Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What's a Greenback? (1880 money part 2)

I'm going to write this post like I was standing up in front of my classroom and telling everybody something they probably already know. Most people (especially my teacher, Mr. Foster) know how our United States paper money came about and why it is called "greenbacks." But for you 21st century readers, sit back and hear the tale:

“Greenbacks” is the name for paper money in the United States in 1880. Paper money hasn’t been around for very long, only about fifteen years or so. Since the War Between the States (or the War of Northern Aggression for you Southerners in the classroom. Or the Civil War. They’re all names for the same war, back in 1861-1865).

Anyway, before the War, everybody used gold and silver coins to buy and sell things. But they probably got pretty heavy in pocketbooks and purses.  
The $20 shows Alexander Hamilton; the $10 Daniel Webster 

However, the War cost money—a lot of money, and the United States didn’t have enough money from taxes. The Treasury Department decided to issue small rectangles of paper called “demand notes” (payable on demand) to people who lent the government money to pay the soldiers and finance the War. These “demand notes” were printed on green paper. So guess what! Their nickname became “greenbacks.”

After the War, some people wanted to keep the paper money in circulation permanently. But the Secretary of the Treasury said it had only been a War measure. The country must go back to the gold standard: silver and gold coins.

So the government started “retiring” (getting rid of) the paper money. But this caused problems too. The economy was not doing well, and they found an old law that allowed them to put some paper money back in circulation, which they did.

Back and forth the argument went, but as everyone knows, paper money is here to stay. In fact, in the future (in 1933), private citizens will have to trade in all their gold, and the gold standard will basically disappear. Thank you for your attention, and I hope I get an A on this report, Mr. Foster. 

A note from Mrs. M: You know it’s true. It’s paper only nowadays. Oh, wait. It’s PLASTIC only!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Money in 1880

Hannah wants to know "about what money looked like and what is was worth . . . like in the first book [Long Ride Home], they [Andi and Rosa] bought ribbons with a dime. We probably couldn't buy that now a days. Well, at least not brand-new."

In this post, I'll show you what "coin" money looked like. In later posts, I'll write about what paper money (greenbacks) looked like; then in another post I'll talk about how much things cost (like food and thread) and how much money people made working different jobs in 1880.

1880 Dime
First off, here is a picture of what one of the dimes looked like that I found in my saddlebag. That was a REAL nice surprise, by the way. I was going to use one of the dimes to buy something special for Rosa and her family.

"Double Eagle"
Later on in the book, that mean ol' Felicity offered to buy Taffy for $20.00. In 1880, a twenty-dollar gold piece was called a "Double Eagle."Felicity could have given me one of those, but she slapped two "Eagles" into my hand. An "Eagle" is a ten-dollar gold piece.

Can you guess what a "Half-Eagle" might be? Yep, a five-dollar gold piece! In Andrea Carter and the Price of Truth, Chad paid me eight dollars for all that work I did picking peaches. He gave me a half-eagle and three silver dollars.

Silver dollar
Of course, there were pennies too! Ever hear of penny candy? At the bottom of this post is a picture of a penny from 1880. Enjoy, and I'll be back later to talk about greenbacks (and how paper money got that funny name).
Indian head penny