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The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 13, April 1, 2007, Article 12

LINEN AND COTTON IN U.S. PAPER MONEY

Regarding last week's query about linen and U.S. paper money, John 
and Nancy Wilson write: "As always, questions regarding our U.S. 
Currency and how it is made and produced can be found at the Bureau 
of Engraving and Printing site. Here is a link that talks about our 
money which includes cotton in paper money: 
Full Story

[This is a fine starting point, but the page doesn't really answer 
the question of "what is linen?" There is a page on ink used in 
paper money, but no detail on the paper other than "currency paper 
is composed of 25% linen and 75% cotton." -Editor]

Bob Leuver, former Director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing 
writes: "I do not have all of the facts, but my notes follow. Someone 
could ask the historian or archivist at the BEP to provide the proper 
response. Crane & Company of Dalton, MA would be another excellent 
source. 

"I do not pretend to be the expert on U.S. currency substrate, but 
there is a distinction between cotton and linen. The substrate for 
U.S. currency is 75% cotton, 25% linen. Both cotton and linen appear 
to have a mutual capacity to adhere to each other or 'meld' to form 
a substrate in the first few feet of Crane's production process.

"Cotton comes from a softy fibrous plant, or the covering of seeds of 
the mallow genus. Oddly much of the cotton used for currency comes 
from the Carolinas, where used denim clothing or errors in denim 
clothing production, are washed, bleached and bagged. Cotton can 
be harvested in other states, but denim is an excellent source.

"Linen is a sturdy or hard fiber that is derived from flax. I believe 
that the linen used by the BEP comes from Belgium. I remember an 
incident where there was a shortage of linen, when I was BEP director, 
and we considered what our alternatives were, if we could not get a 
sufficient supply. I further believe that the raw flax came from 
Africa. Now that the production of U.S. currency has increased by 
50%, I wonder where the supply comes from.

"I was told by our research that linen added strength to the cotton 
substrate. I asked other government security printers if they used 
linen as part of or in addition to their cotton substrate. I really 
don't think I found another country that did. After 19 years, my 
statistics may be incorrect.

"As BEP director, I thought of suggesting to our research people that 
we omit linen as a cost-savings device. However, this fell under "If 
it ain't broke, don't fix it." This was especially true as we were 
increasing both currency and postage stamp production. Our primary 
aim had to be the quality of the substrates for both products, the 
switch to new high-speed web stamp presses and new I-8 currency presses. 

"Next time you and your wife slip into blue jeans for a relaxing night 
out, think that those jeans might someday be in your pocket as dollar 
bills."

[Bob also forwarded this excerpt from Currency News, March 2004, 
by Reconnaissance International Ltd. -Editor]

"Banknote paper is made of 100% natural cellulose fibres from a 
variety of sources, the most common of which is cotton, although 
linen from the flax plant is used widely—particularly in the USA 
[75% cotton, 25% flax]. Other sources of cellulose range from wood 
pulp to abaca (a type of reed used in the Philippines) or mitshumanat 
(a fibrous bush used in Japan). Cotton is the preferred fibre for 
banknote paper because of its availability and the strength and 
durability which the fibre lengths provide.

"The main cotton-growing regions of the world, excluding the US, 
are Spain, Greece and Turkey (all are GM-free, although the first 
two have applied for authorization from the EU to trial GM cotton 
production) and Brazil, Egypt, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, India, 
Indonesia and China. The last three all produce GM cotton.’

"The controversy concerns genetically-modified cotton, which is 75% 
of the cotton grown in the US. The European Union has a prohibition 
against GM cotton. The ECB (Bank) says that the amount of GM cotton 
in euros is insignificant, although most of the euro cotton comes 
from the US."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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