Why a Stationery Museum is Sooo much more Interesting than You’d Expect

Sign at the Crane Museum of Papermaking

This was the only picture to take, so by all means, relish it!

Crane Stationery has been making the paper for US currency since the Revolutionary War. Yup, write a thank you note, make some ACTUAL cash–all goes together in a perfect business model, doesn’t it?

There’s Nothing to See Here
The Museum of Papermaking is in the Massachusetts Berkshires, housed on the property where paper for money really is being made. An innocuous site until you notice the security. And unmarked semi trucks. And fences. And oddly they point all of this out to you on the tour… diversion tactics or an eager tour guide? Either way, makes a good story.

The First Gig
In 1879 the US government selected Crane  as the sole producer of banknote paper for the first national currency. And they’ve been the producer ever since.

Working Hard for the Money
There’s no job security, though. Only within the last few years has the government become prudent enough to award the contract for more than a year at a time. Now it’s a four-year stint. Can you imagine the paperwork for an annual proposal? No pun intended. I’m sure it was a security thing, but come on, that’s serious inefficiency.

No Such Thing as Easy Money
The currency paper and anti-counterfitting measures are both made at Crane, with different security tactics for each denomination. The actual printing happens at the Treasury. The watermark process is so secretive that it’s imprinted on the plant floor behind guarded curtains. Crane is so respected for their money-making work that they do it for 15 countries and also print their currency.  

(Not) Made in the USA
Ironically, American money is not made using American product. The cotton comes from all over the world except the US of A. Quality and cost, my friends. Yeah for capitalism! And FYI on the cotton, it’s the tiny shreds left in the boll after the initial “extraction”, not the parts used for clothes. Take about using everything but the squeal.

Well What About the Stationery?
If it’s got cold edges, it really is gold leaf. That’s applied by hand and takes a year to master the art. And talk about quality control: every sheet of paper is inspected by hand before being cut to size.

So now we know why their stationery costs a bit more.
Do you think it’s worth it?
Do you still use stationery?
Can you come up with money puns that I didn’t already include in this post?

Like to be surprised by seemingly mundane museums that turn out to be amazing? Check out this past post about the Clock and Watch Museum.


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