New Money Designs – Silver Certificates in 1886

Sep 15, 2022 | Financial Literacy, Monetary Education



Handsome Portraits of Martha Washington and Gen. W. S. Hancock to Adorn Them -Counterfeiters to Be Baffled by a Free Use of Lathe Work
New money and new money designs always interest the public, and it is probable that every newspaper reader will examine with curiosity the first account published of the new one and two-dollar silver certificates recently authorized by congress, the designs for which have just been approved by the secretary of the treasury and Treasurer Conrad N. Jordan.

Mr. Jordan has in his office the first proof of the front and back of the new ten-dollar silver certificate, which has already been described. It is a great improvement upon the silver certificate of the same denomination now in use, having a line large central vignette portrait of the late Thomas A. Hendricks in a square panel, and an abundance of excellent lettering in panels and lathe work, without being crowded. The back is a solid mass of intricate lathe work, except in the center, where the
legend describing the character of the note is very distinctly carried.


Martha One Dollar

$1 Dollar Silver Certificate (Image from Wikipedia)

The new one-dollar certificate, now in the hands of the engraver, will be a beautiful thing to look at. The one-dollar legal tender note, familiar to everybody, with its fin vignette portrait of Washington, was always held as one of the best pieces of work ever turned out of the bureau. The new note will be, in a sense, a match for it. The principal feature is the vignette portrait. This is a copy of the Stuart portrait of Martha Washington, generally regarded as one of the most attractive of all the portraits of the first president’s wife. This portrait has never been used upon any of the money or securities of the government. 

It is of large size, and occupies a place at the left end of the certificate. Above the portrait in a curved panel are the words, “Silver Certificate”, and below it in a counter supporting the head are the words “One Dollar”. To the left of the portrait, on the extreme end of the note, the words “One” and ‘”Silver Certificate” are repeated in a bar made up of lathe-work designs, and in the upper and lower comers the figure 1 is prominent upon a lathe-work background. In the center the conspicuous feature is a scroll enclosing the words “One Silver Dollar” upon a handsome lathe-work background. This is about central on the certificate, the description, of the certificate above and below being tastefully wrought and in original designs.

The prominent feature at the right hand is a large figure 1 in a circular lathe-work counter, with supporting lathe-work designs above and below it. In a lathe-work band at the extreme right are the words, “Act of February 28, 1878,”‘ giving the authority for the original issue. The border is an intricate piece of handwork design, alternated with lathe work, the words “United States Silver Certificate” and “One Dollar” being often repeated in minute letters. The red seal of the United States is printed in a central place over other work.

The face will be printed in black without other tints, except in the instance of the seal. The back, which is to be green, will be a mass of lathe work, bidding defiance to the counterfeiter. An oblong design composed of repeated circular pieces, with larger pieces at each end of the oval, encloses the legend setting forth the quality of the money. At each end of the oval are square-cornered counters, filling the space from top to bottom and carrying the designation of the certificate in tasteful lettering upon lathe-work background.


2 dollar

$2 Dollar Silver Certificate (Image from Wikipedia)

The face of the $2 certificate will commend itself to every admirer of handsome paper money. At the left is a fine portrait of Gen. W. S. Hancock taken from a photograph selected by the family of the general as the one preferred by them. It presents Gen. Hancock in the uniform of a major general, wearing his broad sash. The work is very-finely finished, and will be pronounced a superior specimen of engraving.

A distinctive feature in the center is the arched scroll bearing the words “United States” in large letters in an ornamental panel, with the words “Two Dollars” and “Silver Certificate”‘ in well-proportioned designs of lesser size in neat letters upon a lathe-work background. In the upper and lower right hand corners appear Arabic twos upon elaborate lathe-work counters, with the words “Two Dollars”‘ repeated in scrolls upon the lathe-work design, the seal is printed upon the lower right hand corner.

The peculiarity of the given back of the $2 certificate is a scroll suggestive of a figure 2 occupying nearly the entire length of the certificate, with square-cornered, oblong end pieces. The work on the back, excepting the legend, which is carried in the scroll, is of lathe work, and the words “United States” “Silver Certificate” and “Two Dollars”” will be repeated many times in the central design and hi the ornamental hand-wrought border. The object of the bureau of engraving and printing has been to obtain security through fine work, and it is believed that the free use of lathe work, together with fine portrait work, will make these notes practically impossible of successful imitation.


Article originally appeared in the Wichita Eagle on October 29, 1886 (Click Here to View)

Join the Rethinking the Dollar education: Listen, Learn and Share

  1. Test Your Money IQ : Dollar Quiz
  2. Get further education with the FREE eBook: The Simplicity of Money
  3. Subscribe to RTD Interviews and learn from the experts on the status of the Dollar: RTD Channel


Five Reasons to Rethink the Dollar

Start Your Dollarcation With RTD University

Get This FREE E-Book Now!!!

* indicates required

Support RTD On Patreon Here:

Controlled Demolition of the American Empire Book

Get Your RTD Silver Round Here


Find out the latest from RTD by joining the mailing list. Your information is 100% confidential.

* indicates required