Paper Money

Need a bank note printed, with no questions asked?

Whenever questionable bank notes needed printing, W.L. Ormsby always tended to be close by, including printing this would-be note for the "Northern Indiana R.R. Bank" in Logansport.

Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

As I have written in the past, Waterman L. Ormsby, who was a talented engraver and inventor, always tended to be close by when it came time to produce notes, without asking too many questions, for customers that “weren’t quite right.”

That’s the case with the Crawfordsville, Logansport, and Northern Indiana R.R. Bank of Logansport, Ind. In 1852, the state of Indiana created a class of banks called “Free Banks” that issued notes secured by the deposit of state stocks with the auditor of state in Indianapolis. While not particularly successful, with many succumbing during the Panic of 1854, these banks, nonetheless, carried some credibility because they were state regulated. 

Some of the requirements were that each note design had to have the die of the auditor of state appear and had to be countersigned by state officials such as the register and auditor. In addition, many had text someplace on the notes indicating that they were secured by pledge of public stocks. 

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Great, this note has all of those details; no problem, right? 

Wrong. Whatever this bank was, it was not an Indiana state-chartered Free Bank. While Ormsby did produce notes for the Northern Indiana Bank in Logansport, this note is from an entirely different entity. Certainly Ormsby knew better than to think that this was somehow a legitimate issue. 

I believe whoever ordered this note did so with the express intent of having it confused with the Northern Indiana Bank. To aid in this deception, the aforementioned features such as the auditor of state’s die and state official signature spaces were added. Since Ormsby was involved in printing notes for both concerns, he should have immediately understood what was going on. 

Perhaps he did and just decided to proceed as long as the customer could pay for the printing. That seems to be the way things often happened with Ormsby. 

My suspicion is that at least 90 percent of Ormsby’s customers were either fraudulent or extremely fragile financially. 

I am currently compiling a list of banks and other issuers that used W.L. Ormsby or New York Bank Note Company (a name he used on some notes) and will share the findings when I am done; I, however, expect that a high percentage of frauds will be confirmed.

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