Thursday, April 21, 2016

Aspirational Federal Wallpaper

     I'm sure you've heard by now -- Andy Jackson will be riding on the back of the $20 bill, having been induced to give up his seat to Ms. Harriet Tubman (or as Iowahawk Twittered, "Founder of the Democratic party replaced by gun-toting Republican").  Personally, I wish they'd kicked him clean off; I don't much care for Jackson.  A brave man, a skilled commander of troops but a bit unhinged, it seems to me, by the time he won the Presidency, and with a history of loathing and ill-treatment of Native American Indians* that cannot be justified.  Oh, Woodrow Wilson was worse, far worse, and FDR made a huge dent in the proper functioning of the Fed'ral Gummint, but Andrew Jackson was a hateful guy, and reveled in it.

     Be that as it may (or may, in your opinion, not) that's not what I'm hear to talk about.  Looking up the design of the new twenty (one spoof version has her pointing away from the viewer and onward with a revolver in her left hand while beckoning the onlooker to follow with her right hand, an image I totally support, a great big finger in the eye to racists, sexists and those who would disarm citizens), I discovered some of the earliest modern Federal notes, 1896 gen-u-ine Silver Certificates rather than "trust-me" FRNs, with the best set of themes I have yet seen on money:

     The $1 bill shows History Instructing Youth -- in the functioning of the Federal Government.  "Youth" looks to be of grade-school age.  What's a Mutant Ninja Turtle or a Skywalker against James Madison?  The flip side gives us not merely George Washington but Martha Washington as well, in engravings of equal size and gravitas; remind me again how real women never, ever showed up on Federal paper money 'til last Wednesday?

     The bills get better from there: the $2 (dammit, we need more twos!), as Treasury puts it, "uses classical themes and allegory to portray Science Presenting Steam and Electricity to Industry and Commerce." Steam and Electricity being promising-looking kids, Industry and Commerce are young mothers, and Science is a slightly more mature woman.  (Oh, those sexist 19th-Centry menfolk and their disregard of the value and influence of women!)

     If that's not sufficiently technopositive, the $5 gives us "Electricity Presenting Light To The World," in a Classical tableau with sufficient artsy nekkidness that the T-men blushingly demur sharing it.  One short websearch later, I find you can buy it as a poster, you lecher.  Even the flip side (which Nanny Fed.Gov does share), with a double-bill of Phil Sheridan and Grover Cleveland Ulysses S. Grant,† has a stylized Ms. Electrical Illumination of 1896 at the center!

     Now that right there is Money With A Message, and for once, it's not, "We sure used to be hot stuff."  I'd sure like to see more in that line today.  Where's the Private Rocketry series of 2016?  The Pocket Computing 2010 bills? ...Oh, right, that geek stuff's not all that exciting anymore, I guess.  And the Energy Independence Through Fracking 2007 FRNs would be just too, too controversial....

     At least we got Harriet Tubman!
* This, like my phrase "The Civil War Between The States," is meant to please no one while stifling side-issue debate over terminology: you got your preferred wording plus some extra, so sit down and shaddup.
†  Thanks to Fuzzy for the correction on the $5!.


Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

Small correction: The back of that fiver has got a picture of US Grant his own bad self, not Grover Cleveland.

rickn8or said...

U.S. Currency with bare breastesees?? Terrible! Think of the chillllldren!

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

OT: Did you hit Tam with a Edgar Allan Poe reference for her training trip, or am I imagining it? Premature Burial? That's pretty slick.

Robrrta X via kindle said...

NJT, what?

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

In the 150 year old short story, Premature Burial, the protagonist had spells that would render him unconscious. And he was very much afraid of being buried alive if it happened among strangers. He tried to always be among friends. In case he collapsed.

Then Tam reports:
RX: "Will you be among friends? I mean, in case you collapse?"

It's been a while since I read it, but it strikes me as almost a quote from the story. Certainly lifted.

And a Poe throw back is something I picture an Rx doing.

You are on a Kindle, the stuff is Public Domain, I bet you can get this short story for free inside of 10 minutes.

Roberta X, remotely said...

Oh, *that*. A-hem. I *am* a bit of a Poe fan. It was probably an undercurrent, at least.

Anonymous said...

I'm okay with this, provided the engraving doesn't depict Harriet Tubman holding the Navy Colt sideways.

Monty James

Ed said...

That mock up of a $20 bill featuring an armed Harriet Tubman with an outstretched right hand appears to use a an engraved-style adaptation of the cover illustration from Ann Petry's book "Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad".

I like it. It depicts a younger woman in action reflecting the reasons why she deserved to be honored on the $20 bill, not an older woman in decline resting in a chair.