Meeting of May 21, 2013

Major Arthur Henrick on “How I learned to Stop Worrying about Paying for the War and Love the Greenback”

Greenbacks and PistolArthur W. Henrick, a Civil War, Roman, and World War II reenactor, displayed and talked about Hard and Soft Money used in the American Civil War. He passed around coins and currency from the “Great Unpleasantness.”

He explained the economic situation and the coins issued in the 1850s as the US Economy exploded in rapid growth.

He explained how the Federal Government, after using every trick in the book to keep on a Gold Standard, had to resort to Fiat (faith) paper money in early 1862.

Major Henrick

Major Henrick

Since 1967 when the last Silver Certificates were no longer convertible to silver coin 1:1, the current currency we use today is exactly like Civil War “Greenbacks” and not payable in gold or silver.

Arthur Henrick of Sunnyvale works currently as an Quality Engineer at Cutera, a Medical Laser company.

Charlie Sweeny provided the following summary of the meeting:

Major Henrick clearly described the many and continuing difficulties both sides had conducting incompletely monetized economies during times of widespread shortages of goods as well as manpower being of uncertain availability.

The specie and coinage in circulation was uncertain in availability and varied greatly in type. One could find paper money issued by local banks. Hard coins could be Spanish Pieces of Eight (silver) or U.S. coins of copper or silver. There were coins and bills issued by both national governments, but not in quantity and availability to control commerce. Barter continued to be an important way to conduct business.

Major Henrick brought a very large selection of the many moneys used. There were gold coins, silver coins, copper coins as well as over dozen paper bills of several denominations. The members enjoyed the close-up examination of the displayed items as well as the Major’s running commentary.