LINCOLN STOVEPIPE HAT OF MACERATED U.S. GREENBACKS BY O. DUKE

$395.00 ON HOLD

Quantity Available: 1

Item Code: 1202-138

This portrait bust of Lincoln was molded from macerated U.S. currency, a popular genre of souvenir among tourists of Washington, D.C., from about 1875 into the 1920s, who might be impressed by the Treasury Building and the massive amounts of money going into and out of it. This shows flecks of green from the printed banknotes, and has remnants of the original paper label on the bottom that has some losses, but preserves most of the text: “Made of U.S. National Green-/backs redeemed and macerated at the U.S. / Treasury. Estimated at $[….00.] / Made by O. DUKE / [715] 14th St. N.W. Washington, D. C.”

Instead of burning old currency taken out of circulation, which still left some fragments floating around that might be found and redeemed, the government switched to maceration in 1874, which ground it while wet into pulp. The prospect of seeing many  thousands of dollars destroyed was a novelty, portrayed in some real-photo postcards, and the resulting pulp itself, containing small bits of paper and traces of ink, became the medium for molded souvenirs for sale to tourists of the Capital, with several producers creating portrait busts of notables, patriotic Lincoln or Uncle Sam top hats, miniature buildings like the Washington Monument, but also a wide variety of knickknacks like small animals, shoes, etc. They remained for sale in souvenir shops well into the 1920s, but lost a lot of appeal after 1908 when the government added chemicals to the pulp, destroying the bits of color, though a few entrepreneurs then added their own bits of paper.

Duke was one of several makes and his labels show up in a couple of different forms. The amount referred to the value of batch of currency destroyed to make the pulp from which this was made, of course, adding to its value as a novelty and souvenir.    [sr][ph:m]

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