The history of Crane paper currency

where it all began

Every banknote printed aims to reflect the many generations of innovation and skill that have characterized this business for over 200 years. In the course of its history Crane Currency has experienced good times as well as wars and depression without ever losing its way. This is the story of how a family-run papermaking company became a global banknote manufacturer.

It all started on a spring night in 1775. The legendary American patriot and engraver Paul Revere was preparing for his famous ride from Charlestown to Lexington and Concord in order to warn the colony and prepare its troops for the British advance. Before setting out, Revere saddled his horse by a paper mill that had been acquired a few years earlier by papermaker Stephen Crane, also a freedom fighter.

Once the American War of Independence broke out, colonial troops needed to get paid and so Revere applied his talents as an engraver to producing printing plates that produced the first ‘US’ securities – a precursor to the young nation’s first paper money. The paper on which these early US banknotes were printed was supplied by Crane.

Crane founded

Zenas Crane, Stephen’s son, learned the art of papermaking from his father and started his own paper mill in 1801 catering primarily to banks, printers and shopkeepers. When he handed the business over to his sons, Zenas Marshall and James Brewer, developments gained momentum. Zenas Marshall devised a method of vertically embedding silk thread in the banknote paper as a way to mark the denomination of the note. That made it impossible to ‘raise’ the value of the note.

Challenges spur development

During the Civil War, Crane lost access to its customers in the southern states and the subsequent depression added to the hardship. The company had to find new channels for sales. The answer was a fashion fad at the time – the male shirt collar. Crane developed a new kind of durable paper for use in men’s collars. Given that the collars were exchanged daily, they were in great demand and the paper mills operated at full capacity.

But the biggest impact on Crane’s future can be attributed to W. Murray Crane. In 1879 he managed to secure an order to manufacture US banknote paper – a great achievement for the then 26-year-old. As time passed, the specifications for US currency paper and the technology and manufacturing processes needed to produce it have become ever more advanced.

Crane becomes global

Through the late 1900s, the importance of banknote paper at Crane continued to increase as its research into paper-born security yielded the demetallized security thread first used in 1991. By 2002, Crane was looking for new business opportunities when the Swedish Central Bank (Sveriges Riksbank) decided to outsource its banknote production and entered into a partnership with Crane.

When the cooperation was announced, Crane took over the Riksbank’s Tumba Bruk, which had manufactured paper, banknotes and security documents since 1755, making it one of the world’s oldest mills of its kind. The mill produces both banknote paper and banknotes and has through its 250 years of existence enjoyed a solid reputation for quality and innovation. That, together with Crane’s high technology resources, paved the way for new successes.

Continuous development

A company doesn’t survive for more than 200 years by accident. It takes continuous commitment to meeting the evolving needs of the customer responding with quality, value-adding products – and anticipating needs in order to develop and deliver solutions in time for when they are most needed.

That continues to be the driver behind Crane’s ongoing investment in research and development pursuing advanced technology and spearheading developments rather than following them.