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PaidTales of Dongles, Checks, and Other Money Stuff$
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Bill Maurer and Lana Swartz

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780262035750

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262035750.001.0001

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Leaves

Leaves

Chapter:
(p.155) 13 Leaves
Source:
Paid
Author(s):

Whitney Anne Trettien

, Bill Maurer, Lana Swartz
Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262035750.003.0013

In the early 18th century, the American colonials were awash with both paper currency and its twin: counterfeit bills. Benjamin Franklin became a proponent of using leafs prints in currency as an anti-counterfeiting measure. Duplicating a leaf print is difficult not just because the resulting patterns are so complex, but because the original leaf is destroyed in the process. Franklin’s innovation, then, is that he shifts the burden of counterfeiting from copying the content of a note to discerning and iterating the process of its reproduction—even as that very process prevents the thing, the leaf, from ever being reproduced in the same way again. In this, we can see a kind of environmental nationalism: authority inheres not in the material substance of the paper itself but rather in the land that prints it and it printed upon it.

Keywords:   Benjamin Franklin, Leaf prints, Wood block prints, Counterfeiting, Paper money, State currency, American Colonial era

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