How Effective Were The Union Counterfeit Operations Against The South?

Joined
Sep 15, 2018
Location
South Texas
That green stamp with the likeness of Jefferson Davis reminds me of the reason Postmaster Reagan had it put on the cheaper stamp. The Confederacy as a new nation was full of everyday people who didn't know what their new president looked like. I'm curious why they waited until the 3rd issue of currency to have a likeness of Davis presented and even then there probably weren't too many "everyday people" who had or even saw a $50.00 bill. Probably more people saw his likeness on stamps and 50 cent bills than the $50.00 bill.
 

covers

Private
Official Vendor
Joined
Oct 3, 2020
Location
Taos, NM
And, one additional example, Florida 10c scrip from late in the war.

If you are beginning to think that there are were no small coins in general circulation in the CSA, you would be correct. same situation in the North.
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Interesting to note that Salmon P. Chase, who as Secretary of the Treasury was given the responsibility for designing the new one dollar bill, cheerfully adorned it with his own picture.

At the time Chase appeared on the $1 greenback there was no Federal law prohibiting the portrait of a living person from appearing on United States currency, coins or securities. That law was passed by Congress as part of the Act of April 7, 1866 as a result of the portraits of Francis Spinner, Treasurer of the United States, and Spencer Clark, Superintendent of the National Currency Bureau, appearing respectively on the 1864 issues of the 5 Cent and 50 Cent fractional currency notes. It was one thing for Chase, a cabinet officer and friend to many Republicans in Congress, to appear on a United States note but it was too much when two nobodies had their own portraits placed on Federal currency.
 
Joined
Sep 15, 2018
Location
South Texas
Upham was in the business of selling forged currency and postage stamps to people in the North. He emulated the P.T. Barnum business model developed a few years earlier about suckers.

a page of his stamp forgeries is Here
Having never seen his work on currency, that I know of, it very well might be a better quality. But the stamps in my opinion look inferior. I haven't had them in my hands and the postage stamps shown are an early issue but I don't see the "quality" that has been mentioned. Maybe some Yankees were easily fooled.
 
Having never seen his work on currency, that I know of, it very well might be a better quality. But the stamps in my opinion look inferior. I haven't had them in my hands and the postage stamps shown are an early issue but I don't see the "quality" that has been mentioned. Maybe some Yankees were easily fooled.
It's not the Yankees who would have been using them.
 

OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
There was no need for the Union to try to ruin the confederate economy, by artificially inflating confederate money with widespread illegal counterfeiting confederate money. The Confederate government did it themselves, by printing worthless money legally.
 
There was no need for the Union to try to ruin the confederate economy, by artificially inflating confederate money with widespread illegal counterfeiting confederate money. The Confederate government did it themselves, by printing worthless money legally.
Years after the war ended, Upham claimed that he had printed 1,564,000 bogus notes between 1862 and 1863. He also boasted that Jefferson Davis had offered a reward in gold for his body, dead or alive. Don't know if there is any truth to his Jefferson Davis claim.
 

OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
Years after the war ended, Upham claimed that he had printed 1,564,000 bogus notes between 1862 and 1863. He also boasted that Jefferson Davis had offered a reward in gold for his body, dead or alive. Don't know if there is any truth to his Jefferson Davis claim.
I would not put too much credence n the word of a criminal. Historically, the confederacy was printing worthless notes as fast as their presses could go9and the paper supply held out).
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Samuel Upham is one of my favorite Civil War characters. He was a man who quietly sold perfume, stationary, drugs & other things you would expect of a typical Philadelphia corner store in the 1860's. As a mature man with a family, he was not free to join the fight as a soldier. In 1862 he came up with an ingenious way to contribute to the war effort.

In its commemoration of George Washington's Birthday the Philadelphia Inquirer included an almost perfect reproduction of a Confederate States $5.00 bill. A sidebar explained that the bill had been reproduced using an electroplate. Upham contacted an employee of the paper & purchased the plates. He sold $1,000.00 worth of the bills at his store as souvenirs. Upham included a disclaimer along one end "Fac-simile Confederate Note." It wasn't long before enterprising folk snipped the disclaimer & Upham's $5.00 bill began to circulate down South.

Knowing a good thing when he saw it, Upham improved the quality of his imprints until they were all but indistinguishable from the real thing. Nothing succeeds like success, others followed Upham's lead & began churning out counterfeit Confederate currency in high volume. The flood of bogus bills that filled the market made it unprofitable for Upham to continue. He estimated that he had produced $50,000.00 worth of counterfeit Confederate currency.

The tsunami of counterfeit bills got the attention of the Confederate Congress. You can imagine the counter flow of invective that swept the capitol in Richmond. Counterfeiting currency became a capital crime, much good that did them. An economics professor could probably fill us in on the disastrous effect a flood of bogus cash can have on an economy. Judging by the indignation of the congressmen, Upham & his imitators must have really hit a nerve.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
An interesting description of the bills carried by CSA soldiers was recorded by diarist John Spence. A local business man, his store was filled with soldiers entering Murfreesboro TN after Bragg’s Kentucky Campaign in October, 1862.

Spence described the bills as appearing as if they had been cut from a news paper. Printed around an image was a promise to pay something somewhere somehow.

One of Uphams crisply printed images on fine paper would have really stood out in John Spence’s cash drawer.
 

OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
Years after the war ended, Upham claimed that he had printed 1,564,000 bogus notes between 1862 and 1863. He also boasted that Jefferson Davis had offered a reward in gold for his body, dead or alive. Don't know if there is any truth to his Jefferson Davis claim.
Even if true, I think a million or so counterfeit notes would have been lost without a ripple in the sea of red ink, that the confederate economy was riding on..
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
I don't understand why these counterfeit notes are so rare as to make them collector's items. If Upham printed over a million of them there should be thousands still in existence.
The sources I have checked all quote Upham’s $50,000 in souvenir bills claim. That would have been 10,000 $5 bills, which is a believable number. I can’t imagine that there is a way to quantify the number & denomination of bills printed by others. I am unaware of any way to differentiate between an Upham bill & a CSA bill.

The value of CSA dollars vs gold or US bills plummeted as war went on. As I understand it, the perception that large amounts of counterfeit bills were in circulation would have exacerbated that problem.
 
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