Why does the Secret Service Exist

Why does the Secret Service Exist

It’s release month for Counterfeit Love and I thought it might be fun to share some of my behind-the-scenes research of the Hidden Hearts of the Gilded Age series. I’ll also be running a giveaway all month long with each Counterfeit Love / Secret Service post for your chance to win one of three prizes. Read through this post to the bottom to discover the details.


Did you know that the Secret Service didn’t officially start protecting the president until 1902 but were established in 1865? So what did they do for those almost forty years?

The answer? Track down and arrest counterfeiters.

The Early Days of the Secret Service

It is estimated that one-third of the circulating U.S. currency was counterfeit during the period of the Civil War. How is that possible? Well, until 1863, there was no national currency. Each state and bank had its own design for banknotes making it an easy world for counterfeiters to thrive. When the United States instituted a national currency in 1863, the problem of counterfeiting continued to thrive, which was bad news for our country. Public confidence in a nation’s currency is critical to the health of the country’s economy, and the United States was in serious trouble.

On April 14th, 1865 Secretary of the Treasury Hugh McCullough brought attention to the growing trouble of counterfeiting and insisted a permanent, continuous, aggressive organized effort was needed to thwart this menace to the economy. Abraham Lincoln agreed and authorized him to move forward. That same night, Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth. Despite the turmoil in the government that followed, on July 5, 1865, William P. Wood was sworn in as the first Chief of the U.S. Secret Service.

About 30 men made up this first group of Secret Service operatives. Headquarters was established in Washington D.C. while eleven field offices were placed in cities throughout the country. A guide list of six “general orders” was issued*:

  1. Each man must recognize that his service belongs to the government through 24 hours of every day.
  2. All must agree to assignment to the locations chosen by the Chief and respond to whatever mobility of movement the work might require.
  3. All must exercise such careful saving of money spent for travel, subsistence, and payments for information as can be self-evidently justified.
  4. Continuing employment in the Service will depend upon demonstrated fitness, ability as investigators, and honesty and fidelity in all transactions.
  5. The title of regular employees will be Operative, Secret Service. Temporary employees will be Assistant Operatives or Informants.
  6. All employment will be at a daily pay rate; accounts submitted monthly. Each operative will be expected to keep on hand enough personal reserve funds to carry on Service business between paydays.

(*Taken from The United States Secret Service by Warren S. Bowen and Harry Edward Neal.)

Credentials came in the form of handwritten letters of appointment until an incident in 1871 made them reconsider. Ira W. Raymond waltzed into a field office posing as an operative and demanded all contraband be turned over to him. The operative on duty felt it odd he wouldn’t have been notified and telegrammed headquarters. Raymond was arrested, but this prompted Chief Whitley (the second Chief) to design and issue distinctive badges and printed credentials to all members of the Secret Service.

These badges were five-pointed, silver stars with lacework engraved into each point. “U.S. Secret Service” was stamped into the center of each. Operatives had $25 deducted from their paycheck for the badges, with the promise it would be returned upon retirement when they turned in their badge. Each operative carried engraved and printed credentials called commissions from that point forward.

Unfortunately, the first two administrations of the Secret Service were fraught with scandal, leaving a cloud hanging over the public image of the division. Chief Washburn made some repairs to their reputation, but it was Chief James J. Brooks who really turned things around.

One of Chief Brooks’s first acts what to compile and issue the first formal manual of instructions for operatives. These were called “General Orders No. 4.” It was under his reformation that the Secret Service was officially recognized as its own division with the Treasury Department and had its own budget, limited as it was. Chief Brooks was a hard man and did not believe in vacations for his men. Any leave of absence was given without pay. But through his leadership, public opinion began to shift in a more positive direction toward the Secret Service.

Curious to learn more? I’ll be posting more over the coming weeks. Or you can check out the bonus content section of my website.


Your chance to comment: Did you know any random facts about the Secret Service? Was there anything particularly interesting that stuck out to you?


Enter the Rafflecopter below to be entered to win one of three prizes: (Grand prize) – A signed copy of Counterfeit Love with a book sleeve made by my Momma, a toe bag with story-related prizes inside, (2nd prize) – A signed copy of Counterfeit Love with a book sleeve made by my Momma, socks, and a bookmark, (3rd prize) A signed copy of Counterfeit Love with a book sleeve made by my Momma and a bookish zipper bag. Entries run from March 1st to March 31st, 11:59pm EST. *Open to those legally able to enter, U.S. residents only for the physical prizes, international winners will be given a prize of equal value to whichever level they win.*

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The Gilded Age: What is it really?

The Gilded Age: What is it really?

It’s release month for Counterfeit Love and I thought it might be fun to share some of my behind-the-scenes research of the Hidden Hearts of the Gilded Age series. I’ll also be running a giveaway all month long with each Counterfeit Love / Secret Service post for your chance to win one of three prizes. Read through this post to the bottom to discover the details.


What is the Gilded Age?

When most people think of the Gilded Age, they generally think of the lavishly rich, fancy ball gowns and dinners, and New York. However the Gilded Age is so much more complex than that, and that’s why I love to write during this era.

The Gilde Age is actually a term coined by the ever sarcastic and famous satirical writer, Mark Twain, in a book he collaborated with Charles Dudley Warner on called The Gilded Age. The term Gilded Age was meant as a jab at the gross materialism and political corruption of his time. While everything was glittering, beautiful, and elegant on the surface, the moment one scratched at it, they’d discover gross corruption at the core. On a caricature level, the late 19th century was a period of massive immigration, socio-economic turmoil, rapacious Robber Barons, unscrupulous speculators, corporate buccaneers, shady business practices, scandal-plagued politics, and vulgar displays of materialism and wealth. This is one of the reasons why I love this era. It is so complex and intricate that I just never want to leave studying it.

While most people expect stories of the wealthy and elite when seeing “Gilded Age,” I love to take a look at it from the experiences of the varied classes and their experiences. There was a dark underbelly to the Gilded Age, and I love to explore it. However, I do like to see it from the perspective of the rich as well. It is like examing two very different worlds, and I find it incredibly fascinating.

A Period of Transition

During the 1870s, society as a whole was transitioning from largely agrarian to industrial–in part due to the repercussions of the Civil War and Reconstruction Era, and in part due to the massive innovations brought on by the Industrial Revolution. Many farmers and immigrants shifted to big cities to work in the factories that provided steady work and steady pay. The way businesses operated transformed and cooperations emerged with a focus on gaining the most profit possible at the cost of others. Labor unrest was a constant issue during the Gilded Age as corporations were treated as people rather than businesses, an especially terrible slap in the face to now freed slaves who were people but had only been considered property.

This was a period where Robber Barons emerged–people who because rich through often ruthless and unscrupulous business practices. Of course, not everyone who became rich met that definition, but this was largely the view of society outside the ranks of the upper-class society. These corporations had huge influences on politics, and often politicians were portrayed as merely being the puppets of those corporations. The period from 1870 to 1900 was marked by increased poverty, rising inequality, and bubbling discontent beneath the gilded filigree of society.

Big Picture Events and Issues

Image by jimo663 from Pixabay

While the “Wild West” will live on in infamy, it was during this period that the western frontier actually began to close. The open ranges were closed in by barbed wire fences. Millions of acres of land were snatched up and populated. Native Americans were confined to reservations and then pushed farther west onto new reservations. Treaties were made to the disadvantage of the people and another Trial of Tears occurred. In fact, part of my family’s heritage cannot be traced back any further than this time because of how much was lost in this tragedy.

Technology and communication exploded during the Gilded Age. Telephones, electricity, machines, even the mass-circulation of newspapers and magazines, redefined aspects of the United States in unprecedented ways. With technology came more leisure time for new sports and entertainment to be developed. Transporation grew exponentially, opening up the country to easy travel and new migration patterns. Over these years, horse-led transportation diminished as trains, automobiles, electric trolleys, and others were developed.

Mass immigration poured millions of people into country giving rise to anti-immigrant reactions. Limitations on immigration from certain places started to appear, and the grouping of immigrants arriving shifted to larger numbers of Hungarian, Italian, Polish, and Russian peoples. Often these unskilled workers sought out cities where they could work at factories, often for horrifically low pay.

I talked a little bit about big business already, but this period is when the modern American economy emerged. Our economy became more globalized, dependent on products from around the world to supply the materials needed. Small businesses were consolidated and bought out. It was a dynamic time of wealth and poverty.

Politics too played a significant role during this time. The 1880s and 1890s especially were years of turbulence. Political conflicts were constant with corporations having an influencing hand in many areas. Farmers and laborers fought for fair representation and support against those corporations who they felt took advantage of them. You also have the beginnings of suffragist and civil rights movements.

Why I Write Gilded Age

As you can see, there is just SOOOO much conflict and depth that can be mined from this time period. I love looking at all the different perspectives and challenges that were faced by the people. So while you might think of all that glitters when you see the words Gilded Age, know that it is so much more than that, and I hope to bring some of those aspects and struggles to life in my stories.

A Second Gilded Age

Something I found interesting in my research is that the term Gilded Age has been applied to our current era by many different sources. There are parallels, but not completely. I just thought it fascinating, and if you’d like to read a succinct article on some of that, you can visit the History Channel’s article about it here.


Your chance to comment: What sort of things do you think of when you hear “Gilded Age” in relation to a fiction story?


Enter the Rafflecopter below to be entered to win one of three prizes: (Grand prize) – A signed copy of Counterfeit Love with a book sleeve made by my Momma, a toe bag with story-related prizes inside, (2nd prize) – A signed copy of Counterfeit Love with a book sleeve made by my Momma, socks, and a bookmark, (3rd prize) A signed copy of Counterfeit Love with a book sleeve made by my Momma and a bookish zipper bag. Entries run from March 1st to March 31st, 11:59pm EST. *Open to those legally able to enter, U.S. residents only for the physical prizes, international winners will be given a prize of equal value to whichever level they win.*

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A Research Trip During COVID-19

A Research Trip During COVID-19

Our family vacation this summer was always planned to be a lakehouse retreat to the Land Between the Lakes Area on the border of Tennessee and Kentucky with a side research trip planned for a day at Fort Donelson.

 

Then COVID hit. Our vacations are pretty much socially distanced all the time anyway, so all that changed was the ability to visit historical museums. WHICH IS HUGE!!! After spending intense months researching books, I was ready to visit the actual location of one of my stories, speak with the park rangers, examine the artifacts in the museum, and buy some of the resources which can only be found on location. With the exception of touring the outside grounds, everything else was closed to me.

 

It was a disappointment, but I am very grateful that I still was able to spend several hours walking around, imagining my characters, taking pictures, recording details from the placards, and even recording some videos for research and future promotions. It was over 90 degrees with outrageous humidity, but this author was willing to endure hours of it to get all the details needed to create a realistic story.

 

Below are a few of my favorite historical tidbits and pictures taken from my phone. When going to write this post, I realized my new computer does not have an SD Card slot so my real camera pictures will have to wait until I find an adapter. 🙂 

A Soldier’s Winter Home

While we often think of soldiers as living in tents, more permanent establishments like Forts or long-term camps built little cabins for soldiers to huddle close in and combat against the winter. The cabin below is an example of one such cabin. The door was locked but pulling away from the hinges, so I stuck my hand in with my phone to get an inside look. You can see the hay strewn on the floor and a small fireplace used to heat the space. The chink in the walls really displayed how much wind could pass through a building. Any light you see in the walls is coming from the outside. It had to be better than a tent, but that wind still must have been biting.

An Important, Often Overlooked Battle

Forts Henry and Donelson were important locations for the Union and Confederate armies. Whoever controlled those, controlled the rivers and the railroads west of the Appalachian Mountains. The above is a panoramic view of Confederate States of America’s River Batteries. The Battle of Fort Donelson was both a land and river battle. From this position, the United States of America sent a gunboat flotilla led by Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote. The vessels which floated down this now peaceful river consisted of both timberclad and ironclad vessels. The timberclads were commercial river steamers converted to gunboats. My picture shows a hot, humid summer day, but the Battle of Fort Donelson was fought during frigid and wet conditions February 11 – 16, 1862.

Video Tour of a Scene I Plan

 I can’t stand my own voice, but you can tell how really excited I was to be here. This was at the end of my tour, so my brain was a little wonky, but the ACTUAL date of the scene would be 1862 NOT 1863. 🙂 For those who don’t want to watch the video, this was a former Confederate camp taken over by Union soldiers. By February 15, the Confederate soldiers were wanting to retreat to Nashville but this encampment of Union soldiers stood in the way. So in the wee hours of the morning they attacked the Union camp. Union soldiers were hopping out of their tents pulling up their pants in order to fight. No one was ready, and it is a scene of chaos I look forward to writing.

 

Well that is all I’m going to share for now. With all the pictures and videos I have, I could write many more posts, but I think I’d rather focus on writing the actual story. 😉 Have a great week, y’all, and I hope you enjoyed what you read.

 

A Research Trip During COVID-19

Author Desk: Meet the Heroes

Welcome to the end of a crazy month (so crazy, I’m a day late on this post) with the prospect of one more left to go. It’s wild how much our world can change within a matter of weeks. I pray you are staying home, staying healthy, and if you are one of those essential workers getting out every day to serve the rest of us, THANK YOU SO MUCH. My prayers are with you no matter where you may be working.

I am back at editing my Secret Service story, so to shake things up a bit, I thought I’d share the inspiration for each of my Secret Service heroes.

Meet the Heroes of Counterfeit Love

Broderick Cosgrove

Broderick works as an undercover Secret Service operative during the early 1880s. He is focused, loves puzzles, and sees his service to country as primary in his life. He pursues justice and truth with care so that no innocent person comes to harm and all who are guilty face a punishment befitting their crime.

His goal in Counterfeit Love: Ferret out the leaders of an elusive counterfeiting gang before they can get the new counterfeit twenties into circulation and damage an already fragile economy.

The Challenge: His former fiancée has somehow become entangled with the gang. She is innocent, but how can he prove it and protect her while doing his job? 

The real inspiration behind the character:

Andrew L. Drummond, Chief of the Secret Service between February 1891 and January 1894 – The initial inspiration for this story came from his book True Detective Stories. One of my favorite stories is where he was “arrested” and escaped jail with a counterfeiter in order to build the trust of an elusive gang. Where did his escapades lead him, but Cincinnati? The location of my story.

Andrew Darlington

While Andrew Darlington may not seem the hero type, he is a man trying to overcome a secret past which could cost him his job as a Secret Service operative. Therefore, he strikes every case with a vengeance. Collateral damage don’t matter so long as the criminal is brought to justice and put behind bars. 

His Goal in Counterfeit Love: Prove Theresa Plane is the real mastermind behind the elusive counterfeiting ring. No one knows better than him how corrupted and devilish a woman’s soul can be.

The Challenge: Broderick Cosgrove has been swindled by the woman and now he must work around a fellow operative to bring the truth to light.

 The real inspiration behind the character:

William P. Wood, Chief of the Secret Service from January 1863 to May 1869

Chief Wood earned a reputation for rash aggressiveness. In the book Illegal Tender, David R. Johnson described Chief Wood as “prowl[ing] the boundaries between legitimate and deviant society” and “lacking scruples and good judgment.” This was the basis for my backstory for Darlington. He is a complex character which you only scratch the surface of in Counterfeit Love. 

Josiah Isaacs

Poor Josiah Isaacs is an accidental play boy. He can’t help it that women take his friendliness to be flirtation, and bless his soul, he’s incapable of purposely breaking a woman’s heart. He’s been cornered into a proposal multiple times, and uses cases which take him away from home to convince the women he’s not a good for them so they break it off. He’s smart, caring, and understands Broderick’s position, but duty to their job must have the final say in the case.

His goal in Counterfeit Love: Allow Broderick–his partner and friend–the support and space he needs to prove whether or not Theresa Plane is guilty, but stand firm in revealing the truth should evidence prove otherwise.

The Challenge: Withholding information from their superiors could cost their job, and when the evidence continues to point toward Theresa Plane’s guilt, his friendship with Broderick becomes strained.

 

The real inspiration for the character:

There isn’t one particular Secret Service operative who stuck out to me to inspire Isaacs. He is sort of a meshing of many operative stories and characters. For me, I wanted a character who would play off the others and be fun to develop, and what more fun can I have than with a man who doesn’t mean to flirt and keeps getting engaged even when he never wants to marry? The story I have planned for him will be so much fun!

 

Catching a Counterfeiter – The Other Side

This week I am wrapping up my Secret Service series with a look at the other side, counterfeiting in the late 1800’s. While there is a lot more information to share, I just broke the counterfeiting scheme down to five basic steps with tidbits of extra information.  Enjoy, and don’t get into too much trouble!

 

For unfamiliar terms, please visit last week’s post: Secret Service Dictionary and Fun Facts

 

The Process of a Counterfeiting Scheme:

Step One: Engrave plates for use on printing presses.

counterfeitplate

  • Engravers were particularly scarce; those who did succumb to thievery had to serve many masters and lived rather hectic lives.
  • Engravers earned between twenty to forty dollars a week and worked nearly a year to finish a set of plates.
  • There was a market for used plates. A good set of plates could be sold for between several hundred and two thousand dollars.

 

Step Two: Print the Money

  • Like the manufacturers of legal merchandise, criminals needed to consider opportunity, risk, demand, price, and quality before investing their capital, time, skills, and organizational talent in the business.
  • The effort, time, and money (several thousand dollars) needed to produce an issue put the manufacturing of counterfeit notes beyond the resources of a single individual.
  • Plates belonged to one partner – either because he had provided the money to have them made or because he took them as part of his share in the proceedings.
  • Manufacturers used areas where there were a large number of supply stores clustered in the area to sell paper, type, ink, and various kinds of presses, which printing-1032552_1920.jpgwere the raw materials of counterfeiting.
  • Knowledge and techniques were transmitted orally and perfected by practical experience in saloons. Counterfeiter’s reliance on an oral culture and on personal relationships effectively shielded them from the police.
  • A firm could print between ten thousand and twelve thousand dollars a month.

 

Step Three: Sell to a Wholesaler

  • The wholesaler was the key figure in the distribution process. If the wholesaler was a member of the production firm, he had direct access to the product without any additional costs beyond his original investments in the partnership.
  • The whole seller sold product to dealers/retailers.

 

Step Four: Sell to a Dealer/Retailer

  • There were two types of dealers: (1) Thieves who bought counterfeits to pass on unsuspecting merchants or (2) Merchants who were willing to cheat their customers by giving them counterfeit money in change.
  • Dealers created customer lists, which they jealously guarded from their competitors. Their customers regularly wrote to the retailers or left messages at the saloons that retailers visited.

 

Step Five: Shove the Money – (A.K.A. Put counterfeit notes into circulation.)

  • Shovers usually operated in small groups of two or three. One shover entered a alcohol-1238345_640shop, made a small purchase, and received genuine money in change. While the shover was transacting business, a companion remained outside to watch for the police and to make sure that the shover was not followed by the store keeper, who might have discovered the counterfeit.
  • After each transaction, they placed the proceeds in a separate pocket or envelope, so that their associates would be able to trace the precise amounts each shover collected.
  • Then the group returned to their meeting place and divided the proceeds.

 

The Price of Counterfeiting:

The price of counterfeit bills fluctuated based on their quality and lack of public awareness. New notes were easy to pass and thus sold for more money, generally between thirty and seventy cents. The better the counterfeit quality, the better the price.

 

As soon as a new counterfeit’s existence became widely known, dealers had to lower the prices to compensate their customers for the increased risk. Discounted notes sold for between eighteen and twenty-two cents on the dollar.

TBT: Secret Service Dictionary and Fun Facts

Just as any career has its own jargon, so did the counterfeiting world and the Secret Service. Below are a few of the most important terms to know.  Below that are a few fun facts about the Secret Service.

20-dollar-bill-021

Secret Service and Counterfeiting Dictionary

  • Boodle – notes bought from a production firmBoodle carrier – a courier who delivered counterfeit notes from the dealer to the shovers.

    Chief Operative – first-class men assigned to the division’s major districts, each chief operative would have assistant operatives working under his direction, and would be responsible for all administrative and investigative activities within his district.

    Dealers – people who bought the counterfeit notes from wholesalers and then used shovers to distribute the money into general circulation

    Distribution – the spread of counterfeit money through an underground sales network

    Engraver – the person who created the plates used to print money

    Firm – the collective group of people used to print money

    Issue – an edition of a set of counterfeit bills

    Manufacturer – a person or group of people who printed counterfeit money

    Network – the sum of one’s personal acquaintances (which included non-criminals).

    Notes – another term for paper money

    Operative – the official title of the Service’s employees

    Plant – a term used to reference where counterfeiters made their money

    Plates – metal pieces with copied images from the bill being counterfeited

    Product – another name used for counterfeit money, generally used by the counterfeiters

    Production Firm – the collective group of people used to print money

    Queer – another term for counterfeit money

    Retailer – another term for a dealer

    Shover – a person who bought low priced items with a higher counterfeit bill to get real money back in change

    Straw bail – a situation in which a false bondsman was contracted to swear they possessed sufficient property to pay the bond, and then the counterfeiter would subsequently fail to appear in court

    Wholesalers – men or women who would buy counterfeit notes from manufacturers and then recruit potential customers through personal contacts or the mail to create a sales network

     

     

  • Fun Facts about the Secret Service

    • D.C. was the Service’s bureaucratic headquarters and the chief lived there
    • Between 1875 and 1910, the division never employed more than 47 men, and the average was only 25. 1878-1893, the average number of servicemen was well below that.
    • Chief operatives often had several cases under investigation at once and had silhouette-407659_640testy battles with headquarters over conflicting demands for economy and results
    • Each chief operative maintained a retinue of assistants and informers
    • Each district contained a number of states and a single operative maintained a headquarter in a major city
    • There were field offices in 11 cities across the nation.
    • Operatives were paid once a month on a daily scale, an average of $7 per day.
    • Each work day ranged from 12 to 16 hours long.
    • There were no days off and any “vacation” time was unpaid.
    • Operatives were required to itemize all their expenses for everything from travel to personal needs.
    • Operatives were to maintain peak physical fitness, swear unquestioning obedience to chief’s directives
    • In 1881, all toy money was removed from shelves and industries.
    • While time-consuming, the work was not particularly dangerous (no Service employee was seriously hurt in the line of duty until the murder of an operative in 1908).

     

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