An American Monetary History Timeline
1900 to Present
Written by Darrell Anderson.
U.S. political financial debt is approximately $2.1 billion.
March 14, 1900
Volume 31 Statutes at Large, 56th Congress Session I, Chapter 41, pp. 45–50. Popularly known as the Gold Standard Act of 1900. Did not repeal the silver definitions of the Coinage Act of 1792, but instead statutorily established 23.2 grains of gold and 371.25 grains of silver to be equivalent. Required the Secretary of the Treasury to maintain parity between the two statutory dollars. Thus, a person could exchange silver certificates and treasury notes (bills of credit) and receive gold or silver. The act of 1900 recognized the original 1792 definition. Because the word dollar is used in the Constitution, the Congressional legislative act of 1900 as well as 1792 only affirmed the common law definition of that word (originally the Spanish milled dollar). The act of 1900 only created a statutory gold equivalent of the 1792 definition. In practice and by statute the monetary system was on a gold standard and remained a bimetallic system, but constitutionally remained on a silver standard.
The Financial Panic of 1901.
Knickerbocker Trust of New York fails and ignites the Financial Panic of 1907.
U.S. political financial debt is approximately $2.6 billion.
The Financial Panic of 1910–1911.
December 23, 1913
Volume 38 Statutes at Large, 63rd Congress Session II, Chapter 6, pp. 251–275. Popularly known as the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. Created a centralized national banking system and currency through the Federal Reserve System. The Act created a central banking system through 12 regional private banks owned by participating commercial banks. All national banks were required to join the system and buy non-performing stock. State banks could join if desired. That system was a legislative response to answer calls for a more elastic currency, addressing some of the concerns of a growing industrialized nation. Industrialization requires huge amounts of capital, and instantaneous “elastic” currency creation through political privilege provides an opportunity to create that capital.
Unfortunately, that elasticity manifested itself largely through currency creation and inflation, often backed by no wealth. The Federal Reserve Act granted control of the national currency to a quasi-private, quasi-public cartel of bankers. Many business people were becoming so successful that they were capitalizing expansion from their own profits rather than through bank loans. The finance sector was losing its influence and the banking market was shrinking. Like the big business owners who decided to accept regulation as a means of guaranteed profits, bankers wanted something similar. By creating a central banking mechanism, an indirect monopoly was essentially granted to the wealthy elite involved in banking. Legislative regulation ensured the monopoly.
At the topmost federal level the individuals within this organization could create currency out of debt imposed on future generations. The huge time delay of repaying that debt had the short-term effect of reducing the exchange value of the currency because an equivalent offsetting value in goods and services was not immediately, if ever, produced. Long-term, the debt is never paid, just increased, giving rise to never-ending currency inflation and “death by a thousand cuts.”
April 6, 1917
Congressional legislators declare war to enter World War I.
April 23, 1918
Volume 40 Statutes at Large, 65th Congress Session II, Chapter 63, pp. 535–537. Popularly known as the Pittman Silver Purchase Act of 1918. Primarily a war measure. With the new Federal Reserve System in place, increased aggregate confidence in a paper currency, and a high cost of storage, the act was intended to help relieve the shortage of silver for non monetary uses. Provided for the sale of silver to England and India at $1 per ounce. The act recalled and melted more than 270 million silver dollars.
U.S. political financial debt is approximately $25.9 billion.
Period known as the “Roaring Twenties.” The Federal Reserve Board members reduced reserve requirements thereby embracing an easy credit policy, during which people begin to speculate abundantly in stocks and investments, backed and encouraged by various banking and monetary policies.
Size of all paper currency notes standardized.
Infamous stock market crash that psychologically accelerated a long-term economic depression.
U.S. political financial debt is approximately $16.2 billion.
February 27, 1932
Volume 47 Statutes at Large, 72nd Congress Session I, Chapter 58, pp. 56–57. Popularly known as the Glass-Steagall Act of 1932. The act allowed Federal Reserve system members to use political securities as collateral to issue Federal Reserve notes, loosened the collateral security required by member banks at the discount window, and allowed the politicians and bureaucrats to loan gold reserves.
March 6, 1933
Franklin Roosevelt issues executive proclamation 2039 declaring a bank holiday from March 6 through March 9.
March 9, 1933
Volume 48 Statutes at Large, 73rd Congress Session I, Chapter 1, pp. 1–7. Popularly known as the Emergency Banking Act of 1933. Authorized the President during time of war or other emergency to regulate or prohibit the exporting, hoarding, melting or earmarking of gold and silver coin and bullion. The act instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to compel all individuals to pay and deliver all gold coin, bullion, and certificates to the Secretary and required payment for those coerced deposits in any equivalent amount of coin or currency.
The act allowed for closing insolvent banks and reopening solvent banks and terminated the gold standard.
April 5, 1933
Along with the Emergency Banking Act of 1933, but primarily hiding behind the illusion of the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917, Franklin Roosevelt issues executive order 6102 prohibiting the “hoarding” and domestic circulation of gold coin and certificates, and allowing gold to circulate only in foreign exchanges. The term hoarding was interpreted to mean possessing. All gold was exchanged at the then statutory exchange rate of $20.67 per ounce. Exemptions were allowed for certain uses in industry, professions or art. Although many people surrendered their gold, many also ignored the order.
May 12, 1933
Volume 48 Statutes at Large, 73rd Congress Session I, Chapter 25, pp. 31–54. Popularly known as the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 and the Wagner-Lewis Emergency Relief Act. Hidden within this act. popularly known as the Thomas Amendment, was authority for the President to redefine the weight of the gold and silver coinage. The act allowed Federal Reserve members to buy Treasury securities up to $3 billion and to issue United States notes to the same amount.
June 5, 1933
Volume 48 Statutes at Large, 73rd Congress Session I, Resolution 192, pp. 112–113. Also known as the Gold Clause Resolution of 1933. Temporarily suspended the gold standard. Prohibited the structuring of contracts in terms of gold coin or bullion and made all such contracts unenforceable.
June 16, 1933
Volume 48 Statutes at Large, 73rd Congress Session I, Chapter 89, pp. 162–195. Popularly known as the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 and the Banking Act of 1933. Created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Initially established the deposit insurance level at $2,500. Prohibited commercial banks from owning brokerages. Prohibited paying interest on commercial demand deposits and limited the interest rate on savings deposits.
August 28, 1933
Along with the Emergency Banking Act of 1933, but primarily hiding behind the illusion of the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917, Franklin Roosevelt issues executive order 6260 prohibiting the hoarding, acquisition, and exporting of gold.
January 3, 1934
Franklin Roosevelt issues executive proclamation 2072 declaring the gold dollar to be 25.8 grains 9/10 pure.
January 30, 1934
Volume 48 Statutes at Large, 73rd Congress Session II, Chapter 6, pp. 337–344. Popularly known as the Gold Reserve Act of 1934. Stopped the minting and circulation of gold coin, required the surrender of all gold coin and certificates, and terminated redemption of all paper currencies for gold. Paper currencies remained convertible in silver coin. Amended the declaration hidden in the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 for the President to fix the weight of the gold dollar. Declared that Federal Reserve Notes need not be converted into gold coin.
January 31, 1934
Volume 48 Statutes at Large, 73rd Congress Session II, Proclamation 2072, pp. 1730–1731. Franklin Roosevelt issues an executive proclamation devaluing the gold dollar to 15–5/21 grains 9/10 pure. Redefined the definition of the gold dollar from $20.67 per troy ounce to $35 per ounce to create a statutory windfall profit for the remaining holders of gold.
June 19, 1934
Volume 48 Statutes at Large, 73rd Congress Session II, Chapter 674, pp. 1178–1181. Popularly known as the Silver Purchase and Coinage Act of 1934. Authorized the President to investigate, regulate, and prohibit the acquisition of silver. Required the delivery of silver to the mints for coinage and authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to purchase silver at home or abroad. Declared silver certificates to be legal tender and convertible on demand into silver.
August 9, 1934
Franklin Roosevelt issues executive proclamation 2092 and executive order 6814 requiring the surrender and delivery of all silver for coinage, excepting certain uses in industry, professions, art and customary uses.
Perry v. United States, 294 U.S. 240; Norman v. Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, 294 U.S. 317; Nortz v. United States, 294 U.S. 330. Popularly known as the Gold Clause Cases of 1935. Perry challenged the validity of House Joint Resolution 192 with respect to the politicians’ promise to pay in gold. Norman challenged House Joint Resolution 192 prohibiting contracts in terms of gold. Nortz challenged the refusal to convert paper currency in gold. Sadly, none of the litigants focused on issues regarding gold or constitutionality and instead focused only on the amounts of paper currency to be converted to maintain equivalent exchange power. None of the litigants challenged the seizure of gold. None made any claims of takings of property without due process of law.
Minting of silver dollars stops.
August 23, 1935
Volume 49 Statutes at Large, 74th Congress Session I, Chapter 614, pp. 684–723. Popularly known as the Banking Act of 1935. Made the FDIC a permanent agency and raised the deposit insurance level to $5,000. First major restructuring of the Federal Reserve System with the transformation of the Federal Reserve Board of Directors to the Board of Governors. All board members were required to be appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the senate and the term of service was expanded to 14 years. The Secretary of the Treasury and Comptroller of the Currency no longer were members of the board. Open-market operations were formalized in the Federal Open Market Committee and the Governors allowed to determine interest rates and bank reserve requirements.
July 6, 1939
Volume 53 Statutes at Large, 76th Congress Session I, Chapter 260, pp. 998–999. Popularly known as the Silver Coinage Act of 1939. Authorized the U.S. Mints to coin into standard silver dollars any silver which was mined from any deposits.
U.S. political financial debt is approximately $43.0 billion.
December 8, 1941
Congressional legislators declare war to enter World War II.
Zinc coated steel pennies introduced into circulation because of a copper shortage.
Attendees at the Bretton Woods (New Hampshire) Conference create the Internal Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. Participants agreed to adopt a monetary policy maintaining an exchange rate of their currency within a fixed value in terms of gold. The IMF allegedly was designed to help debtors with payments. The Bretton Woods system would collapse in 1971 when Richard Nixon terminated international payments in gold or with respect to a gold standard.
July 31, 1946
Volume 60 Statutes at Large, 79th Congress Session II, Chapter 718, pp. 750–751. Popularly known as the Silver Coinage Act of 1946. Continued the policies of the Silver Coinage Act of 1939 and authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to sell or lease silver for manufacturing purposes.
The Marshall Plan introduces a significant amount of U.S. dollars into circulation in Europe, quickly establishing the dollar as the world unit of account.
U.S. political financial debt is approximately $257.4 billion.
September 21, 1950
Volume 64 Statutes at Large, 81st Congress Session II, Chapter 967, pp. 873–894. Popularly known as the Federal Deposit Insurance Act of 1950. FDIC deposit insurance level increased to $10,000.
The Federal Reserve System is granted full autonomy and independence from the Department of Treasury.
U.S. political financial debt is approximately $290.2 billion.
February 13, 1962
Members of the Federal Open Market Committee vote to allow Federal Reserve Banks to participate in foreign exchange markets.
June 4, 1963
Volume 77 Statutes at Large, 88th Congress Session I, Pub. Law 88–36, p. 54. Popularly known as the Silver Purchase Repeal Act of 1963. Repealed the mintage and coinage acts of 1934, 1939, and 1946. Permitted the Secretary of the Treasury to exchange silver certificates for coin or bullion. Permitted the Federal Reserve Bankers to issue one and two dollar notes, the intent of which was to replace silver dollars and certificates in circulation. Those notes were printed without any reference to being “payable on demand” (convertible to silver). The 1963 two dollar note series was distinct with red ink used in the serial numbers and Treasury backdrop.
July 23, 1965
Volume 79 Statutes at Large, 89th Congress Session I, Pub. Law 89–81, pp. 254–258. Popularly known as the Coinage Act of 1965. Terminated the minting of standard silver dollars for the next five years, but allowed minting fractional dollar silver coins for the same period. Modified the silver content in all coinage, introducing copper-nickel and copper-silver “clad” coinage into circulation. Required that the fifty-cent coin contain approximately 40% silver. Prohibited the use of mint marks on coins minted from 1965 through 1967. Silver certificates remained in circulation and convertible to silver coin or bullion.
October 16, 1966
Volume 80 Statutes at Large, 89th Congress Session II, Pub. Law 89–695, pp. 1028–1056. Popularly known as the Financial Institutions Supervisory Act of 1966. FDIC deposit insurance level increased to $15,000.
June 24, 1967
Volume 81 Statutes at Large, 90th Congress Session I, Pub. Law 90–29, p. 77. Popularly known as the Silver Certificate Act of 1967. Limited the convertibility of silver certificates into silver to one more year (June 24, 1968). Thereafter all silver certificates would remain legal tender but convertible in any statutorily declared form of currency. Indirectly removed silver certificates from circulation. Theoretically, the dollar remained statutorily defined as a unit of weight in terms of silver.
December 23, 1969
Volume 83 Statutes at Large, 91st Congress Session I, Pub. Law 91–151, pp. 371–378. Popularly known as the Credit Control Act of 1969. FDIC deposit insurance level increased to $20,000.
U.S. political financial debt is approximately $389.2 billion.
October 26, 1970
Volume 84 Statutes at Large, 91st Congress Session I, Pub. Law 91–508, pp. 1114–1136. Popularly known as the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 and Currency and Foreign Transactions Reporting Act of 1970. Required bankers to maintain records of cash purchases of negotiable instruments and report cash transactions more than $10,000.
December 31, 1970
Volume 84 Statutes at Large, 91st Congress Session I, Pub. Law 91–607, pp. 1760–1769. Popularly known as the Bank Holding Company Act of 1970. Embedded within this act was a declaration that all coinage to contain a cladding ratio of 75% copper to 25% nickel, with a core of pure copper. Repealed the section in the Coinage Act of 1878 requiring the minting of silver dollars, but allowed for the limited minting of silver-based dollar and half-dollar coins.
August 15, 1971
Richard Nixon issues Executive Order 11615 freezing wages and prices. He instructs the Secretary of the Treasury to “close the gold window” and stop converting foreign-held paper dollars for gold, thereby nullifying the Bretton Woods Agreement.
August 14, 1974
Volume 88 Statutes at Large, 93rd Congress Session II, Pub. Law 93–373, p. 445. Gold ownership ban from 1933 rescinded.
October 28, 1974
Volume 88 Statutes at Large, 93rd Congress Session II, Pub. Law 93–495, pp. 1500–1526. Popularly known as the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974. FDIC deposit insurance level increased to $40,000.
U.S. Mint mints special dollar, half-dollar, and quarter-dollar coins commemorating the bicentennial celebration of the Declaration of Independence.
October 10, 1978
Volume 92 Statutes at Large, 95th Congress Session II, Pub. Law 95–447, p. 1072. Popularly known as the Coinage Act of 1978. Amended the Coinage Act of 1965 to modify the composition, size, and weight of the dollar coin. Authorized minting the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin. The coin proved widely unpopular mostly because the coin was approximately the same size as the quarter-dollar coin.
October 27, 1978
Volume 92 Statutes at Large, 95th Congress Session II, Pub. Law 95–523, pp. 1887–1908. Popularly known as the Humphrey-Hawkins Act of 1978 and Full Employment and Balance Growth Act of 1978. Intended to shift the objectives of U.S. economic policy toward maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates, significantly through the manner in which the Federal Reserve System handled monetary policy.
U.S. political financial debt is approximately $930.2 billion.
March 31, 1980
Volume 94 Statutes at Large, 96th Congress Session II, Pub. Law 96–221, pp. 132–193. Popularly known as the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act of 1980. Provided the Federal Reserve Board of Governors with increased control over non-member financial institutions, essentially requiring all financial institutions to abide by Federal Reserve System regulations. Allowed for negotiable order withdrawal (NOW) checking accounts. Removed interest rate ceiling on deposit accounts. FDIC deposit insurance level increased to $100,000.
October 15, 1982
Volume 96 Statutes at Large, 97th Congress Session II, Pub. Law 97–320, pp. 1469–1548. Popularly known as the Garn-St Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982. Intended to revitalize the housing industry by allowing federally chartered savings and loan institutions to diversify activities toward increasing profits, strengthening the financial stability of home mortgage lending institutions, and ensuring the availability of home mortgage loans.
October 27, 1986
Volume 100 Statutes at Large, 99th Congress Session II, Pub. Law 99–570, pp. 3207–3207–192. Popularly known as the Money Laundering Act of 1986.
October 19, 1987
Stock market crash.
August 9, 1989
Volume 103 Statutes at Large, 101st Congress Session I, Pub. Law 101–73, pp. 183–553. Popularly known as the Financial Institutions Reform Recovery and Enforcement Act. Intended to reform the savings and loan industry crisis and bail out failed institutions primarily through taxation. Created the Resolution Trust Corporation. Shifted regulatory authority from the Federal Home Loan Bank Board to the Office of Thrift Supervision within the Department of the Treasury. Abolished the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation and created the Savings Association Insurance Fund. Created the Bank Insurance Fund. Both programs were to be administered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
U.S. political financial debt is approximately $3.2 trillion.
Microprinting and security threads introduced into all paper currencies.
First significant design changes to paper currencies begin with the $100 note. Changes included watermarks, larger portraits, and color-shifting ink.
December 1, 1997
Volume 111 Statutes at Large, 105th Congress Session I, Pub. Law 105–124, pp. 2534–2539. Popularly known as the 50 States Commemorative Coin Program Act. U.S. Mint begins minting commemorative quarter dollar coins. The reverse side of the coins commemorate the date each state was admitted to the United States.
Section 4 is popularly known as the United States $1 Coin Act of 1997. Authorized the U.S. Mint to begin minting the Sacagewea dollar coin. The coin is copper based with a manganese brass clad exterior, providing a golden colored finish. The coin first appeared in circulation January 27, 2000.
November 12, 1999
Volume 113 Statutes at Large, 106th Congress Session I, Pub. Law 106–102, pp. 1338–1481. Popularly known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 and Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999. Repealed most of the restrictions imposed by the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933.
U.S. political financial debt is approximately $5.7 trillion.
October 9, 2003
New $20 notes introduced into circulation with additional colors besides green and black.
September 28, 2004
New $50 notes introduced into circulation with additional colors besides green and black.
New $10 notes introduced into circulation with additional colors besides green and black.
U.S. political financial debt is approximately $7.9 trillion.