Illegal Tender: Counterfeiting and the Secret Service in Nineteenth-Century America


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In 1862 the New York Times reported that nearly 80 percent of American currency in circulation was counterfeit. In New York and Philadelphia outlaw engravers worked by day for the banks that issued real bank notes and by night supplied counterfeits to an underground industry. By the end of the 1860s counterfeit production and distribution networks had spread nationwide. The federal government was compelled to respond to this growing illegal enterprise, which represented a threat to both the national economy and the federal ...

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