That is one million dollars Cassius Clay is posing with on our cover this week, and the money is real—it's fresh bread, and it represents rather dramatically what the 22-year-old Cassius will have earned in his brief career after his fight next week with Heavyweight Champion Sonny Liston (see page 14). The picture idea occurred to our editors last fall, and on the surface it seemed like a fairly simple problem: get Cassius, get a million dollars, put them together, take a picture.
But there are rules and regulations governing the photographing of U.S. money. Washington Correspondent Martie Zad spoke to Edgar Wildy, the Treasury Department's Assistant Chief of Secret Service, and reported, "No bill can be distinguishable. No part of the bill showing its denomination can be shown. Bills can be stacked so that their edges show and so that the figures on the straps around the bundles show, but no bill itself should be readable." Zad cited Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 474, which among other things mentions 15 years in prison. He said that we should submit any photograph we hoped to use to Mr. Wildy for approval. We said we would, we would.
Next, Associate Editor Huston Horn located Cassius Clay in New York and asked him if he would have time to pose for a photograph in a day or so. "Something kind of different," Horn said, "like that picture we did showing you in front of Big Ben in London" (SI, June 10). Cassius said, "Maybe like me with a million dollars, huh?" Flabbergasted, Horn said, "Well, as a matter of fact, yes." They set a date.
Cassius was ready, but the $1 million was not. We had not realized how long it takes just to count $1 million. Too, we wanted small bills, like fives and tens, in order to get the biggest pile of money possible, but the smallest denomination quickly available in large amounts was $100. We had to postpone everything.
February 24, 1964
Cassius wandered off again, but he said he would be in Los Angeles the first week of December and he agreed to pose there. We called the Bank of America and spoke to Vice-President Selden Clark, who by happy coincidence just a few weeks earlier had superintended the public display of $1 million in a glass case in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater. Our problem was practically routine for Mr. Clark.
And so, one December morning, Cassius, Mr. Clark, the million dollars and Photographer Dick Meek rendezvoused at a vault in a Bank of America branch. Meek's attitude toward the money was in the finest tradition of objective journalism. "I wasn't taken very emotionally with it," he reported, "because I knew it wasn't mine." He sounded a bit wistful.
Back in New York the color film was processed, and Picture Editor John Stebbins took the print to Washington to show Secret Service Man Wildy. Mr. Wildy was cordial and approving and after examining the print wrote, "In our opinion not in conflict with existing laws in its present form, i.e., faces or backs which show may not be more distinct. E.W. Wildy, U.S.S.S. 12/26/63."