Illegal Tender: Counterfeiting and the Secret Service in Nineteenth-Century America

Overview

In 1862 the New York Times reported that nearly 80 percent of American currency in circulation was counterfeit. In New York and Philadelphia outlaw engravers worked by day for the banks that issued real bank notes and by night supplied counterfeits to an underground industry. By the end of the 1860s counterfeit production and distribution networks had spread nationwide. The federal government was compelled to respond to this growing illegal enterprise, which represented a threat to both the national economy and ...
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Overview

In 1862 the New York Times reported that nearly 80 percent of American currency in circulation was counterfeit. In New York and Philadelphia outlaw engravers worked by day for the banks that issued real bank notes and by night supplied counterfeits to an underground industry. By the end of the 1860s counterfeit production and distribution networks had spread nationwide. The federal government was compelled to respond to this growing illegal enterprise, which represented a threat to both the national economy and the federal government's authority to control the currency. In 1865 it created the Secret Service - an agency that over the next forty years, would eradicate counterfeiting as a major urban crime. Illegal Tender chronicles one of the most successful law enforcement campaigns ever conducted against the American underworld. With colorful vignettes of criminals and their gambits, David R. Johnson explores the evolution of counterfeiting as a peculiarly urban crime, detailing its markets, advertising, and distribution networks - as well as such schemes as the "green-goods game," which netted some outfits $40,000 a month in profit. He examines the initial mission of the Service, its crime-detecting strategies, and its role in the growth of federalism and state building in the nineteenth century. Created by the Treasury Department despite long-standing and fierce opposition to the expansion of centralized power in American society, the Service gradually superseded the efforts of both local police and federal marshals, virtually eliminating counterfeiting operations throughout the nation by the end of the century.
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Editorial Reviews

Denise Perry Donavin
Johnson's history of counterfeiting in the U.S. is closely tied in with the evolution of the secret service. He establishes how the service developed as a federal regulatory agency to control the creation and flow of illegal tender. The account is a mix of anecdotes about the characters who plied this interesting, illegal trade and a look at how efforts to control this criminal underworld supported the growing power of the federal government. To be indexed.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780788198045
  • Publisher: DIANE Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 5/1/2001
  • Pages: 222

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 The Social World of Counterfeiting 1
2 The Money Market 37
3 Localism Versus Sovereignty: The Origins of the Secret Service, 1863-1875 65
4 From Disgrace to Autonomy: The Secret Service's Resurrection 91
5 Dismantling the Money Market 116
6 Criminals at Bay: Counterfeiters in the Federal Courts 147
7 Crime and Power 171
Notes 181
Index 220
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