If Dr. Philip Parry Price had had his way in the late 1790s, a swath of northern Kentucky along the Ohio River would have been a bustling British settlement.
Today the “Top of the South,” across the river from Cincinnati, welcomes visitors to the Bluegrass State with a mixture of fascinating history, outdoor adventure, an impressive aquarium, and other family-friendly attractions, and of course the region’s famous bourbon.
“Adventure flows all along the scenic waterways and byways of the Northern Kentucky River Region,” the state’s Department of Tourism entices. “Explore Kentucky’s bourbon culture along the B-Line or enjoy a relaxing float down the Licking River. Paddling, biking, and birding are among the many outdoor pursuits in the region, and idyllic water views are just about everywhere you look.”
Dr. Price, a physician practicing in Philadelphia in the 1790s, was as enchanted by Kentucky as visitors are today. He acquired a large tract of land along the Ohio River and, while in England organizing some family matters, he embarked on an ambitious project. In the winter of 1795/96, the good doctor advertised in English newspapers to recruit farmers, artisans, and laborers to travel to America and develop his slice of Kentucky. About a thousand heeded his call.
It was also around this time that Dr. Price appended “Myddelton” to his name. To promote his plan, Myddelton had the Soho Mint of Birmingham create tokens or medalets in silver and copper. Conrad Küchler, a talented engraver, sculpted their dies. One side bears the inscription BRITISH SETTLEMENT KENTUCKY and shows Hope (illustrated as a robed woman) presenting two children to the goddess Liberty. Symbols of peace and plenty (including a cornucopia) surround Liberty—an alluring representation of America. On the reverse, a dejected Britannia slouches with her spear pointing downward. Broken symbols of war and government are scattered at her feet.
“Everybody loves a winner,” as they say, and the message of the P.P.P. Myddelton token (as it’s come to be known, from the inscription on the reverse) was clear. Stay in war-beaten England and be sad, or come to America and be welcomed to an amazing new life!
Unfortunately for Myddelton, his grand Kentucky project didn’t sit well with the British authorities. In the spring of 1796 he was arrested before he could return, as he’d planned, to the United States. That summer, after awaiting trial, the would-be land baron was convicted under a 1783 law that made it illegal to entice craftsmen and artisans to emigrate outside of the dominions of the Crown of Great Britain. Myddelton was found to be “in contempt of our Lord the King and his Laws” and fined £500. Until the fine was paid, he was locked up in Newgate Prison, and his sentence of 12 months stretched into more than three years of confinement. The wind was knocked out of Myddelton’s sails, and his British settlement in Kentucky never came to be.
Generations of coin collectors have marveled at the artistry of these remarkable tokens. Numismatist Sylvester S. Crosby, in The Early Coins of America, 1875, said, “In beauty of design and execution, the tokens are unsurpassed by any piece issued for American circulation.” Other writers including Don Taxay, Richard Margolis, Kerry Rodgers, and Q. David Bowers have studied Myddelton and his failed Kentucky project. Today his “British Settlement” tokens, of which only a handful are known, bring a pretty penny at auction. And Kentucky’s Ohio River region has flourished, presumably beyond even Myddelton’s intercontinental dreams.
To learn more about the Northern Kentucky River Region, visit the Kentucky Tourism Department website.
Dennis Tucker is the publisher of Whitman Publishing, a leading producer of books, storage and display supplies, and other resources for collectors and hobbyists. He was commissioned a Kentucky Colonel in March 2021 for his career in book publishing and his promotion of the Commonwealth’s status as an important subject in numismatics. His column “From the Colonel’s Desk” explores the Bluegrass State’s rich connections to American coins, tokens, medals, paper money, private currency, and related artifacts.
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