Origins of the Secret Service

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The Secret Service protecting the President at a parade

Everyone knows that the Secret Service is a federal law enforcement agency under the United States Department of Homeland Security, charged with conducting criminal investigations and protecting the nation’s leaders. Mainly we think of a group with earpieces dressed all in black and surrounding the president. What you may not know is that the agency was originally founded to combat the then-widespread counterfeiting of U.S. currency.

With a reported one third of the currency in circulation being counterfeit at the time, the Secret Service was created on July 5, 1865 in Washington, D.C., to suppress counterfeit currency. Chief William P. Wood was sworn in by Secretary of the Treasury Hugh McCulloch. It was commissioned in Washington, D.C. as the “Secret Service Division” of the Department of the Treasury with the mission of suppressing counterfeiting.

The legislation creating the agency was on Abraham Lincoln’s desk the night he was assassinated. At the time, the only other federal law enforcement agencies were the United States Customs Service, the United States Park Police, the U.S. Post Office Department’s Office of Instructions and Mail Depredations (now known as the United States Postal Inspection Service), and the United States Marshals Service. The Marshals did not have the manpower to investigate all crime under federal jurisdiction, so the Secret Service began investigating a wide range of crimes from murder to bank robbery to illegal gambling.

After the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901, Congress informally requested that the Secret Service provide presidential protection. A year later, the Secret Service assumed full-time responsibility for presidential protection. In 1902, William Craig became the first Secret Service agent to die while serving, in a road accident while riding in the presidential carriage.

The Secret Service was the first U.S. domestic intelligence and counterintelligence agency. Domestic intelligence collection and counterintelligence responsibilities were vested in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) upon the FBI’s creation in 1908.

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Secret Service Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Task Force

The Secret Service is divided into two main parts: Investigative Mission and Protective Mission. The Investigative Mission of the USSS is to safeguard the payment and financial systems of the United States from a wide range of financial and electronic-based crimes. Financial investigations include counterfeit U.S. currency, bank & financial institution fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, illicit financing operations, and major conspiracies. Electronic investigations include cybercrime, network intrusions, identity theft, access device fraud, credit card fraud, and intellectual property crimes. The Secret Service is a key member of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) which investigates and combats terrorism on a national and international scale, as well as of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) task force which seeks to reduce and eliminate drug trafficking in critical regions of the United States. The Service also investigates missing and exploited children and is a core partner of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).

 

Over the years the Secret Service has taken on many roles and grown to be a massive and vital department that serves the United States. It is an interesting history rooted in greed and counterfeiting that developed the service that protects our nation and nations leaders to this day!

For an extensive timeline of the Secret Service checkout the official website: https://www.secretservice.gov/about/history/events/

Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico

 

September 17, 1859, San Francisco Bulletin newspaper:

“At the peremptory request and desire of a large majority of the citizens…I, Joshua Norton…declare and proclaim myself Emperor of these United States to make such alterations in the existing laws of the Union as may ameliorate the evils under which the country is laboring.”

Signed, “NORTON I, Emperor of the United States.”

 

Joshua Abraham Norton was a British-born businessman before he was “Norton I, Emperor of the United States”. Norton spent a large part of his childhood in South Africa before migrating to San Francisco during the 1849 Gold Rush. While in San Francisco he invested into the real estate business, and by the early 1850s, he’d turned his original $40,000 stake into a quarter million dollar fortune. But common to the Gold Rush-era, Norton’s greed eventually got the better of him. During a rice shortage in 1853, he planned to conquer the San Francisco market, only to land in financial ruin when fresh shipments poured into the harbor and caused the price to plummet. Norton declared bankruptcy and fell off the map for several years. He resurfaced in 1859 with the San Francisco Bulletin royal decree. He genuinely believed that he was the unrecognized sovereign of the United States. There were no reports of Norton ever exhibiting any symptoms of mental instability or delusion during his business career, but it seemed that in his time away he had lost his mind

Following the decree Norton would become a staple of the San Francisco community. Donning a Navy coat, an ostrich feather-plumed hat and occasionally carrying a military saber, he would stroll the streets and enjoy the celebrity status that came with anyone willing to indulge his royal fantasy. Often being greeted with a bow, the city directory listed his occupation as “Emperor”. Despite his lack of a palace and riches he ate at many restaurants free of charge, had free tickets to theater performances, and even issued his own currency.

 

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Emperor Norton in full military regalia, c. 1875

Local newspapers and tourist locations quickly picked up on the popularity of the Emperor. Souvenirs such as photographs of him in imperial dress and Emperor Norton dolls found their way into shops across the city. Newspapers printed his royal decrees in hopes of increased readership despite their absurdity.  On October 1859, he declared in local newspaper, “fraud and corruption prevent a fair and proper expression of the public voice…in consequence of which, we do hereby abolish Congress.” When congress continued to meet and run as normal Emperor Norton I responded with a decree that demanded General Winfield Scott to march on Washington. In the upcoming year with the Civil War approaching, Norton declared that he had dissolved the Union and replaced it with a monarchy; with him of course as the monarch. With the help of the newspapers these decrees continued to be put in front of the public. When the French invaded Mexico he even added ‘Protector of Mexico’ to his title.

 

As his popularity grew, Norton I became a cherished icon for the city of San Francisco. Theater owners saved him a seat at the opening night of every play; local train and ferry companies let him ride free of charge; and some restaurateurs allowed him to skip out on his tab in exchange for the right to post an imperial seal of approval that read: “By Appointment to His Imperial Majesty, Norton I.” The Emperor remained poor in spite of this; but many admiring subjects ‘paid’ taxes into the ‘imperial treasury’ to support him. In 1871, a local printing firm ran off a special currency emblazoned with a picture of Norton I and his imperial seal. The Emperor passed the notes as his official government bonds until the day he died, and many recipients displayed them as treasured mementos. Army officers gifted him fresh uniform when his old one wore out, and local lawmakers helped furnish the ‘royal wardrobe’ from public funds. When a police officer once dared to arrest the Emperor on charges of vagrancy, the city’s newspapers responded with outrage. The Emperor was quickly released, and from then on, the city’s lawmen saluted whenever they encountered him on the street.

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All the while, newspapers continued to print Norton;s decrees in the papers. Some were bizarre such as in 1872, he declared that anyone who referred to his adopted city by “the abominable word ‘Frisco’” was subject to a $25 fine. Others were more logical, in the early 1870s he announced that the city should appropriate funds for construction of a bridge between San Francisco and Oakland. Ignored at the time, Norton’s decree eventually came to fruition in 1936 with the opening of the Bay Bridge.

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A  depiction of Norton dressed as the Pope at the funeral of the dog Lazarus

Emperor Norton’s character inspired fascination from tourists and great artists alike. Mark Twain, who had worked as a journalist in San Francisco during his reign, went on to use the Emperor as the model for the “King,” a royal impostor who appears as a character in his 1885 novel “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Various plays and operas were written about Norton during his lifetime. Despite this, his day to day wasn’t as grandiose; he lived in a tiny rented room and spent his days playing chess, attending religious services, reading in libraries or going on long walks, supposedly with Bummer and Lazarus, his two dogs.

It was during one of these royal walks on January 8, 1880, that Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, dropped dead from a stroke. His passing was written about in dozens of newspapers including the New York Times. San Francisco gave Norton a send-off fit for an Emperor. “LE ROI EST MORT” (“THE KING IS DEAD”), read the headline in the Chronicle. “He is dead,” lamented another paper, “and no citizen of San Francisco could have been taken away who would be more generally missed.” At Norton’s funeral a few days later, around 10,000 loyal ‘subjects’ turned up to pay their respects.

 

Henry Rathbone

The Lincoln assassination is a scary and tragic part of history. But one part that tends to get left out of the story is the life of Major Henry Rathbone, one of the individuals attending the play with Lincoln when the assassination occurred. The true history of Rathbone,_Henry_Reed (1)Henry Rathbone is chilling and seems like a tale out of a horror novel.

On April 14, 1865, Major Rathbone and his fiancee Clara Harris accepted an invitation to see a play at Ford’s Theatre from President Abraham Lincoln and his wife, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln.

During the play, noted stage actor John Wilkes Booth entered the Presidential box and fatally shot Lincoln in the head with a pistol. As Rathbone attempted to apprehend Booth, Booth slashed Rathbone’s left arm with a dagger from the elbow to his shoulder. Rathbone later recalled that he was horrified at the anger on Booth’s face. Rathbone again grabbed at Booth as Booth prepared to jump from the sill of the box. He grabbed onto Booth’s coat, causing Booth to fall awkwardly to the stage, perhaps breaking his leg. Booth nonetheless escaped, and remained at large for twelve days.

Despite his serious wound, Rathbone escorted Mary Lincoln to the Petersen House across the street, where the president had been taken. Shortly thereafter he passed out due to blood loss. Harris arrived soon after and held his head in her lap while he lay semiconscious. When a surgeon who had been attending Lincoln finally examined him, it was realized that his wound was more serious than initially thought. Booth had cut him nearly to the bone and severed an artery. Rathbone was taken home while Harris remained with Mary Lincoln as Abraham lay dying over the next nine hours. This death vigil lasted through the night, until morning, when President Lincoln died at 7:22 a.m. on April 15, 1865.

Rathbone eventually healed back up to full physical health but the events of the night would leave him mentally haunted until his dark end. As time passed by, seventeen years to be exact, Rathbone traveled to Albany, New York, to the office of his wife’s uncle. Hamilton Harris was the man a younger Henry Rathbone studied law with and on this day, Rathbone was on his way back to Europe with his family. This time was different though, as Harris thought, Rathbone was ill and when asked what was wrong, Rathbone simply said it was dyspepsia which is a chronic ailment of the stomach.

By the fall of 1882, Rathbone was 45 years old and was constantly plagued by mysterious medical problems. One doctor that treated him described the attacks as “neuralgia of the head and face” and heart palpitations and difficulty breathing were also symptoms Rathbone suffered from. These are symptoms that we now might recognize at PTSD. Rathbone had changed the night of Lincoln’s assassination, his youth and hopes of a happy family life we’re taken from him. His wife often attested that he was just different, moodier and at times abusive.

In 1870, Rathbone retired from the Army due to his sickness. After Rathbone’s visit to Hamilton Harris’s office, Rathbone and his family set sail to Germany. After their arrival Rathbone’s health continued to fail. He became depressed and some people called him erratic. His marriage also suffered more and was tense much of the time.  As Rathbone’s depression got worse he was convinced that his wife was leaving him and taking the kids. He couldn’t bare to lose any semblance of the life he wished he could’ve lived.

Just before dawn, on Christmas Eve of 1883, Rathbone grabbed his revolver and knife and walked to his children’s bedroom. His wife was able to distract him and had him follow her into their bedroom and closed the door. It was there that Rathbone shot and stabbed Clara until she died. Rathbone then turned the knife on himself, a failed suicide attempt. When the police arrived at the murder scene, the bloody and dazed Rathbone reportedly claimed there had been people hiding behind the pictures on the wall.

News spread fast about the tragic events that took place in Germany. Dr. Pope said, “He never was thoroughly himself after that night [the assassination]…I have no hesitation in affirming that the dreaded tragedy, which preyed upon his nervous and impressionable temperament for many years, laid the seeds of that homicidal mania.” Henry Rathbone was declared insane and was never allowed to be prosecuted for the crime of murder. Rathbone, after recovering from his wounds was sent to live out his days in the Provincial Insane Asylum where he died on August 14, 1911.

Sometimes the saddest and scariest stories are the true ones.


This post is apart of our 13 days of Halloween series. Checkout our other spooky posts:

  1. Washington Ghost Stories
  2. Out of Place Artifacts
  3. Henry Rathbone
  4. Charon and the Journey to Hades
  5. Post-Mortem Photography
  6. All Hallows Eve Divination Games
  7. Saved By The Bell and other Idioms
  8. Halloween Coins
  9. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  10. Coins Connecting You to the Spirit World
  11. Ancient Egyptian Alien Coins
  12. Superstitions Around the World
  13. A Brief History of Halloween

The Aero Club of America

The Aero Club of America (ACA) was a social club formed in 1905 by Charles Jasper Glidden and Augustus Post to promote aviation in America. It was the parent organization of numerous state chapters, the first being the Aero Club of New England. In 1905, few people believed powered aircraft would be feasible in the future. At the beginning, the ACA’s goal was to promote aviation in any way possible, as both a sport and a commercial endeavor. ACA’s early work helped advance aviation in its early years faster than it might have developed otherwise.

Although the ACA officially began in 1905, there are photos of high society and adventurers printed in 1902 with the stamp, “Aero Club”. Charles Glidden, Homer Hedge, Dave Morris, John F. O’Rourke, and Augustus Post, members of the Automobile Club of America, in the summer of 1905 founded the Aero Club of America. They were avid balloonists but found little support in America for the sport of aviation. With determination they established a new club with an organization similar to the Automobile Club but whose purpose was to promote aviation, much like the Aero Club of France. Homer Hedge became the first President and Augustus Post the first secretary.

Three different conventions were held in New York among aeronautical clubs and societies in 1910. The National Council of Affiliated Clubs of the Aero Club of America, was formed. Thirty-nine delegates, representing constituencies from Pasadena, California, to Boston, met at the Aero Club and formed the parent organization of various state chapters.

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1910 Belmont Park Air Show

At the Belmont Air Show in October 1910, a considerable controversy arose between the Englishman Claude Graham-White and the American J. B. Moisant. In one race around the Statue of Liberty, Graham-White won by several minutes, but due to a technicality, the race and considerable prize money was awarded to Moisant. John Armstrong Drexel made public statements accusing the organization of favoritism toward its own members, and Drexel held a competing dinner banquet at the same time as the awards banquet of the organization. The schism among the membership threatened the integrity of the organization, but was ultimately resolved with Drexel’s resignation.

In 1911, the Aero Club of New York put on the First Industrial Airplane Show that was held in conjunction with the 11th U.S. International Auto Show at Manhattan’s Grand Central Palace, in New York City. It was a spectacular event with prominent speakers, and an enthusiastic large crowd that would gaze upon a full-size airplane for the first time. It started December 31, 1910, until mid-January 1911.

In 1919, the rules for a transatlantic flight competition between New York and Paris were written by the secretary of the club, Augustus Post. He worked with wealthy hotel owner Raymond Orteig in securing the $25,000 for the Orteig Prize. The $25,000 prize was to be awarded “to the first aviator of any Allied Country crossing the Atlantic in one flight, from Paris to New York or New York to Paris”. After five years of failing to attract competitors, the award was then put under the control of a seven-member Bryant Bank board of trustees, which awarded it to Charles Lindbergh for his successful 1927 flight in the Spirit of St. Louis.

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Glenn H. Curtiss’ Pilot License

The Club issued the first pilot’s licenses in the United States, and successful completion of its licensing process was required by the United States Army for its pilots until 1914. Some of the later licenses issued by the ACA even bore the printed signature of Orville Wright; Wright served for a time as Chairman of the Aero Club of America’s Contest Committee.

Pilot’s licenses were not required by law (except by some states) until well after World War I. AMA licenses were required for participation in sporting events and demonstrations sanctioned by the ACA and FAI, and they gave credibility to pilots seeking to perform demonstration flights for hire, but many American pilots never applied for a license, which required a demonstration of flight proficiency. The ACA was also notorious for the inflexibility of its licensing process, which required,  a letter of application, a photograph of a candidate, appointment of an ACA examiner, and his report of examination, all of which had to be submitted in the correct form and sequence for a license to be issued, whether the candidate passed the flight test or not.

In present day the Aero Club of America is now the National Aeronautic Association (NAA). The primary mission of NAA closely aligns with the original Club’s mission; the advancement of the art, sport, and science of aviation and space flight by fostering opportunities to participate fully in aviation activities and by promoting public understanding of the importance of aviation and space flight to the United States. On their website the Association states that in carrying out this mission, National Aero Club of the United States, will:

“Develop opportunities to strengthen the mutual objectives of NAA and its corporate members, air sport organizations, chapters and affiliates, including the formation of affiliated aero clubs in U.S. cities where such organizations do not now exist; Represent U.S. aviation throughout the world as a member of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale; Encourage, coordinate, document, and promote competition and record-making aviation and space events in accordance with the rules prescribed by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, of which NAA is the official U.S. representative; Recognize and reward those who make outstanding contributions to the advancement of aviation and space flight through presentations of awards and other honors; Endorse sound national programs and other efforts designed to help the United States remain a leader in aviation and space flight; Support and encourage aviation and space education programs; Promote and encourage public participation in, and appreciation of, U.S. aviation and space activities.”


Whether your into  history, aviation, or apart of the current National Aeronautic Association; this Aero Club of America envelope addressed to the 1911 president of the club is a an artifact to treasure. It is available now in our Ebay store. 

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United States High Denomination Bills

Large denominations of United States currency greater than $100 were circulated by the United States Treasury until 1969. Since then, U.S. dollar banknotes have only been issued in only seven denominations: $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. But in the 1920’s the United States Treasury issued bills ranging from $1,000 to $100,000 denominations.

 

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Salmon P. Chase

Featured on some of these bills were William McKinley ($500), Grover Cleveland ($1,000), James Madison ($5,000), and Salmon P. Chase ($10,000). Salmon P. Chase might not be as familiar as those of the presidents featured on the other big bills, but once upon a time Chase was huge  in American politics. Chase, a mid-19th century politician, served as Chief Justice of the United States, spent stints as Ohio’s governor and senator, and was Lincoln’s first Secretary of the Treasury.

 

When the federal government started issuing greenback notes in 1861, Chase, as Secretary of the Treasury, was in charge of designing and popularizing the new currency. Although putting his face in everyone’s pocketbooks never propelled Chase to the presidency, when the Treasury started issuing the new $10,000 bills in 1928 they put Chase’s portrait on the obverse to honor the man who helped introduce modern banknotes. Even if you don’t have a $10,000 bill Chase’s name might still be in your wallet. Chase National Bank, the forerunner to Chase Manhattan Bank, was named in his honor.

It may be hard to imagine when such a large denomination of bills would come in handy especially in our modern day when we mainly handle cash electronically. Matthew Wittmann, an assistant curator at the American Numismatic Society, explains this by stating that, back then, it was only worth a fraction of that value. “[the] $1,000 note seems incredible, but what it reflects is actually how little paper dollars were valued,” Wittmann said. “It might only have been worth $20 in ‘real’ hard money at the time.”

 

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A $1,000 Gold Certificate, Series 1928, Depicting Grover Cleveland


Lee Ohanian, an economics professor at the University of California, also explains that the larger bills were mostly used to rapidly purchase supplies like ammunition during the war.  In the decades after the war, large denomination currencies were mostly used in real estate deals or inter-bank transfers. “They facilitated really, really large financial transactions that primarily were being carried out between banks or other financial intermediaries,” Ohanian said. Before sophisticated wire transfer systems were fully developed, it was simply easier and safer just to fork over a $5,000 bill to settle up with a fellow bank. Once transfer technology became safer and more secure, there really wasn’t much need for the big bills anymore.

 

Although the high bill denominations are still technically legal tender in the United States, they were last printed on December 27, 1945, and officially discontinued on July 14, 1969, by the Federal Reserve System, due to ‘lack of use’. The $5,000 and $10,000 had effectively disappeared well before then.

The Federal Reserve began taking high-denomination currency out of circulation (destroying large bills received by banks) in 1969. As of May 30, 2009, only 336 $10,000 bills were known to exist; 342 remaining $5,000 bills; and 165,372 remaining $1,000 bills. Due to their rarity, collectors often pay considerably more than the face value of the bills to acquire them. Some are in museums in other parts of the world.

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A $5,000 Gold Certificate, Series 1928,  Depicting James Madison


There was often concerns about counterfeiting and the use of cash in unlawful activities such as the illegal drug trade and money laundering, it is unlikely that the U.S. government will reissue large denomination currency in the near future, despite the amount of inflation that has occurred since 1969 (a $100 bill is now worth less, in real terms, than a $20 bill was worth in 1969). According to the U.S. Department of Treasury website, “The present denominations of our currency in production are $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. The purpose of the United States currency system is to serve the needs of the public and these denominations meet that goal. Neither the Department of the Treasury nor the Federal Reserve System has any plans to change the denominations in use today.”

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The Obverse of the 2009 Zimbabwe $100 trillion banknote

The chance of bringing back large bills is only likely if there are big problems within the economy. The circulation of large denominations of currency is almost always due to inflation or depreciation. Countries like  Zimbabwe have issued million-, billion- and trillion-dollar notes. One $100 trillion note from the southern African country is worth 40 U.S. cents. Or take a step back to Germany in the early ’20s, known then as the Weimar Republic, when hyperinflation hit the country. That’s when 4.2 trillion marks were equivalent to a dollar.

Experts also say they think modern technology renders large bills unnecessary. Credit cards, checks, any form of electronic transfer — these all pretty much fulfill large transactional needs more efficiently than a tangible note could. “If you didn’t have your credit card, you didn’t have your debit card, or there’s a massive meltdown of the world in telecommunication systems and computers … then you can imagine high-denomination bills would be very useful,” Ohanian said. “Assuming the other person wants to accept it.”

The Star-Spangled Banner

This 4th of July we have decided to take a closer look at “The Star-Spangled Banner”- an anthem of freedom, American beliefs, and reverence for those who have fought for our nation.

On September 13th, 1814, British warships sent a downpour of shells and rockets onto Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor, relentlessly pummeling the American fort for 25 hours. The bombardment, known as the Battle of Baltimore, came only weeks after the British had attacked Washington, D.C., burning the Capitol, the Treasury and the President’s house. It was another battle in the ongoing War of 1812.

A week earlier, Francis Scott Key, a 35-year-old American lawyer, had boarded the flagship of the British fleet on the Chesapeake Bay in hopes of persuading the British to release a friend who had recently been arrested. Key’s tactics were successful, but because he and his companions had gained knowledge of the impending attack on Baltimore, the British did not let them go. They allowed the Americans to return to their own vessel but continued guarding them. Under their scrutiny, Key watched on September 13th as the barrage of Fort McHenry began eight miles away.


“It seemed as though mother earth had opened and was vomiting shot and shell in a sheet of fire and brimstone,” Key wrote later. But when darkness arrived, Key saw only red erupting in the night sky. Given the scale of the attack, he was certain the British would win. The hours passed slowly, but in the clearing smoke of “the dawn’s early light” on September 14th, he saw the American flag—not the British Union Jack—flying over the fort, announcing an American victory.

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Francis Scott Key’s original manuscript copy of his “Defence of Fort M’Henry”

Aboard the ship the next day, Key wrote a poem on the back of a letter he had kept in his pocket. That night, on September 16th, Key and his friend were released in Baltimore. He completed the poem at the Indian Queen Hotel, where he was staying, and titled it “Defence of Fort M’Henry”. Much of the idea of the poem, including the flag imagery and some of the wording, is derived from an earlier song by Key. The song, known as “When the Warrior Returns”, was written in honor of Stephen Decatur and Charles Stewart on their return from the First Barbary War. 

 

Key gave the poem to his brother-in-law Judge Joseph H. Nicholson who saw that the words fit the popular melody “The Anacreontic Song”, by English composer John Stafford Smith. This was the official song of the Anacreontic Society, an 18th-century gentlemen’s club of amateur musicians in London. Nicholson took the poem to a printer in Baltimore, who anonymously made the first known broadside printing on September 17th; of these, two known copies survive. “The Anacreontic Song” can be listened to below: 


On September 20th, both the Baltimore Patriot and The American printed the song, with the note “Tune: Anacreon in Heaven”. The song quickly became popular, with seventeen newspapers from Georgia to New Hampshire printing it. Soon after, Thomas Carr of the Carr Music Store in Baltimore published the words and music together under the title “The Star Spangled Banner”, although it was originally called “Defence of Fort M’Henry”. Thomas Carr’s arrangement introduced the raised fourth which became the standard deviation from “The Anacreontic Song”. The song’s popularity increased and its first public performance took place in October when Baltimore actor Ferdinand Durang sang it at Captain McCauley’s tavern. Washington Irving, then editor of the Analectic Magazine in Philadelphia, reprinted the song in November 1814.

By the early 20th century, there were various versions of the song in popular use. Seeking a singular, standard version, President Woodrow Wilson tasked the U.S. Bureau of Education with providing that official version. In response, the Bureau enlisted the help of five musicians to agree upon an arrangement. Those musicians were Walter Damrosch, Will Earhart, Arnold J. Gantvoort, Oscar Sonneck and John Philip Sousa. The standardized version that was voted upon by these five musicians premiered at Carnegie Hall on December 5th, 1917, in a program that included Edward Elgar’s Carillon and Gabriel Pierné’s The Children’s Crusade. The concert was put on by the Oratorio Society of New York and conducted by Walter Damrosch. An official handwritten version of the final votes of these five men has been found and shows all five men’s votes tallied, measure by measure.

In 1899, the U.S. Navy officially adopted “The Star-Spangled Banner”. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered that “The Star-Spangled Banner” be played at military and other appropriate occasions. The playing of the song two years later during the seventh-inning stretch of Game One of the 1918 World Series, and thereafter during each game of the series is often cited as the first instance that the anthem was played at a baseball game, though evidence shows that the “Star-Spangled Banner” was performed as early as 1897 at opening day ceremonies in Philadelphia and then more regularly at the Polo Grounds in New York City beginning in 1898.

In 1930, Veterans of Foreign Wars started a petition for the United States to officially recognize “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem. Five million people signed the petition. The petition was presented to the United States House Committee on the Judiciary on January 31st, 1930. On the same day, Elsie Jorss-Reilley and Grace Evelyn Boudlin sang the song to the Committee to refute the perception that it was too high pitched for a typical person to sing. The Committee voted in favor of sending the bill to the House floor for a vote. The House of Representatives passed the bill later that year. The Senate passed the bill on March 3, 1931. President Herbert Hoover signed the bill on March 4, 1931, officially adopting “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem of the United States of America. As currently codified, the United States Code states that “[t]he composition consisting of the words and music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.”

Before 1931, other songs served as the hymns of U.S. officialdom. “Hail, Columbia” served this purpose at official functions for most of the 19th century. “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”, whose melody is identical to “God Save the Queen”, the United Kingdom’s national anthem, also served as a de facto national anthem. Following the War of 1812 and subsequent U.S. wars, other songs emerged to compete for popularity at public events, among them “America the Beautiful”.

 

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The 15-star, 15-stripe “Star-Spangled Banner” that inspired the poem

Nearly two centuries later, the flag itself that inspired Key still survives, though fragile and worn by the years. To preserve this American icon, experts at the National Museum of American History completed an eight-year conservation treatment with funds from Polo Ralph Lauren, The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Congress.

 


“The Star-Spangled Banner is a symbol of American history that ranks with the Statue of Liberty and the Charters of Freedom,” said Brent D. Glass, the museum’s director. “The fact that it has been entrusted to the National Museum of American History is an honor.”

Started in 1996, the Star-Spangled Banner preservation project—which includes the flag’s conservation and the creation of its new display in the renovated museum—was planned with the help of historians, conservators, curators, engineers and organic scientists. With the construction of the conservation lab completed in 1999, conservators began their work. Over the next several years, they clipped 1.7 million stitches from the flag to remove a linen backing that had been added in 1914, lifted debris from the flag using dry cosmetic sponges and brushed it with an acetone-water mixture to remove soils embedded in fibers. Finally, they added a sheer polyester backing to help support the flag.

“Our goal was to extend [the flag’s] usable lifetime,” says Suzanne Thomassen-Krauss, the conservator for the project. The intent was never to make the flag look as it did when it first flew over Fort McHenry, she says. “We didn’t want to change any of the history written on the artifact by stains and soil. Those marks tell the flag’s story.”

While the conservators worked, the public looked on. Over the years, more than 12 million people peered into the museum’s glass conservation lab, watching the progress.

“The Star-Spangled Banner resonates with people in different ways, for different reasons,” says Kathleen Kendrick, curator for the Star-Spangled Banner preservation project. “It’s exciting to realize that you’re looking at the very same flag that Francis Scott Key saw on that September morning in 1814. But the Star-Spangled Banner is more than an artifact—it’s also a national symbol. It evokes powerful emotions and ideas about what it means to be an American.”

While the first stanza is the most well know, here are the full lyrics of “The Star-Spangled Banner”:

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner, O long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave


Happy 4th of July from The Stamp & Coin Place 🙂 🇺🇸

The Father’s Day Tradition

For those of you that don’t know, The Stamp and Coin Place is located in Washington state; the beautiful Pacific Northwest is home to many traditions and has some great history. One interesting piece of history is that Father’s Day was founded and first celebrated in Washington state.

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Sonora Dodd; circa 1910.
Courtesy of Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture/Eastern Washington State Historical Society

The story goes that Sonora Smart Dodd was attending a Mother’s Day sermon at Central Methodist Episcopal Church in 1909 and thought Father’s deserved a similar holiday to celebrate their love and contribution to a family. Her father, William Jackson Smart, was a Civil War veteran and widowed when is wife gave birth to their sixth child. As a single parent he raised his kids on a small farm between Creston, WA and Wilbur, WA (near Spokane).

Dodd initially suggested to celebrate Father’s Day on June 5, her father’s birthday. But the pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons, and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June.The day did not have much success initially. In the 1920s, Dodd stopped promoting the celebration because she was studying at the Art Institute of Chicago, and it faded into relative obscurity, even in Spokane. In the 1930s Dodd returned to Spokane and started promoting the celebration again, raising awareness at a national level. She had the help of those trade groups that would benefit most from the holiday, for example the manufacturers of ties and tobacco pipes.

Since 1938 she had the help of the Father’s Day Council, founded by the New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers to consolidate and systematize the commercial promotion. Americans resisted the holiday during a few decades, perceiving it as just an attempt by merchants to replicate the commercial success of Mother’s Day, and newspapers frequently featured cynical and sarcastic attacks and jokes. But the trade groups did not give up: they kept promoting it and even incorporated the jokes into their adverts, and they eventually succeeded. By the mid-1980s the Father’s Council wrote that “[Father’s Day] has become a Second Christmas for all the men’s gift-oriented industries.”

A bill to accord national recognition of the holiday was introduced in Congress in 1913. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson went to Spokane to speak in a Father’s Day celebration and wanted to make it official, but Congress resisted, fearing that it would become commercialized. US President Calvin Coolidge recommended in 1924 that the day be observed by the nation, but stopped short of issuing a national proclamation. In 1957, Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote a proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers for 40 years while honoring mothers, thus “[singling] out just one of our two parents”. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.

In addition to Father’s Day, International Men’s Day is celebrated in many countries on November 19th for men and boys who are not fathers.

A “Father’s Day” service was held on July 5th, 1908, in Fairmont, West Virginia, in the Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South, now known as Central United Methodist Church. Grace Golden Clayton was mourning the loss of her father when, on December 1907, the Monongah Mining Disaster in nearby Monongah killed 361 men, 250 of them fathers, leaving around a thousand fatherless children. Clayton suggested her pastor Robert Thomas Webb to honor all those fathers.Clayton chose the Sunday nearest to the birthday of her father, Methodist minister Fletcher Golden.

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Monongah Mining Disaster


Clayton’s event did not have repercussions outside of Fairmont for several reasons, among them: the city was overwhelmed by other events, the celebration was never promoted outside of the town itself and no proclamation was made in the City Council. Also two events overshadowed this event: the celebration of Independence Day July 4, 1908, with 12,000 attendants and several shows including a hot air balloon event, which took over the headlines in the following days, and the death of a 16-year-old girl on July 4. The local church and Council were overwhelmed and they did not even think of promoting the event, and it was not celebrated again for many years. The original sermon was not reproduced in press and it was lost. Finally, Clayton was a quiet person, who never promoted the event or even talked to other persons about it.

While Dodd is the one that did the legwork to make Father’s Day into what we know it to be today there are several other stories that tell of Father’s Day celebration that also likely had an impact on making it a national holiday:

In 1911, Jane Addams proposed a citywide Father’s Day in Chicago, but she was turned down.

In 1912, there was a Father’s Day celebration in Vancouver, Washington, suggested by Methodist pastor J. J. Berringer of the Irvington Methodist Church. They believed mistakenly that they had been the first to celebrate such a day.

Harry C. Meek, member of Lions Clubs International, claimed that he had first the idea for Father’s Day in 1915. Meek claimed that the third Sunday of June was chosen because it was his birthday. The Lions Club has named him “Originator of Father’s Day”. Meek made many efforts to promote Father’s Day and make it an official holiday.

No matter where Father’s Day came from we are happy it exists today and gives us an excuse to connect with our loved ones and celebrate all the wonderful Fathers.

Happy Father’s Day 🙂

The Grover Cleveland Peace Medal: a Symbol of Reconciliation

As we go through our grade school education, we learn about U.S. History, and then we get more US history in middle school, and high school, and then, if you were a history major like myself, you get to to take US History again in college.  Each time you learn a little more than the last, and are asked to remember more names and dates and events. And while more things may have been taught, Native American history seems to be mostly an afterthought unless you chose to pursue that specifically.  So from the story of the pilgrims, to The French and Indian War, the Trail of Tears, and Custer and Little Bighorn we overlook the story of the people that should be a more prominent part of our great history. When Tim pulled out another treasure from his stash, it allowed me to go just a little bit deeper into that specific part of our history.  

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The picture above shows us an 1885 Grover Cleveland Bronze Peace Medal. On the front, it reads “Grover Cleveland President across the top and U.S.A. 1885 on the bottom. On the reverse there is a depiction of a Native American man speaking to a white settle with “Peace” across the top and a calumet and a tomahawk crossed through an olive wreath on the bottom.  

Simply put, this medal was created early in Grover Cleveland’s Presidency as an apology and peace offering to the chiefs of native tribes because President Chester Arthur had allowed settlers to take nearly a half million acres of land from the Crow Creek Reservation in the Dakotas area.  To better understand the significance of this medal, you really need to know what was happening in the US at the time.

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21st President, Chester A. Arthur

Chester Arthur was made the 21st president in September of 1881 after James Garfield had been assassinated.  The US was still dealing with the fallout of the Civil War and dealing with the rights of African Americans, and there was an upwelling of anti-immigrant sentiment.  There was an economic crisis in 1873 and Chinese Americans were blamed for depressing wages. And so in 1882, Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act into law, which prohibited further Chinese immigration and prevented current Chinese laborers from gaining citizenship.

Native American were treated similarly.  They were not considered or looked at as Americans.  They had to go through a naturalization process to be considered a citizen and be given the same rights and protections as others.  The philosophy that Arthur, Grover Cleveland, and Benjamin Harrison after him felt best to deal with Native Americans was one of assimilation.  By treating them as a non citizen, the hope was they would want to become a US citizen to be protected and advance our culture.

In his first annual message to Congress in 1881 Arthur spoke specifically on American Indian Policy.  He realized it’s an issue that needs to be dealt with. He even admitted the shortcomings of how it had been dealt with already.  He saw the major shortcoming was dealing with the different tribes as different nationalities. He states, “For the success of the efforts now making to introduce among the Indians the customs and pursuits of civilized life and gradually to absorb them into the mass of our citizens, sharing their rights and holden to their responsibilities, there is imperative need for legislative action.”  And he outlined three steps to further that process. He wanted to give Native Americans the protection of the law, instead of each tribe abiding by their own laws. “In return for such considerate action on the part of the Government, there is reason to believe that the Indians in large numbers would be persuaded to sever their tribal relations and to engage at once in agricultural pursuits. Many of them realize the fact that their hunting days are over and that it is now for their best interests to conform their manner of life to the new order of things. By no greater inducement than the assurance of permanent title to the soil can they be led to engage in the occupation of tilling it.”  And the third step would be to invest considerable amounts of money into educating Native American children. If they were being educated by white settlers and interacting with white children, this would only quicken the process of assimilation. And while these three ideas seem like reasonable stances to take, they didn’t necessarily lead to great outcomes.

Although Arthur seemed to be in favor of land allotment, there were still many detractors to the idea.  As settlers continued to flood westward, they inevitably began to crowd the borders of some reservations or even settle on native land.  Opponents of allotment including Secretary of the interior Henry M. Teller, and vocal settlers and cattle ranchers argued that Native americans didn’t need as much land as they were given, and that they were still savages and guilty of atrocities.  This persuaded Arthur to allow settlers access to almost a half million acres of land in the Winnebago and Crow Creek Reservation areas of the Dakotas just 5 days before his presidency ended 1885.

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22nd and 24th President, Grover Cleveland

Grover Cleveland was lobbied to look into this acquisition of land by the white settlers because they believed it was illegal.  In April of 1885 Cleveland issued a warning to all settlers who were involved and sent General Phil Sheridan to investigate what had actually happened.  Sheridan brought these Peace Medals to give to the various chiefs on the reservations, and offered apologies on behalf of the “Great White Father’s”. Apparently most chiefs were so impressed with the medals that they bored holes in them and would wear them on elaborate beaded necklaces.  And the investigation by Sheridan and Secretary of the Interior Lucius C. Lamar showed that this was not an isolated incident. Broken treaties, hostilities, and illegal land use were all uncovered. Cleveland gave the white settlers 40 days to clear off the land along with their cattle. This happened just before winter and its estimated that 80% of the cattle died as a result but Cleveland made sure the orders were enforced and that hostile encounters would not happen.  

But even though Cleveland helped the Native Americans in this instance and many others, it wasn’t indicative of his term as president overall.  He passed the Major Crimes Act of 1995 which made seven specific crimes for Native Americans on their reservation subject to US laws despite a Supreme Court ruling that found that jurisdiction over “Indian on Indian” crimes on a reservation were not subject to federal law.  He also signed the Dawes Act in 1887 which opened up Indian land into individual allotments but followed it up with the Indian Appropriations Act two years later. This allowed white settlers access to any “unassigned lands” that may have previously been a part of a reservation but wasn’t assigned to an individual.  Over years the effects of this were staggering. At the start of his term there were 260,000 Indians living on 171 reservations in 21 different states with a total of 134 million acres of land. By 1934, more than 90 million acres of that had been lost due to the Indian Appropriations Act and other polocies.

Benjamin Harrison, the next president, would use the Indian Appropriations Act to give away more land to white settlers, including the Oklahoma Land Rush.  This is where the current University of Oklahoma gets its mascot name, Boomer Sooner. Boomers were settlers campaigning for the land to be open up to white settlers, and sooners were the settlers that had already illegally settled the land.  He forced the Sioux nation into breaking up into separate reservations and giving up 11 million acres of land in doin go, and used the Act 17 times to give land to settlers in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Alaska.  He was president during the Wounded Knee Massacre but would take no responsibility for what had happened there either.

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DSC_0010The story of this peace medal, while itself small, is a part of a much greater history of our country.  While policy and actions didn’t always coincide with words, it at least represented in a shift in the way the US tried to deal with the Native Americans. President Arthur was willing to admit that previous administrations failed to address the situation in an acceptable manner and even if his strategy of assimilation had unintended results, just the idea of giving a “peace” medal and taking a conciliatory stance to the issue and forcing out the white settlers if only temporarily, was a significant departure from earlier encounters between the US various native tribes.  

Civil War Tokens

The year of 1862 for the United States was one of tensions and disparity as the relationship between the North and South became more and more strained. The economy was shaky as precious and semi-precious metals rose in value. People were hoarding their coins because it made more sense then to spend them. The metal in a one-cent penny could be worth up to five cents; so people kept their coins stashed away in hopes of saving money.

By the end of 1862 newly minted coins weren’t being spent. Business owners were struggling and needed to find a way to still sell their goods and services. The Union’s government tried to solve this by creating unsupported paper money and even briefly issued postage stamps to use as currency. While a good idea the currency was not ever widely adopted and did little to solve the problem.

During the Napoleonic era the British people had created their own tokens to be used in exchange for goods until the crisis had been taken care of. With most Americans having close descent to the British it wasn’t a far stretch to take on this same idea and thus Civil War Tokens were produced. There were a variety of tokens produced and manufacturers charged an average of 73 cents per hundred tokens. These tokens typically mimicked small change about the size of a modern day penny. Made with metals not in as high of demand such as lead, copper, brass, and sometimes even rubber. For die sinkers and private minters hoping to profit, tokens were a legal gray area they were quick, but careful, to exploit. At the time, counterfeiting laws were specific when it came to gold and silver coinage, but other metals were not in the same category. Two common types of Civil War Tokens were Storecards and Patriotics.

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Patriotic Civil War Token

Patriotics were coins that utilized a generic die to create and mass send out to merchants. It was common for them to feature pro-Union slogans and general patriotism- hence the name. These generalized coins were cheaper for merchants to purchase and were the best and easiest way to provide currency for their customers.

 

 

 

 

 

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Dry Goods Groceries Storecard

Storecards were specialized tokens that would feature a merchant or proprietors name, address, advertisement, etc. These cost more than the Patriotics because they were specific to a business and couldn’t be mass produced in the same fashion as the Patriotics. While each coin was different there was a popular wreath design that often adorned the Storecard coins and it was common for them to be inscripted with something such as “Business Card” or Store Card”.

 

 

As the Civil War was coming to a close in 1864 the Civil War Tokens began to lose value. Officially use of them was banned in April with the 1864 Coinage Act. While this act didn’t specifically prohibit Civil War Tokens the cent’s size, weight, and metal composition was revised in a way that mimicked the Civil War Tokens while simultaneously outlawing the tokens.

 

While Civil War Tokens we’re only used for a short two years there’s an estimated 25 million that were created. With over 10,000 varieties that represented 22 states, 400 towns, and about 1,500 merchants.


Check out our collection of Civil War Tokens on our Ebay store.

Thanks for reading!