After the close of the American Civil War, the economy was in serious financial difficulty and specie was in short supply. While the Federal government enacted measures to alleviate this shortage, alternatives were created to fill the needs of the local community until the national measures became effective. The presently offered note was one of those local alternatives. The central vignette depicts an early “Tom Thumb” style locomotive with a tender and passenger car traveling across the scene from left to right. Three bystanders stop to watch its progress, while the passengers fill the windows to watch the passing scenery. A small town, nestled in a bend in a river, appears in the background, just below the stream of black smoke emanating from the stack of the locomotive. A tall tree and a house on a hill appear immediately behind the passing train. Unlike the $1.00 denomination, whose central scene is the same, this vignette is not enclosed in an oval, and more of the scene is visible than on the smaller value piece. Flanking this vignette are geometric medallions, each one bearing the denomination in numerical format, and below which, are the city of issue – “CHARLESTON, S.C.” – and a blank line to receive the date at the time of release. Above the central scene is printed “Office of the South Carolina Rail Road” in bold letters, while below, a financial obligation states that this note was “Receivable as Two Dollars in all payments to the South Carolina Rail Road Company”. Two lines, one for the signature of the “Prest” and the other for that of the “Auditor” appear below the obligation, with the imprint of the printers – “American Bank Note Co. New-York” - between the auditor’s line and the inner border. The left end of the note is dominated by a lovely vignette depicting an attractive young woman, her head resting on her right hand, pensively reading a large book. This thoughtful scene is flanked above and below by oval medallions, each one containing the denomination in written format. The denomination, again expressed as “TWO”, appears on a geometric design along the right end, with numerous repetitions in the lower border. A reddish “TWO” protectorate covers the financial obligation, as does a bright orange-yellow imprinted “5 CENTS” Abraham Lincoln revenue stamp. The back, as with many notes of this era, was left blank, though the protectorate appears in reverse at the center. This interesting note measures approximately 3.10 x 7.40 inches and would look wonderful if it was framed with a stock or bond of the same railroad. It would also fit well in any obsolete or post-Civil War currency collection.
The South Carolina Rail Road Company came into being by the consolidation in 1843 of the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company and the Louisville, Cincinnati and Charleston Railroad. During the great railroad boom of the 1850s, this line saw increased revenue, but concentrated most of its effort to paying off its debts, upgrading its physical plant, and resolving inefficiencies in its route. This line was heavily involved in the Civil War, suffering serious losses due to the downfall of the South. Financial losses due to Union operations against the line were estimated at $1,438,142, while those caused by the fall of the Confederacy amounted to approximately $3,803,917 (defaulted Confederate bonds, unpaid transportation fees, and 111 emancipated slaves). By 1873, the debt had risen to over $6,000,000, leading to the issuance of the “fare ticket”, one of which is the presently offered piece. Despite their best efforts, the line went bankrupt in 1878. It was reorganized as the South Carolina Railway Company, which continued operations until 1889 when it was sold into a five year receivership. The line was finally submerged into the South Carolina and Georgia Railroad Company in 1894, ending its tumultuous 51-year existence.
The presently offered specimen was never issued for circulation and is therefore in un-circulated condition, with great contrast and wonderful eye-appeal. The edges are sharp and straight, with all four corners being pointed and well defined. The colors are bright and bold, adding substantially to the already strong contrast between the white paper and the printer’s black ink. The note has a very subtle mottled appearance when it is viewed from the back, a situation common to paper of this type (these slight variations are virtually invisible when the note is viewed from the front). Though once considered common on the collector’s market, notes of this quality are extremely popular and are becoming very difficult to locate. Now is the chance to acquire a nice one for your collection.