Stack's Bowers has published a new book by Nicholas J. Bruyer on an important, underappreciated topic, U.S. Treasury Notes. With permission, here are a couple excerpts from the book. I don't have ordering information at this time, however.
U.S. Treasury Notes, 1812-1865: An Illustrated History
by Nicholas J. Bruyer
First, here's a section from the Foreword by Stack's Bowers Galleries Director of Currency Peter A. Treglia.
In U.S. Treasury Notes 1812-1865 we are presented
for the first time with a coherent and chronologically
ordered book on early United States paper money,
featuring an abundance of high-quality illustrations
of notes from this era, alongside their historical correlations. It provides an in-depth understanding of why
many of these banknotes were initially issued, whether
to finance wars or to salvage the United States from
imminent collapse. The lack of information concerning Treasury notes has long been acknowledged, but
now collectors can approach them with confidence,
armed with newfound knowledge of their history and
significance to our nation's monetary system.
This isn't just an important reference; it's also
written in a concise and enjoyable way that fills a
gap in the numismatic library. Tracing these issues
from the First Bank of the United States to the War
of 1812, the Panics of 1837 and 1857, and Interest
Bearing Treasury Notes during the Civil War, Nick's
chronicle provides historical context through a good
story, solid research, and representative images.
This book explains how these banknotes evolved
over time, why they were issued, and how they were
distributed, alongside a comprehensive summary of
the historical events related to their issuance. Among
the highlights is extensive research on Treasury ledgers,
important figures in politics and finance, different interest types, what the funds were used for, and other
fascinating details. Many of the notes illustrated in
the book are rare proofs or specimens, some of which
were never issued or are unknown in their issued form.
In the past, this has resulted in the dearth of general
information and available illustrations, but Nick has
tackled this daunting project with enthusiasm, integ.rity, and a deep understanding of financial history.
Here's a section from the author's Introduction.
One note in particular jumped out at me – a $50 1861 two-year 6%
Treasury note payable to
Jas. Brunaugh. Digging
into the standard references on U.S. currency revealed
little about it.
Received wisdom held that these notes were originally sold at a discount to face value, mostly to banks,
and were not used in commerce. Upon researching
the mysterious Mr. Brunaugh, I was surprised to learn
that he was neither an investor nor a banker, but a U.S.
army lieutenant in an Iowa volunteer regiment, whose
job as quartermaster was to clothe, arm and feed them.
The Treasury Department had issued a packet of these
notes in $50 and $100 denominations, undiscounted
at full face value, to Lt. Brunaugh for supplies.
As I explored the story of these notes in contemporary press accounts I discovered Secretary of the
Treasury Salmon P. Chase used them for all manner
of payments, from warships to Congressional salaries.
Turning next to Donald Kagin's fine book on Treasury notes from the War
of 1812, it was clear that
Treasury Secretary Alexander Dallas took great,
albeit flawed, measures to
establish Treasury notes
as a circulating medium.
Digging deeper into other
issues – the Panic of 1837,
the Mexican War, the Panic
of 1857 – revealed Treasury
notes bearing nominal interest (as little as one mill percent) used as money to
buy goods and services.
At the nation's most desperate moments – when
federal depositories were emptied, when mountains
of creditor bills piled up for months, when armies in
the field went unpaid, when fearful bankers refused to
loan the government a dime – time and again Congress and the Treasury Department turned to Treasury
notes to rescue their administrations from insolvency.
Some say that an interest-bearing certificate cannot
be money, yet 6% compound interest Treasury notes,
which were the U.S. government's
go to currency
from June 1864 through the end of the Civil War,
refute this. Moreover, I found nothing to support the
claim that the government sold Treasury notes below
No doubt large amounts of Treasury notes were
sold to investors, sometimes at a premium to face
value, and were held as investments until maturity. In
some instances, such as the two-year Treasury notes of
1847, there is no evidence that any of them were used
as money. Yet history amply reveals that secretaries of
the Treasury, as well as Congress itself, purposely and
repeatedly imbued Treasury notes with features necessary for them to be used
commercially as money.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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