find all sorts of things in the fine print on obsolete bank notes and
scrip; sometimes it’s the actual location or the complete name of the
issuer that puts a whole different light on the note’s acceptance.
note whose text says, for example, PAYABLE AT MY OFFICE ON in very
small letters and THE CANAL BANK in much larger letters could lead
someone not paying close attention to the conclusion that the note was
issued by “The Canal Bank” rather than by someone whose office
happened to be physically located on one of the earthen banks of a
canal. The old adage “Never trust a bank note issuer that resorts to
font size to assist in the acceptance or circulation of its notes”
not all fine print was intended to deceive. Many vignettes are
“signed” by the original engravers. Numerous vignettes from Hatch,
Rawdon, Durand and others can be found with microprinting under them
indicating that they were designed, drawn, or engraved by a named
engraver. In the mid-1850s and later, a number of vignettes had
lengthy microprinted notices that they had been entered with a
District Court, apparently a form of copyrighting the image.
few vignettes have microprinted titles identifying their subjects. One
such vignette can be found on a $5 issue of the Lafayette Bank of
Boston. At first glance, the vignette appears to be a stock industrial
scene, but a closer inspection reveals the following title: “Alger’s
Iron Foundry South Boston.”
vignettes were not inexpensive to commission, but bankers occasionally
spent the additional dollars. Why the Lafayette Bank opted for this
course of action is unclear. It is possible that the foundry or its
owner was a major stockholder in, or customer of the bank. A less
likely motivation may have been to show the industrial might of the
area that the bank serviced.
what was Alger’s Iron Foundry all about?
by Cyrus Alger (1781 to 1856) in 1809, the iron works in South Boston
was a major munitions producer, supplying the United States government
with cannon balls during the War of 1812. He was an excellent
metallurgist and soon branched out into the production of artillery
pieces such as mortars and rifled cannons as well as other castings
for diverse products.
his death, the company reverted to the manufacture of wire. Alger was
also a public figure, serving on Boston’s Common Council as well as
two terms as an alderman.
you never know what may be lurking in the shadows on obsolete notes.
Take a closer look at the ones in your collection and see if any
surprise is waiting for you.