Following the initial issuance of currency, the Confederate government realized that more funds would be necessary to prosecute the escalating Civil War. The Confederate Congress passed the Act of May 16, 1861 authorizing $20 million of non interest bearing Treasury notes, the presently offered note being one of that issue. The central vignette features a well executed portrait of President George Washington, neatly enclosed in an oval frame. Though with slight variations due to skill of engraving and production, this vignette is the same as the portrait used on our present $1.00 Federal Reserve Note. Interestingly, both sides claimed George Washington as a national figure, the South due to his Virginia heritage and the North due to his being the first national president. This vignette is superimposed upon the denomination, expressed numerically. Printed above and below the vignette is a financial statement that promises that “Two years after date THE CONFEDERATE States of America Will pay to Bearer FIFTY DOLLARS”, followed by the city of issue - “Richmond, Va.”- and the date - “July 25th 1861 . Below this are the signatures of “T. Ellett” and “H H Goodloe”, the former signing in lieu of the register and the latter for the treasurer. Until the July 25th issue, the register of the treasury and the treasurer actually signed the notes, but with this issue, the government realized that it was impractical for them to physically sign each note and hired individuals to sign in their place (by the close of the war over 300 individuals would sign Confederate currency). A medallion with the denomination upon it appears in the upper left corner, immediately above a seated female figure identified by researchers as Tellus, the mother goddess of the earth. This attribution has been applied for many years, though there is nothing about the figure to warrant that identification. The figure is seated on a chair, with a spear in her left hand and a globe, with a bird perched upon it, in her right (the bird has recently been identified as the dove sent out of Noah’s Ark). It is possible that the figure may represent Aeternitas, the Roman personification of durability and stability, who was frequently shown on ancient coins with a globe and scepter (many times the globe had a phoenix perched upon it). This identification would make sense, since the Confederate government would have wanted to convey a feeling of longevity to their undertaking. Two medallions, each of a different design and topped by the denomination, dominate the right end of the note. Two printed statements guarantee that the note is “Receivable in payment of all dues except export duties” and that it is “Fundable in Confederate States Stock bearing Eight per Cent interest” appear at the upper left and middle right respectively. A blue “C” stamp can be found between the central vignette and that of Tellus. While the purpose of this stamp is not positively known, it is currently believed that this is some form of cancellation mark used prior to the introduction of the later cut and cut-out cancellations. There is no concrete proof for this hypothesis, but it certainly is a possibility. The back of the note, as with many other issues of this era, was left blank (this saved both time and ink). The imprint of the printer - “HOYER & LUDWIG RICHMOND VA” - appears at the bottom center, just above the inner frameline. These notes were printed on two different types of paper, a thinner banknote style and a thicker bond style (the offered note is on the bond style paper). Only 123,564 notes were issued during the war, with a fairly large portion of these seeing circulation.
The presently offered specimen is in uncirculated condition, with no signs of usage or wear. Overall light toning is present, with the entire note appearing to be a very pale yellow to beige. A few small soiling spots are noted for accuracy, more visible on the back than the front. The contrast is above average for the issue, though Ellett’s signature is a little light (it doesn’t help that it is so small). The note is cut tight, especially so in the lower left hand corner. A very short tear is present at the upper left and a small corner fold at the lower left, noted solely for accuracy. Overall dimensions are approximately 3.25 x 7.25 inches. A nice example of this early issue note.