Monday, December 24, 2012

Santa Bank Notes

Source: Massachusetts Historical Society (see link below)
Source: Massachusetts Historical Society
Closeup of the Howard Banking Co. Santa Claus
Before the U.S. Government issued paper money, individual banks would issue bank notes that were redeemable for a stated quantity of gold at that particular bank.  There were as many as 8,000 different bank notes in circulation in the mid-1800s.  So many that a monthly digest was printed detailing how much each was worth in particular parts of the country.  Some of these bank notes had images of Santa Claus on them.  The first note above and the closeup below are from the Howard Banking Company of Boston.   The idea was apparently to inspire confidence in the bank by associating it with the figure of Santa Claus and to inspire collectors to hang onto the note and never actually redeem it for gold.  The second note below is from the Saint Nicholas Bank of New York.  An old case involving the St. Nicholas Bank can be found here:

Santa Claus became a cultural icon in Nineteenth Century American after the publication of Twas the Night Before Christmas in about 1822-1823.  It was anonymously published around Christmas in 1823.  The actual author of the poem is in dispute.  Traditionally Clement Park Moore is credited with writing the poem, but others attribute it to MAJ. Henry Livingston, Jr. 

Information about the Howard Banking Company Note:

Information about the Howard Banking Company of Boston:

NPR Planet Money Podcast on the history of Paper Money:

Information about Santa Claus notes and the Saint Nicholas Bank Note:

The Twas the Night Before Christmas Poem:

s/ Kurt Koehler
308 1/2 S. State Street Suite 36
Ann Arbor, Michigan (Washtenaw County)

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