HistoryBuff.com August 2010 Newsletter
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Currency and Coinage Curiosities

We are all very familiar with currency denominations of $1, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills. But how many are aware that other odd denominations were produced in the United States?

In Colonial America, currency notes were produced in denominations of one-sixth, one-third, two-thirds, and one-half dollar. In addition 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 dollars notes were printed. Each note was hand-signed and many were signed by famous patriots. As one can imagine, the values of these notes today is very high and even higher when hand-singed by a famous patriot. The production of fractional currency notes was revived during the Civil War.

Colonial America also saw coins with the denominations of a half-cent, two-cent, half-dime, and twenty-cent pieces. My favorite is the three-cent nickel. No, this was not a devaluation of the nickel to make it worth three cents. Actually, it was called a nickel because of it being made of nickel.

In 1862, day-to-day commerce became strained by a shortage of coins. At the time, American currency was not backed by the government with gold or silver. During the middle of 1862, $25 million in coinage disappeared from circulation. By July of 1862, coins, due to their metallic content, were worth 20% more than paper money.

On July 17, 1862, Congress stepped into the fray and passed a law which stated that postage stamps could pay debts of less than $5 to the government. The public took this to mean that postage stamps could be officially used as currency. The stamps were ill-suited for this task. They were thin (destroyed easily with handling) and the glue on their backs encouraged them to stick to hands, wallets, and anything else with which they came in contact. The mess created by loose stamps quickly deflated the elation generated by the misconception of the new law. People began looking for a way to package the stamps to keep from creating a lump in their pocket. Initially, people kept the stamps in envelops or stuck them on cards. Nevertheless, generally these methods failed to provide a workable solution.

In August 1862, a man named Gault patented a process to encapsulate stamps. A thin token was made of brass with advertising on one side. He then used a button maker to compress a thin sheet of clear mica on top, the stamp in the middle and the token on the bottom. The idea caught on quickly.

Open your wallet and take out a $5 bill. Then examine the top the of Lincoln Memorial building with a good magnifying glass. Between each column a state name is engraved. A total of 26 states can be found there.

HistoryBuff.com Update

Atlas of Known April 15, 1865 Newspaper Reprints

In 1995 I compiled and published a monograph of All Known Reprints of the April 15, 1865 New York Herald Newspapers. At that time I had documented 19 different versions.

In the meantime, I have expanded that list to 38 different versions. To make my work accessible to more people, and save the cost of printing hard copies, I have created an online version. It shows all pages of versions that I have had access to. I have documented many others but have been unable to obtain scans of them. It is hard when someone contacts me wanting to sell their "original" April 15, 1865 New York Herald and I inform them it is actually a reprint but still want to borrow it for scanning. If you have a version that is not currently shown in my index, please contact me. It can be viewed at: http://www.historybuff.com/newspapers/assassination/

Going Full Circle

As a child in the 1950s, I was living in a small town in Utah that was only about 20 miles from the state lines of Idaho and Wyoming. Our home was a classic Victorian with a wrap-around porch. The backyard was very large. It had a chicken coop, tool shed, and a 2-car garage. (Yes, we had chickens that were used both for eggs and Sunday chicken dinners.) When I was ten-years old, I put together a museum in our tool shed that was about 15 by 30 feet. Hiking in the mountains I discovered handfuls of small sea shells just beneath the cover dirt. (This mountain range was completely under water a million years ago.) I also found a few fossils of plants and small animals. At the backend of our backyard was a farmer's field. I was able to find some bones buried in the dirt. One was even a Femur of a cow. I also found a nice Geode that a rock hound cut in half for me. Several professors at Utah State University attended our church and I made good use of them. They helped me identify what I had and provided some background information as well. I laid out each artifact on benches and wrote information about them on index cards. I also made a crude sign "Museum Tour 5 Cents." Although I enjoyed doing this, I didn~ez_rsquo~t made any money on it.

In 1965 I started collecting Lincoln assassination newspapers. Today, forty-five years later, my Lincoln archive consists of over one-hundred original newspapers, several stereo cards, CDVs and cabinet photos, over 100 books published pre-1950, and dozens of magazines from pre-1900, sheet music, a few broadsides and even a mourning ribbon. I also have hundreds of photocopies of documents relating to the assassination or aftermath.

Now, I have put together a traveling museum utilizing part of my Lincoln archive. In addition to newspapers and photos, I also have an original copy of the music played at Lincoln's funerals. I found a Civil War brass band to record it for me. This way, in my museum, people can see the sheet music as well as hear it being played. My museum is housed in a tent 11 by 20 feet. I plan on taking my museum on the road to various historical shows and festivals. I am booked to bring it to the national Civil War show held in Wheaton, Illinois on September 18. Subscribers living in the Chicago-land area, this is your chance to see part of my archive. I will also be giving a presentation on Little-Known Facts About the Lincoln's and the Civil War. Hope to see you there. I do not charge for bringing my Lincoln museum to the shows and festivals.


As a result of my appeal for donations in the previous issue, Barbara Sable, Michael Hennessey, Cynthia Ann Simmons, and G. West made one-time donations. Thank you.

If you desire to make a one-time donation through PayPal, utilize the link below. The dollar amount donated is up to you.

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July Contest

CONTEST ONE QUESTION: There has only been two times in American history where there were three different presidents in the same year. Which two years were they?

ANSWER: 1841 and 1881

CONTEST TWO QUESTION: Only one American president was born on the 4th of July. Which president was it?

ANSWER: Calvin Coolidge

One-hundred-seven people entered the contests. This time, very few had the incorrect subject heading on their emailed entry. However, twenty-two people failed to select a prize if they won. Four people selected a prize from Contest One but answered the Contest Two question. One prize was not claimed.

The July Contest Winners Were:
  • Thelma Whitehead - Colorado
  • Anna Capson - Hawaii
  • John Wipff - Texas
  • Zac Viscidi - Massachusetts
  • Brandon Farmer - Arizona
  • Susan Smith - Georgia

This Issue's Questions:

To enter Contest One, answer the question: United States flag protocol mandates that if a flag of a state or another country is flown on the same pole or in the same vicinity as the American flag, the American flag should always be the highest. There is one exception to this rule. What is this exception.

To enter Contest Two, answer the question: What are the two places that the "shot heard 'round the world" refer to?

Contest Rules

  • Contest entry deadline is Wednesday, August 18, 2010. Later entries will be disqualified. Winners will be notified by email within 72 hours after the contest deadline. Winners' names and states will be published in the next issue of the HistoryBuff.com newsletter.

  • To enter Contest One or Contest Two, email your answer to curator at historybuff.com

  • To enter Contest One, use "Contest One Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading and answer the Contest One question. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

  • To enter Contest Two, use "Contest Two Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading and answer the Contest Two question. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

  • Subscribers may enter both contests, but only win one prize.

  • If entering both contests, entries must be sent in separate emails.

  • If answering the Contest One question, select your prize from the Contest One prize list.

  • If answering the Contest Two question, select your prize from the Contest Two prize list.

  • From subscribers entering the contest, submitting the correct answer, correct subject heading, submission received by the deadline, as well as advising which ONE contest prize they want to win, SEVEN will be selected to win ONE of the contest prizes below.

  • Subscribers to this newsletter that won a prize in my trivia contests in the last 90 days are ineligible to win.
August Contest One Prize List
(Select ONE of the two prizes below if enterering Contest One)


Six World War II Movies

DVD Game

Similar to Scene It game But Pop Culture Questions

August Contest Two Prize Selection

(Select ONE of the prizes below if enterering Contest Two)

DVD Mlovie

Who Killed Doc Robbin?

Produced by Hal Roach


Mutt and Jeff Cartoons

Over an hour of cartoons

Original Historic Newspapers

Niles National Register historic newspaper from 1837

Worcester Daily Transcript (Massachussetts) from 1865

Original New York Herald historic newspaper from 1877
That's it for this issue.

Rick Brown

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