Money Washing Machine : NHC History Blog
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Franklin Noll, PhD
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Franklin Noll's Blog on Monetary and Financial History.

Money Washing Machine

by Franklin Noll on 08/01/20

Cash recycling meant something very different in the early 20th century.

Until the 1920s, the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve did not return used currency back into circulation. All notes returning to the Treasury, regardless of condition, were destroyed either by burning or through maceration (turning into pulp).

On exception was a short-lived operation of cleaning used currency in a special washing machine (see image) and then re-issuing it.  The machines were invented by the Treasury and installed in various offices.  Notes were washed, had sizing applied, and were dried at the rate of 35,000 notes a day per machine.

This process ran from around 1910 until 1916. The all-cotton banknotes produced during World War I did not wash well, ending the operation.

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