Friday, on my lunch break, I met with one of the curators of a local history museum. The purpose of the visit was to let him, Kevin, get a look at what I thought might be a Confederate bond coupon. Slightly larger than our current US greenbacks, the bill was printed on single side. Wording on the bill indicated that it was issued from a bank in Richmond, noted that the bond coupon was not legal tender for paying export duties, and, in an early bit of Sesch optimism, claimed the bill marked the "Ratification of a treaty of peace between the free states and the states of the Northern Union." There was no date on the bill, but this mention of the peace treaty that never happened made 1861 the most likely date. The coupon featured an image of Davis and some Richmond politico or banking bigwig that I couldn't identify. A wonderful example of the sort of brutally ironic symbolism Civil War Era rebs were so amazingly comfortable with, the vignette featured lady liberty, there presumably there to further the cause of freedom for rich white folks throughout Cotton Land.
The bond turned out to be nothing of historical interest, most likely a reproduction made sometime after the war. Still, I got a nice little tour out of it.
I got to play with some of their extensive stash of historical counterfeit notes. They had several notes from Operation Bernhard, the German effort to flood the UK with bad paper. In 1942, under the leadership of SS Major Bernhard Kruger, inmates of the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp were put to work counterfeiting five, ten, twenty, and fifty-pound notes. These notes would later be put into circulation by a ring of some 100 German agents in the UK and other regions. All told, the camp inmates produced more than 100 million pounds.
Later, the inmates went to work reproducing the American $100 dollar bill. They completed their designs and ran off a couple hundred dollars worth of fakes; but the operation was shut down shortly thereafter and full production never began.
One of things that make the Sachsenhausen counterfeits interesting is that the pound notes were sabotaged by the inmates. Every note contains the same two tiny flaws, difficult to spot under even close scrutiny, but once the pattern is identified, immediately recognizable. Sadly, unable to ever get word out, the inmates were unable to stop the circulation of several Sachsenhausen notes. Mercifully, poor organization prevented many of the Sachsenhausen notes from ever getting into circulation and a vast majority of the bills were dumped into a nearby lake.
In 1945, the inmate counterfeiters were ordered moved to another camp where they would all be executed. The approach of Allied forces, however, prevented their execution.
As a footnote to the story, in the Nazi government paid one of its spies, a valet to the British ambassador in Ankara, in Sachsenhausen notes. After the war the spy attempted to sue the German government for back pay and failed.
Aside from the counterfeits, they had several other interesting pieces displayed. On of my favorites was 20, 25 pieces of old school ticker tape that a Boston stock broker had clipped a mounted for display in his office. The strips depicted the staggering rapid decline of the market on the day of the great crash. One of the limitations of ticker tape was that you couldn't tell the time between reports, but with just the short length this broker had, you can watch a handful of stock tumble from triple- to single-digit value. Under the strips of tape, the broker appended a type note reading "This is what a stock market crash looks like."
Went to my regular place off Union Square. Jakub asked where May was: "Where's your beautiful wife?"
"She's working. But she's not my wife. Soon. I gave her the ring and asked her to marry me. Next summer, we'll do it."
The barbers got so excited they seemed to forget that I don't speak Russian. I'm assuming they were happy for me and congratulating me, though, honestly, I couldn't swear to it in a court of law.
Haven't been to the Strand (enormous used bookstore just South of Union Square) in awhile, so I swung by after the haircut.
Found a tiny book of nonsense verse and illustration by Mervyn Peake. The intro is by his widow and is interesting, if not particularly lengthy or deep. The poems themselves are considerably darker than Lear's similar works.
Also picked up the Archie and Mehitabel Omnibus. A steal at four dollars. I hated these when I was a kid. I found them difficult to read and tedious. It was only later, in college, that I took a second look and "got" them.
May, on seeing the omnibus, suddenly made the connection to one of her favorite Calvin and Hobbes strips. Calvin imagines he's been shrunk down to the size of a bug and he's jumping from key to key on a typewriter. Later, Calvin's father asks, "Who typed 'Help, I'm a bug' on my typewriter?" Calvin, walking by: "I don't know. A bug apparently. How strange." Never saw the connection before but it seems to be a reference.
May and I, Bar Tabac, after church brunch. The Old Testament reading had been the David and Goliath story. We were talking about legendary kings and how David and Solomon struck us as odd because, though much of their stories are taken up with accounts of victories and wars and whatnot, they also have large sections of their stories dedicated to policy implementation and civic works and census taking and the like. In short, within their stories, they actually govern.
Gilgamesh mostly spends his time plaguing his own people, hunting, going on adventures, and hanging with his friend.
To the degree that sacrifices of royal family members is a policy choice, we see Agamemnon acting in the role of governmental head – but mostly the kings and leaders of the Homeric world seem to show up only when it is time fight or best a monster or fall victim to a curse. Certainly we learn more about the leadership role in the works of historians like Herodotus, but then we leave the realm of legend and enter into history (though, admittedly, the distinctions are not so fine in the early days).
Arthur doesn't produce policy until T. H. White invents something to justify why Arthur was supposedly such a great king in the first place. 'Till White, he spends most of his time screwing, fighting, questing, and getting killed.
We had no conclusions, or even a thesis. It was chatter.
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