Many notes of defunct or worthless banks led second lives after the
demise of their issuers.
The note that is the subject for this week’s column was issued by
the Drovers Bank of Columbia (present-day Columbia City), Ind., a
hamlet of 350 souls around 1849 to 1854.
The “bank” was, by most contemporary accounts, a completely
fraudulent “paper mill” that did no legitimate business. It was
undoubtedly nothing but a bad memory by the beginning of the Civil War.
But, as happened so often in the first decade or two after the
Civil War, uncut sheets of the bank’s worthless paper money were
repurposed by a creative merchant.
Since most of the bank notes produced prior to the war were
uniface, with no printing or designs on one side, the ones that were
worthless made perfect size handbills with plenty of space for
messages to be printed on the back.
The cost was also attractive since the notes were available for
whatever the price of scrap paper was at the time.
Using old notes was perfect for the advertiser — they had an
interesting design that had served as money at one time to attract
attention to the advertiser’s message, and the paper was both cheap
and of good quality.
One can read the back of the Drovers Bank note and see that the
Philadelphia firm of Loomis and Decan was involved with all sorts of
household goods and appliances including stoves, laundry equipment,
clothes dryers, refrigerators, water coolers, ice cream freezers,
coffee roasters and even stepladders.
Undoubtedly the firm’s motto was “If we don’t have it, you don’t
But when were these ads in “circulation”?
A quick search of Philadelphia city directories provided the answer.
The firm of Loomis and Decan is listed as a seller of gas stoves
located at 27 S. Sixth St. in Philadelphia in the 1869 edition. The
firm’s principals were George W. Loomis and Edwin M. Decan.
Decan seemed to be a bit of a job hopper as he is also listed as a
commission merchant in 1866 and a stationer in 1873 editions.
Next time you run across an advertising note see what you can find
out about the second issuer.
You never know where the pathway may lead.
Wendell Wolka has been a paper money collector and educator for
more than 40 years. If you have questions or suggestions, you can
reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.