Nicholas J. Bruyer has accomplished a remarkable feat with his beautifully illustrated new history book, U.S. Treasury Notes 1812–1865. Bruyer’s work brings fresh understanding to a numismatic subject that is often merely summarized, but which deserves this level of careful attention and creative exposition.
At Whitman Publishing we’ve explored just the surface of America’s Treasury Notes. Chapter 21 of Q. David Bowers’s Whitman Encyclopedia of U.S. Paper Money gives a nine-page overview of the subject. In Arthur and Ira Friedberg’s Guide Book of United States Paper Money there’s a six-page section on “Treasury Notes of the War of 1812.” The subject is summarized even more briefly with two pages in Kenneth Bressett’s popular Guide Book of United States Currency. Various other Whitman books touch lightly on Treasury Notes, often as a precursor to much more in-depth discussion of state-chartered bank notes and later money.
Now, with the assistance of Stack’s Bowers Publishing, Nicholas Bruyer has given U.S. Treasury Notes the spotlight they deserve. He presents them in a comprehensive manner, colorfully illustrated and rich in historical narrative. Bruyer explores the use of these notes not only as investment vehicles—employed by the government to stave off bankruptcy—but also as an early form of national currency. U.S. Treasury Notes 1812–1865 is more than a catalog; it’s a well-reasoned study that offers new perspectives in American financial and economic history.
It’s true that for many of these notes fewer than a half dozen specimens are known to still exist. But collectors love to learn about interesting specialties, even if the collectibles themselves live mainly in the realm of museum holdings and expensive personal collections. Pattern coins, famous federal super-rarities, private and territorial gold pieces, and other rarefied specialties come to mind. For those hobbyists who are able to actively collect such treasures, enjoy the hunt! Everyone else can immerse themselves in well-written, informative, handsomely illustrated books. Nicholas Bruyer’s U.S. Treasury Notes 1812–1865 fills that need very nicely. Because the era of U.S. Treasury Notes, from the War of 1812 through the American Civil War, is so fascinating, Bruyer’s book holds great interest for numismatists—those history buffs who study money—but also for everyone who wants a deeper understanding of our nation’s early formative decades.
Book reviewer Dennis Tucker is a life member of the American Numismatic Association, a Fellow of the Academy of Political Science, and secretary pro tem of the Rittenhouse Society. As publisher at Whitman Publishing since 2004, he has worked on hundreds of books on numismatics, banking and economic history, and other nonfiction subjects. He has written about paper money for hobby publications including his column “From the Colonel’s Desk,” and is the 2013 recipient of the Society of Paper Money Collectors’ Forrest Daniel Award for Literary Excellence. Since 2016 Tucker has served the U.S. Treasury Department as the numismatic specialist of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee.