About account Books
Mutual indebtedness was the rule in early America. Because there
was little hard cash available, each transaction for goods and services
was carefully recorded in account books with a monetary value assigned
to it. The abilities to read, write, and cipher (do basic math)
were essential for those who kept account books. There were several
types of account books: ledgers, daybooks, blotters, and waste books.
In a ledger, the item purchased or the service given is listed and
a monetary value attached to it. The monetary value is listed in
three columns -- pounds, shillings, and pence -- until some time
between 1790 and 1800, when "dollars" and "cents"
began to replace the English system. On the page opposite is recorded
the "Contra" (method of payment). Rarely is the payment
in cash, but more often true value in goods useful to the seller,
or in labor. Some accounts were settled regularly, while others
were not reconciled for months, or even years.
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