August 21--150th Birthday of Postage Currency

If you have been reading BNR and the recently issue of Paper Money, you will see that Fred Reed had done a wonderful job of outlining how postage and then fractional currency came into being, the laws, the players, etc.  But when did it actually first begin circulating?  A law was signed into service on July 17, 1862 that began postage currency.  The notes were first issued on August 21, 1862 and lasted until May 29, 1863.  The first notes were printed entirely by the National Banknote Company (which was printing the postage stamps of the day) and came in sheets that had to be cut apart by hand.  It was decided to print them with perforations like postage stamps. Soon after printing of the sheets began, as a security measure, Secretary of the Treasury Chase directed that the National Banknote Company print the fronts and the American Banknote Company print the backs of the notes.  These notes come with a small ABC in the lower right corner of the back and are perforated as well.  However, these perforations were found to be difficult and inconvenient for the public so the issue reverted to the plain edge sheets.  The design of the issue has the 5-cent and 10-cent stamps of Washington and Jefferson as their central vignette.  The twenty-five and fifty cent notes show five of the stamps.  Five and ten-cent notes were issued in sheet of 20 (4 vertically by 5 horizontally) and the twenty-five and fifty cent notes were issued in sheet of 16 (4X4).  When the notes became available to the public, there was a very high demand for them due to the small change crisis.  Some cities had to limit the amount of the currency that merchants could buy due to this high demand.  Due to counterfeiting, the  second issue (first issue of fractional currency) was begun.