In his new book, A Nation of Counterfeiters: Capitalists, Con Men and the Making of the United States, Stephen Mihm, assistant professor of history, examines the history of capitalism and currency in the U.S.
Before the Civil War, the nation didn’t have a single widespread currency. Instead many banks had several different types of paper money, with more than 10,000 variations in circulation by 1860. During this confusion, counterfeiters could easily slip fake bills into circulation.
Mihm explores this chaotic time when the federal government had little authority over the national currency and the capitalists had control.
Based on Mihm’s research, the book’s interesting characters and locations weave a web of deceit and intrigue that portrays the journey and evolution of capitalism within the U.S. This historical account also showcases how the U.S. government initiated the use of greenbacks and replaced the old monetary system, which favored counterfeiters.