In the Spanish and Mexican eras, California was an economy very cut off from its mother countries. Most trade was by bartering goods [Josiah Belden by Doyce Nunis, Jr., 1962].

Is there evidence of the use of cash for transactions? Presumably the money would have been reales, the "Spanish dollar".

2 Answers 2


Dallas's The Hide and Tallow Trade in Alta California reveals that in 1822, William Hartnell negotiated his firm's deal with the San Gabriel Mission to pay for half its acquisitions in cash, half in kind.

About the 1830s, from Hague and Langum's Thomas O. Larkin:

Cash was gladly accepted in Larkin's establishment, but specie was scarce in Mexican California. Most retail customers paid their accounts in cattle hides....


In support of Aaron's answer:

On 24th September 1825 John Begg in Lima wrote to McCulloch Hartnell & Co(in effect Hartnell, McCulloch was in Callao) advising them(him) of 6000 dollars cash and 15000 dollars worth of goods shipped to California on the Speedy:


(my transcription)

By the Speedy we remit you some 6000$ in cash and 18000$ in Goods which for the immediate object of your business is an abundant supply. On the receipt of this property you ought to have at your command in one shape or other at least 50,000 Dollars.....

In fact Hartnell had asked for 60,000 dollars total in cash and goods but Begg declined his request:

(my transcription)

You write for 30,000 Dollars in Cash to pay off the Missions and enable you to furnish the farm with stock ................. while you evade giving us the least satisfaction as to the state of your accounts you write us to remit you at least 30,000 Dollars in cash and a like sum in goods. We decline complying with your wishes and if your operations are cramped in consequence you have yourselves to blame.

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