Sunday, April 29, 2012

An interesting story and new addition

Greetings everyone...This is a story about Samuel C. Upham,  number one counterfeiter  in the U.S. At the start of the Civil War Upham began marketing patriotic items to support the Union, and novelty items to mock the Confederacy, such as cards depicting the head of Jefferson Davis on the body of a jackass. In February 1862, he acquired a sample of Confederate money and quickly started producing his own counterfeits. His first printing consisted of 3,000 five-dollar notes, each stamped at the bottom with the words "facsimile Confederate Note - Sold wholesale and retail by S.C. Upham 403 Chestnut St. Philadelphia." He sold his first batch for a penny per copy. Cotton smugglers in the south quickly began buying Upham's novelty notes, trimming off the notice at the bottom and flooding the Confederate economy with bogus bills.
Before long Upham was advertising what he called "mementos of the Rebellion" in the New York Tribune, Harpers Weekly and other papers. He also advertised himself willing to buy genuine Confederate notes and stamps, as samples he could later duplicate. By late 1862 Upham was selling 28 variations of Confederate bill denominations and postage stamps, with currency notes selling for 5 cents a piece.
The Congress of the Confederacy responded to the flood of counterfeit bills by imposing the death sentence on convicted counterfeiters. Upham would later brag the Confederacy put a $10,000 reward on his capture, dead or alive. He had done more to injure the Confederate cause than General McClellan and his army. Upham later clamed he had printed from March 12, 1862 to August 1, 1863, one million five hundred and sixty four thousand facsimile Rebel notes, of denominations ranging from 5 cents to 100 dollars. Some modern analyses estimate his fake Confederate money amounted to between .93% and 2.78% of the Confederacy's total money supply. Upham discontinued his facsimile business in late 1863 and returned to selling stationary and patriotic envelopes. His notes were still being used in the war-torn South by Union soldiers and other persons after he shut down his business. I was lucky enough to find and purchase one of his counterfeits. His bogus money is worth more than the real thing.

11 comments:

  1. Very interesting, Capt. Thanks for the history lesson.

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  2. It doesn't look like he set out to do it, but in the end he wound up with a brilliant strategy for defeating the enemy. These are facts that I don't usually hear that make a particular period of history even more interesting. That bill is a nice addition to your collection.

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  3. A fascinating snippet of history and a wonderful addition to the collection. Thank you for sharing.

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  4. Very interesting. Thanks Captain.

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  5. Very interesting Captain, a fascinating little bit of history you have there.

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  6. What a fantastic story!!! I'm surprised a film hasn't been made about Mr Upham!

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  7. That was a good read. Thanks for posting. I wonder why Upham stopped producing the bills mid-war. I wonder if the government made him stop?

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  8. Thank you for the comments...It was interesting to me because I was in the printing business all my life. He was actually accused of printing Union currency also, which he never did. Edward Stanton had that case dropped and actually provided Upham with high quality paper to print on. He stopped in 1863, after the south was defeated in Vicksburg and Gettysburg because Confederate currency was practically worthless after Gettysburg. Even the Confederate soldiers wanted to be paid in greenbacks because most places would not accept Confederate currency.

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  9. Captain, that is a fascinating story. As Ray mentions in his comment, it sounds like the perfect story for a great film. You mention that the Confederacy placed a bounty on Upham's head - did they do anything to encourage anyone to collect it, such as a bounty hunter or an assassin? Thanks for posting - a really interesting snipet of history.

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  10. Sidney...I don't think it went any further than a stern warning, by 1863 the demand for bogus notes was falling besides there was a couple of other counterfeiters in the business, one in New York named Withrope Hilton and another in Havana Cuba which were smuggled in thru Florida. So the Confederacy had there hands full, besides they were losing the war after 1863.

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