The Earliest Banknote of French India

28 May 2020  Thu

The French Minister of Finance succeeded in establishing the first viable French Company (the French East India Company) during the reign of Louis XIV. The company established its factory at Surat in Western India and acquired a foothold in Southern India by acquiring Pondicherry in 1674. Banque De l'Indochine issued paper money for the French in India, under decrees, which find mention on the notes.

The roupie or rupee was the currency of French India. It was equal to the Indian rupee issued by the British and then Indian governments. Until 1871 it was issued as coins with the roupie divided into 8 fanons, each of 3 doudous or 20 cash. From 1871, banknotes were issued by France's Banque de l'Indochine, which circulated alongside coins issued by British India.

The above note is a 50 French Indian rupee issued in the year 1884. The obverse of the bank depicts a beautiful vignette designed with elephant columns on either sides and two women along with a cow at the bottom. The name of the bank along with the date of issue is at the top and the promissory note both in English and French in the center with the denomination in words inscribed using six languages including French, English, Arabic, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, etc. The note also depicts denomination in number at four corners.

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