Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 19, 2021

On the Road: "What's In Your Wallet?", Crane Museum of Papermaking

"What's In Your Wallet?"
Crane Museum of Papermaking, Dalton, MA 
by Shera Cohen

Nearly every person carries a Crane product daily. Hmm, "What's in your wallet?" Maybe a dollar bill? Or a $5.00. A $10. Even a nice crisp $20 from the bank. All, yes ALL, paper currency manufactured in the United States emanates from Crane in Dalton. Many years ago, the Federal government issued a bid competition to seek out the company that would manufacture the paper used for US currency.  After a few years of try-outs from other corporations, Crane was selected, receiving a monopoly on the manufacturing of this unique paper.

I had never heard of Dalton, MA, yet it is one of the towns that contribute to the splendid tapestry of places that makes up the Berkshires. Approximately 17 minutes from Stockbridge, Crane Museum of Papermaking is the landmark tourist attraction in this small hamlet. Not only a draw for visitors, it is a working mill, still with active employees, which started in 1844. Entrepreneurs Zenas Marshall and James Brewer Crane purchased the mill in 1844, following the retirement of the pioneer papermaker Zenas Crane.

The mission of the Crane Museum of Papermaking is to collect, care for, and exhibit the history of Crane Currency in order to create an entertaining and educational experience of Crane Currency’s unique story, as well as the art and science of papermaking with a special focus on currency paper and anti-counterfeiting technologies.

The Museum opened in 1930 after an extensive renovation, making it one of the oldest corporate museums in the country.  The grounds were designed by the F.L and J.C Olmsted firm. Exhibits in the Museum trace the 250-year history of Crane papermaking from The Liberty Paper Mill in Milton, MA., which operated from 1770 to 1793, to the present. 

The Liberty Mill was indeed a cradle of the American Revolution, serving such revolutionary luminaries as Paul Revere, Henry Knox, John Hancock and a host of others responsible for today’s freedom.

Crane has continuously supplied banknote paper for U.S. currency. Anti-counterfeiting technologies have been developed, updated and implemented by Crane since 1844. The Museum was expanded in 2001 as part of the company’s bicentennial celebration, and again in 2014 to accommodate corporate archives and create an area for hands-on papermaking and paper arts. The museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.