19th century intaglio checks

Discussion in 'Paper Money' started by gsalexan, May 16, 2010.

  1. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    While most of our focus seems to be on bank notes, I thought I'd dig into my collection and shed a little light on their poor stepsisters -- checks. Since checks didn't hold quite the same counterfeiting risks as bank notes, the use of intaglio vignettes wasn't required or even necessary in most cases. Major banks, however, often took no chances and the result was some checks which rival banknotes in the quality of their engravings.

    The first one I'll post includes a mystery. The First National Bank of Helena issued a bank check with a gorgeous vignette, clearly based on Yellowstone, complete with geyser and waterfall. Microlettering notes that the vignette was engraved in 1884, when Montana was still a territory. The check printer's imprint is August Gast Bank Note Co. of St. Louis and New York. I can find no information on this firm in "The Engraver's Line," so if anyone knows about it please let me know.

    The T.W. House check (I assume that's T.W. to the left) may have been produced to impress customers -- being from Texas, after all. I also like the imprinted revenue stamp in the center. This one was printed by American Bank Note.

    The two Illion Bank are probably my favorite checks, both printed circa 1850 by Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson. They look very much like bank notes from the era, in fact you'll find many of the vignettes on other notes. These are remarkably easy to find on eBay for less than $15.

    Attached Files:

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  3. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    Okay, these next two were used in the early 20th century, but I'm sure they were printed earlier. The R.S. Battles check was printed by Western Bank Note and the Binghamton check is from ABNC. Incidentally the vignette on the latter was previously posted in the BABN thread -- http://www.cointalk.com/showpost.php?p=872056&postcount=14
    I've seen these vignettes used on earlier banknotes as well.

    The last two items are really government drafts, but we won't quibble. The Post Office draft is a really early piece, issued in 1837 and printed by Hufty & Danforth. I especially like it because it pre-dates the invention of postage stamps, which didn't come into existence in the U.S. until 1847. The other is a pension check, more than likely issued to a Civil War widow. Note that the eagle vignette has "Department of Interior" on the shield -- I guess they took care of pensions at that time. This one was printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

    So who else has some engraved checks they can add to this thread?

    Attached Files:

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  4. lettow

    lettow Senior Member

    Great topic. Here is a group of US Government checks with portraits.

    Government Printing Office. John DeFrees held the office of Public Printer under Lincoln and Hayes.

    Commissioner of the Freedmans Savings and Trust Company. The Freedmans bank was established after the Civil War as a financial institution for freed slaves. Mismanagement and bad investments led to its failing in the 1870s.

    Comptroller of the Currency. This check was for a liquidating distribution from a failed National Bank in Pennsylvania.

    Treasury Checks. These two checks were written the same day. Their serial numbers are 179 apart. I snagged them both from Ebay about three years apart.

    phankins11 likes this.
  5. mpcusa

    mpcusa "Official C.T. TROLL SWEEPER"

    Those are sharp!! Thanks for sharing :)
  6. connor1

    connor1 Collector

    That Sam Dexter gets around ,he on a Fractional Currency also that I seen. Check Vignettes are new to me also,very nice. My bank lets you design you own checks ( I think most of them do now) with pictures,I was thinking a nice vignette on your personal check would look nice. But is it a copyright infringement to do that ?
    like 2 vignettes one on right & one on Left of Check.
    Or a vignette that is covering the entire check but light printed not to obscure the Check Printing or the Account # & Amount $
    Has anyone tried this .I have seen it on Personal Stationary done from Photo shop somewhere but is it legal on a check ?
  7. jello

    jello Not Expert★NormL®

    Thank for sharing them!

    Very nice!
  8. krispy

    krispy krispy

    Very nice presentation! Something new for me and very enjoyable to see. Thanks!
  9. krispy

    krispy krispy

    August Gast Banknote Company of St. Louis

    I enjoy a mystery and I very much like to search and learn via Google. I'm also currently working on a St. Louis FRN district collection plus I have a personal connection to St. Louis. From that perspective, I very much wanted to see what I could find online about: "August Gast Bank Note Co. of St. Louis and New York."

    In the recent past I have searched for information about the St. Louis Bank Note Company [PDF link at Archive.org, Commercial and Architectural St. Louis, ©1888/91, from pages 202-203], a bank note company which began in 1870. However, August Gast was a new (old) company and personage from that city for me so I was eager to learn about him and his corporation.

    Below are some links of possible interest to others that I dug up while reading about the August Gast Banknote Company of St. Louis (& New York):

    The Check Collector web site reproduces a letter on August Gast and Co. Steel Plate & Lithography letterhead dated 7.1.1883

    The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 12 includes a bio of Wade J. Festus (illustrated portrait), who held position with August Gast for 2 years in the late 1880s.

    Another book The Makers of St. Louis features bios of Wade J Festus (photographed portrait)

    The book of St. Louisans: a biographical dictionary of leading living men of
    ... By Albert Nelson Marquis [Google Books] includes a bio of Ferdinand Gast, son of August Gast, President, worked in the lithographic business from 1888-1892

    Auction site with lithographic maps by the August Gast company

    Telecommunications History Group, Inc.
    web site has a company stock certificates printed by A. Gast & Co. Lithographers, St. Louis, Mo. for Rocky Mountain Bell Telephone Company [image link] --Ogden, Utah Territory.

    August Gast calendars, letterhead with vignette from 11.16.1901 on Murphy Enterprises paper collectibles web site

    Guide to the Archival Collections [PDF link] below quote from, Missouri History.org PDF:

    Missouri Historical
    Society Guide to the Photographs and Prints Collections of the Missouri Historical Society [PDF Link] from 5.4.2003

    Southwestern Report
    Court of Appeals records from 1903 [Google Books]
    There are numerous old court documents online which you can find information about almost anything that transpired in the past record.

    And this from freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com for a Mr. Edward F. Wittler

    Please post more links if anyone has other information. Enjoy.
  10. Dave M

    Dave M Francophiliac

    I did some Googling around on copyrights, and the general statements seem to look like:
    Since these vignettes are the work of a "company" (ABNC, I presume), then the second statement applies, which to me reads that you could use a vignette that had been first published 95 years ago, or in 1915.

    I'm not a lawyer, and certainly there might be a "rule" enforced by the bank clerk when you sit down to order your checks, that could be totally unrelated to copyrights. For example my bank (Wells Fargo) allows us to put photos on our credit cards, but does not allow the photo to appear to be any representation of "money". I had to make a couple submissions of my photo (of money) before they believed it no longer looked enough like money :)

  11. connor1

    connor1 Collector

    Dave M....Thanks that is good news 95 years if it's ABNCO .This will be helpful for anyone who is considering using ABNCo for the upcoming Coin Talk T-shirt contest also.
    Talking about the t-shirt idea ,I think a winning design would have to include all types of world currency/coins/vignettes/mpcs/stock certificates .That will be difficult ,their are a few US Coin Notes (Morgan Dollars) on them but to include the entire forum's approval of all countries & forms of money you would need to be a graphic Artist I would think.
    Thanks Dave
  12. USS656

    USS656 Here to Learn Supporter

    Great Post! Of the group you posted I too really liked the Illion bank Check! Thanks for sharing! I often look at old checks on ebay but have yet to pick any up.

    BR ~ Darryl
  13. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    He sure looks tired, doesn't he? I didn't know there was such a thing as a Public Printer -- it must have been an exhausting job. :) I like the fact that both those checks were written for less than a dime. Thanks for posting those!
  14. avengerc4

    avengerc4 Member

    that is some cool information! And you can find some crazy stuff on ebay. Just gotta be looking all the time! Awesome finds!!
  15. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    You do some fine Googling, krispy! I finally took some time to visit these pages. It's kind of amazing there's no biographical info on August Gast himself, but I think he was actually more of a namesake, having retired before the company really got going.

    Thanks much for all the background material. I'll post anything else I find.
  16. krispy

    krispy krispy

    Thanks. I too found that interesting that I was able to find out more about the son and other employees but at best on that the father/founder retired and handed over the reigns to another. Nonetheless, I found it an interesting topic and am happy to know of yet another Security Engraving company existed in St Louis in that era. There is bound to be more research one might do locally in libraries and historical associations. Maybe someday I will have the time to go there and devote myself to local research when I can spend more time in the city's institutions pulling documents from their stacks and databases to satiate my curiosities that Google cannot yet quench. :smile
  17. connor1

    connor1 Collector

    Krispy, you should have been a private detective,you are amazing at google & search & data base links,it is a real talent & takes time & patience to follow through on a subject & stay with it till you yourself are satisfied with the conclusion.
    You being such an active member of Coin Talk is a help to all of us who don't have the time or patience to investigate to the degree you follow through.
    Thanks !
    phankins11 likes this.
  18. krispy

    krispy krispy

    Thank you Bob. I appreciate the kind words and I'm glad that the things I turn up in my searches can be of some use to the forum members. In many ways I am learning in the process of searching. I also find a plethora of information shared by others here and often the inspiration to go out and find more information from the words and images that others share here. I enjoy the opportunity to give and take, sharing ideas and participating in the hunt for history, related data and great finds therein. It's always a bonus to find someone who posts their collection and reinforces the history we share in text and conversation. Without each one of us contributing there just wouldn't be much to call a forum. :smile
  19. RickieB

    RickieB Expert Plunger Sniper

    I like this thread a bunch.. it is easily seen that vignettes used on for early notes made threir way on checks as well. :)

    Nice thread!

  20. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    Absolutely! For me this is like show and tell. There are so few who find this kind of stuff interesting that it's a pleasure to share with those who really appreciate it. And I love seeing other collectors' treasures! Any more checks out there?
  21. gsalexan

    gsalexan Intaglio aficionado

    Hey Chris (and all interested others) -- I just found a downloadable spreadsheet of security printing companies on the American Society of Check Collectors website:
    It's a huge list, but they include all check printers which probably makes up 95 percent of the list. Great info for research!
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