Oliver Pollock was a merchant and financier of the American Revolutionary War, of which he has long been considered a historically undervalued figure. He is often attributed with the creation of the US Dollar sign in 1778.
In 1777 he was appointed “commercial agent of the United States at New Orleans”, making him the representative of the colonies in the city. He used his fortune to finance American operations in the west, and the successful campaign of General George Rogers Clark in Illinois 1778 occurred with his financial support. In the same year he borrowed $70,000 from Spanish Louisiana’s Governor Bernardo de Gálvez, but the financial needs of the country at the time left him in a loss. Pollock served as Gálvez’s aide-de-camp during the Spanish campaign against the British that began with the Spanish declaration of war in June 1779. Gálvez and the Spanish troops swept through Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida, defeating the British with the Capture of Fort Bute and campaigning through the victorious Siege of Pensacola in 1781. Pollock’s diplomacy assisted in the surrender of Fort Panmure at Natchez, Mississippi.
In 1783 he was appointed an agent by the United States in Havana, where he would be imprisoned for his debts a year later, amounting to $150,000. In 1785 he was released on parole and returned to Philadelphia, where he met a sympathetic Robert Morris, another financier of the war who had also incurred debts as a result. Morris however had collected a sum of money to buy Pollock time from his debtors. Both Congress and the state of Virginia had continually refused to clear his debts from the war, until 1791 when congress passed an act discharging them, but in the same year he would return in poverty to Cumberland County.