Though we tend to take government issued currency for granted, prior to the Civil War most transactions were accomplished through the use of specie (gold and silver coins). Paper money was only issued on rare occasions, usually during a financial or military crisis. These emergency issues would be exchanged for specie and retired soon after the crisis had passed. 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 others 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 piece is one of these avidly sought after examples. The principal vignette appears at the center left and features a period shipbuilding scene, with three ships in various stages of construction. Several individuals are at work on the two ships at the right in the scene, and they display the greatest progress toward completion (it still appears that neither ship is going anywhere all too soon). Under magnification a body of water (probably a river) can be seen behind the ships, with a city barely visible on the opposite side. To the right of this scene, at the bottom center of the note, a second vignette depicts a lovely young lady wearing what appears to be a dark colored veil. She is presented facing the viewer within an elaborate oval frame, with a light colored background highlighting her visage. At the top center of the note is a printed obligation which states that “THE BANK OF NEW-ENGLAND AT GOODSPEED’S LANDING Will pay FIVE DOLLARS to the bearer on demand”, followed by the bank’s location, “EAST HADDAM”, and an un-accomplished line for the date to be added at the time of issuance. Between this obligation and the central vignette is an additional un-accomplished line for the serial number, as well as the printed “STATE OF CONNECTICUT”. The denomination is presented in numerical format at the upper left and to the right of the central vignette, each time atop a geometric design (the one beside the vignette is particularly elaborate), while the upper right corner features an additional design with the denomination written within. Un-accomplished lines for the signatures of the “Cashr” and “Prest” can be found to the right of the vignette, separated by the design bearing the denomination (the cashier line is above and the president line is below the design). It is interesting to note that “Caveat entered at the Patent Office” is printed in small letters below the cashier’s signature line, though it’s significance is not known to the cataloguer (this is the first time I have seen this on a note, though it appears on other denominations from this bank). The note was printed by the“American Bank Note Co. New-York”, with foregoing imprint appearing between the president’s signature line and the two line rectangular border that encloses the entire design. A green security design appears atop the financial obligation, with the denomination, expressed as “FIVE”, in white at its center. As with many notes of this era, the back was never printed with a design (nothing could be printed on the back that was not already printed on the front). This interesting and attractive note measures approximately 3.05 x 7.40 inches and is printed in period black ink, with the green security printing adding a needed splash of color. Since it was never dated, numbered, or signed, it is obvious that this particular note was not issued for circulation but was instead cut from a sheet that remained in inventory at the closure of the bank. While it is not rare, this note would still make a great addition to any obsolete currency collection given its intricate design and wonderful eye appeal.
Research indicates that East Haddam is a small town located in Middlesex County, along the Connecticut River, in the south-central portion of Connecticut. The population, as of the 2010 census, was listed as 9,126 individuals. According to the Wikipedia entry, the area that was to become Haddam and East Haddam was purchased from the local Indians in 1662 for 30 coats worth approximately $100. East Haddam was incorporated as a separate town from Haddam in 1734. Two landings were historically associated with the town, the upper one along Main Street and the lower one near the Goodspeed Opera House (still in operation today). This lower landing became known as Goodspeed’s Landing, the location mentioned on the presently offered note, since it was at the center of a district dominated by the businesses of William Henry Goodspeed. According to tourist sites devoted to this town, many of the attractive and historic buildings in this area have been preserved.
The presently offered note is in crisp un-circulated condition (given that it was never issued), with sharp contrast and wonderful eye appeal. As may be expected, no folds or creases are present on this piece, though sometimes, through poor storage, even un-issued notes will have folds or other damage. The margins are reasonably wide and only slightly uneven, neatly framing the wonderfully executed designs. Since the note is unsigned and undated, there is no ink erosion present. Typical light toning is noted, though this is only mentioned for accuracy as it does not affect the overall appearance of the note. As noted earlier, pieces of this type are not rare, but they are very popular with collectors and are always in great demand. This note would make a wonderful addition to any high grade obsolete or Connecticut currency collection.