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, August 11, 2013, pg. 14

Back in 1985 the first book yours truly wrote was published, "Albion's Banks and Bankers." This featured the various historical banking institutions in our community's history. Included was the local National Bank which operated under three different "Charter" names (which had to be changed every twenty years according to the laws of those days).

The first was the National Exchange Bank of Albion, national charter number 1544, which began business on January 1, 1866. It was located at 300 S. Superior St. on the southwest corner of W. Porter and S. Superior Sts. Samuel V. Irwin (1823-1890) was the organizer of this institution, and of course Irwin Avenue bears his name. Cashier of the bank was Gardner Warren Davis (1829-1876). You can read about the history of this bank in my aforementioned book, beginning on page 29.

One fascinating aspect of all National banks is that they issued currency (paper money) bearing the name of the local bank, but printed by the U.S. Treasury and was legal tender across the U.S. This is because bonds were deposited in the U.S. Treasury by the banks to "cover" for the value of the bills printed.

Here in Albion, the National Exchange Bank had printed $48,500 worth of "First Charter" $5 bills (9,700 notes), with local serial numbers ranging from 1 through 2425. $30,000 worth of $10 notes (3,000 notes) and $20,000 worth of $20 notes (1,000 notes) were printed, bearing serial numbers 1 through 1,000. These were hand signed by the bank president and the bank cashier. The upper portion of the notes bore the U.S. Treasury seal, the facsimile signatures of the Treasury officials, as well as a national serial number. Another issue called the Series of 1875 were also printed and distributed consisting of $16,500 worth of $10 bills (1,650 notes), and $11,000 worth of $20 bills (550 notes), with local serial numbers of 1 through 550.

Up until recently, no notes were known to have survived from this bank, other than printer's specimens in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. Recently however, a First Charter original $10 note from the National Exchange Bank of Albion has suddenly appeared listed in the Heritage Auctions Long Beach California Auction #3524, Lot No. 116001. This auction will be held September 25, with bidding to begin online the second week of September.

This note is graded just "Fine-12," but, hey, it's unique meaning it is the only one known to have survived. From our Historical Notebook this week we present the photograph of this very rare note as pictured in the online auction catalog. The name of the bank is in the center. The bank charter number "1544" appears twice: vertically on the left, and horizontally on the right, both in red ink. The local bank serial number, "268" appears under the scene of Benjamin Franklin drawing electricity from the key via his kite. In the lower left, the signature of the bank cashier, "G.W. Davis" can be faintly seen in the lower bottom, while the signature of the bank president S.V. Irwin is mostly faded from view in the bottom right. The back of the note depicts DeSoto discovering the Mississippi River.

How old is this note? Well, the printer's specimens in the Smithsonian bear a date of October 2, 1865, as the bank received its charter number that year but didn't go into business until 1866. With the low serial number of 268, this is definitely from the "first batch" of notes the bank had printed, meaning 1866.

This note has received a glamorous write-up description in the auction catalog. Interested? Plan on depositing your own security bonds for this one, as it will be a significant attraction in this auction by this prestigious auction firm. Although I would like to obtain it, I can only dream with everyone else as it will be out of my price range. Go to: www.ha.com. On the right type in "1544" in the blank box and hit "search." You'll get a small photo of the banknote and the Albion title; click on that and you'll get the full listing. Be sure and scroll down to read the tantalizing description. This note is certainly part of "Albionicana" which we can all drool over. I wonder where this note has been during the last 150 years?

$10 Bill, National Exchange Bank of Albion, Charter Number 1544


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