by Barry Uman
These paper notes are a real mystery. This script was issued in 1837 in six different denominations from 6, 12, 15, 20, 30 and 60 sous, that was equivalent to 3 pence English or USA half dime; six pence English; 7 1/2 pence English or 1 real Columbia; 10 pence English or Spain pistareen; 15 pence English or 2 reales Peru; and 2 shilling 6 pence or USA half dollar.
The English coins were based on Halifax currency. Because most people could not read, the value of the script was indicated by a foreign coin, since there was no official Canadian coins until 1858. The coins shown on the script were those, that were often circulated at that time and they were either English, American, Spanish or colonial Spanish coins.
These paper notes are made on thin paper stock, which makes them very fragile and flimsy. Their size various, because they are hand cut and they are approximately 135mm by 75mm, but the lower valued notes are less wide. They are printed in black ink on cream coloured paper. The
reverse is blank. The notes are dated August 25, 1837. They are unsigned, although there have been unsubstantiated reports, that there are signed notes that exist. This implies that they were eventually called in for redemption and then were destroyed, after there was sufficient small coins in circulation.
They are all printed by Louis Perrault of Montreal, who was a bookseller, publisher and printer from 1828-1837. He was also a known sympathizer of the Patriote party and was forced to flee to the United States, when a mob ransacked and burnt his establishment in 1837.
Who was Eustache Brunet? Evidently there were more then one person with this name, so he added an additional surname, "dit Letang". No one seems to know the identity of this person and Brian R. Matthews, who wrote a book on the history of Pointe Claire, described these notes as a separatist currency. Was Eustache Brunet a farmer or a merchant? Why did he need so many different notes and why were they not signed? Did he own a store or farm the land? We do know that he sold four arpents of land to the Grand Trunk Railway on March 20,1854 for the establishment of a limestone quarry to be used for the construction of the new Victoria Bridge in Montreal. But did these notes circulate? They seem to be worn and not from use but from the poor quality and mishandling, after surviving 178 years.
We do know in history that in 1837, was a year of political turmoil and rebellion in Quebec and other parts of Canada. There was also a financial panic in 1837 to 1839 and specie payments were suspended in 1837. Many spurious banks were established at this time and they issued worthless banknotes. The government had to pass legislation in 1837, prohibting any note issues without proper legislative authority. Despite this government degree, Louis Perreault printed about 34 separate script for individuals, merchants and companies all dated 1837. Was this due to the financial crisis or the political situation?
The script issued by Eustache Brunet was available, but with difficulty, at one time, for $60-$100 each in the 1970's-1980's. Today they would be very difficult to find and I have only seen two complete set offered, in the Jan. 2013 auction no. 110, from Jeffrey Hoare Auctions and it was valued only at $250, but I do not know what was the final realized price. At the RCNA, July 2013 auction, 2 unidentified script sold for $100 each. A second uncut set was sold at auction #148 from "Encheres Champagne Auctions" on Feb. 23,2020 for $900. These can be considered very scarce to rare with increasing future values from previous prices. A complete set of notes would be very difficult to acquire and it would command a premuim price. Now that there is a book on private, provincial and municipal script and paper money, it is expected that the value of these notes will increase in value considerably.