Regarding the item about the new book by Ben Tarnoff, "The Wicked Lives and Surprising Adventures of Three Notorious Counterfeiters", Bob Neale of North Carolina writes:
I recently gave a talk to our Senior Men's Club here in Wilmington. Titled "The Fake Makers," I started with William Chaloner and the hanging tree in 1690s London and Sir Issac Newton's role in that; introduction to the counterfeiting of paper money; then Upham and Hilton, of course; and the Lincoln body snatching operation.
I wonder which three persons Mr. Tarnoff wrote about? I didn't have time to include another two fun personalities in my talk: Oliver Thompkins and his counterfeit house, and Canadian Aimee Dupont's setup and entrapment by two U.S. Secret Service agents in the early 1900s.
There is often some really fun history connected with folks who play by their own rules in life. When it comes to great stories, one might truly say that counterfeiting is the real thing.
Arthur Shippee forwarded this review of Moneymakers: The Wicked Lives and Surprising Adventures of Three Notorious Counterfeiters" from The New York Times. More extensive than the brief notice last week, it answers Bob's question: who are all three counterfeiters?
Mr. Tarnoff, who graduated from Harvard in 2007 and has worked at Lapham's Quarterly, focuses on the lives of three counterfeiters who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries. Taken together, he writes, these three biographies "tell the story of a country coming of age — from a patchwork of largely self-governing colonies to a loosely assembled union of states and, finally, to a single nation under firm federal control."
The first subject of this rollicking good read is Owen Sullivan, an Irish immigrant who was born around 1720 and originally was a silversmith in Boston. In the seven years he was a counterfeiter, he built a loosely organized team called the Dover Money Club.
Like his partners, Sullivan was behind bars several times in the course of his career. Until his final arrest, however, these encounters with the law were small detours on an entrepreneurial journey in pre-industrial crime. When he was hanged in New York City in 1756, he claimed to have forged more than £25,000 worth of colonial money.
By the early 1800s, paper money in the form of individual bank notes had returned in force. And with it came enterprising counterfeiters like David Lewis (1788-1820), who worked the rural counties of southwestern Pennsylvania forging notes and stirring up populist rage against financial elites.
Finally, Mr. Tarnoff recounts the story of Samuel Upham (1819-1885), a Philadelphia shopkeeper who, in 1862, began printing $5 Confederate notes, which he sold as "mementos of the Rebellion" for a cent each. Along the bottom of each note, he included a strip with the following lettering: "Fac-Simile Confederate Note — Sold Wholesale and Retail by S. C. Upham, 403 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia."
Backed by heavy newspaper advertising, Upham's souvenir notes became best sellers, and at some point he must have known that they were no longer being viewed as facsimiles, Mr. Tarnoff says. Borne by Union soldiers, they found their way into the Confederate money supply as counterfeits, and helped fuel rampant inflation and monetary disruption.
To read the complete article, see:
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