Downtown in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
The United States Treasury
Civil War to Civil Rights
—Downtown Heritage Trail —
The grand, pillared United States Treasury building that stands before you, its first section designed by Robert Mills in 1836, was the financial command center for the Union. It was here between 1861 and 1865 that the Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase raised the unprecedented sum of $2.7 billion to finance the government and the war.
Chase issued bonds, instituted internal revenue taxes, printed paper money called "greenbacks" and created the first personal income tax in the United States. He also developed the nation's first system of national banks to provide financial stability - a network that remained in place until our present Federal Reserve System was devised early in the 20th century.
Activity swirled around this building throughout the war. The 5th Massachusetts camped out here, cooking in the courtyard, and the basement became a bunker for the president and his cabinet in case of Confederate attack. It was here, also, that the federal government, of necessity, hired large numbers of women for the first time. These "lady clerks," as they were called, trimmed by hand the huge sheets of paper greenbacks invented by Secretary Chase.
In 1863, the Treasury Building provided the setting for an experiment devised by President Lincoln. Here
Erected by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number W.5.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Civil War to Civil Rights marker series.
Location. 38° 53.809′ N, 77° 2.027′ W. Marker is in Downtown, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of 15th Street, NW and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW on 15th Street, NW. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20500, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Frederick Douglass 1817 - 1895 (a few steps from this marker); Dr. Edgar J. Helms (a few steps from this marker); Paul Harris 1868 - 1947 (within shouting distance of this marker); The Hotel Washington (within shouting distance of this marker); The Extra Mile (within shouting distance of this marker); Edgar Allen 1862 - 1937 (within shouting distance of this marker); Alexander Hamilton Memorial (within shouting distance of this marker); Site of Rhodes Tavern (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Downtown.
Regarding The United States Treasury.
For the pictures in center left:
Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, whose restored office is seen above, is pictured “bleeding” funds from a willing United States in an1862 cartoon at right. (Library of Congress; National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.)
Secretary Chase hired “lady clerks” to hand cut his new greenbacks. (Library of Congress.)
Lower left picture:
Treasury’s north front, under construction, 1867. (Library of Congress.)
Lower right picture:
Branche K. Bruce, a U.S. Senator from Mississippi became the first African American Register of the Treasury in the administration of President James A. Garfield. Born a slave, Bruce exemplified the civil rights gains made by African Americans as a result of the war and Reconstruction. (Library of Congress.)
Also see . . .
1. U.S. Department of the Treasury. National Park Service site detailing the history of the Treasury offices. (Submitted on August 13, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.)
2. Wikipedia entry for Blanche K[elso] Bruce. Bruce is featured in the picture on the lower right of the marker. (Submitted on April 8, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
Categories. • African Americans • Government • Notable Buildings • Peace • War, US Civil •
Credits. This page was last revised on September 10, 2016. This page originally submitted on August 13, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,480 times since then and 3 times this year. Last updated on April 7, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on August 13, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. 3. submitted on April 7, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 4. submitted on August 13, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. • Kevin W. was the editor who published this page.