Curious Colors of Currency: Security Marbling on Financial Instruments During the Long Eighteenth Century

Jake Benson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The twenty-dollar bills authorized by the Continental Congress and dated
May 10, 1775, feature a hand-marbled margin applied as a polychrome security
device. The association of Benjamin Franklin with these notes has led
scholars to attribute the concept of security marbling to his genius. This article
shows that security marbling was first adopted by the Bank of England
in 1695. It is further argued that both fractional reserve banking and the
issuance of paper currency were intimately intertwined with the advent of
paper marbling in England during the mid-seventeenth century. Evidence
is presented to show that a Persian artist and émigré to India, Muhammad
Tahir, was the true innovator behind the combed and chevron marbled patterns
that were later applied to financial instruments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277–325, Plates 37–27
Number of pages60
JournalAmerican Journal of Numismatics
Volume31
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2019

Keywords

  • Paper money
  • Financial instruments
  • 18th century
  • 17th Century
  • Bank of England
  • Georgia Colony
  • Continental Congress
  • Paper marbling
  • Security design
  • Marbled paper
  • Promissory notes
  • Bills of Exchange
  • Indenture
  • Cheques
  • American War of Independence
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Samuel Pope
  • William Chaloner

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • John Rylands Research Institute and Library

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