{ subscribe_url:'//blogs.loc.gov/share/sites/library-of-congress-blogs/inside_adams.php' }

For the Latest on Counterfeit Money

Almost a year ago fellow blogger Yvonne Dooley did a post about the Grand Watermelon whose design was intended to thwart counterfeiting – and when it comes to money, counterfeiting is the persistent problem.  One early publication that bankers used in the fight against this scourge was Thompson’s Bank Note and Commercial Reporter, which was first published in 1836 by John Thompson, who later founded the First National Bank of the City of New York and Chase National Bank. BankNoteReporter

ThomsonsKeyWhile this publication included all sorts of news tidbits on banks and the economic situation of the country of interest to bankers (including a Wholesale Prices Current chart similar to what was published in the Gazette of the United States), its main focus was keeping bankers apprised of counterfeit bills.  It was in the form of a state by state list by bank of information including details of the counterfeits.  You can see how to read and understand the entries in the explanation of the “Marks, &c., used.”


From August 21, 1854 Thompson’s Bank Note and Commercial Reporter.

The real fun comes in the descriptions of the counterfeits, which are actually a bit confusing to my modern eyes.  The descriptions vary–some were simple and brief, while others were rather detailed.  One note from the Bank of Charleston (South Carolina) was described as railroad and a mountain scene, while a note from Lancaster Bank (Pennsylvania) says a first rate imitation of genuine, but coarse – vig. A female leaning on a shield – steamship and sail vessel in distance – three females, anchor, &c., on left – four Cupids with figure 1 on right.  Sometimes spelling was the downfall, as I saw in one entry on the Chesapeake Bank (Maryland) which says that a note had Chesapeake spelled without the final “e.” Another tactic used by counterfeiters was to take a note issued from one bank and alter it to make it look like it came from another bank with a similar name, as on one found by the Farmers Bank in Troy, NY that was really a note from the Farmers Bank in Texas.  Occasionally Thompson would also publish the Coin Chart Manual as a supplement to the main publication and the Autographical Counterfeit Detector. Keeping up with the counterfeits was a complicated and never-ending process.  Whole books were and still are, written on teaching people how to detect them.

In 1866 Thompson’s publication grew beyond reporting on counterfeits and became known as American Banker, which is still published today. If you are interested in banking literature, Business has compiled a list of the national and regional banking periodicals.  To read more on counterfeiting history and what efforts have been undertaken to counteract and monitor it over time, the Library’s collection contains much more of interest.

Gazette of the United States on “Every Species of Intelligence, which may affect the commercial, agriculture, manufacturing, or political Interests”

One of my favorite Library resources has just gotten better now that the Gazette of the United States has been added to Chronicling America. The Gazette was the leading Federalist newspaper. The paper was friendly to the administration of George Washington and had as one of its biggest supporters, the first Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. […]

Building Product Source: Spotlight on Sweet’s Catalog File

This post was written by John F. Buydos a Reference Librarian in the Science Section. The Sweet’s Catalog File is a building product source and a frequently used title here at the Library. It is an example of a master catalog (i.e., catalogs or partial catalogs from several manufacturers, with a combined index) in the […]

Tiny but Mighty: Mann’s 1904 Afro-American Business Directory

Business Reference is often asked for information about older or defunct businesses and finding any information can be challenging. But it is even harder to research businesses that were owned and operated by African Americans. While some business directory publishers may have denoted those businesses in some way, that wasn’t always the case. Recently I […]

Niles’ Register: Bringing You “A Record of the Events of the Times”

Today’s post has been written by our Junior Fellow Nancy Lovas who just graduated from Berry College in Rome, Georgia.  She is creating a guide covering American 19th century trade, finance, and industry periodicals. Ideally, summer is a time for playing outside and swimming in the pool. Up here on the 5th floor of the […]

A 1898 Big Data graphic

Working at the Library has meant that I have had to adjust my concept of business history.  Prior to working here, doing business research meant finding the most current and up to date information and history meant two years. It wasn’t long after starting that I realized Library of Congress researchers had a much different […]