"We're in the basement Learning to print, all of it hot Ten-twenty-thirty million dollars ready to be spent We're stackin' 'em against the wall Those gangster presidents" --The B52s, "Legal Tender" "Making fake paper money was a lot trickier than making coins. For a successful operation, you needed a whole network of distributors and shovers to spread the coney in various cities. You needed lots of cash to put together the team, and to pay for the most vital member -- a talented, experienced engraver. But none of this discouraged coney men, since the potential payoff was so great. By 1864 an astounding 50 percent of the paper money in circulation was fake... "Americans were beginning to lose faith in the green slips of paper. And if citizens stopped trusting the currency, there'd be no way for the government to pay for the war. The entire economy would collapse. A very frightened Treasury Department responded in 1865 by creating the Secret Service, and charging the agency with leading the fight against counterfeiters.
Today we think of Secret Service agents as the guys in dark suits protecting the president, but that happened later. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, then President James Garfield in 1881, and then President William McKinley in 1901. Only then did it occur to Congress that someone should be guarding the president, and they gave the job to the Secret Service. Back in the 1870s, the one and only task of the Secret Service was to stop the counterfeiters." LINCOLN'S GRAVE ROBBERS is the true and oft-times wacky story of how a bunch of criminals involved in the counterfeiting trade sought to steal the corpse of Abraham Lincoln so that they could essentially hold it ransom and subsequently exchange it for outlaw engraver Ben Boyd -- reputedly the best of his kind in the country -- who was in Federal prison, along with a bunch of cash (and I don't mean the counterfeit stuff). Fortunately, participants in the scheme were already in the cross hairs of Secret Service operative Patrick Tyrrell, and this led the plan to ultimately fail (even though there is a significant Keystone Cops element to the tale). In the process of learning the story about this body snatching scheme gone terribly wrong, we come to also know the early history of counterfeiting in America, and we get great, detailed instructions on how coney men would pass the counterfeit bills and get away with it -- even if someone immediately pegged one as being counterfeit or even if the coney was grabbed in the act by a lawman.
Throughout the story we are also exposed to a wealth of colorful terms -- such as bone orchard; boodle carrier; cracksman; flush times; out of joint; roper; shover; and toes up -- that are later compiled and defined in a Glossary of Phrases. Set against the historic presidential election of 1876, LINCOLN'S GRAVE ROBBERS is an exciting, bizarre, and memorable tale about good guys and bad guys and how money makes the world go round. 224 pages Ages 10 and up Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, Librarian, California USA See more of his recommendations: Richie's Picks _http://richiespicks.com_ (http://richiespicks.com/)