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American Banknote Company (Famous Stock, Bond, Old Paper Money and Stamp Printer)
Beautifully engraved certificate from American Banknote Company issued no later than 1959. This historic document was printed by the American Banknote Company and has an
ornate border around it with a vignette of an eagle. This item has the signatures of the Company’s Officers.
Across the globe in private collections, in vaults, safety
deposit boxes and even passed hand-to-hand in daily, common
transactions, are thousands of pieces of valuable, fine art.
These range from antique stock and bond certificates, traded
and sought by collectors around the world, to the daily
exchange of a high technology, hologram-bearing credit card.
And while these art forms are diversified in function and form,
each also represents a miniature example of the early
engraver's art-raised to its finest level. They also document, in
a living legacy, the growth and expansion of America's capital
markets and represent one of this country's oldest, continuous
corporate success stories-the American Bank Note Company.
The American Bank Note Company traces its beginning back to
1795. This was the important midpoint of the decade following
the ratification of the American Constitution, a time when
there was a pressing need for regular banking service and for
circulating bank notes. The place was Philadelphia and the
man was Robert Scot.
The Federally chartered Bank of the United States opened in
1791 in Philadelphia, and a mint was established shortly
thereafter. Robert Scot was appointed its first engraver. In
succeeding years, aided by Jacob Perkins, the Yankee inventor
who advanced the art of engraving and platemaking, Scot
formed the nucleus of what would later become the American
Bank Note Company. In 1810, three Philadelphia engravers,
with associations to Scot, formed Murray, Draper, Fairman &
The firm will be remembered for two fundamental
contributions: (a) it established the value of combining art and
technology as a bank-note safety measure, and (b) it
established world supremacy of American steel plate engraving
methods. The two contributions gained the organization
significance in the era which began in 1823, an era which
culminated 35 years later in the formation of the American
Bank Note Company.
During this period, two brothers, Cyrus and Asher Durand,
created many of the innovations that characterize
financial-certificate engraving even today. Cyrus is credited
with introducing, or improving, many of the tools of the trade,
including machines for engraving straight lines, wavy lines and
ovals, as well as a pantograph size-reducing machine. Later,
he also developed a transferring machine and a geometric
lathe. Asher had a different claim to fame-he was the first to
popularize Greek gods and goddesses in the vignettes (small
pictures) in documents of value. These devices are of import
in that they are hard to copy, their significance is recognized,
they are aesthetic-and they are timeless.
During this 35-year period, one of the predecessor companies
to the American Bank Note Company produced the first issue
of U.S. postage stamps. Another predecessor company
established green as the "money color."
The formal creation of the American Bank Note Company in
1858 was very well received by the banks and companies that
were its principal clients because it promised the stability,
continuity and security which users of documents of value had
The next twenty years were eventful for the American Bank
Note Company. In 1863, during the American Civil War, the
U.S. monetary system was radically altered with the passage
of the National Bank Act. Under the National Bank Act, locally
issued bank notes were superseded by notes made under
Federal control and direction. Two other important changes
occurred with the issuance of legal tenders and National Bank
Notes, with a portion of this business awarded to the American
Bank Note Company. And the years following the war
witnessed enormous industrial expansion with a corresponding
rise in the use of engraved certificates for securities.
Production of these notes was slow and costly, but
nevertheless, the American Bank Note Company managed to
turn out tens of millions of National Bank Notes each year, plus
postage stamps and fractional currency, as well as securities
certificates for public and private issuers.
During the Civil War, the company's reputation for excellent
quality work expanded internationally, and it began to receive
major orders from foreign governments. These included
Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, Greece, Italy, Peru,
Uruguay and several British territories. These orders were for
currencies and, occasionally, stamps and government bonds.
The American Bank Note Company was thriving in the private
sector, as well, during this period. In an effort to make its
stock certificates as secure as possible against counterfeiters,
the New York Stock Exchange issued a rule requiring that all
certificates be engraved by some "responsible" party.
In 1875, the Treasury Department's Bureau of Engraving and
Printing was created to print all U.S. notes and securities,
hence bringing this era of the company's history to a sudden
close. However, the company consolidated its operations with
those of another financial engraver, and the crises was
overcome. In fact, the merger of the two companies created
an institution that was even stronger, as the next decades
The new American Bank Note Company prospered as the
United States economy surged through the close of the 1800s.
As the country took its place among the foremost nations of
the world, much of the industrial expansion within America was
based upon public financing. This required the printing of stock
certificates and bonds in large volume, a substantial source of
revenue to the company. Additionally, the company prospered
during the 1880s, 1890s, and into the Twentieth Century from
the increasing number of foreign governments using American
Bank Note Company currency notes.
In 1891, the American Bank Note Company introduced
"planchette paper," paper containing colored paper discs
rather than silk fibers or silk threads. These discs possess
various characteristics, but all of them instantly reveal any
counterfeit. This paper is supplied by Crane & Co., which also
supplies the Bureau of Engraving and Printing with its currency
paper needs. Today, this paper is known to millions around the
Another innovation came in 1891, this one introduced by a
long-standing customer of the American Bank Note Company,
the American Express Company. The new product was the
traveler's check, and it became a field in which American Bank
Note soon became the pre-eminent supplier of engraved
travelers check forms, incorporating a variety of safeguards
against counterfeiting. Today, the American Bank Note
Company supplies virtually all of the major U.S. banks with
In 1893, the company designed, engraved and printed a
notable series of postage stamps, known as the Columbian
issue, to honor Christopher Columbus at the time of the
Columbian Exhibit in Chicago. Following their date of issue, this
series of 15 stamps became highly prized collectors items.
The decades since 1911 have witnessed almost every
imaginable sort of political, economic and scientific upheaval,
including two world wars, several world-shaking revolutions,
high prosperity, deep depression, the era of nuclear energy
and the exploration of outer space. Old nations have
disappeared and new ones have emerged. Through it all,
however, the American Bank Note Company, founded on the
premise of merging high quality art with technology, has
survived. Today, the company is one of the three related
companies that comprise United States Banknote Corporation,
a holding company. (The company stock is traded on the New
York Stock Exchange under the symbol IBK.) The two affiliated
businesses are American Banknote Company Grafica e Servicos
Ltd., the largest private-sector security printer in Brazil and
American Bank Note Holographics, Inc., the world's largest
producer of holograms for security applications.
UBK's president, Ron Glover, says that American Bank Note
continues to focus on the design, engraving and production of
counterfeit-resistant documents of value, the printing of which
remains a specialized niche within the printing industry. These
documents continue to utilize special papers and inks,
elaborate steel engraved designs and intaglio printing process.
This "dry printing" method eliminated the need to add moisture
before the press operation and to cope with the sheet
distortion that resulted. The American Bank Note process
requires the use of specialized printing presses which apply
extremely high pressure to paper and ink, thereby creating the
embossed effect. This high-technology innovation was of such
quality that, eventually, even the Treasury Department's
Bureau of Engraving and Printing adopted the process in the
Complimenting its intaglio printing process, the American Bank
Note Company also uses specially designed lithographic
undertints, featuring fine-line workings in various colors. These
workers create prismatic or rainbow effects with line-on-line
and front-to-back registration which, with the further
incorporation of proprietary ink and film manipulation, further
enhance document security. The company continues to
enforce high levels of security throughout all phases of
manufacturing, storage and distribution.
During the 1940s, the American Bank Note Company worked
with American Cyanamid Company and Crane & Co., the
company's paper manufacturer, to develop "Melamine" paper
which provides increased resistance to folding, tearing, and
rubbing, as well as the important quality of wet strength or
resistance to wear when subjected to moisture.
In more recent years, security printing and electronics have
found many ways to join forces. Magnetic inks and character
patterns that electronic scanners can read are making it
possible to combine the safety and accuracy of steel
engraving and printing with the high-speed, automatic handling
characteristic of electronic processing.
Recently, through its affiliate, American Bank Note
Holographics, the firm has developed, produced and marketed
holograms for use in a variety of anti-counterfeiting and
commercial applications. These laser-generated,
three-dimensional images can be permanently applied to a
broad spectrum of products, including credit cards, drivers
licenses and identification cards. Holograms can be verified by
sight without any special viewing equipment or machinery, and
greater security can be easily achieved by adding hidden
information to the hologram visible only with the aid of special
devices or combining holograms with machine-readable
information, such as bar codes or magnetic strips.
Since its inception, the American Bank Note Company has
developed an extensive library of engraved dies, rolls and
plates used for printing and reprinting stock and bond
certificates, banknotes and other documents of value utilizing
the intaglion method of printing. The company's library enables
it to create intaglio printed documents quickly and cost
effectively in response to customer demands. It employs
state-of-the-art computer composition, design and imaging
capabilities in order to process design changes and to create
new designs more economically and rapidly. It is generally
acknowledged that its combination of intaglio printing
equipment, proprietary anti-counterfeiting technology,
computer composition capabilities and library of engravings
makes it the leading security printer in North America.
The company's current product line includes United States
Department of Agriculture food coupons, postage stamps,
stock and bond certificates for many of America's 17,000
publicly traded companies, travelers checks, foreign currency,
passports and various commercial documents of value, such as
gift certificates, coupons, bank checks and other bank
The great age of the company raises the question: "what does
the art of survival consist of?" It certainly means flexibility and
remaining alert to current and future opportunities, calling
upon a history of innovation and a ready responsiveness to
the dual challenges of an evolving society and an evolving
economy. It means reorganizing, reincorporating and realigning
operations; adapting to new conditions and entering new
markets when old ones decline and disappear.
American Bank Note Company president Glover said, in a
tribute to perseverance and endurance, that the company will
celebrate its bi-centennial this year, saying that two hundred
years in business is a monument to the courage, agility and
resourcefulness of a company's people and their commitment
to quality, security and serving the needs of their customers.
The milestones and monuments of this American enterprise are
unique. Unlike some companies where cornerstones or tall
buildings are symbols of success, the on-going legacy of this
company is literally in the hands of millions, in the form of
stock certificates for today's investors, traveler's checks,
individual credit cards with holograms, and in the private
collections of 18th and 19th century financial memorabilia
found around the world.
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