Chapter XII - Just Money Page 02


We usually class all paper money as "bills."

There are three classes of bills, all quite different in their inception and meaning. These are--

1. National bank notes. 2. Treasury notes or "greenbacks." 3. Treasury certificates.


A national bank note is the guaranteed promise of some national bank to pay coin or its equivalent to any one presenting the note at the bank and asking to have the exchange made.

This exchange is called "redeeming."

If you examine a bank bill you will notice that it is drawn much like an ordinary business "demand" note, made payable to "bearer," and signed by the bank president and cashier.

For every dollar of its own sent out in the form of a bill by a national bank, the Government holds a dollar of the bank's collateral to guarantee the redemption of the note if the bank should fail.

National bank notes are received in all business transactions, because they are secured by the Government, yet there are cases in which even the Government will not receive them in payment of a claim, nor pay them out itself.

1. All import duties must be paid in gold. 2. The Government pays the interest on its own bonds in gold.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing--a department of the United States Treasury--makes and prints all the national bank notes.

On all these notes the names of the United States Treasurer and the United States Register appear. The names look like signatures, but they are facsimilies and are printed with the note.

The notes are printed on specially prepared paper, to imitate which is regarded as a counterfeit.

Soiled and worn out bank notes may be exchanged for fresh ones at the Treasury Department.


Greenbacks are treasury notes. The name comes from the color in which they first appeared in the years of our Civil War.

The treasury note is really an engraved promissory note of the United States Government made payable to the bearer, and bearing the signatures of the Treasurer and Register of the Treasury.

These notes are issued in denominations of from five to ten thousand dollars.

Formerly there were one and two-dollar treasury notes issued, and we still find some of these "old-timers" in circulation.

There are so many treasury notes in circulation that the Government, vast though its bullion and coin reserves are, could not redeem them if presented at once.

The treasury note is a legal tender for any amount of indebtedness.

The Government prints the following guarantee on every treasury note:

"This note is, by law, to be considered as good as coin. Any one to whom you pay it must reckon it as equivalent to a dollar (or face value in dollars) in value."


The treasury certificate is, in form, very much like the treasury note, and it bears the signatures of the same officers.

Treasury certificates are of two kinds, gold and silver.

The gold certificates are printed in yellow.

The silver certificates are light black and white.

These certificates are issued against the great reserves of gold and silver that are kept to redeem them.

The use of the gold certificate saves the loss of the gold that comes through abrasion when handled.

A five-dollar silver certificate is much more convenient to carry than five silver dollars.

These certificates, as may be seen, are issued for the convenience of the public.

Certificates of either character will be redeemed to any amount, in the metals for which they call, if presented at the United States Treasury at Washington, or at any of the sub-treasuries to be found in our larger cities.


Only those familiar with the work can realize the great quantities of bank bills, treasury notes, and certificates continually being made and sent out from Washington.

While a stream of clean, fresh paper of enormous value is going out to be spread all over the country, another stream of soiled, torn and altogether disreputable-looking paper is flowing back to the Treasury.

The filthy paper is quite as valuable as the clean, so it is properly checked, recorded, and credited before new paper is sent out in its place.

They are now trying to make old bills presentable by washing them at the Department. Meanwhile, most of them are ground again into pulp, made into new paper, and all the first processes gone through with to make the paper into money.

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