Before the Federal government began printing and distributing nationalized currency, many local banks would issue their own banknotes to help facilitate financial transactions, especially in areas where coinage was scarce. Sadly, many of these financial institutions failed, leaving the holder of the note with nothing but a worthless piece of paper. Currency of this era, whether the institution remained solvent or not, has become known to modern collectors as “broken bank notes”, and they are one of the most popular collectibles from the period. Generally these notes are very artistic, with attractive vignettes and fancy geometric designs. The presently offered note is one of those lovely issues. The central vignette features a sidewheel steamboat named the “PLYMOUTH ROCK”, traversing the scene from right to left. The wind has apparently picked up as the smoke from the twin stacks is blowing straight back and the waters around the boat appear somewhat disturbed. A small sailboat, its main sail billowing, can be seen in the foreground, while a larger sailing vessel appears to be bearing down upon the back side of the steamboat. A third sailing ship, apparently a yacht, is barely visible in the distance at the right. Immediately below this is a short financial obligation which states that “THE STONINGTON BANK Will pay Three Dollars to the bearer on demand”, followed by the city of issue, “STONINGTON”, and a blank line, broken by the number “18”, for the date (the date was to written at the time the note was being prepared for issuance). Two blank lines, one for the signature of the “Cashr” and the other to be signed by the “Prest”, appear below the financial obligation. A portrait of an elderly gentleman in an oval dominates the lower left corner of the note, while a vignette depicting a sailor seated by the side of a ship appears at the lower right. Two medallions, bearing the denomination at their centers, dominate the upper corners of the note, that at the left in a circle and that at the right in an octagonal. A rectangular frameline encloses the note, with “STATE OF CONNECTICUT” printed inside at the top and “Danforth, Wright & Co., New York & Philada.” (the printing company) at the bottom, just left of center. A reddish-orange security protectorate covers the entire face of the note, with the exception of the vignettes and medallions. A large reddish-orange “THREE” overprint dominates the lower center of the piece, partly on the financial obligation and partly under the signature area. As with many notes of the era, the back was left blank. The note measures approximately 3.00 x 7.50 inches and would make a great addition to any obsolete or ship related currency collection.
Cursory research indicates the sidewheel steamer depicted in the vignette actually plied the waters of the Great Lakes from 1854 through 1863. The “Plymouth Rock” was apparently launched on March 21, 1854, and was 335.5 feet long. It was dismantled in May, 1863, and during one brief period of service, it was listed as a “Queen of the Lakes”. Whether the view in the vignette is accurate, or simply a representation, is left for further research. Why a ship that plied the Great Lakes was used as the primary vignette on a note from Connecticut is also a mystery (it may have been a stock vignette or it may illustrate a totally different vessel).
The presently offered note is in choice un-circulated condition, with super contrast and wonderful eye appeal. The colors are sharp and bold, with the reddish “THREE” portion of the protectorate being especially prominent. The margins at either side and along the bottom are significantly larger than usual, with the one at the top being average for the period. One diagonal corner crease is visible when the note is viewed from the back, though this is virtually impossible to notice when viewed from the face. A very attractive and high-grade issue, especially popular with collectors due to the odd (by today’s standards) denomination.