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.


Morning Star, January 21, 2007, pg. 4

Did you know that one of Albion’s banks used to issue their own banknotes, which were good anywhere in the country? Back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, $10 and $20 bills (and other denominations) were printed by the U.S. Treasury bearing the names of local national banks across the country. The banks would first deposit a particular amount of funds in the U.S. Treasury. Official U.S. banknotes would then be printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and subsequently circulated by each bank. This was one way our currency system was funded in those days. These banknotes bore the handwritten signatures of a local national bank president, and cashier. They were (and still are) legal tender, good anywhere.

Here in Albion., our local First National Bank of Albion issued 16,275 ten dollar bills, amounting to a total of $162,750. The bank was located at then-217 S. Superior St., which presently is the north half of Fedco. It was in existence between 1885 and 1905, and was succeeded by the Albion National Bank according to the 20-year charter expiration laws of those times.

The Albion $10 note looks like real money (that’s because it is), and bears a text which includes, “United States of America, National Currency. This note is secured by bonds deposited with the U.S. Treasurer at Washington. The First National Bank of Albion, Michigan. Ten Dollars.” Below on the right is the hand signature of the bank president and physician, Dr. Willoughby O’Donoughue (1832-1915), who was a Civil War veteran. On the left is the signature of the cashier, Henry Montgomery Dearing (1839-1927), an Albion College graduate, school board member, and treasurer of the First Baptist Church.

On the face, there are local and national serial numbers and signatures. The bank’s charter number “3316” appears in brown. On the left is depicted Benjamin Franklin with a kite and key. A scantly-clad “Miss Liberty” is found on the right. On the back of the note in huge numerals is the bank’s charter number “3316.” This made for easy sorting and crediting at the Treasury Department when the notes were turned in.

As notes became worn, they were replaced with new ones. When a bank’s charter expired, the notes remained legal tender, but were gradually withdrawn from circulation as they were turned into banks through normal wear and tear. There are at least two Albion notes known to exist that weren’t turned in, and one of them is about to go on the auction block.

Back in 1945, there was an important Michigan banknote collection auctioned off that contained an Albion $10 note. It was part of the collection of Albert A. Grinnell, of Grinnell Brothers piano (Detroit) fame. For about 50 years thereafter, this particular note lay in a private collection out east, until it was purchased by Michigan banknote collector Larry Falater in the 1990s. After owning it for several years, it was sold to Lee DeGood. Lee’s Michigan banknote collection will be auctioned at the Chicago Paper Money Expo in Rosemont, Illinois on Saturday, March 10, 2007 at 6 p.m. The “ex-Grinnell” Albion banknote will be among the offerings.

This is a rare opportunity for some local entrepreneur to “bring the note back home where it belongs.” Because of the incredible history of the bank (it’s successor failed as a result of an embezzlement scandal) and publicity, it is expected that bidding will be spirited and the results somewhat pricey. Despite that, such a note would be quite a “prize” for someone locally to own.

The auction will be conducted by Lynn Knight Currency Auctions, one of the major currency firms in the country. A special high-quality photographs catalog will be published in advance (yours truly plans on purchasing one), and a website version will be posted on the www.lynknight.com website. For more information, call the firm at 1-800-243-5211 or write them at P.O. Box 7364, Overland Park, KS 66207.

From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photo of an Albion $10 bill issued by the First National Bank of Albion. Do you know of someone who might like to bid on the one being offered at the auction? Let them know and show them this article.

An Albion $10 bill issued by the First National Bank of Albion.


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