Until the widespread introduction and use of Federal currency, local banks issued their own notes based on specie deposits made by the community and the immediate need for such items within the area. This arrangement remained in effect until well after the outbreak of the Civil War, with merchants frantically searching for a ways to easily and economically transact their business, since specie, the only form of money issued by the Federal government until that time, had disappeared from circulation. Local banks, as well as the merchants themselves, issued large amounts of banknotes, all used to help alleviate the shortage of specie and facilitate commerce. The presently offered note is just one example of these emergency measures. The principal vignette depicts a group of miners at work in a mine. One of the men pries at a hole in a rock face with a metal rod, while a companion rests while observing the progress. A second figure sits on a rock beside the workers, seemingly tilting a lantern for a better view of one of their finds. The entire scene appears somewhat dark, except for the white shirts and the lights on their hats. A financial obligation, begun above and completed below this vignette, guarantees that “THE ALLEGANY COUNTY BANK Will pay TEN DOLLARS to the bearer on demand”. The location of the bank, “CUMBERLAND”, and the date of this issue, “Nov 7 1862”, appears immediately after the obligation, followed by the signatures of “D E Conklin” and “J Everett” (they have signed in their capacities as “Cashr” and “Prest” of the bank, respectively). Additional vignettes dominate the lower left and right corners of the note, each depicting a young female in a decorated oval frame (the one at the right is significantly younger than the one at left). Above each portrait is a decorative medallion bearing a numerical representation of the denomination. Between the portrait and medallion at the left the state name of “MARYLAND” has been printed. A light green security printing covers the entire face (except for the vignettes), with the denomination printed above the signature lines at the bottom. The denomination is repeated in upper case letters within the upper and lower borders, though simple lines delineate the limits of the note at the left and right. The name of the printer, the “American Bank Note Company”, appears in a small box within the lower border at the center. As with many notes of the era, the verso of this piece never had any printed designs applied (all of the pertinent information was already printed on the front). This attractive piece measures approximately 3.00 x 7.50 inches. It would make a wonderful companion to the previously listed $5.00 issues from the same bank, or a great note to represent the money of necessity issued in the North during the early days of the Civil War.
Cumberland is located in the western portion of Maryland and serves as the seat of Allegany County. According to the 2010 United States census there were 20,859 individuals living in the city. It was known as the “Queen City”, as it was once the second largest in the state. It served as an outfitting and staging area for westward emigration through the first half of the 1800s. It also became an industrial center of some note, serviced by railroads, several major roads, and even a canal to Washington D. C. After World War II, industry declined and most of the major businesses and technologies moved to the eastern counties.
While it is readily apparent upon examination that this note was never used in commerce, it does exhibit one significant diagonal fold approximately ˝ inch from the upper left corner (an additional one is barely noticeable in the opposite upper corner). The colors are bright and bold, providing a sharp contrast to the vignettes and printed material. The signatures, added in period ink are fully legible, though some letters are weak due to the amount of ink used and the pressure applied. Very light toning can be discerned at the left and right edges, as well as at the vignettes (due to the security printing, this toning is principally visible when the note is viewed from the back). The edges are somewhat irregular, a common occurrence on notes of this era since they were cut from the sheet by hand. All of the inner frame-lines are intact, though the one at the lower left is almost compromised. Though not perfect, this eye-appealing note would fit nicely in most high grade Civil War currency collections, particularly if only the front was visible.