businesses involved in sugar refining, real estate and mining. Despite the demands of various business ventures and a growing family Hillegas was drawn to public service.

From 1765 to 1775 Hillegas was chosen to represent the county of Philadelphia in the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly. In 1774 he served as treasurer of the Committee of Safety under Benjamin Franklin.

The second Continental Congress appointed Hillegas Treasurer of the United Colonies. However, it was a role he would have to share with another appointee, George Clymer. Hillegas and Clymer served together in this role until Clymer’s resignation in August 1776. Hillegas remained in the position throughout the American Revolution, using much of his significant fortune to fund the war effort. His son, Samuel Hillegas, even signed Continental Currency notes during this time.

On September 9, 1776 Congress officially changed the country’s name to the United States of America making Hillegas the new nation’s first treasurer. He served in that role until September 11, 1789, resigning the day Congress created the Treasury Department. At that time Alexander Hamilton became the nation’s first secretary of the Treasury and Hillegas was succeeded as treasurer by Samuel Meredith.

Hillegas died September 29, 1804, at the age of 75. He was interred at the Christ Church Burial Ground in Philadelphia, close to the grave of fellow patriot Franklin. Pressure from descendants of Hillegas around the turn of the 20th century moved the Treasury Department to feature him on the new $10 Gold Certificate, which debuted for the series of 1907. He was again featured on the series 1922 notes. The two series were the only $10 Gold Certificates produced during the large size era.

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