linked to www.secretservice.gov header image linked to www.secretservice.gov header image linked to www.secretservice.gov header image
Skip Header InformationSkip to navigation United States Secret Service USSS Star
   United States Secret Service Star

KNOW YOUR MONEY

History of United States Currency

Early American colonists used English, Spanish and French money while they were under English rule. However, in 1775, when the Revolutionary War became inevitable, the Continental Congress authorized the issuance of currency to finance the conflict. Paul Revere made the first plates for this "Continental Currency." Those notes were redeemable in Spanish Milled Dollars. The depreciation of this currency gave rise to the phrase "not worth a Continental."

Silver Certificate

After the U.S. Constitution was ratified, Congress passed the "Mint Act" of April 2, 1792, which established the coinage system of the United States and the dollar as the principal unit of currency. By this Act the U.S., became the first country in the world to adopt the decimal system for currency. The first U.S. coins were struck in 1793 at the Philadelphia Mint and presented to Martha Washington.

The government did not issue paper money until 1861. In the interim years, however, the government did issue "Treasury notes" intermittently during periods of financial stress, such as the War of 1812, the Mexican War of 1846, and the Panic of 1857.

During this same period (1793 - 1861), approximately 1,600 private banks were permitted to print and circulate their own paper currency under state charters. Eventually, 7,000 varieties of these "state bank notes" were put in circulation, each carrying a different design!

With the onset of the Civil War, the government--desperate for money to finance the war--passed the Act of July 17, 1861, permitting the Treasury Department to print and circulate paper money. The first paper money issued by the government were "demand notes" commonly referred to as "greenbacks." In 1862, Congress retired the demand notes and began issuing United States notes, also called legal tender notes.

Silver Dollar

Under Congressional Acts of 1878 and 1886, five different issues of "silver certificates" were produced, ranging from $1 to $1,000 dollar notes. The Treasury exchanged silver certificates for silver dollars because the size and weight of the silver coins made them unpopular. The last series of silver certificates was issued in 1923. However, the last series of modern silver certificates produced were the series 1957B/1935H $1 notes, series 1953C $5 notes, and 1953B $10 notes.

During the period from 1863 to 1929, the Government again permitted thousands of banks to issue their own notes under the National Banks Acts of 1863 and 1864. These were called "national bank notes," but unlike the earlier "state bank notes," they were produced on paper authorized by the U.S. government and carried the same basic design.

In 1913, Congress passed the Federal Reserve Act, establishing this nation's Federal Reserve System. This Act authorized the Federal Reserve Banks to issue Federal Reserve Bank notes. In 1914, the Federal Reserve Banks began issuing Federal Reserve notes--the only currency still being manufactured today by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Previous Page | Table of Contents | Next Page

 linked to www.secretservice.gov header image USSS Star

Search
» Search the website

Powered by USA.gov

About
» Home
» Who We Are
  - Director
  - Deputy Director
  - Special Agents
  - Uniformed Division
  - Support Personnel
» Our Dual Mission
» Rowley Training Center
» History
» Frequently Asked Questions
» Student Q&A

Contact Us
» Contact Information
» Field Offices

Investigations
» Investigative Mission
» Criminal Investigations
» Forensic Services
» Investigative Support
» Know Your Money
» Electronic Crimes Task Force
» Law Enforcement Resources

Protection
» Protective Mission
» How Protection Works
» National Special Security Events
» National Threat Assessment Center

Press Room
» Most Wanted
» Photo Gallery
» Press Releases
» Annual Report
» FOIA
» Downloads
» Information Quality

Employment
» Employment Opportunities
» Application Forms
» Equal Employment Opportunity
» EEO Data Posted Pursuant to the
No FEAR Act
» Reasonable Accommodation

Business Opportunities
» Procurement Division
(For Vendors)

Partnerships
» Boys and Girls Club Partnership
» Center for Missing and Exploited Children Partnership






Copyright 2014 United States Secret Service. All rights reserved.
http://www.secretservice.gov
Home | Privacy Policy | Security Notice | Section 508 | Department of Homeland Security | USA.gov