I’ve always wondered about Waterman Lily Ormsby. He was the “renegade
bad boy” member of the bank note engraving community and was always
considered an outsider.
Ormsby had a knack for being involved with banks and bankers that
weren’t “quite right.” Perhaps it was because he asked fewer questions
of his prospective customers or was willing to work on thinner margins
than the “big boys” in the bank note business.
In any case, the vast majority of his bank customers were either
outright frauds or fragile short-lived ventures.
The Boone County Bank of Lebanon, Ind., was one such customer. W.L.
Ormsby did notes for the bank under the name of the New York Bank Note
Co. Contemporary documents and records document the deception that
The bank was organized Sept. 19, 1860, with A.W. Spooner serving as
president and J. McLean as cashier.
The promoters appeared at the Auditor of State’s office in
Indianapolis with a box containing $54,000 in unissued notes and an
accompanying affidavit supposedly from Ormsby stating that the amount
represented the total printed from the plates.
The next day the plates arrived at the Auditor of State’s office,
having been sent there directly by Ormsby.
All’s right with the world, right? Well not quite.
It seems that the promoters had actually had $289,000 worth of notes
printed. Before arriving at the Auditor of State’s office, Spooner and
McLean removed $235,000 worth of notes from the box and substituted a
forged affidavit, indicating the lower amount, in place of the
The bank’s legitimate circulation was released in Toledo, Ohio (the
further away from home, the better the chances for a delay in
redemptions), while some of the illegal notes, sporting forged
signatures of the auditor of state and register, were put into
circulation in neighboring Midwest states.
A letter from unknown parties in New York suggesting that something
was odd resulted in the bank’s issues being thrown out by the
A run on the bank quickly ensued that resulted in its failure.
While state officials exonerated Ormsby of any wrongdoing, he did
admit that giving all of the notes to the bank’s promoters rather than
sending them to the Auditor of State’s office directly (as the plates
had been) was perhaps “poor judgment.”
Such lapses in judgment, whether unintentional or planned, perhaps
explain Ormsby’s attraction as the printer of choice for many of the
shady operators engaged in the banking business before the Civil War.
More from CoinWorld.com:
gold prospector unearths 87-ounce nugget worth more than $100,000 in
Royal Mint unveils fifth portrait of Queen Elizabeth II:
much gold and silver has the U.S. Mint sold so far in 2015? [INFOGRAPHIC]
of Canada says not illegal to 'Spock' its $5 notes in homage to the
token honors independence hero William Wallace
to share your thoughts on this story.
Keep up with all of CoinWorld.com's news and insights by
signing up for our free eNewsletters
liking us on Facebook
following us on Twitter
. We're also on