The Massachusetts Bay Colony was the first of the thirteen colonies to issue permanently circulating banknotes in 1690. The reason behind this was because the paper could be more readily printed and circulated than gold coin. Many of these early bills were marked “Tis Death to Counterfeit.” In the early 1700s, each of the thirteen colonies had issued their own banknotes called “colonial script.” 1789 brought about the First Band of the United States which issued fixed denominations and printed banknotes until 1811 when it closed. From 1816 to 1841, the (you guessed it) Second Bank of the United States took on the responsibilities of printing banknotes.
The civil war, in 1861, needed to be funded with money that there just wasn’t enough of. In 1862, under Abraham Lincoln, the demand notes were issued, taking the place of interest bearing currency. Some necessities were added and changed in the next few years in order to stop counterfeiters. The new “Greenbacks” had an engraved Treasury seal and red and blue fibers in the paper which made them (at the time) very difficult to counterfeit which would cost the banks more money. Gold certificates were also issued against gold coin and bullion and were still in circulation until 1933 as well as silver certificates being issued for silver dollars until 1957. 1865 brought on the need for a Secret Service to police and control counterfeiters. How much was that really needed and how much of the US’s money was counterfeit? Oh only about one-third!
The one dollar United States Note was redesigned with a portrait of George Washington in the center and a vignette of Christopher Columbus. The back of the note also featured green and blue tinting. In 1880 the red floral design was added around the words “One Dollar” and “Washington D.C.” From 1890 to 1899 the gold and silver certificates were redesigned repeatedly in order to continue to make them harder and harder to be counterfeited. In 1910 the Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing took on all currency production functions including engraving, printing and processing. The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 created the Federal Reserve System. This means that the Federal Reserve became the central bank, regulating the flow of money. The Federal Reserve also became, to this day, the only authorized entity to issue Federal Reserve Notes (also known as, The Dollar(s)) which are the only U.S. currency produced and 99% of all currency in circulation!
“In God We Trust” No matter your religion, you know this phrase. This phrase was required by Congress in 1955 to be on every piece of currency and to this day, it still is. The last major change that was made was the microprinted security thread which was first introduced in 1990. It started with the $100 bills and the $50 bills, then eventually was introduced into the $20s, $10s, $5s, and $1s. Take a look at the money in your wallet. Now you know part of the long road traveled it took to get there.