Learn how the Secret Service started and about their not-so-secret job.
The United States Secret Service is best known for protecting the president. But they do a lot more than that, in fact, protecting the president wasn’t even part of their original job. The United States Secret Service (USSS) was founded to stop counterfeiting.
The Secret Service was formed on July 5, 1865, a few months after the Civil War ended. Their job was stopping counterfeit money (fake money). At that time, almost half the money in the country was fake.
It wasn’t until 1863 that the federal government started printing money. Before then, individual state banks printed all the money in the United States. The federal government provided designs and the paper. But every bank printed the money just a little different. This made it easy to make fake, or counterfeit, money.
After the federal government took over printing and minting money, people were still counterfeiting money. The new problem was no one was really an expert yet on what money was supposed to look like. And that is where the United States Secret Service comes in. It became their job to know a real bill from a fake.
How do they spot counterfeit money against real bills? Some of that is secret—it is the Secret Service after all. But if you take a magnifying glass to some bills, you can see small details:
If you want to help and maybe someday join the USSS, try checking for counterfeit money every time you get a new bill. Does it feel right? Hold the bill to the light, is the watermark there? What about the security strip? If you do want to work for the Secret Service, in any role, paying attention to details is important.