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Federal Reserve Bank
OF DALLAS

Dallas, Texas, June 13, 1949

P A P E R C U R R E N CY E X H IB IT

To Member Banks o f the
Eleventh Federal Reserve D istrict:

W e are pleased to announce that we have prepared a paper currencyexhibit which may be borrowed by member banks for display purposes.
The exhibit is arranged in 15 frames, each o f which is approximately 22
inches square. The frames are equipped with hangers for wall display and
with folding easels for counter display. The exhibit represents every type
of paper currency used in the United States since 1772.
There is attached a brief brochure on the subject of United States
paper currency, including explanatory material and many interesting facts
regarding the various types o f paper currency. A small supply o f this bro­
chure will accompany the exhibit.
Since we have prepared only two sets of the exhibit, we m ust ask
that requests for its use be restricted to special occasions, and that the
exhibit be returned to this bank within one week after receipt.
All expenses in connection with the shipment o f the exhibit to and
from member banks and all risk o f loss will be borne by this bank. Mem­
ber banks are requested to give the exhibit the same care that they give
to their own property.
W e believe that this currency display will be of much interest to the
general public and will be useful to member banks commemorating special
occasions such as bank anniversary celebrations and openings of new or
remodeled banking quarters.
Yours very truly,
R. R. GILBERT
President

This publication was digitized and made available by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas' Historical Library (FedHistory@dal.frb.org)

E X H IB IT OF PAPER CURRENCY
OF THE

U N IT E D STATES OF A M E R IC A
FROM

CO LONIAL D A Y S
TO

T H E PR ESEN T T IM E

FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF DALLAS

1949

Acknowledgment is made of our indebtedness
to W . A . Philpott, Jr., Secretary, Texas Bankers
Association, Dallas, for his invaluable assist­
ance in arranging the exhibit and compiling
this pamphlet.

UNITED STATES PAPER M ONEY
In the 15 frames of paper currency compris­
ing this exhibit are shown specimens repre­
senting every type of note, bill, and certificate
which has been circulated as money in the
United States from the early Colonial period to
the present day.
On display are notes in pounds, shillings, and
pence which were mediums of exchange in Paul
Revere’s and Benjamin Franklin’s time (the en­
graver and printer, respectively, of many of
these Colonial issues); obsolete bank notes of
100 years ago; Treasury notes of the Republic
of Texas; state and national issues of the Con­
federate States; early “ greenbacks” and “ shin
plasters” of the Civil War period; and notes on
down through the years, including paper cur­
rency in circulation today.
The large-sized notes (still good money and
redeemable at face value) became obsolete in
1929, when the Treasury Department reduced
by one-third the size of the currency. The first
issue of small-sized currency was designated as
Series 1928 because the designs were approved
and production commenced in that year, al­
though none of the currency was issued until
July 1929. Some time ago the Federal Reserve
Bank of Dallas began saving back from the
1

multilating cutters specimens of the large-sized
currency. From this and other collections the
present display has been fashioned. It is be­
lieved that the exhibit will be of much interest
to the general public, particularly to students
of monetary history.
No notes above the $100 denomination are
shown, although they have been and are issued
in these higher values: $500, $1,000, $5,000, and
$10,000. Insurance premiums and transporta­
tion charges on the exhibit would be too costly
if these larger denominations were included.
The different types of paper currency in­
cluded in this exhibit are listed below :
Colonial and Continental notes
Obsolete bank notes
Treasury notes of the Republic of Texas
Notes of the Confederate States of America
Texas Treasury warrants (Civil W ar issue)
Postage and fractional currency
United States notes and Treasury notes
Coin notes (payable in coin)
Silver certificates
Federal Reserve notes
Federal Reserve bank notes
National bank notes
Conspicuous by its absence is a once popular
series, withdrawn from circulation and surren­
dered to the United States Treasury under the
provisions of The Gold Reserve Act, approved
2

January 30, 1934, namely, gold certificates.
While today these are not “ legal tender,” or
lawful money, they are redeemable at face value
in lawful money.
The small-sized notes in all series and kinds
are represented in the exhibit, as follows:
United States notes
Silver certificates
Federal Reserve notes
Federal Reserve bank notes
National bank notes
The large-sized notes (now often called “ sad­
dle blankets” ), which circulated formerly, carry
the engraved portraits of a variety of celebri­
ties : eleven United States Presidents, seven
Secretaries of the Treasury, eight Secretaries of
State, several great American generals, gover­
nors of states, eminent jurists, scientists, in­
ventors, explorers, one Indian chief, and one
woman, Martha Washington, and others. Many
of these old notes, as may be seen by examining
the specimens in this exhibit, are works of art—
truly great achievements of the platemakers
and vignette cutters, combined with the preci­
sion work of the geometrical lathe and the rul­
ing engine.
Modern currency has been made uniform as
to portraits on the faces and designs and scenes
on the backs. For instance, all $5 notes, whether
a United States note, a silver certificate, a Fed­
eral Reserve note, or national currency, have
Lincoln’s photograph on the face and a view of
the Lincoln Memorial on the back. Listed below
3

are the differentiating features of faces and
backs of the current notes shown in this dis­
play:
Denomi­
nation
$

1
2
5
10
20
50
100

Face

Back

Washington
Jefferson
Lincoln
Hamilton
Jackson
Grant
Franklin

Great Seal of United States
Monticello
Lincoln Memorial
United States Treasury Building
The White House
United States Capitol Building
Independence Hall

Except for the “ demand notes,” issued by the
Treasury in 1861, and the first three series of
fractional currency, every piece of paper money
of the United States bears the seal of the Treas­
ury Department. The seal is in the form of a
shield, showing the balanced scales for Justice,
a key for Honesty, and a square for Security.
Around the rim of the design are the Latin
words, abbreviated: “ Thesaur. Amer. Septent.
Sigil.” meaning “ Seal of the Treasury of North
America.”
On the earlier series of United States paper
currency there appeared a great variety of seals
as to color, size, and arrangement. An examina­
tion of Frames 4 to 12, inclusive, will disclose
many variations of the Treasury Department’s
seal. However, with the introduction of the
small-sized currency in 1929, seals became uni­
form in size and color of ink used. There has
been some variation in the position of the seal
on the face of notes, particularly on silver cer­
tificates. The different kinds of United States
4

paper money now in circulation are distinguish­
able by the color of the ink used on the seals:
Seal Color

Kind
United States notes
Silver certificates
Federal Reserve notes
National currency (Federal Reserve bank
notes and national bank notes)
Gold certificates (not lawful)

Red
Blue
Green
Brown
Yellow

A brief description of the contents of each of
the 15 frames comprising this exhibit follows:

Frame 1:
a. Colonial and Continental Currency. Colo­
nial notes were issued as early as 1690 by the
Massachusetts Bay Colony as a matter of neces­
sity, and all other Colonies eventually issued
similar currency. Crudely printed, these notes
were easily counterfeited and became almost
worthless through depreciation and inflationary
printing. T o finance the Revolutionary War,
the Continental Congress issued Continental
currency, several pieces of which are also
shown in Frame 1. The first emission of Con­
tinental money, of $3,000,000, ordered in May,
was made in June and July 1775. In 1785 the
Continental Congress adopted the dollar as the
monetary unit, and in 1786 fixed its value at
375.64 grains of pure silver. This unit was de­
rived from the Spanish milled dollar which cir­
culated generally in the Colonies. King George
III of England, himself, was charged with
counterfeiting this Continental currency. It,
too, became almost worthless through deprecia­
5

tion— so that to this day “ not worth a Con­
tinental” means next to worthless. The notes
in English measure are Colonial, issued by the
Colonies; those in dollars are Continental cur­
rency. On the back of each is printed in bold
type “ T o Counterfeit Is Death,” but there is no
record of any counterfeiter having received this
extreme penalty. The notes are signed by three
“ trustees,” generally men of standing in the
community.
b. Obsolete Bank Notes. These were more
commonly called “ broken bank bills” and were
issued by banks, insurance, companies, rail­
roads, state governments, individuals, and many
kinds of corporations and associations. This
was the only paper money the United States
had from the early 1800’s to 1861, when the
Government began issuing its Civil War
“ greenbacks.”

Frame 2:
a. Treasury Notes of the Republic of Texas.
These four specimens represent one note issued
from Houston, when that city was the seat of
“ The Government of Texas,” and three Treas­
ury notes issued from Austin during President
Lamar’s administration. President Houston’s
name on the Government of Texas note was
signed for him by a stock clerk, W . G. Cooke.
Sam Houston never signed a piece of paper
money during the days of the Republic as far
as is known.
b. Notes of the Confederate States of Ameri­
ca. Four notes of the Confederate States, issued
from Richmond, Virginia, are shown. After the
6

Civil W ar many millions of dollars in this
“ money” were packed away in attics, and until
this day— 85 years later— many pieces of this
currency are still to be found in “ grandfather’s
old horsehair trunk.”
c. State of Texas Warrants. Texas Treasury
warrants comprise the State money issued and
circulated in Texas during the Civil War period
—payable to individuals and given in payment
for both civil and military services.

Frame 3 :
Postage and Fractional Currency. During the
Civil War all metal coin (gold, silver, even
copper) disappeared from circulation. Even the
Government suspended specie or coin payment
on January 1, 1862. All coins were immediately
hoarded, and there was no small change with
which to transact business. An enterprising in­
ventor fabricated a small metal frame with a
mica front to encase postage stamps. It bore
advertising on the back: “ Take Ayers Pills,”
etc. These, circulating freely, gave the Govern­
ment the idea for its first series of postage cur­
rency. Soon a second series, called fractional
currency, was issued. A total of five series of
these postage and fractional notes were put in
circulation. Specimens of all these series and
denominations are shown in Frame 3. The com­
mon name for them was “ shin plasters.” The
denominations are 3, 5, 10, 15, 25, and 50 cents.

Frame 4 :
United States and Treasury Notes. In this
series appeared the first $1 and $2 notes ever to
be issued by the United States Treasury. In
7

1869 Secretary of the Treasury Boutwell auth­
orized manufacture of the first distinctive paper
for use in printing currency and other United
States securities. This paper had introduced
into its substance fibers of two colors, together
with a watermark showing repeatedly the let­
ters “ U. S.” Counterfeiters were very trouble­
some in those early years of United States cur­
rency. In this United States and Treasury note
series, from 1869 to 1880, changes were fre­
quently made in the designs of the backs in an
effort to thwart the counterfeiters.

Frame 5:
United States Notes. Here are United States
notes or “ legal tenders” of a later series. These
have silk fiber in the paper— either two hori­
zontal threads or short strands woven unevenly
in the “ white” or unprinted portions. Many of
these notes are works of art, representing twoand three-color printings.

Frame 6 :
United States and Treasury Notes. The
Treasury or “ coin” notes were authorized by
Act of Congress, July 14, 1890, in two series,
1890 and 1891. Ornate geometrical lathe de­
signs beautify the backs of the 1890 series, and
the brilliant seals and wording “ In Coin” (be­
cause of which they are called “ coin” notes)
place these notes in a distinctly artistic class.
The United States or “ legal tender” notes are
shown side by side in Frame 6. The eagle in­
verted makes a very good “ donkey head.” There
is a story about a disgruntled engraver who
8

thus displayed his spleen, but the story has no
foundation in fact, since this particular spread
eagle was a stock design. It appears in varying
sizes on bonds, refunding certificates, and other
fiscal instruments of the period.

Frame 7:
United States Silver Certificates. Earlier sil­
ver certificates show a variety of treatment.
The 1880 series has a black and white back in­
stead of the usual green which adorns the backs
of all other United States paper currency (ex­
cept the postage and fractional series).

Frame 8:
United States Silver Certificates. Later silver
certificates, including the pictorial series of
1896, are exhibited in Frame 8. The 1896 series
is an interesting one because of the story that
Anthony Comstock, head of New York’s AntiVice Crusade at the time, registered a com­
plaint that the symbolic figure appearing on the
$5 note and called “ Electricity Enlightening
the W orld” was indecent, and asked the Treas­
ury Department to discontinue the series. A
comparatively few notes of this series seem to
have been put in circulation.

Frame 9 :
Federal Reserve Notes. These notes mark the
beginning of the trend toward uniformity in
United States currency. The notes are issued
by the 12 Federal Reserve banks, with each
bank’s own name and letter-number to the left.
The remaining portions of the notes are identi­
9

cal for all banks. Federal Reserve notes were
and are issued in the following denominations:
$5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $500, $1,000, $5,000, and
$10,000. Both the face and the back of each de­
nomination from $5 to $100, inclusive, are dis­
played.

Frame 10:
Federal Reserve Bank Notes. These bank
notes formerly were issued by the 12 Federal
Reserve banks. They were secured by United
States bonds, pledged with the Treasury, the
same type of security required for national bank
circulation. There was a variance in the issu­
ance of these notes— all 12 banks issued l ’s and
2’s ; only one (St. Louis Bank) issued 50’s. The
Dallas Bank issued l ’s, 2’s, 5’s, 10’s, and 20’s in
two series, 1915 and 1918. The backs of the
notes (except $1 and $2) are identical with
backs of Federal Reserve notes (Frame 9). A
vast majority of these Federal Reserve bank
notes have been redeemed, so that very few of
these notes are in circulation.

Frame 11:
National Bank Notes. National bank notes,
money issued by national banks beginning in
1863 and including the series of 1929, are the
most distinctive and varying series of United
States paper money. Each bank’s issue has the
bank’s title in large type, its town or city, its
charter number and date, and its cashier’s and
president’s names on its face. In Frame 11 are
issues of the earlier periods, the series of 1865,
1875, and 1882. These old notes are indeed
pleasing achievements of the engravers’ art.
10

Frame 12:
National Bank Notes. The bank notes shown
here are of the series of 1902, from the so-called
“ third charter period.” These notes were issued
with red seals. Later the seal color was changed
to blue.

Frame 13:
United States Notes and Silver Certificates.
Here are shown small-sized notes, paper money
more or less current today and familiar to all.
In this frame are displayed United States notes
(always bearing a red seal) and silver certifi­
cates (always with the blue seal).

Frame 14:
Federal Reserve Notes. Federal Reserve
notes of the current series are here shown, face
and back. The bottom note in this frame is the
“ new back” (issued first in the autumn of 1948)
of the $20 denomination, showing a view of the
south front and grounds of the W hite House as
they appear today. Federal Reserve notes com­
prise approximately 90 per cent of all paper cur­
rency in circulation in the United States today.

Frame 15:
Miscellaneous Currency. National currency,
including Federal Reserve bank notes and na­
tional bank notes, Series 1929, is shown in this
frame. Also on display are the Hawaiian over­
print notes (Federal Reserve notes, San Fran­
cisco Bank), issued for circulation in Hawaii
and other Pacific Islands, and the silver cer­
tificate with the yellow seal, issued for use in
the North African Theater, both of which were
issued as security measures during W orld W a r
II.
ll


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, One Federal Reserve Bank Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63102