Postage Currency's Birth Pangs Real|
September 24, 2012
This article was originally printed in Bank Note Reporter.
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I’ll take the opportunity this time out to bore down on what I’ve called “the Miserably Slow Advent of U.S. Postage Currency,” highlighting the central government’s faltering response in summer 1862 to the marketplace problems brought on by the Civil War. Ideally, this chapter would have preceded last month’s installment here, but I left my idealism in the 1960s, and you can be sure that their ordering will be correct when this material reemerges in book form.
On July 11, 1862, the New York Times reported “small change difficulties are working great injury to the retail trade of the city, and giving insufferable annoyance to all parties, whether buyer or seller.… The various expedients adopted to obviate the difficulty give almost as great annoyance as the original trouble itself.… Postage stamps for change are also a great annoyance, particularly in these dog-days, as they stick to the fingers, to the portmonnaie and to everything, and get torn, dirty, wasted, uncurrent and worthless.”(1)
One hundred and fifty years ago this summer/fall, the home front during the U.S. Civil War was reeling, experiencing the worst small change crisis in this nation’s history. This civilian turmoil outpaced even battlefield woes, newspapers claimed, as retail commerce slowed to a standstill caused by the coins’ disappearance into sock drawers and bankers’ vaults.
The following day the same newspaper stated the case succinctly: the “change panic, which has so suddenly come over this community, continues unabated, and apparently absorbs the entire attention of the people to the exclusion of the war, the condition of the army, the new call for troops, the doings of Congress, or even the policy to be pursued with regard to the negro.”(2)
That same day New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley suggested the very reasonable solution of revaluing government coins by 20 percent to combat the coin hoarding. Under Greeley’s plan, silver half dimes would have passed back into commerce valued at six cents, as would dimes, quarters and halves also revalued upward 20 percent, thus allaying the incentive to hoarding.
On July 13, the Times published readers’ solutions. One inventive soul suggested the government begin printing bills for odd sums like $1.10, $1.20, $1.25, $2.25 and $3.25. Another writer advocated alteration of stamps as small change. “[T]hey should, of course, for this purpose, be free from gum, which object could doubtless be obtained by request,” he noted.(3)
An odd duck piece of legislation monetizing stamps and outlawing private and corporate small change bills was passed by Congress and signed by President Abraham Lincoln on July 17 near the end of an extra day tacked on to the congressional session at Lincoln’s insistence to consider the Second Confiscation Act and other pressing matters. It became effective Aug. 1. Now the die was cast.
This stamp money bill was viewed with great expectations. The press and the public alike hoped the situation would be resolved in only two more, sticky gumback weeks. Immediately, editor Henry Raymond at the New York Times recast his dim prognosis of a few days earlier through rose-colored glasses in his editorial “Small Change. A New Legal Tender; Plenty of Currency” on July 18: “A brief, neat, comprehensive bill to furnish relief from our currency difficulties passed both Houses of Congress yesterday afternoon, received the signature of the President, and is now a law. It provides that from the first of next month, all postage and other United States stamps shall be received for dues of less than five dollars, as a legal tender in ordinary business transactions, and may be obtained in exchange for United States notes. The second section prohibits the issue of shinplasters or currency of less than one dollar by any private corporation or bank; and the third and last section provides penalties for the violation of the second section of the act.…
“We stated, the other day,” Raymond continued, “as the main objection to the use of our present style of postage stamps as a general currency, that they stuck to the fingers and the portemonnaie, and quickly got torn, dirty, wasted and uncurrent. But the style of stamps to be issued for currency purposes, under the new law, will obviate these objections, as they will be printed on stout, thick paper, and will have no gum on their backs.…
“Congress deserves the gratitude of a perplexed public that, in its very last hours, and at the close of the extra day for which Mr. LINCOLN requested it to hold session, it has furnished a solution of a problem which had puzzled the wits of the whole community, and driven it almost to distraction,”?he added.(4)
What the cash-strapped public and business community was not ready for was the long wait for relief that ensued. The first public distribution of the Postage Currency wasn’t until Aug. 21, fully five weeks after the stamps as currency law was passed. This new currency was universally called “stamps” in the newspaper accounts and by the man on the street. When the Fractional Currency was issued beginning in 1863, those small notes continued to be called “stamps” in popular parlance, too.
Although it wasn’t apparent at the outset, this Postage Currency was a flawed medium of exchange. Because it was receivable for customs, it went at a premium only slightly less than specie and was itself hoarded up by businesses and brokers. Furthermore, the pay out initially and for many months was so miniscule and sporadic, that the public returned to using regular sticky postage stamps, or found some relief in the makeshift postage stamp envelopes and encased postage.
Meanwhile throughout fall-winter 1862-1863 the use of the outlawed shinplasters continued to spread as it became apparent to all that the tonic was not curing the disease.
We can document these birth pangs of this stamp money through the pages of the contemporary media of the day. This faltering response left the public in the miserable situation of using hundreds of thousands of regular postage stamps as small change throughout that eventful summer and fall of 1862, 150 years ago.
A close examination of the way Postage Currency stumbled out of the starting block in the two months following the passage of the Act monetizing “postage and other stamps” can provide a “You are there” experience that is helpful in understanding these diminutive notes in one’s collection. This problem remained omnipresent, and rarely off the front page of the media of the day:
Day 1: In a report from Washington, D.C., the Janesville (Wis.) Daily Gazette notes that the Congress had made postage stamps a legal tender up to $5 and “an issue of stamps will be made on thick paper without the gum which makes the existing issue a sticking operation.”(5) This was pretty typical early reporting on the new stamp change.
Day 5: Five days after Congress and President Lincoln had agreed with Treasury Secretary Chase that “postage and other stamps” would be a suitable national currency for sums up to $5, cracks began showing in the plan. The New York Herald offered up this dispatch from its Washington correspondent: “Much difficulty is experienced in carrying out the law authorizing the issue of postage stamps for currency. The act appears to have been drawn, without consultation with the Postmaster General. It inaugurates a conflict of authority between the Post Office and the Treasury Departments.… The details in reference to the issue of stamps have not yet been arranged.”(6)
Day 5: The public on its own account had no such confliction on the matter. They rushed off en masse to the Post Office and plunked down their greenbacks for the regular gumback postage stamps for sale there. The crush was so heavy that on July 22, 1862, the Times reported Third Assistant Postmaster General Alexander N. Zevely’s instructions to the New York City postmaster to curtail the run on “postage stamps for currency.”(7) That same day the Springfield (Mass.)?Daily Republican also reported that the Treasury would print the new postage stamps for small change on thicker paper.(8)
Day 7: On July 24, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle was hopeful about the imminent issue of the new issue of postage stamp currency. “We believe, not withstanding the intimations to the contrary, that the block stamps will be issued at the time appointed. The size and shape will be somewhat similar to the ferry tickets and will be quite as convenient as fractional silver coin for all ordinary purposes of trade,” the publication said.(9)
Day 8: Not everybody was taken by the prospects. A special Washington dispatch to the New York Evening Post, yesterday says: “…Secretary Chase is still doubting whether he will issue any stamps under the new law.”(10)
Day 10: On July 27, 1862, the Times reported “On application to Gen. SPINNER, Treasurer United States, I learn that the design for the new stamps has not yet been adopted, and that several weeks must elapse before the stamps will be issued.”(11)
Day 14: On July 31, 1862, the evening of the promised relief day, the Washington Republican reported hopefully:??“The Postmaster-General and the Commissioner of Internal Revenue to-day approved of the specimens of the postage-stamp currency, which will be for five, ten, twenty, twenty-five and fifty cents. The designs embrace the present five and ten-cent, postage-stamps, tastefully arranged in such a way that they cannot be separated and used for postage.… They will be printed on bank-note paper, of different sizes, averaging about one-fifth the size of United States notes, and furnished in sheets during the next two weeks.”(12)
Of course, no 20-cent note was issued, although a 20-center was contemplated with two 10-cent stamps; and two weeks proved overly optimistic. A similar account, without mention of a 20-cent note, appeared that day but datelined the previous day, July 30 in the Buffalo (N.Y.) Evening Courier & Republic.(13)
Day 15: August first was the hoped for relief day. It came and went with no new small change in the nation’s tills. On Aug. 1, 1862, the Times reported “the new stamps” to be used as money would be printed by the “National Bank Note Co., who are now doing the Treasury ones and twos, are to do this also.” The “ones and twos” were small-denomination Legal Tender Notes, authorized by the Act of July 11, 1862. “Some of the new stamps,” it reported, “will be printed on tinted paper so that they cannot be photographed.…The stamps will be about twice the size of a United States coupon [from a coupon bond].”(14)
Day 17: On Aug. 3, 1862, the New York Times belatedly picked up a July 31 story from the Washington Republican that informing readers in the nation’s largest city, “The designs for the postage stamps to be used as currency were adopted yesterday [see Day 14] and are now in the hands of the engraver.” The small notes would be inscribed with the words, “Postage stamps furnished by the Assistant Treasurers and designated Depositaries of the United States;” and under them, “Receivable for postage stamps at any post-office,” the report continued.(15) Essays with this wording are shown accompanying this article.
The new currency was also to be inscribed: “‘Exchangeable for United States notes by any Assistant Treasurer or designated United States Depositary, in sums not less than $5. Receivable in payment of all dues [emphasis added]to the United States less than $5. Act approved July 17, 1862.’” The highlighted phrase made these new paper fractional bills receivable for U.S. Customs, and thus legally equivalent to gold coin. This “defect” caused the new bills when finally issued to be hoarded and to also command a premium. Subsequent issues of fractional currency were not receivable for customs duties.
Day 17: That same day the Times reported counterfeit 24-cent postage stamps were in circulation as small change. This shows how necessary substitutes for quarter dollars had become.(16)
Day 19: On Aug. 5, 1862, a New York City newspaper reported that the ferry companies and street railroads were “refus[ing] to take postage-stamps.” At issue were the Long Island Railroad and the Tenth Street Ferry Co. A rider denied “may bring his action for damages and recover handsomely, for no jury will sustain a Company, a monopoly from the necessity of its position, in making war upon the Government by discrediting its currency,” the newspaper opined.(17)
Day 22: In its Aug. 8 issue, the Times published a hopeful report on its front page from its Washington, D.C. correspondent that must have been a balm to the change-chafed, inflicted souls in the city: “Postmaster-Gen. [Montgomery] BLAIR states that an abundance of postage-stamp bills, for circulation as small change, will be ready for distribution within the next week. Specimens are here now in the Post-office Department, making a handsome little bill, about one-fourth the size of the Treasury note.…”(18)
Proving as an economist that he was possibly a good mail carrier, “The Postmaster-General is understood to express the opinion that their [the stamp bills’] circulation will produce the immediate reappearance of silver, for the reason that there will then be no motive for hoarding it. Silver may remain at a nominal premium, but nobody will buy it, because stamps will supply all the wants for change, and the holders of silver will therefore use it, rather than hoard it to no purpose,” the reporter predicted cheerily. (19)
Day 23: According to the New York Times of Aug. 9, 1862, “The stamp currency for change will, like other United States notes, be supplied from the Treasury to disbursing officers. No commissions will be paid to intermediate parties.”(20) That same day the Times reported that the contract to provide revenue stamps needed under the recent internal revenue act had been awarded to Butler & Carpenter in Philadelphia.
Day 30: A week later, on Aug. 16, the Times acknowledged another delay in the issue of the Stamp Currency in an article datelined Washington, Aug. 15. “The new postage stamp bills for small change were expected to begin arriving from the engravers in New-York to-morrow; but it is understood now that they will not come till about Tuesday next. The Post-office Department turns them over to the Treasury, and it distributes only through regular Treasury depositories. At first no orders will be filled except for small amounts, so as to throw them into as general circulation as possible at once.”(21)
Day 30: That same day, according to his diary, Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase first saw printed notes on Aug. 16. He directed that perforated Postage Currency note sheets should be accepted as furnished by the Post Office. Chase wrote: “Mr. [George] Harrington brought in the Postage Currency. I directed that it should be received as furnished by the P.O. Department - i.e. perforated instead of clipped, perforation being considered partial safeguard against counterfeiting.”(22)
Day 31: The following day, Aug. 17 was more bad news. The Times reported the new currency would be delayed even further, perhaps another three weeks, and confirmed that the notes “will be delivered to the public in sheets.” In an article entitled “The New Currency,” the Times reported “The Post-office change notes are being printed and signed, and will be in circulation by the 5th of September. It was decided only at present to print 5, 10, 25 and 50 cent notes.… A sheet of 5-cent notes will be $1; a sheet of 10-cent notes will be $2; a sheet of 25-cent notes will be $4; a sheet of 50-cent notes will be $8.”(23) The report erred. Postage Currency notes were not signed before their issue.
Day 31: That same day in the newly liberated city of New Orleans, the Times Picayune there reprinted an odd article from the United States Gazette. This writer has not see the original article, but the New Orleans’ paper reported “the new stamp currency will not be in the shape of stamps, as had been originally designated. The sticky nature of the stamps rendered them totally unfit for use as currency, and even without the mucilage these small bits of paper could not be taken care of sufficiently to answer for change in daily use. To obviate this difficulty Postmaster [Cornelius A.] Walborn, of Philadelphia, submitted to the authorities at Washington a proposition, which has been approved and acted upon, to print small notes of the denominations desired for change, the paper and engraving being the same as that of the national paper currency, but with designs entirely distinct. This is the manner in which the new currency will make its appearance.”(24)
Day 31: That same day the Times also noted that a local transportation company had embarked on “a very unwise and unpatriotic, as well as illiberal policy.” The Jackson Street and Hudson Avenue Ferry Co. “refuse to take postage-stamps in pay for ferriage, and spice, through the medium of their ticket seller, their refusal with insulting and provoking language.” “This sort of thing…won’t do.… [It] can’t be allowed, you know,” the newspaper remonstrated.(25)
Day 33: The Washington correspondent of the New York Evening Express reported Aug. 19, “The manufacturers of postage currency will begin to deliver the bills to Assistant Treasurer Cisco, in New York to-day, and will continue to deliver them at the rate of $27,000 worth a day.…They are issued in sheets of twenty for the fives and tens, and sixteen for the twenty-fives and fifties PERFORATED, LIKE POSTAGE STAMPS [emphasis added] so as to be easily separable.”(26)
The account added, “Mr. Cisco will at once forward them to Washington, where they will be distributed among the Assistant Treasurers, under such regulations as the Treasury Department may prescribe. They will be getting into circulation probably before the end of the week.”(27) The reporter closes with a salient detail, not heretofore published in a numismatic periodical to this writer’s knowledge. Apparently there was a leakage of this hot commodity in New York City before the official release date of Aug. 21 in Washington, D.C.: “The first delivery of postage currency was made yesterday [that would be Aug. 18] in exchange for coin,” the periodical exclaimed. “Parties offering coin in exchange will have the preference at the Treasury Department,” it added.(28)
Day 34: This remarkable account in the New York Evening Express, which contravenes ALL (emphasis intended) official pronouncements on the subject and anything the reader will find in a numismatic publication that state that the first official distribution of Postage Currency was on Aug. 21, primarily to meet Army requirement, gains credence by a report in the New York Times the following morning. The Times report is datelined, Washington, Aug. 19, and appears on its face to corroborate the Express story from a Washington—likely U.S. Treasury—source. The Times account revealed substantially the same remarkable fact, “The first delivery of postage currency was made yesterday [once again, Aug. 18] in exchange for coin. Parties offering coin in exchange will have the preference at the Treasury Department.”(29)
This contention was reiterated on Aug. 20 by two upstate New York newspapers, also datelined Washington, Aug. 19. These periodicals were located in Buffalo and Lockport, N.Y.(30) The same notice, once again datelined Washington Aug. 19 appeared belatedly in another upstate New York newspaper, this one a weekly published in Binghamton on Aug. 27.(31)
How or why this happened is a mystery. Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, who conceivably could have cleared up the matter, later adroitly side-stepped this subject. In response to a congressional inquiry, he wrote: “The first delivery of the fractional notes, known as postage currency, was made by the Post Office Department to the Treasury Department, and the first distribution of the currency to the people took place, under this arrangement, in the latter part of August, 1862.”(32)
Day 34: Officially on Aug. 20, National Bank Note Co.’s first shipment of the Postage Currency arrived at the U.S. Treasury in the nation’s capital. The following day, Aug. 21, 1862, was the nominal official first day of issue for Postage Currency with a small supply being furnished to Army paymasters.(33)
Day 35: In the nation’s capital, a newspaper reported, “The manufacturers of postage currency will begin to deliver the bills to Assistant Treasurer Cisco, in New York, today, and will continue to deliver them at the rate of $27,000 worth a day.”(34) “They are to be issued in sheets,” it continued, “of twenty for fives and tens, and sixteen for the twenty-fives and fifties perforated, like postage stamps [emphasis added], so as to be easily separable.… Of the daily issue, 20,000 bills ($1,000) will be fives, 20,000 tens ($2,000), 32,000 twenty-fives ($8,000), and 32,000 fifties ($16,000).”(35)
Day 36: Finally, on Aug. 22, 1862, the Times could responsibly tell its readers that the new postage stamp bills had begun to be paid out from the U.S. Treasury in Washington D.C. on the previous day. According to the newspaper’s Washington correspondent, although the new change notes “are already coming freely into circulation. People complain that they are too small, look too much like patent medicine labels, etc., etc.”(36)
He added:??“but everybody’s glad to get them.” “According to the belief at the Post-office Department,” the report continued, “silver coin ought now to become plentier, since there will be no motive for paying a premium on it, and therefore no premium can be obtained, and there will consequently be no motive for hoarding it.… For some days [Army] Paymasters will absorb a large share of this new currency,” it added dejectedly.(37)
The Buffalo, N.Y. and Washington, D.C. papers were not the only ones recording a consistent message on the initial release of the new Postage Currency. The New York Times corroborated their narratives. “The currency is delivered in sheets which are PERFORATED LIKE THOSE OF POSTAGE STAMPS [emphasis added],” the New York newspaper’s account continued.(38) So did a weekly, The Country Gentleman.(39)
This take on the first Postage Currency to circulate will come as “news” to many of my fellow collectors of Postage and Fractional Currency, and members of the Fractional Currency Collectors Board, who believe, as one of them wrote recent, “The first notes…came in sheets that had to be cut apart by hand. It was [later] decided to print them with perforations like postage stamps… However, these perforations were found to be difficult and inconvenient for the public so the issue reverted to the plain edge sheets.”(40)
This fixed notion is based on Milton Friedberg’s erroneous (it appears) contention in his classic work on this series, The Encyclopedia of United States Fractional & Postal Currency. According to Friedberg, a fine man and superb collector, who was a friend of mine I might note,(41) “The first notes were printed by the National Bank Note Co. and issued in uncut sheets to the Treasury. The notes were made available to the public in both the complete uncut sheet form or in the form of single notes. At a later date it was decided to perforate the sheets in order to facilitate separating notes. We can assume that the perforated sheets were also issued as entires to the general public. The fragility of the perforated sheets has made then almost disappear and very few are known to exist.… The perforations were discontinued after a short period since they caught on each other and were generally inconvenient in use,” Friedberg wrote.(42)
How Friedberg got his notion is unknown. He didn’t get this idea from Frank Limpert or Matt Rothert, earlier writers on this series. The way it is presented in Milt’s 1978 book the quoted text appears to fall out from official government documents, sandwiched as it is by entries from the Congressional Globe and a congressional report authored by future President James Garfield. However, there is also intervening narrative citing collector Henry Russell Drowne and a report from the American Journal of Numismatics. So it is not readily apparent how he came to this conclusion.
However, due to Milt’s standing in the Fractional Currency community and the authority of his magnificent encyclopedia nobody in the last generation that I am aware of has questioned his contention.
Rob Kravitz, another individual whom I esteem and have worked with productively on the SPMC board for years, adopted Friedberg’s chronology in his own catalog as have other Fractional Currency collectors of the present generation. According to Kravitz, “The fact that various production techniques were tried allows an order of issue for these historically important slips of paper. Most experts agree that the first notes came out in the following sequence:
“• Straight Edge hand cut with no monogram
“• Perforated with no monogram
“• Perforated with ABNCO monogram
“• Straight Edged with ABNCO monogram”(43)
Elsewhere, Kravitz has written that “the printing of 1st issue perforated, no monogram notes” did not start until Monday, September 15, 1862.”(44) However, as detailed here, contemporary newspapers reported on the first sheets released being perforated, not straight edged, and those observers further witnessed perforated sheets on the first day of issue on Aug. 21, 1862, and in the case of Secretary Chase, five days before the first official public distribution on Aug. 16, or in the case of the New York Express and other correspondents three days earlier during the sneak release on Aug. 18.
Apparently then, Milt got it wrong, which led others to do the same. Those who would likely agree with my assessment, as they listed the perforated sheets as first, are Dr. Limpert (p. 9), Matt Rothert (p. 18), Gene Hessler and Carlson Chambliss in the Comprehensive Catalog (p. 286), and Dave Bowers in the Whitman Encyclopedia (p. 783). I understand that Rob’s fine book is currently undergoing revision for a second edition. Hopefully he will revamp his information.
In the New York Times, datelined to Aug. 21, the Washington reporter cautioned: “The stamps are printed on the best of bank-note paper, and are therefore more difficult of separation than the old stamps. The public must therefore be cautious when separating this currency and not mutilate the notes, as their receipt and redemption by the Treasury Department are subject to the same regulations as now in force for United States notes, namely: if any part of the note is missing a proportionate amount is deducted from the nominal value.”(45)
The same day, Aug. 21, marked the first public distribution of the new $1 and $2 Legal Tender Notes authorized by the Act of July 11. The Washington report contains an intriguing bit of information for the numismatic researcher: “The first delivery of United States notes of the denominations of one and two dollars was made to-day [in Washington, D.C.]. These, as well as the postage currency, are delivered and distributed by the Treasurer in the same manner as United States notes.
“It was finally decided to issue the limited quantity of small Treasury Notes already printed and forwarded here, notwithstanding the one or two minor points in which the proof was not quite as desired. The plates will be corrected, but the small number already printed are thrown into circulation at once. These notes will speedily push out other small notes, just as the old Treasury Notes have almost removed the bank issues of the same denominations from circulation.”(46)
Day 43: It wasn’t until another week passed, however, making more than seven weeks since the law monetizing “postage and other stamps” was enacted, that the New York Times of Aug. 29, 1862, could finally report that the new stamp money was in circulation in small quantities in the nation’s financial center. Editor Raymond wrote:??“A few of them have been received in this City during the present week, and they may already be occasionally met with in making change.… These notes will shortly be supplied in sufficient quantities to satisfy the wants of the community and will replace the postage-stamps now in circulation,” he added hopefully, and we might add naively.(47)
Day 47: The next week, on Sept. 2, the Times reported a general easing of the small change crisis in Washington, D.C. of all places. Its correspondent in the federal district filed this report:??“The Postage Stamp Currency. The working of the postage-stamp currency is very satisfactory. The notes are of convenient size and denominations, and those of different amounts easily distinguished by color and figure. It is a relief to possess a small currency again, which is legal tender; and the effect already is to make silver more plenty in the market.”(48)
This report rubbed more salt in the financial wounds of New Yorkers. The Times also bemoaned the fact that the small denomination $1 and $2 greenbacks—that could have alleviated some of the distress there caused by the scarcity of fractional notes—had also been reserved for the nation’s capital. It reported, “But few have found their way to New-York as yet, most of them having been used or kept for use in Washington. They will be very useful, and together with the notes of fractional parts of a dollar, will supply a medium for the payment of small sums by the Government.”(49)
Day 50: However, outside D.C. things in New York’s money center and elsewhere in the hinterland were not getting better. Seven weeks after reporting that the nation was turning to a postage stamp currency, on Sept. 5 Raymond’s Times complained that the government’s tardiness in circulating sufficient quantities of the small change had caused the people to return to using regular postage stamps and private shinplasters in the marketplace there.
Republican newspaper editor Henry Raymond was through carrying the Washington administration’s water on this subject. Raymond’s editorial “Small-Change Currency” charged:??“The Government is very slow in putting the new small-change currency into the hands of the people. In this City, it has not made its appearance yet, and the dirty, sticky, inconvenient postage stamps are still in universal use. We were promised that we should have the new currency on the first of last month, five weeks ago; and on this ground, all private shinplasters were on that day excluded from circulation, under severe penalty; but the Washington functionaries have failed in this, as they fail in so many other things they promise…(50)
“[We] can’t see why it was not ready a month ago, as per act of Congress, or at least why it is not ready now. A few hundred thousand of dollars of it would be of very great service and convenience in the City at present. And, when it is ready, we trust that this great center of trade and currency will be furnished with the first issues of the paper rather than the villages and smaller places, which do not suffer from the want of change to any such extent as we do. Will Mr. CHASE hurry up the small change currency?” Raymond pleaded.(51)
To be continued…
The writer would thank author Peter Huntoon and Curator Dr. Richard Doty for supplying illustrations from the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution, dealer Donald Kagin and collector Ray Waltz for supplying illustrations from their personal collections, and author Q. David Bowers for supplying a pair of editorial illustrations gleaned from contemporary issues of Leslie’s Illustrated.
Thanks To All Who Helped
Acknowledgements are a pleasure to write, and it is due in no small measure to a great many readers and other sources, that I can report that “Shades” brought home two great awards from the recent ANA convention in Philadelphia. This column was adjudged by Numismatic Literary Guild judges the “Best Column” in a numismatic newspaper for the seventh time in its eight years running in this publication. Furthermore, Part 76, which appeared in the October 2011 issue starting on the front page of Bank Note Reporter revealing the discovery of a sixth original Raphael Thian Register, was named the “Best Paper Money Article of the Year” in the same classification. My congratulations to Bob Van Ryzin at F+W Media on these awards too. This column has proved a durable partnership between the publisher, the editor, the readers and this columnist. I’m very grateful. So thanks to all of you who make this column what it is in so many ways.
A Personal Note
As always, I welcome feedback from BNR readers. We cover a lot of ground in this column, and it’s surprising what sparks the interest of individuals, as evidenced by the comments above. Questions, comments, cheers or jeers are welcome. You can contact me through my personal website www.fredwritesright.com or by mail at P.O. Box 118162, Carrollton, TX 75011-8162. If you write and wish a reply, please include a self-addressed stamped envelope, but please be aware that if your subject is of interest generally it may be addressed in a future column instead.
1. “Small Change. The Currency and Small Change Difficulties,” New York Times, July 11, 1862; Robert Dodsley, The Annual Register, or a View of History, Politics of the Year 1862, London, England: J. & F.H. Rivington, 1863, p. 229.
2. “General City News,” New York Times, July 12, 1862.
3. “Local Intelligence. Popular Views of the Small Change Difficulty. Why Not Use Postage Stamps,” New York Times, July 13, 1862.
4. “Small Change. A New Legal Tender; Plenty of Currency,” New York Times, July 18, 1862.
5. “Relief is Promised,” Janesville (WI) Daily Gazette, July 18, 1862, p. 4.
6. New York Herald, July 22, 1862, cited in Frank A. Limpert, Classified List of U.S. Postage and Fractional Currency, privately printed, 1947, p. 7.
7. “Postage Stamps,” New York Times, July 23, 1862; “Postage Stamps for Currency,” Atchison (KS) Freedom’s Champion, October 18, 1862.
8. The Springfield Republican is an interesting case. Many years ago colleague Wayne Homren sent me a sheaf of photocopies documenting the use of stamps as small change there. I recently found this intriguing entry on the internet: “The Republican railed against the practice of local banks and private businesses issuing what were called ‘shinplasters,’ which were unregulated small pieces of paper currency. Locally merchants used postage stamps, rolls of pennies, omnibus tokens, and one Springfield grocer made up packets of sugar valued at 10 cents that were used as change.” Wayne Phaneuf, “Civil War July 1862: Union setbacks mean 300,000 more troops needed; silver coins disappear,” http://www.masslive.com/history/index.ssf/2012/07/civil_war_july_1862.html.
9. “The Postage Stamp Currency,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 24, 1862, p. 2.
10. “The Postage Stamp Currency,” Newport (R.I.) Daily News, July 25, 1862, p. 2.
11. “General City News. More Change Trouble,” New York Times, July 27, 1862.
12. “News from Washington.… The New Stamp Currency. From the Washington Republican,” New York Times, Aug. 3, 1862, p. 1.
13. “By Telegraph,” Buffalo (N.Y.) Evening Courier & Republic, July 31, 1862, p. 1.
14. “General City News. The New Stamps,” New York Times, Aug. 1, 1862. 15. “The New Stamp Currency,” New York Times, August 3, 1862; “The New Postage Stamps,”
Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Aug. 9, 1862, p. 2; “The New Postage Stamp Currency,” Sacramento (Calif.) Daily Union, August 26, 1862.
16. “General City News,” New York Times, Aug. 3, 1862.
17. “General City News. Repudiating the Legal Tender,” New York Times, Aug. 5, 1862.
18. “News from Washington. The New Stamp Currency Nearly Ready for Circulation.… The New Stamp Currency…,” New York Times, Aug. 8, 1862, p. 1.
20. “Our Special Washington Dispatches. The Stamp Currency,” New York Times, Aug. 9, 1862.
21. “News from Washington.… The New Stamp Currency,” New York Times, Aug. 16, 1862, p. 1.
22. See David Herbert Donald (ed.). Inside Lincoln’s Cabinet: The Civil War Diaries of Salmon P. Chase, New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1954, p. 114. Assistant Secretary of the Treasury George Harrington was Chase’s “right hand man” and chief trouble-shooter.
23. “General City News. The New Currency,” New York Times, Aug. 17, 1862.
24. “The New U.S. Stamp Currency,” New Orleans Times Picayne, August 17, 1862. It just so happens that Walborn’s commission as Deputy Postmaster at Philadelphia, April 20, 1861, signed by President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward, ex-Byron Reed Collection via Christies, appeared in Ira and Larry Goldberg’s Sale 35, April 15, 2006, lot 180, where it realized $8,050.
25. “General City News. It Won’t Do,” New York Times, Aug. 17, 1862.
26. “The Postage Stamp Currency,” New York Evening Express, Aug. 20, 1862.
28. Ibid. Until this column, I’d wager the reader has seen no other report of this happening. But wait, there’s more…
29. “Our Special Washington Dispatches.…First Delivery of Stamp Currency,” New York Times, Aug. 20, 1862, p. 1.
30. “By Telegraph,” Buffalo (NY) Evening Courier & Republic; “Last Night’s Report,” Lockport (N.Y.) Daily Journal & Courier, Aug. 20, 1862.
31. “Washington Items,” Broome Weekly Republican, Aug. 27, 1862, p. 1.
32. S.P. Chase to James A. Garfield, June 3, 1864, Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives made during the First Session of the 38th Congress, 1863-1864, Vol. 2, Appendix Q, Washington: Government Printing Office, 1864, p. 355.
33. James Gilfillan, “Report of the Treasurer of the United States,” Oct. 1, 1881, contained in Finance Reports…1881, p. 458; Buffalo (NY) Evening Courier & Republic, Aug. 21, 1862; “News from Washington. The Small Treasury Notes and the Stamp Currency in Circulation,” New York Times, Aug. 22, 1861.
34. “The Postage-Stamp Currency,” Washington (DC) National Republican, Aug. 21, 1862.
36. “News from Washington. The Small Treasury Notes and the Stamp Currency in Circulation,” New York Times, Aug. 22, 1862, p. 1.
38. New York Times, Aug. 22, 1862, p. 1.
39. “The New Postage Stamp Currency,” The Country Gentleman, Aug. 28, 1862, p. 148.
40. Benny Bolin, “August 21 – 150th Birthday of Postage Currency,” August 11, 2012, http://www.spmc.org/blog/august-21-150th-birthday-postage-currency.
41. In 1978 Tom DeLorey, Jeff Williams, and I worked as the in-house consultants at Amos Press on the publication of Milt’s Fractional Currency Encyclopedia. Although Martin Gengerke technically and rightfully is listed on the book’s title page as the editor of Milt’s book, the final product was a collaboration of author Milt (and his many colleagues), Gengerke, NASCA’s Herb Melnick, and a trio of Amos Press editorial and production consultants who physically worked on Milt’s book as it wended its way toward publication at Amos Press. Again, although NASCA is rightfully listed as the publisher because that firm paid the bills, Milt’s book was one of several contract jobs that Amos Press took on c. 1977-1979 for authors as diverse as Walter Breen (his proof book), Stephen Dushnick (his Canadian dollars book), Milt (his fractionals book), as well as ANA catalogs for Kagin’s and Stack’s. Jeff was the account rep (he sold the job); Tom and I were the “grunts” who willingly got roped into these extra assignments. We did editorial tasks like proof reading, fact checking, word smithing, interfacing with the author and the production department. Tom recalled a funny incident to me recently that occurred when he had to explain the difference between perforate and imperforate Postage Currency—a particularly apt topic for the present column—to a production artist who was physically pasting up Milt’s book galleys with scissors and a hot glue pot. Tom DeLorey to the author, Sept. 4, 2012. We debuted Milt’s Encyclopedia at the 1978 Memphis International Paper Money Show (the second one), at which Tom’s and my revised edition of our book on U.S. paper money errors also debuted. Milt thanked me and graciously signed a copy of his book to me and I did likewise. Several years later when I was working on my book on encased postage stamps both Herb Melnick and Milt were very helpful to me. After my encased stamp book came out in 1994, Milt specifically challenged me to update and revise his own catalog of Civil War postage stamp envelopes and bring it out in book form in a companion fashion to the very well received encased stamp book. This, I’m happy to say, is nearly 95 percent done as I write this. I expect that book to go to the publisher soon. So you see we’ve come full circle, but as much as I respect Milt and his knowledge and the collection he assembled, I cannot accept his contention (flying in the face of contemporary records that I’ve found) that the first Postage Currency notes were straight-edged.
42. Milton Friedberg, The Encyclopedia of United States Fractional & Postal Currency, Rockville Center, N.Y.: Numismatic Antiquarian Service Corporation of America, 1978, p. 14.
43. See Robert J. Kravitz, A Collector’s Guide to Postage and Fractional Currency, San Francisco: Arkives Press, n.d. (2003?), p. 16.
44. See Rob Kravitz, “Important Dates in Postage and Fractional Currency History and What Happpened on those Dates in the Civil War,” Missouri Journal of Numismatics, Vol. 36 (July 2011), p. 6.
45. New York Times, Aug. 22, 1862.
46. This may explain the extreme rarity of the Series 1 Fr. 17. Readers should beware (especially novice collectors reading this column on the Internet) most notes offered as Fr. 17 are misattributed. Tom Flynn’s great Series 1 Fr. 17 brought nearly $50 grand at the 2008 Heritage CSNS sale, lot 14844, 2008 April 18 Rosemont, Ill. CSNS Currency Signature Auction, PMG VF 30 EPQ, at $48,875 including buyer’s premium.
47. “Our New Small Note Currency. The New Postage Stamp Notes. Bills for Five, Ten, Twenty-five and Fifty Cents, in Circulation. The Appearance of the Notes. Only a Small Supply Yet Received. At the Sub-Treasury. The Small Notes,” New York Times, Aug. 29, 1862.
48. “News from Washington.… The Postage-Stamp Currency,” New York Times, Sept. 2, 1862, p. 1.
49. New York Times, Aug. 29, 1862.
50. “Small-Change Currency,” New York Times, Sept. 5, 1862.
52. Benny Bolin to the author, Aug. 5, 2012.
53. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Accession 02-206, National Museum of American History, National Numismatic Collection, http://siarchives.si.edu/collections/siris_arc_247079?back=%2Fcollections%2Fsearch%3Fquery%3D%2522Willis%2520H.%2520Dupont%2520Collection%2522Curatorial Records.
54. http://lccn.loc.gov/mm78037705; the collection was also mentioned in the staff report “Recent Acquisitions of the Manuscript Division,” The Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress, Vol. 28 No. 14 (October 1971), pp. 281-325.
56. Elvira Clain-Stefanelli, “Donors and Donations: The Smithsonian’s National Numismatic Collection,” http://www.chicagocoinclub.org/projects/PiN/dds.html. This account is excerpted from Perspectives in Numismatics: Studies Presented to the Chicago Coin Club, edited by Dr. Saul Needleman, Chicago: Ares Publishers, 1986, pp. 251-268. Crofoot is mentioned on p. 263, and a model for a 50-cent Postage Currency note is shown as Figure 43 on Plate VIII. This appears to be from a talk Mrs. Clain-Stefanelli gave at one of the Chicago Coin Club meetings. Interestingly, to my way of thinking, her husband Vladimir does not mention the Crofoot gift in his wonderful monograph History of the National Numismatic Collections, but then how could he? The extensively illustrated monograph, “Bulletin 229, Contributions from The Museum of History and Technology, Paper 31,” was printed by the Government Printing Office in 1968 three years before the donation was made.
57. Peter Huntoon to the author, Sept. 4, 2012.
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