All About Dollar


Dollar family and town:

For the family historians, you may belong to the Dollar family or perhaps your ancestors came from the town of Dollar.  So here is something for you to read about Dollar.

While driving and listening to the depressing news about Covid, my attention was diverted to the word Dollar. This is because I was driving through a lovely wee town called Dollar on my way home (before Perth and Kinross region went into tier 3 lockdown which means not being able to travel outside the region.) It is located nearly in the centre of Scotland and it has been there long before the emergence of the dollar sign.

Map showing location of Dollar

Dollar Placenames

Dollar town is located in Clackmannanshire (Scotland’s smallest county) and below the foothills of the Ochils. These are hills that range from south of Perth to Stirling. There are various interpretations of where the name Dollar comes from.  The Celtic interpretation is ‘Water Meadow’ for dol and ‘place’ for ar. In old scots, dol means gloomy or sadness which is a reminder of the local Castle Campbell’s alternative name as Castle Gloom.

Photo of Castle Campbell in Dollar (Castle Gloom in old Scots)

The 500-old Castle Campbell is a popular destination for tourists and family historians.  It is well worth a visit. From the 15th to the 19th century, it was the lowland seat of the Dukes of Argyll who were the chiefs of the Clan Campbell.  Mary, Queen of Scots, used to visit the castle in the 16th century.  It is likely that the inhabitants of Dollar supplied the castle with a range of commodities from food to the first locally mined coal.

The town also caters education at the Dollar Academy. The school was built in the early 19th century at the bequest of John McNabb. He was born in Dollar and made his fortune abroad. The school continues to provide private education to young people.

If ever you are visiting Dollar, I would suggest you drop by the local Dollar museum.  Here is a link to their website.

There are other placenames with the name Dollar that have something in common.  Not only do they share the name Dollar, but the placenames are mountains:

  1. in Idaho there is Dollar mountain, and
  2. a mountain in Greenland named after Dollar.

Dollar Family

Robert Dollar was born in Falkirk in 1844. He initially emigrated to Canada in 1858 with this father and then moved to America as an adult where he established the Dollar Steamship company. Robert had a vision to trade with Asia and his company was the first to transport American timber across the Pacific to the Orient. He was the leader of the American trade with Asia and accumulated a $40 million dollar fortune during his lifetime. Not bad for a poor Scottish lad who became an astute businessman with vision. He died in 1932.

Makers of the typeset dollar sign 

Archibald Binny, born in 1763, and James Ronaldson, born in 1768, both came from Edinburgh. They emigrated separately to America in the late 18th century where they met and became business partners in Philadelphia.   There they set up the first American type foundry called Binny and Ronaldson. In 1797, they were the first to forge into type the American dollar sign. Archibald died in 1838 and James died in 1842.

If you want me to research your family from Dollar or your Dollar ancestors, then please contact me for an email chat or zoom chat.


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