Prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, the Federal government had issued currency only on a sporadic basis (generally during a crisis), choosing instead to rely on specie (gold and silver) to circulate as a median of exchange. Local institutions, to help alleviate periodic shortages of specie and to facilitate commerce, issued various types of paper money to be redeemed for coins at a later date. The success of these issues varied, with some institutions redeeming the majority of their currency, while some closed their doors and left their customers holding worthless pieces of paper. Many of these notes were well executed and very attractive, with the survivors being very popular with today’s collector. The presently offered note is one of those lovely examples. The central vignette depicts an attractive young girl reading a book, a thoughtful expression upon her face, neatly encircled in an oval frame. Flanking the lower portion of the frame are two small, but detailed scenes, the one at the left representing agricultural progress, and that on the right representing commercial endeavors. Immediately below this vignette is the financial obligation, which reads “The MERCHANTS’ BANK Will pay ONE DOLLAR to the Bearer on demand”, followed by the city of issue “Washington, D.C.” and the date “July 1st 1852”. Between this obligation and the bottom of the note are the signatures of “J. F. Bell” and “W. C. Evans”, who sign in their bank capacities as “Cashr.” and “Prest.” respectively. These signatures are neatly divided by a small oval containing a vignette depicting a Tom Thumb style train, proceeding from left to right across the scene. A portrait of Millard Fillmore, 13th President of the United States (1850-53), appears along the left edge of the note, with the denomination printed atop circular medallions above and below. The right edge is dominated by a full standing female figure, representing Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, holding a sheaf of wheat and a sickle. This figure is enclosed in an ornate frame in the form of the numeral 1, further re-enforcing the denomination of the note. A rectangular frameline encloses the entire design, with the denomination repeated several times at the top and bottom. The imprint of “Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson, New-York”, the printers, can be seen at the bottom right between the frameline and Evans’ signature. The back, as with many notes of this era, was never printed (there was nothing that could be printed on the back that was not already printed on the front). The note measures approximately 3.25 x 7.25 inches, and would add a bit of class to any early American or obsolete currency collection.
The presently offered specimen is in un-circulated condition, with bold contrast and sharp definition. The paper is a light beige color, having lightly toned across the entire surface, with scattered darker areas of toning noted around some of the printed material. One paper bend is noted for accuracy, as it is virtually invisible when the note is viewed from the front. The handwritten signatures are dark and legible, while the manuscript serial number is lighter and somewhat difficult to decipher. All of the inner framelines are intact, though the note is tight in the lower right corner. The presently offered note is a lovely example of this very popular issue, and is worthy of inclusion in any quality collection.