Counterfeit Estado de Sonora notes

The authorities were aware of the risks posed by counterfeiters from the very beginning. On 26 September 1913 the government issued a detailed description of the Estado de Sonora notesAGHES, Fondo Oficialidad Mayor, tomo 2971, circular of Sección 3a de Hacienda y Comunicaciones, 26 September 1913, and receipt acknowledged by José L Blan[ ], Prefecto del Distrito, Hermosillo, 29 September 1913; Prefecto del Distrito, Nogales, 30 September 1913; Jesús Ramos, Prefecto del Distrito, Ures 1 October 1913; Ignacio Bonillas, Prefecto Interino del Distrito, Arizpe, Cananea, 1 October 1913; Presidente/Prefecto(?) Interino, Cumpas 3 October 1913; José J. Obregón, Prefecto del Distrito, Alamos, 28 October 1913 and on 1 October 1913 the Secretario del Estado suggested to the Tesorero General that all authorities be informed so that whenever anyone presented a large quantity of notes they could be checked and any counterfeiter arrested and punished JMM papers, box 3, folder 24, Secretary of the State to Treasurer General, 1 October 1913.

Forgeries of all values (25c, 50c, $1, $5 and $10) had begun to appear by 22 September 1913Douglas Daily Dispatch, 23 September 1913. The El Paso Herald of 23 September 1913 reported that the Sonora currency (described as resembling green cigarette coupons and so specifically the 50c note) had been counterfeited promiscuously., within two weeks of issue.

Information about counterfeits can be derived from contemporary newspaper reports, notices and circulars, details of prosecutions or from a study of the notes themselves. In the following sections much is based on the articles "Sonoran Provisional Currency: A Forensic Approach" by Robert Perigoe, published in the journals of the US Mexican Numismatic Association.

Newspaper accounts of counterfeit notes

On 27 February 1914 the Douglas Daily Dispatch reported that fake Sonora money had appeared in Agua Prieta. The notes were poor quality and easily detected by those who had handled any amount of the genuine. Though the counterfeiters had been in Douglas for six weeks and the location of their workshop well known, no steps had been taken against them by the authorities because they were not counterfeiting the legal currency of any government recognised by the United StatesDouglas Daily Dispatch, 27 February 1914. Though the article is entitled 'Fake Sonora Money' it might it might refer to the Monclova issue.

On 6 March three unnamed Americans were arrested by the military authorities in Agua Prieta and held incommunicado, on a charge of having spurious money in their possessionOne of the men was about fifty years old and carried a cane. The other two were younger and evidently working men (Douglas Daily Dispatch, 7 March 1914). They were released the next day: according to Colonel Calles, they were not fined but given time to leave town, with a warning not to returnDouglas Daily Dispatch, 8 March 1914. Both these newspaper articles might be referring to counterfeit Monclova notes.

In March 1915 James Goodman, an American, two Spaniards and 22 (20) Mexicans were imprisoned in Nogales on charges of circulating counterfeit Estado de Sonora currency. The Mexican officials declared that $100,000 in counterfeit money was taken from the prisonersEl Paso Herald, 13 March 1915: Prensa, 14 March 1915: Prensa, 18 March 1915.

Notices and circulars

By August 1914 false Estado de Sonora notes had appeared in Chihuahua and the Treasury General sent a warning circular to all its offices (Recaudadores de Rentas)Periódico Oficial, 30 August 1914.

On 22 August 1914 Sotomayor wrote to the Governor of Zacatecas asking if Estado de Sonora notes circulated there, as they had just discovered a large number of forgeries, particularly of the $10 denomination, and had issued explicatory circularsAMZ, caja 12, exp 39, folio 53. On 5 September the Zacatecas government issued flyers listing how to recognise the counterfeitAMZ, caja 12, exp 44, folio 3 but in fact there were very few Estado de Sonora notes in circulationAMZ, caja 12, exp 45, folio 31.

In May 1915 the Regidor of Onavas, in southeast Sonora, listed six different notifications that his office had received about counterfeit currency, namely one concerning Villa’s sábanas, one concerning the Monclova and Ejército Constitucionalista issues, one concerning the $1 Estado de Sonora, another concerning the $5 (second series), and finally two concerning the $10 noteAGHES no reference. Since we can identify all these publications we have as much information about the characteristics of bogus Estado de Sonora notes as any local official.

These Estado de Sonora notes were all printed in just over one month at one establishment and so should not display the ‘legitimate’ variations that, for example, bedevilled Villa’s sábanas. However, as detailed elsewhere, they did demonstrate differences in lettering, seal sizes and colouring and there is an uneasy feeling that some of the indications listed in the proclamations were devised by an official presented with two different but both legitimate notes who presumed that one was counterfeit.

It should also be remembered that these circulars date from August and October 1914 but it was only in February 1915 that Maytorena asked the printing office to check against the original proofs.

Other references

On 5 September 1914 Teniente Coronel Ramón Gómez, the Comandante Militar at Alamos, sent two counterfeiters to the governor for punishmentAGHES, Fondo Oficialidad Mayor, tomo 3016. José A. Montiel had $740 in his possession and Agustin Bouvet had $6,900.. In the same month José Peréz, the Prefecto of Ures, sent eleven counterfeit $10 notes that had been collected from Manuel Torres of Tonochi and asked for copies of the first and second circulars to spread around the DistrictAGHES, Fondo Oficialidad Mayor, tomo 2993 letter Prefecto, Ures to Secretario de Estado, Hermosillo, 10 September 1914. Manuel’s son, Jesús Torres had received the money from the mining company in San Javier as payment of a $600 contract for coal, whilst Aparicio Porchas has received more than $100 in the same money, which was the only type in circulation there. The next day he sent a $10 note that had been collected from Juan Duarte of TecoripaAGHES, Fondo Oficialidad Mayor, tomo 2993 letter Prefecto, Ures to Secretario de Estado, Hermosillo, 11 September 1914. This $120, for some reason, was exchanged for genuine notes (of Chihuahua)AGHES, Fondo Oficialidad Mayor, tomo 2993 letter Oficial Mayor, Hermosillo to Prefecto, Ures, 12 October 1914. They sent a $20 note, number 31668, and two $50 notes, numbers 22264 and 25110.

In October 1914 Villa’s agents reported a counterfeit one peso Estado de Sonora issue, said to be made in CaliforniaCEHM, Archivo Federico González Garza, carpeta 37, legajo 3596 report 12-17 October 1914. On 12 November judge Francisco E. Rodríguez, at Nogales, found Elena Madrigal guilty of counterfeiting state notes and sentenced her to four years’ imprisonment and a fine of $250AGHES, Fondo Oficialidad Mayor, tomo 3016.

When Luis Sotomayor handed over responsibility for the Tesorería General to Jesús Ramos in December 1914 he handed over two sealed strongboxes containing counterfeit notes. The second box contained counterfeit $10 Estado de Sonora notes. One packet, sealed by Prefecto Jesus Ramos, Eduardo Ibarra, Pedro Mirando and J. M. Munguia, was of $4,570 which was collected on 22 August 1914 from M. James y Cia. Sucs; another packet of $6,830, signed by A. de la Toba, had been sent by the Presidente Municipal of Navojoa or the Prefecto del Districto of Alamos; $28,820, which had been sent by the Prefectura of Guaymas and consisted of note which had been sent by J. L. Pablovich y Hermano to Baja California; and $10,190 sent by the Administrador de la Aduana de Nogales which had also been taken from Andres C. James, so a total of $50,410. There was also another packet of counterfeit $10 Estado de Sonora notes, which M. James & Cia, Sucs. had sent to Baja California and which the Prefectura there had returned to the Tesorería General., and, finally two packets containing $1.070 in counterfeit notes sent by the Prefecto of Alamos. When checked, there were two $10 notes over. Elsewhere, the handover reports a $10 note taken from M. James y Cia. Sucs. on 1 October{Footnote}AGHES, Fondo Oficialidad Mayor, tomo 2991, handover report, 15 – 22 December 1914.

On 30 January 1915 the Englishman Charles (Carlos) R. Miles was also imprisoned for counterfeiting Estado de Sonora notesAGHES, Fondo Oficialidad Mayor, tomo 3024. It appears that Miles and others had counterfeit $1 notes (JMM papers, ox 5, folder, 18, item 3 letter F.M. Ayon, Presidente Municipal, Hermosillo to governor, without Hermosillo 20 [January 1915]). The next month the penalty was increased as on 10 February Maytorena decreed that anyone who counterfeited currency or brought in counterfeit notes should be judged by a military court and shot. Anyone who brought currency into the state had to declare it to the Customs or be considered a counterfeiterEl Estado de Sonora, 25 February 1915. Also, in February Maytorena asked the government printing office to check its examples of genuine notes and draw up instructions to distinguish bogus notes as he understood that certain counterfeits were circulatingAGHES no reference.