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The E-Sylum: Volume 25, Number 6, February 6, 2022, Article 3

NEW BOOK: GREENBACKS AND GREYBACKS

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. -Editor

1862 One Dollar greenback 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 controversies emerge 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.

  1861 Confederate $500 Montgomery T2

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 (https://etd.ohiolink.edu/apexprod/rws_olink/r/1501/10?clear=10&p10_accession_num=kent163762562877458)

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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