Thursday, April 10, 2008
The First “United States” Banknotes
The United States government did not print banknotes until 1861. However, almost immediately after adoption of the Constitution in 1789, Congress chartered the first Bank of the United States and authorized it to issue paper bank notes to eliminate confusion and simplify trade. The bank thus served as the quasi central bank of the United States.
This $50 note was issued in 1801, exactly midway in the bank's twenty-year Charter.
The bank was headquartered in Philadelphia with branch offices in eight major cities: Baltimore, Boston, Charleston, New York, Norfolk, Washington D. C., Savannah and New Orleans.
Thomas Willing, whose signature appears on the note, was the bank's president 1791-1807. Previously, he held offices as President of the Bank of North America, Mayor of Philadelphia, the Secretary to the Congress of Delegates at Albany, and Judge of Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
George Simpson, whose signature also appears on the note, was the bank's cashier 1795-1811 and in that capacity served as the day-to-day manager of the bank.
The bank closed in 1811 when Congress failed to renew its charter.
In 1816 the U. S. Congress chartered the second Bank of the United States. When its charter expired in 1836, the bank continued to operate under a charter granted by the State of Pennsylvania until 1841.