Stephen Mihm. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 2007.
Between the time of the American Revolution and the Civil War the U.S. had no national paper currency. Chartered banks and their privately issued notes proliferated. Countless banks issued paper money in a bewildering variety of denominations and designs—more than ten thousand different kinds by 1860. Counterfeiters flourished amid this anarchy, putting vast quantities of bogus bills into circulation. The Continental was America’s currency. In Stephen Mihm’s, A Nation of Counterfeiters, Mihm weaves a historically based tale of how a shady lot of counterfeiters thrived under the American capitalist system, and then explains how the federal government effectively dismantled the archaic monetary system and in turn ended the counterfeit economy it sustained.
The first part of Mihm’s book is clearly outlined history of counterfeiting in pre-Civil war America, which is known as the “Golden Age of Counterfeiting”. Mihm did a great deal of research to weave a story spanning from the criminal underworld in New York City, to the gold rush in California and on to the battles within the context of the Civil War. Mihm emphasizes the pervasiveness of the counterfeit problem in the early history of America. The crime of counterfeiting money is one of the oldest crimes in history, and about one-third of all paper money in circulation around the time of the Civil War was counterfeit. Mihm incorporates information from many sources