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December 31, 2007

Students learn how merchants traded "For Ready Money" in broadcast of CW Electronic Field Trip

Colonial Williamsburg’s award-winning Electronic Field Trip series presents “For Ready Money” Thursday, Jan. 10. Produced by Colonial Williamsburg’s division of productions, publications and learning ventures, the program follows young merchant apprentice Simon Johnson as he learns how to handle money and accounts late in the year 1776.

“For Ready Money” explores how the colonial economy worked. In the 18th century, “ready money” was cash and currency valued in English pounds, shillings and pence – similar to today’s dollars and cents, but because the British government discouraged the export of silver or gold currency, there was a shortage of ready money in the American colonies.

There was, however, a variety of Spanish, French and Dutch coins in use throughout the colonies, and since merchants accepted coins based on their weight in gold and silver, these were acceptable forms of payment. Virginia’s agricultural economy – primarily tobacco – and the shortage of English hard currency created a financial system based on credit, primarily the value of tobacco “notes” – receipts for shipment.

Electronic Field Trips are broadcast one Thursday each month from October through April at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Eastern time on participating PBS stations and cable channels across the country. Students in participating schools may phone in questions to costumed interpreters and historians during the broadcasts on live television. In Hampton Roads, WHRO (Channel 15) broadcasts the program at both 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. James City County Community TV (Channel 48) also broadcasts the 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. programs, unless pre-empted by a school board meeting.

Registered users also may view “For Ready Money” via the Internet and participate in online activities developed to complement the program. Activities for “For Ready Money” extend students’ understanding of the relationships formed through the use of credit in the 1770s Williamsburg economy. The program’s Web site includes comprehensive classroom lessons, a glossary and timeline, suggested Web links and a bibliography. Online activities allow students to “shop,” using British pounds, shillings and pence.

To learn more about money in colonial times, visit “Coins & Currency in Colonial America” at for an interactive online exhibit that examines the diverse types of money jingling in the pockets and purses of our colonial ancestors and how the varied coins they exchanged influenced the currency we carry today. The Web site is a companion to “Pounds, Pence and Pistareens: The Coins and Currency of Colonial America” currently exhibited at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, presented through the generosity of Joseph R. and Ruth P. Lasser of New York.

As the nation’s leading educational resource for early American history, Colonial Williamsburg uses the Internet and interactive television technology to bring the 18th century to life for more than one million students throughout the United States each year. For more information or to register for the Electronic Field Trip series, visit or contact the EFT registrar at 1-800-761-8331 or by e-mail at

Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture – stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic trades people research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution for its guests, it also invites them to interact with history. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

Media Contact:
Barbara Brown
(757) 220-7280