The fake cash made along the Cuyahoga River

In the 1820s, counterfeiters didn’t have to build their hideouts. They had the banks of the Cuyahoga River.

As Stephen Mihm writes in A Nation of Counterfeiters, counterfeiting boomed along the banks of the Cuyahoga. The river didn’t just provide good hiding places—when the Ohio & Erie Canal opened in 1827, it became a vital part of commerce (and fraud) in the state.

Counterfeiting flourished because of the absence of a standardized currency in the United States. Criminals along the Cuyahoga forged bank notes and created an underground economy filled with what a visitor called “finely-dressed, ruffle-shirted, plug-hatted, kid-gloved, lavishly-bejeweled, and apparently wealthy sojourners.”

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If you could counterfeit money perfectly, would you do it?