THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Americas studies blog

09 November 2011

Printing Money

Confederate-50-bucks-add_ms
Confederate States of America, Fifty dollar bill, Add. MS. 44511, f. 23.

The last few weeks (well, years, if truth be told) have been a crash course in economics.  Thanks to the news, 'bonds', 'quantitative easing', 'sovereign debt', and the rest, have a more common... currency. 

The American Civil War, like most conflicts, was also a financial clash, in which the Treasuries of the two sides constituted one further weapons of war.  In the South, a new system of currency was issued, often with the promise that the Confederate States of America would pay the bearer after the cessation of hostilities.   Around $1.7 billion in confederate dollars was issued. Widespread counterfeiting and inflation soon made such notes near worthless, and the rise in the worth of gold led to rumours of stashes of Southern bullion, stories that continue to this day.

Above is an example of a fifty dollar bill, from the Library's manuscript collections.   Once the images and catalogue data has been processed, it should join other Civil War materials on manuscripts.bl.uk.

  • Chase, Philip Hartley, Confederate Treasury Notes. The paper money of the Confederate States of America, 1861-1865 [A catalogue. With illustrations.] (Philip H. Chase: Philadelphia, 1947)
  • Criswell, Grover C., Comprehensive catalog of Confederate paper money(Port Clinton, Ohio: BNR Press, 1996)
  • Slabaugh, Arlie R, Confederate States paper money(Iola: Krause Publications, 1993)
  • Tremmel, George B., Counterfeit currency of the Confederate States of America (Jefferson, N.C.; London: McFarland & Co, 2003)

[Matthew Shaw]

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