1. The Kwangtung Note Redemption, July 1914

This album of notes arrived at the British Museum as part of the Chartered Institute of Bankers Loan (1987-2009). In 2006, the Chartered Institute of Bankers became the ifs School of Finance, and in 2009 the collection of paper money was given to the British Museum. Here’s the link to the BM Collections Online. 


It’s a leather-bound album (CIB.EA.266) entitled Kwangtung Note Redemption July 1914 and contains 30 stiff-board pages. There are two boards with a hand-written explanation of the contents, followed by one blank board, 20 boards each with a banknote affixed and hand-written annotation, and seven blank boards. The 20 banknotes all have individual records (CIB.EA.266.1 to CIB.EA.266.20).

At the moment we don’t know who compiled this album. Could it be George Ernest Morrison (1862-1920), who had quit his post as The Times Peking Correspondent to become political advisor to the first President of the Republic of China?

“In March and April 1914, Morrison made a fact-finding trip to Hankow, Canton and Shanghai, and on his return wrote lengthy memoranda on three pressing problems of the time: on the question of the redemption of Canton Notes….” (The Correspondence of G.E. Morrison 1912-1920, ed. Hui-min Lo, Cambridge University Press, 1978, p. 304)

“G. E. Morrison had a passion for collecting almost anything, as Enoki Kasuo pointed out, ‘Morrison would bring back the entrance ticket or program when he attended any ceremony and also keep the menu of any banquet to which he was invited.’ His collecting mania was extremely pronounced during his residency in China. From 1897, he began to collect European language books on Asia, mainly related to China, and he allowed visitors to consult them at his residence in a long low fire-proof building so called ‘Dr. George Ernest Morrison’s Library’, his collection served as source materials for his writing as a correspondent as well as being an intellectual hobby. He also preserved all letters and materials that he wrote and received.” (NAKAMI Tatsuo, “On the Papers of George Ernest Morrison Kept in the Mitchell Library, Sydney,” The Memoirs of the Toyo Bunko, 67, 2009, p. 1), and in Nakami’s list of papers at the Mitchell Library is “ML.MSS.312/133 Subject File CAN-CHA : Canton Notes, 1914” (p. 15)

I’ll post images of the two handwritten boards below (there are better images on British Museum Collection Online), in the hope that someone may recognize the handwriting.


The first handwritten board

The first handwritten board reads:

Kwangtung Note Redemption, July 1/31 – 1914.

Notes issued by the Kwangtung Provincial Government, as shown by the records in the local Treasury:-

50 cent notes to the extent of $1,000,000. face value
$1               ”                 ”              $6,990,000.        “
$2               ”                 ”              $2,000,000.        “
$5               ”                 ”              $13,050,000.      “
$10             ”                 ”              $10,000,000.      “
Notes already redeemed and cancelled during July:-

50 cent notes face value $926,927.
$1              ”                         $6,595,783.
$2              ”                         $1,912,424.
$5              ”                         $12,308,520.
$10            ”                         $9,901,850.


The second handwritten board

The second handwritten board reads:

Subsequent to July 31st notes to the face value of about $200,000. were presented to the Central Government, as an act of grace, undertaking to redeem them at the original fixed rate of .455.-

Allowing for notes lost, destroyed or mutilated, the Redemption was thus very complete.-

The last lot of notes presented for Redemption on the night of July 31st, face value $12,000.- were sent over from Hong Kong by Kang Yu Wei.-

In exchange for the notes cancelled, face value $31,645,504.-, new Bank of China notes, of $5. denomination, were issued to the value of $14,398,710.-

The Silver Reserve against this issue, £1,000,000.- converted into dollars, was deposited in the Bank of China, Canton, and was subsequently increased by $2,500,000.-, making a total reserve of $13,019.047.25-


UPDATE – 3 May 2017

I’m very grateful to David Berg, State Library of NSW for checking the George Morrison Collection there. He emailed me today:

The papers at MLMSS 312/133 (CY4141) under the title Canton Notes is a document entitled “Proposed procedure for the redemption of the Kwangtung notes” Draft 16th May 1914 typewritten p.2-19. No author is given, possibly written by Morrison.

We also hold the following documents, also on Chinese currency policy, that may be of interest:

MLMSS 312/153 Subject file Currency reform 1901 -1916
Includes: “Memorandum on the recent order for banknotes”, p.151-157, Letter to Morrison from Hu(?) Yuen Hsu regarding Kwangtung banknotes 24 Nov 1914 p.159; letter to Admiral Tsai from S C Lin re banknote holdings. 1914 p.161-163; National coinage law 1914 p.165-239
Cash Redemption Bureau p.275-279 (1916).

Copies of these can be ordered from our Copying Service. See http://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/research-and-collections-how-guides/ordering-…etc for details.

Examples of Morrison’s handwriting can be found in our digitised copies of Morrison’s papers. A good example is at http://archival.sl.nsw.gov.au/Details/archive/110374295 You can search for more on http://archival.sl.nsw.gov.au/home Click on “digital content” to view digitised online records.

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