Paper Money of Chihuahua

.. by Simon Prendergast

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The paper currency of Chihuahua

Welcome to this website, which is the result of over twenty years' research into the paper currency of the Mexican state of Chihuahua. A companion website is dedicated to the neighbouring state of Sonora.

The history of the paper currency of Chihuahua is a complex subject, covering a period of just under 100 years. It begins with the scrip issued by private companies in the second half of the 19th century, includes the various local banks of issue and the numerous issues of different revolutionary factions, and ends with the emergency notes issued to deal with a temporary shortage of low-denomination coins in 1935 and 1943.

Chihuahua is the largest state in Mexico and until the Revolution was the most prosperous with an economy based on its agricultural riches and mineral deposits. It is not surprising therefore that this is reflected in the paper currency issued in the state.

Chihuahua was the only state to authorise local banks of issue before this prerogative was taken over by the federal government. In the 1870s and 1880s five banks made issues but the smaller ones were gradually taken over by the powerful Banco Minero that became the largest bank in the north and the second largest bank in the country.

Insurrections would generally be financed through levies and confiscations, forced loans or issues of paper money and the last could range from typewritten chits to professionally produced notes printed by the leading printing houses in the United States. The main centres of the Mexican revolution were in the north and two of its leading protagonists, Francisco Villa and Venustiano Carranza, issued currency nominally from Chihuahua. As the revolutionary armies swept down to the capital their paper money was forced into circulation in most of the northern states. Then, when Villa and the Convention split from Carranza, drove him out of Mexico City to Veracruz, and were themselves gradually driven back the different factions tolerated, prohibited, revalidated and withdrew one another's currency, leading to a proliferation of decrees, overstamps and counterfeits.

After the Revolution Mexico established a single bank of issue but local banks and chambers of commerce were on two occasions permitted to make short-term issues to counteract a temporary shortage of small change.

For the purposes of this website “paper currency of Chihuahua” has been defined rather loosely as including any item that is
(a) printed on paper or a similar medium;
(b) negotiable, and usually payable to bearer;
(c) for a particular discrete amount, and
(d) proceeding from within the state of Chihuahua
though it also includes sections on derivatives such as the ‘movie money’ used by Hollywood studios and the use of notes and facsimiles as an advertising medium.

However, it needs to be remembered that at different times there were also circulating in Chihuahua coins of gold, silver, copper and nickel; trade tokens, notes from other Mexican states and from the United States, and paper money issued by other revolutionary commanders.

The website presumes a general knowledge of Mexican history and makes selective reference to events, either for clarity's sake or to amuse.

Finally, this website also includes galleries of most Chihuahua notes and the texts of most of the important documents (in Documents).