News & Notes from the Society of Paper Money Collectors
(Volume VII, Number 33, February 1, 2022) alerted me to a new book (actually, a PhD dissertation) titled Greenbacks and Greybacks: Iconographic Depictions of Union and Confederate Nationalism on Civil War-Era Currency. It's by Christian Martin Lengyel at the Kent State University Department of History. Here's the Introduction; the complete dissertation is available free online.
The Civil War is certainly not a subject that has escaped the attention of scholars. In fact,
C. Vann Woodward's conclusion from over three decades ago still holds true:
far more has been
written about these particular years than any others in American history. But, as Woodward
goes on to mention,
the more written, the more disclosed […] the more questions and
to be coped with by latter-day historians.
Such is the case when it
comes to nationalism and the differing stances of the Union and the Confederacy over what
characterized proper mid-nineteenth century patriotism. Up to recently the literature on these
issues remained remarkably scant. And while that trend has subsequently reversed itself,
especially with regards to the Confederate States of America, there still has been surprisingly
little attention paid to the northern theater as well as no in-depth side-by-side comparisons of the
two fronts' nationalistic impulses. This dissertation intends to fill in those gaps.
Using the mediums of U.S. Greenbacks and C.S.A. Greybacks, this project highlights
how Yankee and Rebel currency vignettes illustrated two disparate national ideologies. Namely
that northern leaders continuously adopted agendas promoting the trustworthiness of the polity
and the greatness of an integrated nation; whereas southern bureaucrats initially struggled with
those concepts, only realizing their importance once public confidence in the Confederate States
had eroded beyond repair. Therefore, at its most fundamental level, this manuscript argues that
wartime monetary iconography developed in coordination with these differing viewpoints.
As a consequence, the North's early tableaus were far simpler and more consistent in
their presentation than any of the South's Civil War issues; however, both sets of images evolved throughout the duration of the conflict, with the United States settling on a broader selection and
the Confederacy adopting a stricter visual vocabulary. These changes, of course, also closely
correlate to various economic and martial episodes that caused the U.S. and C.S.A. treasuries to
significantly revise their financial policies as the need for a reliable currency system became
more apparent. But although the explicit use of patriotic pictures – specifically of state-centered
objects, individuals, and events – aided in those efforts, such displays did more than simply make
paper dollars more palatable to the general public: they functioned as emissaries of the separate
governments that released the notes themselves
To read the complete article, see:
Greenbacks and Greybacks: Iconographic Depictions of Union and Confederate Nationalism on Civil War-Era Currency
Wayne Homren, Editor
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