Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.


By Frank Passic, LM-157.
THE MICHMATIST, Volume XLV-1, #167. Pgs. 56-58.

In October 2008, the estate of a 92-year-old man from Homer, Michigan (just south of Albion) was sold. In it were several ledgers from the “Mayhew’s University Book-Keeping” course kit, along with four high-denomination “Business College Scrip” notes. These were purchased by this writer.

Ira Mayhew

Ira Mayhew (1814-1894) was a well-known 19th century Michigan educator who authored several books, including “Mayhew’s Practical Book-Keeping.” His business school was founded in 1860 in Albion, and was first known as the “Albion Commercial College.” “College scrip” notes were issued in denominations of $1, $2, and $5, as well as a Civil War token during the school’s tenure in Albion.

Two Dollar Bill

The institution moved to Detroit in 1869 where it operated under the name of the “Mayhew Business College.” Ira sold the school to P.R. Spencer in 1883 at which time it became the Spencerian Business College. The latter sold it to the Goldsmith Business University in 1887, to form the Detroit Business University. Ira passed away in 1894, and was interred in Woodmere Cemetery in Detroit. His gravesite is posted on the www.findagrave.com website, where “virtual flowers” may be left, as well as public notes.

Tombstone in Woodmere Cemetery

Upon leafing through the ledgers, this author discovered a certificate inserted in one of them which contained a handwritten text. It stated: “Hillsdale College. Commercial Dept. To whom it may concern: This is to certify that E. LITTEBRANT is entitled to the credit of having made the most commendable effort in the practice of penmanship this 17th day of September, 1870. Hillsdale, Mich. W. J. Drake, Penman.”

Hillsdale College, Commercial Dept. Certification

Thus these items were part of the Business College “kit” of E. Littebrant, used in the Commercial Department of Hillsdale College for the 1870-71 school year.

The four notes in the kit were in remarkable (EF-AU) condition considering their age. Bearing a printed date of September 18, 1869, all measure approximately 186 x 77 mm. The 1869 date coincides with the first semester business class Ira Mayhew conducted in Detroit after his move from Albion. As stated on the face near the lower center margin, the notes were printed by “The Calvert Lith. Co. Detroit.” The lithograph signatures are those of (lower left) “C.A. Walworth, Cashier,” and (lower right) “Ira Mayhew, President.” Schingoethe catalogs these notes as MI-375, plus the denomination numeral. They have been assigned a rarity rating of R-7. The 5,000 dollar denomination note is especially rare.

Ten Dollar Bill

One Hundred Dollar Bill

Five Hundred Dollar Bill

The depictions on the face of the notes are as follows: $10-Men tending a houseboat; $100-A stag in the wilderness; $500-An eagle and shield; $5000-A woman milking a cow. The back text features an advertisement for the Mayhew College which is the same on all denominations.

Five Thousand Dollar Bill
(Face side)

Five Thousand Dollar Bill

The 1, 2, 5, and 20 dollar notes were missing from this set. This is understandable, as the student would have regularly “spent” the lower denomination notes in his day-to-day school work. The higher denominations which were unused by the student therefore remained with this particular business college “kit.”

Three of the notes (10, 100, and 5,000 dollars) are specially rubber-stamped with a blue ink seal in the lower right on the face. This stamp resembles a postmark and states, “MAYHEW COLLEGE MAY 18, 1870. DETROIT.” Apparently Hillsdale College ordered the Mayhew course kit for the upcoming fall semester, and Mayhew had the notes specially stamped to distinguish them from unstamped College Scrip used at his Detroit campus. This new variety is unreported and hence these notes can be considered unique.


“Ira Mayhew’s Commercial College.” Journal of Albion, 30 November 1985, pg. 9.

Passic, Frank. “Albion’s Banks and Bankers.” Albion Historical Society, 1985.

Schingoethe, Herb and Martha. “College Currency.” Neil Shafer, editor. BNR Press, 1993.

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