The article from the New Orleans Advocate describes a new numismatic-themed exhibit at the Historic New Orleans Collection museum.
Money can reveal a wealth of information about the culture that used it. Coins and bills serve as small, colorful windows into the past,
making history every time they are exchanged as legal tender. Changes in currency reflect social change, as demonstrated by the United States’ recent
decision to boot Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill in favor of abolitionist Harriet Tubman.
The Historic New Orleans Collection has more than 200 old notes and coins on display for its “Money! Money! Money!” exhibit in the
Williams Research Center at 410 Chartres St. The free exhibit, running through Oct. 29, includes an interactive bingo-style dollar hunt.
And, a staff member is available to help inquisitive visitors navigate the impressive collection.
“The purpose of this show was for us to better understand a collecting category that we’ve had since the 1950s, which has grown
exponentially throughout the years, but that hasn’t had a dedicated curator,” Greenwald said.
Elaborate banknotes from the antebellum period make up much of the collection, Greenwald said. There was a boom in new currency as new
cities were settled on the Western frontier.
The diversity among bills in circulation also made counterfeiting easier, as people were more likely to mistake an unfamiliar banknote
forgery from a far away city. Counterfeit detecting handbooks were used by cashiers to assist with the identification of fakes, but of
course, these manuals also helped counterfeiters perfect their forgeries.
The imagery on the bills, selected by bank officers, changed often in an attempt to outpace counterfeiters. The depictions chosen
provide insight into the culture that produced them.
Bills often would feature scenes of commerce and local culture. New Orleans banknotes, for example, showed images of ports, rivers and
boats. When the Confederate States of America began printing currency, the notes promoted Confederate ideology with references to the
domestic slave trade.
Currency remained decentralized throughout the Civil War and up until the passage of the National Banking Acts of 1863 and 1864, which
gave the federal government jurisdiction over banking. These acts prohibited nonfederal banks from issuing coins and taxed them for issuing
“Money! Money! Money!” concludes its presentation of early U.S. banking with some of the first federal banknotes, the predecessors of
modern U.S. dollar bills. The arrival of these “demand notes” heralded the end of state and local currencies, which were discontinued in
response to the new tax.
For more information on the exhibit, see:
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