Welcome to A Walk Through The Universe as we continue to look at the color green throughout the month of March. Last week, chlorophyll and plants, this week United States currency...it's quite green...but why? I did a bit of checking around and turns out it's one of the most popular questions put to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the government agency in charge of printing our money. You can find the full answer to this and many other questions at their library's site here. An excerpt follows here:
It is known that at the time of the introduction of small-sized notes in 1929, the use of green was continued because pigment of that color was readily available in large quantities, the color was relatively high in its resistance to chemical and physical changes, and green was psychologically identified with the strong and stable credit of the Government. In the course of preparing this history, much attention was given to the matter. Extensive research developed evidence in support of the following explanation:
With the growing popularity of U.S. currency and the development of photography in the mid-1800s, it was customary to print the notes in black combined with colored tints as a deterrent to counterfeiting. The early camera saw everything in black. Features that were distinguishable on a note by color variant lost their individuality when reproduced photographically. However, the counterfeiter soon discovered that the colored inks then in use could easily be removed from a note without disturbing the black ink. He could eradicate the colored portion, photograph the remainder, and then make a desired number of copies to be overprinted with an imitation of the colored parts. The solution to the problem lay in the development of an ink that could not be erased without adversely affecting the black coloring. Such an ink was developed and the patent rights were purchased by Tracy R. Edson, who later was one of the founders of the American Bank Note Company. This is one of the same firms that produced the first paper money issued by the United States. The faces of these and other early notes produced under contract were printed with a green tint, presumably of the protective ink.
It is not unusual in printing with oil-base-type inks, such as was the "patent green," for the color to strike through to the opposite side of a sheet. It might, therefore, be conjectured that the backs of the early notes were printed in a darker shade of ordinary green to make the tint "strike through" less obvious.
Since the transition of printing money exclusively at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing was gradual, it is logical to assume that the backs of the notes produced there during the intervening period were printed in green for the sake of uniformity. Once the BEP was on full-scale production, there was no reason to change the traditional color and so the practice was continued.
I know there are artists who are using currency in their work, either through a depiction of money or through mixed media....but in my initial searches I stumbled on money origami...I had no idea! Maybe you knew there were innumerable sites, videos and tutorials out there that show you how to make untold origami delights with paper currency, but I didn't. One name seems to come to the fore....the true master of money origami seems to be a fellow named Won Park who is making some pretty intricate items with American money. You can do a search and find lots of hits and he has a page of Facebook here.
As the paper money from so many other countries in the world comes in a variety of colors, I can only imagine origami made from other currency. Anyone have any examples or names to share?
This brings to mind one more thing. In the fall, John and I saw an amazing PBS video, Between The Folds that was all about paper folding, from many angles, including sculpture, education, mathematics and the sciences and it is....HIGHLY recommended. We gave several copies as Christmas gifts and it's on our list to buy for ourselves. I had a great walk through the universe this week...hope you've enjoyed hearing about it and now I'm off to hook up with Won Park on his Facebook page!