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Money: Researching the History of U.S. and International Currencies

U.S. Paper Money

The materials on this page link to selected resources about paper money and currency history in the Library's collection, on the internet, and in articles. Also, prior to the Civil War, newspapers often had "Bank Note" tables (this is an example from a 1842 edition of The Radical in Bowling Green and a 1858 Marshall County Democrat) that were used by people to understand the value of the various circulating local currencies. Searching bank note table or bank note list may return some but it may be something that you have to browse a publication for.

If you are looking for information on the early history of a national currency research the Legal Tender Act External (February 25, 1862) that authorizing the use of paper notes to pay the government's bills and the Greenback. Also, search the National Currency Act External (February 25, 1863 also known as the National Bank Act) that followed a few years later that facilitated the acceptance and use of a national currency. It may also be helpful to read about the Legal Tender Cases that were decided by the Supreme Court following the Hepburn v. Griswold (PDF, 1,267 KB) decision — Knox v. Lee and Parker v. Davis (PDF, 7.8 MB).

Print Materials

The following print resources link to fuller bibliographic information about each item in the Library of Congress Online Catalog.  Search the catalog for additional resources.

Internet Resources

Theories on the Dollar Sign

There are many theories as to the origin of the dollar sign. None have been "verified," but many feel that the most likely explanation is from the abbreviation pieces of 8 (peso) seen referenced in Spanish currency. There are additional resources that can be used for research on researching paper currency in other sections of this guide.