Department of the Treasury

Image: 合衆国財務省. Department of the Treasury. Courtesy of the Kume Museum of Art.

While in Washington D.C the delegates visited the Department of the Treasury, where the nation’s currency was printed. The group was drawn to the intricate process of printing paper money, a method that required efficient collaboration between machines and manual laborers. The delegates were especially impressed by how meticulous the printing presses were, as each was able to create a unique design on the bills. Just as they had noticed at the U.S Printing Office, many female workers were employed in the stations of the Treasury that required the highest level of precision and attention to detail.

During the time of the Iwakura Mission the notes used in Japan had a vertical layout, influenced by Chinese paper currency. After the delegates returned Japan, a new series of notes known as Jingūkōgō Satsu (神功皇后札) entered circulation in 1881. These new notes featured a style heavily influenced by American and European currency.

Image: A Series of 1869 $1 Legal Tender Note. Source: National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History.
Image: Jingūkōgō-satsu in 1883. Source: National Archives of Japan Digital Archive.

Kume, Kunitake. “A Record of Washington, D.C., 2.” In Japan Rising: The Iwakura Embassy to the USA and Europe, edited by Chushichi Tsuzuki and R. Jules Young, 64-67. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

久米邦武. “第十二巻 華盛頓府ノ記 中” [Chapter. 12 A Record of Washington, D.C., 2]. 特命全権大使米欧回覧実記 第1編” [The Records of Iwakura Mission’s trip in Europe and America].