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Counterfeiters and The Beginnings of the Secret Service

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edited December 16, 2021 5:07AM in U.S. Coin Forum

The United States Secret Service was set up in 1865 at the end of the Civil War. Its primary task was the suppression of counterfeit money. Within a decentralized system of over 1,600 banks and many other financial institutions issuing their own currency, counterfeiters had a relatively easy task.
William P. Wood, the first chief of the US Secret Service, was an unconventional individual within a government bureaucracy. A former detective and bodyguard, he had also run the prison in Washington, DC. Although somewhat controversial, Wood’s activities led to the establishment of a powerful agency. Operatives, as secret service agents were then known, rapidly gained a reputation for dedicated and forceful work. Towards the end of the century, the Secret Service had developed an impressive system of recording counterfeit notes and criminals by pioneering the use of photography.

photograph of a counterfeiter’s coin press from Secret Service (Courtesy of the US Secret Service)
By the late 19th century, the Secret Service had established rules which helped with investigations and the judicial process. Many suspects were photographed after arrest, often by professional photographers. Exact details of the arrest, the age, and identity of each person were made. Names of special agents, dates of the trial, sentence, and jail are all recorded. Mugshots list on the back of the photo all information about a defendant.

Rules and Regulations for the Guidance of Agents and Other Employees of the Secret Service Division of the US Treasury Department, 1906. Compiled and arranged from general orders and circular letters during the past twenty-five years. Approved by Leslie M. Shaw, Secretary of the Treasury, Washington, Government Printing Office, 1906 (Courtesy of the US Secret Service)

Agents of the US Secret Service operated in the late 19th century under various rules, which were assembled in this book. It illustrates how the USSS became more authoritative over the first three decades of its existence. As a result evidence gathered by the agency was admissible in US courts.
More interesting info here http://numismatics.org/the-beginnings-of-the-secret-service/

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