How Benjamin Franklin Helped Foil Early American Money Counterfeiters




Franklin, who was a printer, among his other roles, was known for marking his early paper money with images of intricately veined leaves that were nearly impossible for counterfeiters to copy, using a variety of fonts, some available only to him, and intentionally lacing the text with misspellings.

But scientists say Franklin took things a step further to stave off fraudsters. Other distinguishing characteristics of Franklin’s money—the new research revealed through advanced atomic-level imaging methods—were more subtle. He used a unique black ink. His paper glimmered. Blue threads decorated the surface, and finer fibers were woven throughout. 

Researchers detailed the innovations in a paper published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The findings describe previously unknown methods Franklin developed to safeguard printed money notes against counterfeiting.

Author(s): Jo Craven McGinty

Publication Date: 17 July 2023

Publication Site: WSJ

How Jefferson and Franklin Helped End Smallpox in America



In the new world, inoculation had a very rough reception. When John Dalgleish and Archibald Campbell began inoculating individuals in Norfolk, Virginia, an angry mob burned down Campbell’s house. Similar incidents occurred in Salem and Marblehead, Mass. In Charleston, S.C., an inoculation control law of 1738 imposed a fine of £500 on anyone providing or receiving inoculation within two miles of the city. A similar law was passed in New York City in 1747. 

The measures in New England were so draconian that Benjamin Waterhouse noted the paradox: “New England, the most democratical region on the face of the earth voluntarily submitted to more restrictions and abridgements of liberty, to secure themselves against that terrific scourge, than any absolute monarch could have enforced.” (This, strangely prescient, anticipates the current debate about liberty versus public health). It was in the middle colonies — Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey — that inoculation was most tolerated in the second half of the 18th century. That’s why Jefferson made the long journey to Philadelphia to be inoculated in 1766. 

Jefferson first became aware of the discovery of a true smallpox vaccine from the newspapers he read in Philadelphia and the new capitol in Washington, D.C. Then, on Dec. 1, 1800, just after Jefferson’s election to the presidency, Benjamin Waterhouse sent him his pamphlet on the vaccine with a lovely cover letter saying that he regarded Jefferson as “one of our most distinguished patriots and philosophers.” Jefferson responded immediately, thanking Waterhouse for the publication and declaring, with his usual grace, that “every friend of humanity must look with pleasure on this discovery, by which one evil the [more] is withdrawn from the condition of man: and contemplating the possibility that future improvements & discoveries, may still more & more lessen the catalogue of evils. in this line of proceeding you deserve well of your [country?] and I pray you to accept my portion of the tribute due you.” 

Author(s): Clay Jenkinson, Editor-at-Large

Publication Date: 29 April 2020

Publication Site: Governing