These are blank, unissued banknotes of the Bank of the United States’ headquarters in Philadelphia. They were deliberately printed with blanks by Draper Underwood Bald & Spencer, an engraver based in New York and Philadelphia, so that they could be signed, dated, numbered and made payable to a specific individual at issuance. That practice made the unissued notes less valuable to would-be thieves and the notes more difficult to counterfeit.
The notes also contained several other anti-counterfeiting measures, the most obvious of which are the four different methods of identifying the note’s denomination: Arabic numerals (e.g., 10), Latin numerals (“X”), English numbers (“ten”) and unique banner icon (eagle on striped shield). It was important to protect the denomination because a common counterfeiting technique was to raise the denomination of true notes (e.g., $10 to $100). The intricate banners also helped to dissuade counterfeiters from attempting to replicate true notes and often conveyed important subtexts. In addition to depicting the nation’s flag and bird, for example, the banner on the $20 note proclaims E pluribus unum (“out of many, one” in Latin), the Republic’s de facto motto and a metaphor for the bank itself, which was composed of numerous branches as well as the mother bank in Philadelphia.
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