Benjamin Franklin was a lot of things, but he always saw himself as a printer – and some of what he printed was currency for American colonies. Turns out he had some pretty creative ways to try to keep counterfeiters from copying his bills. Plus: New Orleans is hosting the Samantha Fish Cigar Box Guitar Festival this weekend.
Today’s the birthday of Benjamin Franklin, inventor, ambassador, kite enthusiast, and, it turns out, the author of the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.
But perhaps more than any of those things, Franklin saw himself as a printer, and not just of almanacs or newspapers.
He also printed currency for Pennsylvania and a number of other colonies.
The Library of Congress has some of these bills in its Early American Paper Money Collection.
Coin World recently took a look at how Benjamin Franklin used his cleverness and creativity to try to head off the big problem of counterfeiters.
Franklin had a lot of techniques to make his bills hard to forge.
Sometimes he would misspell the word “Pennsylvania” on high value currency.
Sometimes he’d misspell the word multiple ways on the same bill!
In other cases, he’d print the note with a font or a design that only he had.
He may have also hand engraved some of his printing plates, another way to make his prints unique.
And then there’s this: one researcher believes Franklin made an un-forgeable design that started with a plaster impression of a single leaf.
He then poured metal into the impression, to maximize the level of detail in the design.
The only way to duplicate the bill, then, would be to get hold of that exact leaf and recreate the whole process.
In other words, it was a bill as unique as the individual who designed it.
This weekend you may want to get yourself to New Orleans, to catch the last few days of this year’s Samantha Fish Cigar Box Guitar Festival.
Nineteen of the world’s most acclaimed cigar box guitarists are in town to celebrate and perform on these handmade instruments.