Of the dated tokens in the National Museum of Australia’s collection of convict love tokens, the most recent is a 1856 token and the earliest is a 1762 token .
Anyone familiar with Australian history will know, that the first convicts transported to Australia arrived in 1788.
The 1762 token is a reminder that imprisonment and transportation are not exclusively an Australian story.
As Thomas Keneally explains in Australians: Origins to Eureka:
As immortalised in popular ballads, foolish young men and minor criminals, perhaps to the number of 120,000 were torn from the breasts of their lovers to be shipped to ‘Amerikay’. From about 1650 to the outbreak of hostilities between the Americans and British in 1775 they arrived in Virginia or Maryland or the Carolinas, where American settlers would bid for their labour generally for seven years at the auction block. The administrative beauty of this was that the master took over the prisoner, and troubled the authorities only in the case of escape or major unruliness.
What happened to these other convicts? They seem to be a footnote in Australian history. Are they featured in American history?