By Stephen Mihm
Hearken to a brief interview with Stephen Mihm Host: Chris Gondek | manufacturer: Heron & Crane Few folks query the slips of eco-friendly paper that come and cross in our handbags, wallet, and wallets. but self belief within the cash offer is a up to date phenomenon: ahead of the Civil warfare, the us didn't have a unmarried, nationwide foreign money. as an alternative, numerous banks issued paper cash in a bewildering number of denominations and designs--more than 10000 other forms via 1860. Counterfeiters flourished amid this anarchy, placing gigantic amounts of bogus debts into flow. Their good fortune, Stephen Mihm finds, is greater than an pleasing story of felony company: it's the tale of the increase of a rustic outlined by means of a freewheeling model of capitalism over which the government exercised little regulate. It was once an period whilst accountability for the country's forex remained within the palms of capitalists for whom "making cash" used to be as a lot a literal as a figurative project. Mihm's witty story brims with colourful characters: shady bankers, corrupt law enforcement officials, charismatic criminals, and amazing engravers. in keeping with prodigious examine, it levels everywhere, from big apple City's felony underworld to the gold fields of California and the battlefields of the Civil battle. We find out how the government issued bucks for the 1st time and started dismantling the older financial method and the counterfeit economic system it sustained. A state of Counterfeiters is a trailblazing paintings of heritage, person who casts the country's capitalist roots in a startling new gentle. Readers will realize an identical get-rich-quick spirit that lives on within the speculative bubbles and self assurance video games of the twenty-first century. (20070921)
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Additional info for A Nation of Counterfeiters: Capitalists, Con Men, and the Making of the United States
Stephen Burroughs was supposed to have his manufactory of counterfeit money somewhere in the recesses of those mountains,” recalled one novelist some years later. “It was a wilderness then . . ” This was not too far from the truth: though the French had claimed the region just north of Vermont when they established trading posts at Quebec in 1608 and Montreal in 1642, few people settled there because it had minimal access to water and no roads. 37 When the British assumed control of New France with the Treaty of Paris in 1763, they did not institute any radical changes in the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada (later renamed Ontario and Quebec, respectively, according to their positions along the north-ﬂowing St.
What was the difference between a capitalist banker and a criminal counterfeiter? There were differences, to be sure, but not to the extent many people would have preferred.
Burroughs thus came to symbolize not only the conﬂation of capitalism and counterfeiting, but also the limits of American economic and political authority. Worse, his much-publicized depredations inspired a host of imitators, all of whom helped make counterfeiting an integral part of economic life in the early republic. If some of his successors cultivated equally outsized reputations, Burroughs remained in popular folklore the quintessential counterfeiter. He was the original against which all imitators would be weighed, measured, and valued.
A Nation of Counterfeiters: Capitalists, Con Men, and the Making of the United States by Stephen Mihm