The E-Sylum:  Volume 6, Number 54, December 21, 2003, Article 7


  Coincidentally, Dave Bowers mentioned Ormsby in a note
  on a completely different subject.  He writes:

  "I enjoyed the info on the BANK OF THE UNITED STATES.
  For a long time I have been gathering data on the Second Bank
  of the U.S. (1816-1836), including federal documents,
  contemporary financial accounts, etc.  The popularly published
  histories of this bank are fascinating--as few people have ever
  delved into the SOURCE material. Also, Nicholas Biddle, who
  engaged in fraud after the Bank of the United States lost its
  federal charter and was then chartered by Pennsylvania, is
  hardly ever noticed in this connection--almost an untouchable
  subject (the record is clear--he engaged in illegal practices,
  many of his associates lost large amounts of money, etc., and
  if his name had been John Doe he would have been disgraced).

  The main cause of the Panic of 1837 was rampant inflation, not
  the failure of the Second Bank of the U.S. to be rechartered. In
  the west (then Indiana, Illinois, etc.) there were great land
  speculations.   Jackson's "Specie Circular" put an end to buying
  land by "paying" for it with essentially worthless paper.

  If anyone doubts that popular histories often do not mesh with
  facts gained in numismatic and financial research, just pick up a
  copy of Schlesinger's prize-winning The Age of Jackson book,
  and read all about Hard Times tokens, bank scrip, etc. (hint:
  there is hardly anything mentioned).

  The Second Bank of the U.S. opened "subscriptions" in 1816
  at its various branches, including Portsmouth, NH.  If any
  E-Sylum subscribers have any printed currency or memorabilia
  specifically relating to the Portsmouth Branch I would be
  delighted to receive it to add to what David Sundman and I
  have (we've been gathering New Hampshire bank history, and
  if I were to print out the stuff on the Bank of the U.S.,
  Portsmouth Branch, probably 50 pages would be used -- but,
  still, there are many unanswered questions and puzzles).

  Concerning the Second Bank of the U.S. (all over, not just
  Portsmouth), it is not often realized that most everyday citizens
  in the hinterlands -- did not like the bank. The reason was that
  other banks were state-chartered, were in general loosely
  regulated, could issue lots of currency with the hope that some
  of it would become lost or never redeemed, etc. There were
  state-chartered banks everywhere, and within any given state
  they had huge political clout--as they provided loans for the
  sinews of trade and commerce. The Bank of the U.S. was
  viewed as Enemy No. 1, and all across America the various
  local and regional bankers had no difficulty enlisting political
  solons to join them in this opinion.

  The Second Bank of the U.S. in Philadelphia was a spectacular
  example of the Greek Revival style (as was the 2nd Philadelphia
  Mint) and was widely reproduced on engravings---easily enough
  found today. Later, it was used for other purposes.

  While I am at it, a particular interest of mine is the history of
  bank-note engraving and engravers, mostly pre the Bureau of
  Engraving and Printing era. This field is very rich for research,
  and somewhat resembles that of early American silversmiths
  and pewterers (another interest) in that most publications
  simply copy other publications, there are vast errors in dating,
  spelling, etc. As a sample, as part of a biographical study of
  Waterman Lily Ormsby,  I once checked all of the "standard"
  sources including numismatic publications, the Essay-Proof
  Journal (articles by Julian Blanchard), Groce & Wallace,
  Hamilton, Fielding, and others on engraving, and just about all
  say the same thing. And, all misspell his middle name as LILLY
  (probably thinking of Eli Lilly pharmaceuticals!). Again, I
  probably have 50 to 100 pages on Waterman, but, ironically,
  almost all gathered item by item, with no big help from
  numismatic sources (except from none other than Eric P.
  Newman, who loaned me an item I had never seen).

  Someday I may issue a Dictionary of  Early American Bank
  Note Engravers and Printers, simply because this is a book
  I would enjoy owning now, and nothing like it even remotely
  exists. The main problem with printed sources is that, in
  actuality, a bank note partnership that expired years earlier
  may have an imprint of, say, 1855, on a piece of currency --
  the result of an early plate being dusted off, and a later date
  entered on it. Accordingly, I have found my best sources are
  contemporary documents and newspaper records, and, a
  distant second, early town and city directories. However,
  newspapers are hard to find and tedious to read.

 Wayne, keep up the good work."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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