The managers of the State Bank of Ohio embarked on a major redesign
of all of the bank’s notes in 1850. They decided to feature the
portraits of famous Ohioans, men whom most common people in the state
Fast forward to the 21st century, none of these once-famous
Ohioans were any longer recognizable to collectors of obsolete paper
money. Only extensive searches of long forgotten correspondence and
records in the state archives in Columbus finally reconnected names
with the images of the once well known.
Judge Jacob Burnet. Ever heard of him? Neither had I before 2003.
Judge Burnet was selected to appear on the $3 denomination along with
another Ohio jurist, Ebenezer Lane.
As noted in my book on Ohio paper money, A History of
Nineteenth Century Ohio Obsolete Bank Notes and Scrip, “Jacob
Burnet was born in Newark, New Jersey on February 22, 1770, and
graduated with honors from Nassau Hall, Princeton in 1791. He was
admitted to the bar in 1796 and moved to Cincinnati, where his father
had made significant investments. Burnet was appointed to the First
Legislative Council (an interim form of pre-statehood government for
Ohio) by President John Adams in 1798.
“He was married to Rebecca Wallace on January 2, 1800, and had
eleven children, five of whom survived him. Jacob Burnet remained an
active member of the Council until the organization of state
government in the course of 1802-1803.
“Judge Burnet felt that the statehood movement was premature and
retired from politics to focus on the legal profession for a period of
nearly ten years, before serving in the state legislature from 1812-1816.
“Burnet retired from his law practice in 1817 and then served as
the first President of the Cincinnati Branch of the (Second) Bank of
the United States from 1817 until approximately 1820. In 1821 he was
appointed by the Governor to be a Judge on the bench of the Ohio
Supreme Court, which seat he held until 1828.
“In 1828, he was elected to the United States Senate to fill a
vacancy occasioned by the resignation of General William H. Harrison.
It was understood that he would not stand for re-election and upon the
expiration of his term in 1833, he again retired to private life until
his death on May 10, 1853, at the age of eighty-three.”
Jacob was not the only famous Burnet; his half brother David
served as the first (interim) president of the Republic of Texas!
So next time you see a portrait on one of your notes, do a little
research and see what you can uncover. You might be surprised!
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, or by mail at
Box 1211, Greenwood, IN 46142. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope
if a written response is required.