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Clark, Spencer

Born in Brattleboro, Vermont. He was unsuccessful in several businesses and filed for bankruptcy in 1842. He began work as a clerk in the Treasury Department in 1855. Chief of the National Currency Bureau August 22, 1862, to November 17, 1868. Several names were used before the name Bureau of Engraving and Printing was used about July 1868 and adopted in September 1868. Private printers who lost government contracts opposed Clark. Some stories about Clark were apparently lies spread by his opponents.

Early issues of the Bureau's paper money were hand signed by a staff of clerks. Clark proposed that signatures be included on the plates and printed on the notes. Clark introduced the technique of dry printing. The process was dropped when Clark resigned in 1868. It would not be used again until 1952. Head of Bureau of Vital Statistics at the Agriculture Department.

Clark appears on paper money: 5c Fractional Currency, third issue

The decision to portray Clark on the fractional currency was made by Clark. It had apparently been the intent of congress to portray the explorer William Clark. (Another theory suggests that Freeman Clarke, controller of the currency, was the intended subject.) In reaction to the controversy, Congress passed a bill April 7, 1866, prohibiting the portrayal of any living person on bonds or banknotes.

bio: BNR Jun 83; BEP Website (photo) Profile CW 2/12/2001


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