Her Weight in Gold by Jean Leon Jerome Ferris
There is a charming tale called The Pine-Tree Shilling told by 19th century author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, in The Whole History of Grandfather's Chair (1840). It tells the story of a colonial maiden and how her father ascertained the worth of her dowry.
Miss Hannah Hull was the only daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Boston, Mintmaster John Hull and his wife Judith. In 1652, due to the increase in trade in the Colony, uncertain conditions with England, and to prevent fraudulent money, John Hull, a silversmith, and Robert Sanderson were authorized to erect “a mint for coining shillings, sixpences and three-pences.” Hull guaranteed that each of the Pine-Tree Shillings contained 15 ounces of silver. Massachusetts was the only one of the thirteen colonies that had a mint before the Revolution and it's Pine-Tree shilling circulated up until that time. John Hull’s share in the profits of the mint was fifteen pence of every twenty shillings. He rapidly amassed a fortune.
When twenty-four year old Samuel Sewell came courting and wished to marry Hannah, eighteen, the matter of her dowry came into the picture.
though I knew nothing of it until after our marriage, which was Feb 28th. 1675/76."
~ From The Diary of Samuel Sewell
Tradition says that John Hull placed his daughter in one of the scales and heaped in the other with silver, filling it with Pine-Tree shillings until the scales balanced. The wedding present amounted to a dowry of £500. The weight of this amount being 125 pounds may very well have approximated the bride's weight, giving credence to Hawthorne's tale. Samuel received a portion of the dowry seventeen days prior to the marriage nuptials and the remained a fortnight after the wedding. Hannah's marriage to Samuel gave him early wealth, an established merchant business, and a start to his illustrious career in public office. Yet biographers have attested that the marriage was built on mutual happiness and shared love and faith.
And the mint-master called: 'Prithee, Sewell, my son,
The horses are saddled, the wedding is done;
Behold the bride's portion; and know all your days
Your wife is well worth every shilling she weighs.'"
Historic Shrines of America, John T. Farris