A Wonderful Panorama of Paper Money
Obsolete and federal paper money of the United States forms a fascinating area of numismatics, as you probably know. The time period covered is vast, and ranges from the early colonial era in which different colonies (including New Hampshire) issued their own notes, through the revolutionary war, to what is now known numismatically as the "obsolete currency"era. The last consists of paper money generally issued after the revolutionary war, but before circa 1865, by private banks chartered under the laws of the different states, and also in some instances by merchants, factories, and the states themselves. For example, Vermont took a stab at running a state system of banks early in the 19th century, operated for a few years, then discontinued the effort as results were not as satisfactory as under private enterprise.
In 1863 the National Banking Act provided for state-chartered banks to convert to become National Banks, and, separately, for new National Banks to be formed. These operated under federal charter, rather than state, and were allowed to issue federal currency with their own imprint. Such National Bank notes, as they are called today, were produced from that era through and including the summer of 1935. A bank could issue currency up to 90% of its paid-in capital (beginning in 1900, up to 100%) by depositing bonds or satisfactory securities with the Treasury Department, which would draw interest for the bank, after which the Treasury would furnish the bank with bills bearing its name. If a bank failed, as some did on occasion, the bills remained good as they were backed by the Treasury Department.
Today the Society of Paper Money Collectors numbers several thousand enthusiasts, among whom are David M. Sundman and Q. David Bowers, of New Hampshire, originators and sponsors of this site. Dave Sundman is president of Littleton Coin Company, in Littleton, N.H., while Dave Bowers is a principal factor in American Numismatic Rarities in Wolfeboro, N.H. For quite some time both Daves have been searching far and wide to gather information relating to New Hampshire banks that issued paper money, either under state charter as National Banks.
Focus on Lancaster
As will be seen if you explore this site further, paper money can be a passport to a virtual tour of a given state or town. In New Hampshire, banks in several dozen communities, ranging from small ones such as the presently discussed Lancaster, to large cities (Concord, Manchester, Nashua, and Portsmouth), some having a single bank, others having several. Today, currency from the various banks is no longer seen in circulation, but is highly prized by collectors, museums, and others today. Some of the notes have high values, with certain of the National Bank bills running into the thousands of dollars. On the other hand, bills of some state-chartered banks are quite common, even in the form of cancelled leftover bills redeemed by the institution years ago, and can be bought on the market for, say, $10 to $20 or so each.
Dave Sundman and Dave Bowers have been seeking as much information as possible about the different banks, not only the remaining bills themselves, but the stories of the banks that issued them. As you will soon see, the White Mountain Bank, a state chartered bank in Lancaster, could furnish the scene for a little melodrama all by itself! Along the way they have gathered information about different bank directors, officers, and the like, as well as background stories concerning each town.
It is our hope that as you read the following information about Lancaster, you will get to know the tradition of this resort community in the White Mountains, and you will become an expert on the currency issued there!
© 2002 -2005 Q. David Bowers and David M. Sundman