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Once Upon a Time Clarion County Banks Printed Its Own Money

Friday, October 27, 2023 @ 08:10 AM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

matt-lerch-moneyjpgCLARION, Pa. (EYT) – From 1863 to 1935, banks could basically print their own money in the form of National Bank Notes.

Matt Lerch, branch manager of Janney Montgomery Scott, LLC in Clarion, has long held a passion for collecting the notes issued by Clarion County Banks.

County banks issuing the notes included:

  • First National Bank of Rimersburg
  • The Clarion County National Bank of Edenburg
  • The Clarion County National Bank Fryburg
  • The People’s National Bank of East Brady
  • The First National Bank of Emlenton
  • The First National Bank of Clarion
  • The First National Bank of New Bethlehem
  • The First National Bank of Parkers Landing
  • The First National Bank of Sligo

“My interest in collecting National Bank Notes dovetailed from my early interest in stamp and coin collecting as a little boy,” Lerch said. “My grandmother, Margaret Collar John, who resided in East Brady, catalyzed my collecting interests.  As I became older, I slowed as the collections became larger.

“In later years, I rekindled my interest in collecting, focusing on Clarion County history.  An elderly client of mine showed me a First National Bank of Clarion note back in the 1990s, and once I found there were other banks in Clarion County with issuance, I started my quest to collect an example from every Clarion County bank.”

matt note

According to Wikipedia, before the American Civil War, state banks and chartered private banks issued their banknotes. Privately issued banknotes were nominally backed by hard money or financial securities held by the banks. Still, oversight of issuing banks often was lax and encouraged wildcat banking, in which fraudulent institutions issued worthless banknotes.

National Bank Notes were United States currency banknotes issued by National Banks chartered by the United States Government. The United States usually backed the notes bonds the bank deposited with the United States Treasury. In addition, banks were required to maintain a redemption fund of five percent of any outstanding note balance in gold or “lawful money.” The notes were not generally legal tender but were satisfactory for nearly all payments to and by the federal government.

The U.S. government retired the National Bank currency type by the 1930s when the U.S. currency was consolidated into Federal Reserve Notes, United States Notes, and silver certificates.

“My list includes Clarion, Fryburg, Edenburg (Knox), Emlenton, East Brady, Shippenville, Sligo, New Bethlehem, and Rimersburg,” Lerch continued.

“I find the history of each bank fascinating when I drive by each one in the county and envision what it must have been like inside each one back in the 1800s.

“Some of the banks have been repurposed, such as the Old Bank Deli and Coffee Shop in East Brady.  The East Brady note is signed by then bank President Newton Graham who donated his mansion to the East Brady Presbyterian Church and paid for the conversion as well.”

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