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One of the most frequent questions Drayton Hall archaeologists are asked is if we ever find coins. Most often the answer is “no” as the artifacts we recover are discards from the past, and like now, people do not generally throw out money
intentionally with the trash. However, during this summer’s excavation near the northwest basement door of Drayton Hall, a total of 4 pennies were found! Three were modern, most likely lost by visitors since 1974, but one captured our interest.
It was an 1857 “Flying Eagle” penny found in excavation unit 1085, level B. What makes this particular penny so special was that these coins were only minted for three years, from 1856-1858. The front of the coin depicts an eagle in flight while the back depicts the words, “One Cent,” surrounded by a wreath. Only 17,450,000 of these coins were minted in Philadelphia, making them a rather rare coin. The mint found that the images were difficult to produce, however, so the flying eagle design was abandoned in 1859 when the “Indian Head” penny was introduced into circulation. While we don’t know who owned the penny or when they dropped it, the penny does help us determine that the stratigraphic layer it was found in dates to 1857 or later. Perhaps it belonged to Dr. John Drayton (1831-1912) or Charles Henry Drayton I (1847-1915)?