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Historical Treasures

Posted September 19, 2012 in Community Featured, Winterset

The position of public library director occasionally has its sweet rewards.

One such day occurred last month while I was writing my article for Winterset Living. I was digging into some files to learn more about the library’s long history, starting around 1875.

I came upon a file with the label of “Old Contracts.” In that file I found an envelope labeled “Confederate Paper Money.” I thought I should look into this! To my delight, I found inside a letter dated Feb. 8, 1913, from the Treasury Department, Washington, on original letterhead with a beautiful eagle watermark.  It explains the gift to the library of several Confederate bills. The letter reads as follows:

“As your Library will no doubt be interested in receiving specimens of notes issued by the Confederate States of America, for exhibition purposes, I take pleasure in sending you an assortment of the same. These notes came into the possession of the Union Army about the close of the Civil War, and were turned over by the War Department to the Treasury of the United States in the year 1867. The Treasury Department has no complete series of the notes, and in presenting such specimens as are now in its custody the Department feels assured that proper disposition will be made for the safe-keeping so as to render them of permanent value to your Library as historical relics.”

The letter was signed “Very truly yours, Franklin MacVeagh, Secretary.” Enclosed were several fives, 10s, 20s, and one $50 Confederate bill.

The Secretary of the Treasury was an interesting man. Attorney and banker Franklin MacVeagh (1837 – 1934) had been director of the Commercial National Bank of Chicago for 29 years before serving as President Taft’s Secretary of Treasury (1909 – 1913). MacVeagh was credited with improving the efficiency of the Treasury Department, and he was also involved in the creation of the buffalo nickel.

I’m sure you will agree that we have some framing to do, so you can come to the library and enjoy seeing the letter and the Confederate money for yourself.

Winterset Public Library
123 North Second St.
Hours: Mon. – Thur.: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Fri. – Sat.: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

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