Currency

Episode 371: Where Dollar Bills Come From

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  • A currency template is used to check that security features, such as a watermark of Andrew Jackson's image, are in the right place.
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    A currency template is used to check that security features, such as a watermark of Andrew Jackson's image, are in the right place.
    Robert Benincasa/NPR
  • Crane & Co. Vice President Doug Crane stands near a spool of paper used for $20 bills, as it spins at the company's Wahconah Mill.
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    Crane & Co. Vice President Doug Crane stands near a spool of paper used for $20 bills, as it spins at the company's Wahconah Mill.
    Robert Benincasa/NPR
  • The rotary digester, about 15 feet across, uses steam and chemicals to cook away the contaminants in cotton and linen fibers.
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    The rotary digester, about 15 feet across, uses steam and chemicals to cook away the contaminants in cotton and linen fibers.
    Robert Benincasa/NPR
  • Several tons of linen fibers drain and cool down after having been cooked in the rotary digester, a giant steel ball.
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    Several tons of linen fibers drain and cool down after having been cooked in the rotary digester, a giant steel ball.
    Robert Benincasa/NPR
  • A "size press" coats the currency paper so that it's compatible with the Bureau of Engraving and Printing's intaglio printing process.
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    A "size press" coats the currency paper so that it's compatible with the Bureau of Engraving and Printing's intaglio printing process.
    Robert Benincasa/NPR
  • Rewinder operator John Danylieko moves a finished roll of currency paper from the paper machine. The roll will be cut into three narrower rolls before being cut into sheets.
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    Rewinder operator John Danylieko moves a finished roll of currency paper from the paper machine. The roll will be cut into three narrower rolls before being cut into sheets.
    Robert Benincasa/NPR
  • Marites Wilbur performs a final inspection on a ream of 32-note currency paper sheets.
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    Marites Wilbur performs a final inspection on a ream of 32-note currency paper sheets.
    Robert Benincasa/NPR

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Every single dollar bill in the world — every $20, every $100, everything — is printed on paper made at one small mill in Massachusetts. That's been the case for 130 years.

On today's show, we visit the mill. And we hear the story of the guy who jumped out a hotel window to win the government contract to print all that paper.

Note: This episode was originally posted last year.

For more: Read David Kestenbaum's FOIA appeal and the Treasury Department's response.

Subscribe. Music: Temper Trap's "Sweet Disposition." Find us: Twitter/ Facebook/ Spotify/ Tumblr.

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