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Monday, April 4, 2016

Japan's First Money Making Machine?

Here's an intriguing retyping of a newspaper clipping from the April 24, 1872 edition of The Sun newspaper of Baltimore, Maryland.

It's about Japan's first money printing press coming via the U.S.

Superintendent McCartee, of the bureau of engraving and printing, Treasury Department, is preparing six roller presses for plate printing, which are to be used in part for printing the national bank notes of Japan.
He has already forwarded to Japan four numbering machines, with type cut in Japanese characters by one of his engravers.
The members of the embassy express themselves highly pleased with the manner in which their orders for printing machinery have been filled.
On Tuesday next, the principal members of the embassy will again inspect Mr. McCartees's bureau.

- 30 -

While the above presses may have indeed been Japan's first money printing presses... but did these printing presses mentioned above actually print banknotes for Japan?

I can't find evidence of that... at least not for the first national issue of 1873, the Great Imperial Japanese Circulating Notes, featuring the one-yen banknote - image at very top. For your reference, one yen equals 1.5g of gold, as Japan had, as of 1871 moved to the Gold Standard.

In 1871, as part of the gold standard, Japan began issuing paper banknotes, with those printed in Germany:

1871 - first Meiji one-yen banknote printed in Germany for Japan.
Still... it is possible these American banknote printing presses were used - but just not yet.

The images depicted on the obverse of the one-yen note show, on the left, the bow of a ship holding warriors, with a single Japanese samurai warrior at the right armed with a bow and arrows.

The reverse shows the coastal with the land warriors defeating the Mongols in Hakata Futoh (Harbor).

Says Wikipedia: "Hakata is one of the oldest cities in Japan. In the Middle Ages Hakata, which faces onto the Genkai-Nada Channel (玄界灘) dividing Japan from Korea, was a base for merchants who traded with China and Korea, and the city housed Japan's first Chinatown."

As far as the battle depicted goes, Wikipedia again offers us: "The Mongol invasions of Japan (元寇 Genkō), which took place in 1274 and 1281, were major military efforts undertaken by Kublai Khan to conquer the Japanese archipelago after the submission of Goryeo (Korea) to vassaldom. Ultimately a failure, the invasion attempts are of macro-historical importance because they set a limit on Mongol expansion and rank as nation-defining events in the history of Japan.

The Mongol invasions are considered a precursor to early modern warfare. One of the most notable technological innovations during the war was the use of explosive, hand-thrown bombs.

The invasions are referred to in many works of fiction, and are the earliest events for which the word kamikaze ("divine wind") is widely used, originating in reference to the two typhoons faced by the Mongol fleets."

Above, we have the Great Imperial Japanese Circulating two-yen note. It has a samurai warrior in armor on left and right, and a vignette of a castle gateway on the reverse.

I believe that at this time - 1873, Japan had the 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 yen bills printed.

These banknote denominations were actually printed by the Continental Banknote Company in New York, USA.

The money was issued on Tokyo's First National Bank of Japan, and are known as the Dai-Ichi Kangyo.

In Japan, the National Bank Act of 1872 established four banks until 1873... but by 1897 Japan had about 153 national banks.

While these 153 national banks all issued identical convertible banknotes, the name of the bank issuer was different. It's kind of like how the seal on the U.S. money has different States listed as the issuer... want to collect U.S. money... try getting all 50 State-issued $1, $5, $10 and $20 bills. If you can also collect the $50 and $100's, you are rich and should have no problem having one awesome collection.

By 1876, an amendment to the National bank Act of 1872 meant banks could make their banknotes non-convertible. And then civil war struck (again)...

Known as the Seinan Civil War or Seinan Rebellion or the Great Rebellion, this was Japan's last civil war, though as a pundit I would be remiss if I did not add that war is hardly civil. 

When the war broke out between the Satsuma and Loyalists armies, severe inflation also hit the country.

To fight the inflation, the Government reduced spending and removed paper currency from circulation.

To finance the war effort of the rebels, leader Takamori Saigō (surname first) began to print up his own paper money.  It looked like this:

Saigō Takamori bannknote issued in 1877... I wish I could tell you the denomination.

So... the civil war... featuring 3,000 men led by Takamori, the Satsuma rebels battled 50,000 Loyalists were led by General Yamagata Arimoto (surname first).

Like Butch and Sundance, the Satsuma rebels were trounced and fled to the Kitagawa River before returning to Kagoshima, with the ultimate conclusion of the rebels commiting suicide at Mt. Shiroyama, considering this to be the honorable thing to do... which I find strange considering the treasonous act of trying to overthrow a government.

Thanks to Vinnie for the heads up on the story from the Readex "America's Historical Newspapers" database. Click HERE for more on Readex, an important library of historical knowledge.

Ya can't have too much knowledge...  by the way, I hate people who say "too much information". It's never too much... stuff like that can teach you, as well as provide more fodder for later jokes or gossip.

So... after the U.S. shipped the money printing presses to Japan, did the Japanese use them?

I can't find direct evidence of this - I probably could if I was in Japan and could read old Japanese... however, although Germany and then the U.S. printed paper banknotes for Japan, I believe that after the Japanese became familiar enough with the printing presses they had purchased, they may have later printed their own money, perhaps purchasing the U.S. printing plates, or recreating their own.

But when? We do know that:

  • in 1877 and 1878, the Imperial Japanese National Bank (Dai Nippon Teikoku Kokuritsu Ginko) issued 1 and 5 yen notes;
  • Imperial Japanese Paper Money was issued between 1881 and 1883 in denominations between 20 sen and 10 yen;
  • and in 1885, the Bank of Japan began issuing notes, in denominations of 1, 5, 10 and 100 yen.
Because the Japanese were eager learners of Western technology, I would guess that the first paper banknotes printed on the Japanese printing presses mentioned above, was first done so in 1877. Again, I have no proof of that, except detailed accounts from newspapers of the day praising the Japanese for their skill and willingness to learn new things.

As such, here (add a drum roll) is an 1877 Imperial Japanese National Bank one yen papernote:

By the way... do you see how things go for me? A small article to retype... could have left it at that... but I had to know what the money looked like... then discovered stuff about Japanese banks... and lastly, because of what was on those old bills, I had to learn more about Japanese history. This article took 12 hours to research, and a few more hours to write. I just wanted something simple...

And now... I'll have to do some research on what the Japanese civil war was like... Hmmm, wonder where I might find information on that?

ADDENDUM: My buddy Vinnie corrected me on a big point:
One thing about U.S. money.  For currency, there are not separate bills for each state.  The U.S. is divided up into 12 districts, each with a Federal Bank.
The notes are issued through each bank and identified with the letters A - K.  

You may have been thinking of what we did with quarters.  Over a 10-year period we issued quarters with reverse designs commemorating each of our 50 states in the order they were admitted to the Union. 

Actually, I wasn't thinking about the quarters... but I did think that because I saw different US states on seals on the $1 bills... I had assumed (poorly) that it meant there was a bill from each State. My bad. If I gather what Vince says, then there are 12 versions of each bill. That's still a decent way to collect things.

Thanks Vinnie.

Andrew Joseph

1 comment:

  1. kind of money antiquity very attractive, certainly it would be nice to be a collection