Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Old Money

Five Dollars: The Paper Currency of 1896 presents a gallery and historical account of the artistically-enhanced paper money introduced that year. If you've ever wondered what bills your great-greats carried around in their wallets (and who hasn't?), this site will show you in graphic detail.

Look for the near-wardrobe-malfunction of the winged female Electricity on the $5 note, and ponder why Martha Washington didn't show as much skin on the single. Then try to convince yourself that your ancestors would never have done this:

The $1 note was released to the public on July 14, 1896, the first of the series to be put into circulation. Because of the public's unfamiliarity with the new money, though, some people began illegally "raising" the values of the bills by changing the numbers in the corners and then passing the notes off as "the new $5s" or "the new $10s".

The memory of this may be why the present-day U.S. Treasury chose to release the highest denominations of our new currency first, and then slowly proceeded downwards as people grew accustomed to the new designs. (It would make little sense for a counterfeiter to take a new $100 bill and try to persuade people it was a new style of $1.) [Link, via Boing Boing]

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