Massachusetts, 1 Dollar, 1807 (Counterfeit)

Massachusetts, 1 Dollar, 1807 (Counterfeit)

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This is a counterfeit note modeled on one issued by the Union Bank of Boston, Massachusetts, in 1807. The note was counterfeited by Stephen Burroughs. The original notes reads “The President and Directors of the Union Bank promise to pay [illegible] or bearer ONE DOLLAR on demand. Boston, 16 Feb, 1807.” The note is signed by Burroughs as the cashier, with another name listed as president. The note has been stamped twice with the label “COUNTERFEIT. L. G. Cash’r Union Bank, Boston.” Burroughs was a notorious scoundrel, well known among many New Englanders in the early 20th century. He was a man of such notoriety that upon his death in 1840, his phrenology profile was published in the American Phrenological Journal and his lack of brain development in the regions of “Veneration” and “Conscientiousness” was held up as proof of phrenology’s scientific basis.
Stephen Burroughs capitalized on the lack of a standard U.S. currency by counterfeiting paper money, which at the time was issued by local banks and had many different designs. He began his career as a counterfeiter by passing debased silver dollars in 1785. He was imprisoned in Massachusetts and escaped (and was recaptured) three times before he was finally released. Writing in his 1798 memoir, he painted his exploits as pranks rather than crimes. As the “real” banks continually failed, his crimes seemed all the more benign and in many places he was viewed as a folk hero. After his release from prison, he went to Canada in 1804, and began counterfeiting paper notes in Shipton and Stanstead. Burroughs was a man of exceptional wit and facility, which allowed him to repeatedly evade capture and eventually garner a pardon from Canadian Governor-General James Craig in 1811. After his pardon, Burroughs converted to Roman Catholicism and lived the rest of his days peacefully in Trois-Rivières, Canada.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Boston
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: 6.1 cm x 14.9 cm x.01 cm; 2 13/32 in x 5 7/8 in x in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
See more items in
Work and Industry: National Numismatic Collection
American Enterprise
Coins, Currency and Medals
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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