Paper Money

Obsolete currency in North Carolina museum exhibit

Obsolete paper currency in North Carolina went mainstream on Aug. 2 with the opening of the “Banking in Fayetteville” exhibit at the Fayetteville Transportation and Local History Museum.

The presentation explores the beginnings of banking in the city, historically a center of the state’s banking and commerce. It includes bank notes, ledgers, bonds, and other items from the days of obsolete currency, when banks had their own money printed.

It also features architecture and relates its importance to a bank’s public image. Museum director Bruce Daws explained to Up & Coming Weekly in Cumberland County, North Carolina, “Architecture in banking was important. The bank had to speak to opulence, it had to speak to being solid, and it was usually classic architecture.”

He added, “Banking is an important subject just to who we are as a city. We were a colonial port city located at the head of navigation on the Cape Fear River. We were an important trade community. Fortunes were being made and lost on the Cape Fear River. Banks were certainly an important ingredient in the big picture of Fayetteville.”

The exhibition’s smaller artifacts draw the most attention. One featured item is a 20-shilling note from 1754, the year Cumberland County was founded. There is also a representative sample of some of the foreign currency that was legal to use in the United States until 1857. These coins and notes tell the story of the Fayetteville financial sector during the 1700s and 1800s.

Obsolete currency from the area’s banks is prominently featured. Something that will make every North Carolina paper money collector dream is an uncut sheet of four $5 notes from the Bank of Clarendon. The sheet is unsigned and appears to be in near perfect quality.

Confederate currency in the display, from one of the region’s old families, preserved as souvenirs, is characterized as a mix of some heavily used and some virtually new pieces.

Another important piece on display is described by Up & Coming Weekly as a bank note signed by the mayors and commissioners of Fayetteville on Aug. 1, 1865. That was months after Fayetteville fell to Gen. William T. Sherman in March and is called important because of how soon after the war it was printed. Another part of the exhibit tells the story of William G. Broadfoot, a banker and Confederate agent during the Civil War at the Bank of Fayetteville. As Sherman was marching into town, Broadfoot schemed to hide the bank assets around Fayetteville. He then placed notes in a bank stationery envelope with details as to where everything was hidden. Apparently, the plan succeeded at least in part, as some of the assets have since been located where he said they were.

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