Reach into your wallet or purse and pull out the first thing you find. In days not too long ago, the first thing you might find would have been a dollar bill.
Nowadays it might be different. Debit cards, credit cards and the like are taking over the system of how we spend money, but today the RedState Department of History observes a special anniversary — the issuance of the first “greenback”.
The American Civil War brought about seismic changes in our government, our beliefs and indeed to our way of life. But one of the most important changes over time involved the first issuance, in 1862, of legal tender paper notes.
In an effort to help finance the war, President Abraham Lincoln had allowed the issuance of “demand notes”, known more popularly as “greenbacks”, the previous year. As the Civil War progressed, the Confederacy issued its own paper money, though without the printing values associated with the Yankee dollars.
In fact, counterfeiters were occasionally caught in the South because their work was actually better than the mints which printed the real stuff.
The next year, the first $2, $50 and $100 bills were printed, and then the race was on to protect the new paper currency from fraud.
In 1865 the U.S. Secret Service was founded, primarily as a way to combat counterfeiting and protect the value of American paper money. Twelve years later, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing came into being, for the purpose of standardizing production of the new money.
In 1913, the Federal Reserve Act created the system by which the money supply is (or in the eyes of some, is not) regulated today.
Our money wasn’t always the same size, either. In 1914, the size of the $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills was increased, only to be decreased again, along with a lot of the economy, in 1929.
In 1934, the Federal Reserve printed a very few $100,000 gold certificates, bearing the image of Woodrow Wilson. These bills were used only for internal Federal Reserve transactions and were never issued to the public.
Since the 1970s, most of the changes to American money have been to promote security and discourage counterfeiting. In 2010, a new $100 bill was issued with an all-digital design.
That’s the good anniversary today. There’s also one that isn’t quite as good from the point of view of many conservatives. On this date in 1913, the 16th Amendment went into effect. Passed in 1909 and ratified in 1913, the Sixteenth Amemdment gave Congress the power to collect taxes on income without apportioning it to the states.
It provided the legal basis for the income tax — which most of us will agree, takes too many greenbacks out of our pockets!
Happy Sunday and enjoy today’s open thread!