1861 counterfeit dime

The practice of counterfeiting money is as old as money itself.

Archaeologists have discovered counterfeit examples of coins produced in Lydia, a Roman province said to be the locale of the first metallic coinage, dating back to the 7th century BC.

Today, we tend to think of counterfeiters as individuals who mass produce paper money, usually in large denominations – $20 or higher.

But until relatively recently, nearly all counterfeit money came in coin form. This was because until relatively recently nearly all money came in coin form, and was known as “hard money” because it contained a commodity such as gold or silver which gave it intrinsic value.

A short 1884 article in the New York Times highlighted just how valuable even small coins – albeit those made of silver – were 130 years ago.

MARLBOROUGH, N.Y. – Counterfeit silver dollars, quarters and ten-cent pieces are being circulated in a number of the Hudson River counties. The quarter dollars and dimes are said to be very good imitations of genuine money. It is said that ticket agents on the line of the Hudson River Railroad have been told to scrutinize carefully all silver offered in payment for tickets. It is believed that the counterfeits were first put in circulation about three weeks ago.

Today it seems difficult to imagine someone going to the difficulty of attempting to counterfeit a dime, never mind working hard enough at it to do it well.

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In a case that likely has more than a few people checking their own personal genealogy, New York authorities say that a 97-year old who died last year left behind an estate valued at nearly $40 million but no heirs and no will.

Roman Blum survived the Holocaust and came to the US after World War II, where he became a successful real estate developer.

Blum married another Holocaust survivor, but she died in 1992 and the couple had no children.

Despite the advice of numerous friends, Blum declined to make a will for himself, leaving the largest unclaimed estate in New York State history, according to the state comptroller’s office.

A friend summed up the situation as only a New Yorker can:

“He was a very smart man but he died like an idiot,” said Paul Skurka, a fellow Holocaust survivor who befriended Blum after doing carpentry work for him in the 1970s.

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John Jay Court

John Marshall became chief justice of the United States on this date in 1801. Marshall would sit on the high court until 1835, and his opinions laid the basis for American constitutional law and made the US Supreme Court a co-equal branch of government, along with the legislative and executive branches.

But what of Marshall’s predecessors?

The best known of the three men to lead the Supreme Court before Marshall was John Jay, who, among other things, helped write the Federalist Papers with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.

During Jay’s nearly six years as chief justice (1789-1795), the high court ruled on just four cases, rather remarkable considering today the court receives petitions to hear some 7,000 cases annually.

Jay resigned as chief justice in June 1795 after being elected governor of New York. President George Washington named John Rutledge of South Carolina, an original high court associate justice who had resigned in 1791 to become chief justice of the South Carolina Court of Common Pleas and Sessions, to replace Jay.

Washington’s appointment took effect immediately as the US Senate was not in session.

However, Rutledge’s time on the court proved one of the shortest in the history of the nation. He was a vocal opponent to the Jay Treaty of 1794, which resolved issues remaining from the Revolutionary War but left many Americans unhappy.

His opposition cost him support in the administration and the senate. In addition, questions about his mental stability, driven at least partly by partisanship, were making the rounds.

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central park cannon

A cannon that sat in New York’s Central Park for nearly 150 years was discovered last week to have been loaded with a cannonball and black powder the entire time, it was announced last week.

Parks workers came upon a live cannonball, loaded in a Revolutionary War-era cannon currently being refurbished, New York television station CBS 2 reported. The artillery piece was one of two British cannon being stored at a Central Park shed near the 79th Street transverse, according to the station.

Preservation workers for the Central Park Conservancy called police last Friday after opening up the capped artillery piece for cleaning and finding the cannonball, cotton wadding and 28 ounces of black powder wrapped in wool, still capable of firing, according to the New York Times.

The loaded cannon was on public display from the 1860s until 1996, when the Central Park Conservancy decided to bring it indoors to protect it from vandalism. It was donated to the park around the time of the War Between the States.

The cannon, believed to be more than 220 years old, was apparently donated after it is believed to have been salvaged from the HMS Hussar, a British frigate that sank in the East River around 1780 during the American Revolution, according to the Associated Press.

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Streit’s, Inc., located on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, isn’t your typical family business.  

For one thing, it’s been around for nearly a century. For another, it produces, on an hourly basis, 1,100 pounds of matzo, the unleavened bread traditionally eaten by Jews during Passover.

In fact, Streit’s owns fully one-quarter of the US matzo market, according to Agence France-Presse.

“The business started originally with my great-grandfather Aron Streit and his elder son Irving Streit,” Alan Adler, one of the owners of the factory, told the wire service.

“We now have two fourth-generation cousins and one fifth-generation cousin running the business, and in addition there are other family members who have stock but don’t work every day.”

Producing the company’s Passover matzos is no simple task. The fare, which symbolizes the Jewish exodus from Egypt 5,000 years ago and traditionally consists of just flour and water, must be made following strict religious requirements.

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The Church of St. Vincent de Paul in Manhattan has a storied history.

Dedicated in 1869, it was the first integrated church in New York, it has long served as the spiritual home for the area’s French-speaking Catholics and today it is Manhattan’s last francophone parish.

Famed French cultural icon Edith Piaf was even married in the church in 1952.

Today, it serves a diverse body of Catholics from France, Belgium, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Switzerland, Togo and elsewhere. But the end appears near for the venerable building.

“Stained-glass windows depicting the story of France are chipped, and plastic bins lay across the floor to collect rain from the leaky roof while yellow cautionary tape marks areas damaged by the water,” according to Agence France-Presse.

Worse yet, the number of parishioners on the church’s rolls continues to dwindle; five years ago, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York made the decision to close St. Vincent de Paul for good.

However, churchgoers can get attached to their place of worship. Despite the fact refurbishing St. Vincent de Paul would cost an estimated $5-10 million, some aren’t giving up just yet.

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Activists decry the automobile’s impact upon the environment, but few take time to consider what life was like in the days before motor vehicles came along 

More than 500 tons of horse manure was collected from the streets of New York City daily in the early 1890s, according to the above video by the New-York Historical Society and NYC Media. 

That’s 1 million pounds of road apples, for those of you scoring at home. 

All that horse hockey was produced by 62,000 horses in 1,300 stables, according to Jean Ashton of the New York Historical Society. 

It was taken – with human waste – to the aptly named “Barren Island,” where it was reduced to fertilizer. 

In addition to the horrible stench that emanated from the horse manure and urine, the waste products were obvious breeding grounds for insects and disease.

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An example of one of the most enigmatic coins ever struck in the United States was sold this week for more than $7 million.

An exceedingly rare 1787 gold Brasher Doubloon was purchased for $7.395 million, one of the highest prices ever paid for a coin.

Blanchard and Co., the New Orleans-based coin and precious metals company that brokered the deal, said the doubloon was purchased by a Wall Street investment firm, but the identities of the buyer and seller were not disclosed, according to The Associated Press.

The Brasher Doubloon has a strange and perplexing history. It was minted by Ephraim Brasher, a goldsmith and neighbor of George Washington while Washington lived in New York.

It’s unclear if the coin, considered the first American-made gold coin denominated in dollars, was made by Brasher as a public service, or if he minted the pieces to distribute to New York state legislators, in a bid to secure a contract to strike copper coins.

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A Torah scroll that survived desecration by British troops during the American Revolution is now on display at the New-York Historical Society, part of an exhibit connected to the society’s three-year, $65 million reopening.

The scroll from the Shearith Israel synagogue, the oldest Jewish congregation in the United States and New York’s only Judaic house of worship for nearly a century, still has burn marks on it from the British ransacking of the city in 1776.

In August of that year, shortly after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, George Washington and his troops retreated to Manhattan Island after being routed by the British on Long Island.

Washington wanted desperately to hold onto whatever small scrap of New York he could, but by November his army had been booted from Manhattan. The British would occupy the area for the remainder of the war, according to The Jewish Week.

During the occupation, thousands of rebel sympathizers fled the city as British troops looted and pillaged, setting fire to homes, bridges and even Congregation Shearith Israel, which was built in 1729.

The synagogue had bought two Torah scrolls when it was built, one Sephardic and one Ashkenazi, since the community was split.

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The Village Voice not long ago ran an eye-opening series that detailed a New York City police precinct where supervisors told officers to manipulate crime statistics and make illegal arrests.

Eight-year veteran officer Adrian Schoolcraft recorded precinct roll calls, his precinct commander and other supervisors. He recorded street encounters. He recorded small talk and stationhouse banter. In all, he surreptitiously collected hundreds of hours of cops talking about their jobs.

The recordings — made without the knowledge or approval of the NYPD between June 1, 2008, and October 31, 2009, in the 81st Precinct in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of New York.

“They reveal that precinct bosses threaten street cops if they don’t make their quotas of arrests and stop-and-frisks, but also tell them not to take certain robbery reports in order to manipulate crime statistics,” the Voice reported. “The tapes also refer to command officers calling crime victims directly to intimidate them about their complaints.

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