David Lok of Spokane, WA suggested this web page for The E-Sylum. Thanks. It examines the vehicles illustrated on the back of the 1914 $20 Federal Reserve Note. here's an
One of the most popular collectible currencies from the United States is the large sized banknotes from 1914. These banknotes are popular in large part because they are still readily available at
a (mostly) affordable price, and they offer an older glimpse into a time past in the early 20th century, with beautiful vignettes on the reverse. One of these is the 20 dollar bill issued in 1914
that shows a wonderful Transportation theme, with a locomotive, airplane, ocean liner, and automobile.
According to the book The Engravers Line by Gene Hessler, the engraver of this reverse of the 1914 $20 was Marcus W. Baldwin. The book lists the engraving title simply as “Land, Sea and
Air” with no designation of the types of train, car, airplane, and name of the ship given. No other information on the engraving was found in The Engravers Line.
This is not surprising, as the government takes a position of being purposefully vague in these depictions, so as to not be accused of endorsing any particular company, persons, brands, etc. The
B.E.P. states on their website that legal requirements do not allow any government agency to portray a commercial firm or product, the engravings are types of hybrids that are not specific to any one
type. For example, the US $10 dollar bill has a vehicle on it that is a hybrid of the popular types at the time of the engraving. Was this also the intention during the time of the engraving of the
vignette on the 1914 note? I could find no reference on the site concerning the laws at that time. But in this particular case, it is perhaps a little easier to figure out where they drew their
inspiration from, leading to some interesting discoveries.
The first point of interest was to find the name of the ship, as it was without a detectible name on the bow. Surprisingly, I found that only 15 four-funnel ships were built. Of those, only two
also had three masts: fore, amidships, and aft: the SS Kaiser Wilhelm II, and the SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie. There was never an American made 4-funnel ocean liner!
I stumbled upon a postcard depicting a ship bearing the name of SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie in New York Harbor, which bears a striking resemblance to the engraving made by Marcus W.
In searching for a similar type of vehicle for the train, plane and car on this vignette, I feel that, even given the subtleties and vagueness of the depictions, there are enough details to
ascertain their make and models and we are able to make more than a general guess.
See the article for more details on the critical thinking that went into reverse engineering these images to determine possible models. Nice work - it's a great detective story.
To read the complete article, see:
USA 20 Dollars - 1914 Transportation Vignette: Vehicles Identifie (http://banknoteden.com/USA_20_1914.html)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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