We examined it, we read about it, we even got a little bag of it, the equivalent of about 40 bills of mixed denominations - alas, all shredded. These little souvenir bags of worn-out money were being given away at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas first open house on Thursday. And what a interesting and informative event it was! The staff in this highly secure place and the numerous policemen could not have been more welcoming and pleasant; there was even a table with an array of cookies and other treats. Mr C said that Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernake has been concerned about public relations and trying various avenues to help the public understand exactly what the Federal Reserve does, so maybe that accounts for the all-out hospitality. But whatever the reason, it certainly made for an enjoyable experience.
The Dallas Fed is a striking contemporary complex built in 1992. From the corner of the visitors' hall, you can look across Klyde Warren Park to the Arts District.
Here are various displays, some interactive, on the regional economy, historical currency and the history of banking in the United States, explanations of how the Federal Reserve works and more. This is a scale used by the Dallas Fed to weigh gold shipments that were used by many national banks to purchase their initials shares of capital stock in the Federal Reserve.
For the open house, there were also displays from the Bureau of Printing and Engraving in Fort Worth, the only place in this country outside of Washington, D.C. where paper currency is made. (Did you know that? I certainly didn't.) Tables manned by craftsmen - Intaglio engravers, platemakers and photoengravers - who actually do the work featured examples of the several processes that go into printing the new $100 bill that will be released in October.
We also attended a terrific presentation from Charlene Williams, associate director of the BEP's Western Currency Facility in Fort Worth (who obviously loves her job), on the history of the BEP, the money production process and the security features in U.S. paper currency. There we learned that the BEP, which has regularly scheduled visitor hours, will also have special craft demonstrations during the last full week of July, so we are planning on going to that. And we discovered there are regular visitor hours to see the Economy in Action permanent exhibits here at the Dallas Fed, well worth doing even without the added attractions that were part of the open house. Indeed, a good way to pass some time in air-conditioned comfort during summer's 100-degree days while learning some fascinating facts about money, money, money.