Description of the Crane papermaking plant

Crane tells us that currency paper is made of more durable linen and cotton fibers.

When NPR visited, the company was preparing tons of dull-brown linen fibers to be an ingredient in the paper.

One of the first things we see is a giant iron ball swinging from the rafters.

If you’re at all familiar with the term “steampunk,” you’ll easily call it to mind.

Inside the big ball, the linen is cooked under pressure. Call it a kind of parboiling of the money molecules.

“It’s about 15 feet in diameter and will hold several thousand pounds of fiber at a time,” Crane says as the sphere, called a rotary digester, rocks high above us.

We follow the fibers through a network of baths and presses. They’re bleached and processed until they land in what Crane calls a “slurry” with cotton fibers.

Then, machines press it into a continuous stream of paper that flows through the factory. When light shines through the paper, which today is for $20 bills, you can see watermarked images of Andrew Jackson.

If you look closely, you can see tiny red and blue security threads Crane showed us in baggies, but couldn’t talk about much.

Crane poses for a photo in front of the paper as it spins on a large spool. He strokes it and smiles as the Jacksons go by.

The roll will ultimately get cut into smaller rolls, then sheets. From there the paper is piled onto pallets and trucked by armored tractor-trailer to Bureau of Engraving and Printing sites where money is printed.

______________________

Benincasa, Robert. “Where Dollar Bills Are Born.” Planet Money. 23 May 2012.

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