On the Money: Museum Features Currency as Intricate Art

May 5, 2015

On the Money: Museum Features Currency as Intricate Art

By April Koral, The Tribeca Trib

If money could really talk, what tales could be told by the 250 notes on display at the new exhibit, “America in Circulation: A History of US Currency” at the Museum of American Finance. From the first notes printed by the Continental Congress, which listed the colonies on its face and boldly proclaimed “We are one,” to the 1861 $10 notes produced by the Confederacy with an allegorical female figure representing hope, the images etched on these papers reveal much about our country.

The colony of Maryland took an initial small step toward monetary independence from Britain in 1767 by printing the first bill with the word “dollar.” The simply-designed $6 bill had the Maryland arms on one side and the words “Tis Death to Counterfeit” on the other. As war approached, it became urgent for the colonies to raise money. Even the smallest amounts were helpful. In 1776, The Continental Congress issued a million dollars worth of notes in denominations of less than one dollar. Buying these notes may have turned out to be more patriotic than the purchasers im­agined. When re­deemed in 1790, they were only worth a penny on the dollar, making a third-of-a-dollar note is­sued in New York (printed by Samuel Loudon, who was also a publisher and bookseller at 5 Water St.) worth only one-third of a penny.

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