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Old Money: 1915

Old Money: 1915

Washington circa 1915. "Miss Louise Lester, in charge of mutilation of old money at Treasury Dept." View full size. National Photo Company glass negative.


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No, no. No. Nothing in this room says, "fun." Fun and this room, not in the same world. I've really never seen a more depressing situation. Even macerating old money could be done in a far less depressing room. Yikes.

An off day

The photo must have been taken on an off day. Miss. Lester said in an interview that "While my work is somewhat 'messy' it is interesting and does not grow monotonous. It's really fun!"

Community Chest

I wonder what filled Miss Lester's blouse on the way to work.

Taft ROCKED the White House.

Responsible for the cherry trees along the Tidal Basin AND appointing the first female money mutilator!

The only President to also have served as Chief Justice.

A faithful husband and doting father.

Roosevelt's troubleshooter who helped supervise the Panama Canal construction.

And a merry 350 pounds, with an infectious chuckle! His biographer described Taft's famous laugh this way: “It was by all odds the most infectious chuckle in the history of politics. It started with a silent trembling of Taft's ample stomach. The next sign was a pause in the reading of his speech, and the spread of a slow grin across his face. Then came a kind of gulp which seemed to escape without his being aware that the climax was near. Laughter followed hard on the chuckle itself, and the audience invariably joined in.”

Next time I visit Arlington National Cemetery, I'll pay my respects to jolly Mr. Taft!

OMG, She's a ...

Serial Killer! As in mutilator of serially numbered currency! Get it?? Yes?


From the looks of it, "Old Money" had to endure a great deal of torture before it was ultimately mutilated into submission! - Kathleen

Louise Lester's Later Life of Leisure

Larcenous Louise Lester later loaned her bother Larry a half-million dollars, leaving a little left for her lonely lesbian lover, Lottie. Louise and Larry learned of a leaky log house in a lower latitude and linked up there to live a life of leisure studying literature and laughingly learning to play the lyre. Lottie was left behind, later to have a lobotomy.

[And after they died, they both went straight to ...
- Dave]


Someone with a messier desk than mine!


Oh man, I guess I would have the same expression if I was in charge of "mutilation of old money"!! That place looks like a bomb shelter.

[I think the technical term was maceration, although "mutilation" seems to be what's written on the negative label. Someone at the LOC transcribed it as "metalation." Tomayto, tomahto. - Dave]


And Miss Louise looks thrilled to be doing her job!!

Filthy Lucre

Interesting occupation! I wonder what exactly the process would be for money "mutilation." And I wonder if Miss Louise ever dipped into that big bin of moolah!

Messy Job

How did she stay so neat and clean in such a messy environment? Wish I knew more about the process such as what the wash tub was for and why the use of water.

$5 million per day

The following is from a caption for a similar photo of the same apparatus. Miss Lester was one of a committee of three which supervised the daily destruction at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Washington Post Jun 2 1912

U.S. Officials Destroy $5,000,000 Daily in Worn out Currency

The money at the rate of nearly $5,000,000 is thrown into the receptacle at the bottom of the picture. Under this is the machine that cuts up the old bills into tiny bits. Later the mass is mixed with a solution that takes out all coloring matter, and the pulp is then sold to manufacturers of cardboard and paper pulp novelties. The woman in the picture is Miss Louise Lester, the only one of her sex to ever serve on this committee. She was recently appointed by President Taft from Maryland.

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