What did Southern note printers do during the Civil War when facing shortages?

Collecting Paper: Paper shortages sometimes resulted in bizarre choices
By , Special to Coin World
Published : 08/08/16
Text Size

Collecting Paper column from the Aug. 22, 2016, issue of Coin World:

I sometimes run across Southern notes issued during the Civil War that were older uncurrent designs that had been in storage and were then dusted off and reissued due to paper, ink, and skilled labor shortages occasioned by the ever-tightening Union blockade. 

This $1 note, issued by the Bank of the State of South Carolina in June 1862, seems to fit that scenario rather nicely. 

Connect with Coin World:  

While a large red ONE protector was added, a close inspection of the face reveals the imprint of Underwood, Bald & Spencer along the left end of the face of the note. The company operated under this name from approximately 1835 to 1837 and the design of the note is pretty consistent with that time period. So the thinking goes “They had a stock of these 25-year-old notes in inventory, slapped a red ONE protector on from a local printing source, and reissued the notes in 1862.” 

Not so fast — looking at the back of the note, it is clear that it was printed on paper watermarked “T.C.C.&Co.” So, what does that tell us? Well, Toppan, Carpenter, Casilear & Co. was in business under that name from 1850 to 1855 and was never involved with the other family of companies that included Underwood, Bald & Spencer. The paper could not have existed when this design was originally printed in the late 1830s.

Faced with this evidence it becomes clear that the Bank of the State of South Carolina had custody of the printing plate used to produce the original design and had acquired bank note paper with Toppan, Carpenter, Casilear & Co.’s watermark. Several other examples of Southern notes on this particular paper from early in the war, such as Virginia and Missouri state issues, were produced at about the same time these notes were printed. 

The bank must have had a Southern printer, whose identity is presently unknown, print the notes using the original plates and a locally sourced secondary plate to apply the red ONE protector. 

So, the design is clearly pre-war as is the printing plate, but the notes themselves are not, being printed in 1862 on pre-war paper that either the bank or the printer acquired in the open market. 

There is even an intriguing possibility that Keatinge & Ball, the South’s preeminent printer, may have printed these notes, as the firm supplied the same watermarked paper to both the states of Missouri (secessionist government) and Virginia for their notes. 

You are signed in as:null

Please sign in or join to share your thoughts on this story

No comments yet