Oliver Pollock

Born in County Tyrone, Oliver Pollock emigrated to Pennsylvania and while his name is not widely known, his creation is one of the most recognisable symbols in the world today – that of the dollar sign ($).

In 1768, after the Indian and French war, Oliver settled in New Orleans which was under Spanish rule.

It was here that during the American Revolution, Pollock effectively mediated and campaigned for the supply of food, clothing, military suppliers and health provisions for the natives of New Orleans.

The Governor of New Orleans at the time allowed Pollock free trading right where he made considerable profits trading between Britain, Spain and France.

Photograph of an actor playing Oliver Pollock
Unfortunately there are no known portraits of Oliver Pollock.

In 1778, Oliver was funding the campaign of George Rogers Clark in the expectation he would gain substantial returns. However Pollock lost his entire fortune and ended up in debtors’ prison. It is believed that it was in prison that Pollock began using his new invention of the dollar sign as shorthand for the Spanish peso.

Oliver Pollock's handwritingLibrary of Congress
An example of Oliver Pollock's handwriting in a letter to George Washington

Dollar sign in print

The Bank of North America (the first national bank in America) is accredited for popularising the dollar sign and in 1786 the dollar was adopted as the currency of the United States with the first dollar sign appearing in print in 1797.