Skip to comments.Huntington Bank discovers original checks signed by Lincoln, Washington, Edison, Twain and others
Posted on 01/15/2012 12:07:29 PM PST by DogByte6RER
Huntington Bank discovers original checks signed by Lincoln, Washington, Edison, Twain and others (photo gallery)
President Abraham Lincoln made out this First National Bank printed check to "self" for $800 on April 13, 1865, two days before he died.
BROOKLYN -- Dozens of personal checks -- some 150 to 200 years old and signed by the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Charles Dickens, George Washington and Thomas Edison - have been unearthed by Huntington Bank.
Some of the historic checks, all signed by U.S. presidents, were unveiled Tuesday and are on display at Huntington's newest branch in Brooklyn. The display is free and open to the public seven days a week until Jan. 31.
The checks had been in storage since 1983 at Huntington's Columbus headquarters, after Huntington took over Union Commerce Bank and acquired boxes upon boxes of old records.
Only last year did a Huntington employee realize the boxes included personal checks written by a total of 24 presidents and a host of other famous figures, including authors, inventors, composers and community leaders.
"We really didn't open them up until about a year ago and we realized, wow, these are pretty valuable," said Huntington spokesman Bill Eiler.
One check on display was written by Abraham Lincoln on April 13, 1865 -- the day before he was shot and two days before he died.
The check, for $800, was written to "self" and drawn on the First National Bank of Washington, D.C. According to Eiler, the check was reportedly used to get cash to pay debts ran up by his wife, who was known to be a big spender. An $800 tab would be the equivalent of $11,260 today.
The check itself is worth about $25,000 today, according to Cowan's, a Cincinnati appraiser that valued the entire collection of 70 checks at $75,000.
Also among the checks are one from author Ernest Hemingway, written in 1932, for $3.50 to Curtis Publishing Co.; one from civil rights leader Susan B. Anthony, written in 1897, for $5.63, to pay a woman for office supplies; and one from Thomas Jefferson, written in 1793, for $22.69, to Jacob Stine.
The checks were quite a find, said Bill Barrow, special collections librarian at Cleveland State University.
"These are remnants of a vanished society," Barrow said.
He noted that actual checks with original signatures puts a human face on these famous figures from history. They show these people had bills too.
Barrow pointed out that most people probably didn't write many checks back then, so they took their time and often signed with proper, very legible signatures.
The April 1865 check from Lincoln is of special significance, he said. "The fact that President Lincoln had this in his hand the day before he was shot, it helps connect people."
Huntington has been rotating portions of the collection to various locations across the six states where it has branches. Eiler said some of the other checks could make their way to Northeast Ohio branches in the months ahead. For now, Huntington was trying to draw attention to its Brooklyn branch, which opened last month at the corner of Ridge and Memphis, on the site of an abandoned gas station.
Loretta Stanton, retail area manager for Northeast Ohio, said the bank had another branch in Brooklyn until about five years ago, but said it wasn't a good location. So it was closed. Huntington had been looking for another opportunity because it had "a huge gap" with no branches for many miles, Stanton said.
Huntington plans to open 12 additional branches in Greater Cleveland this year.
See more of the photo gallery at:
Thank you for this post and these pictures. It really makes our history come alive.
I still write out paper checks and find very little difference between one of mine and one written out 150 years ago.
Response: Truer than he realizes now that we are joining "The Third World."
Comment: However, the checks are interesting as historical reminders.
This is very cool!
I don't see any account numbers, unless the handstamp on Lincoln's check contains his account number? How would banks have figured out which account needed to be debited?
Interesting. Anyone notice the scribbled face of George Washington on the check? I wonder if Lincoln did that?
Aside from the accounting/routing numbers on the bottom of modern checks, I’d say they’re practically identical.
As far as knowing which account to debit, that’s an interesting question. I guess the banks knew who had which account since there were more face-to-face business dealing.
That appears to be a stamp. Grants check has a stamp that has a postmark on it. Interesting.
Does that payee line on that one check say “Domino’s”?
Neat. Sort of like finding an old plumbing or grocery bill for an historic figure. Actually an old grocery bill would be very interesting.
It's nice to know that some things never change.
100 years from now, they’ll uncover a check signed by B. Hussein Omoselm for $6 Trillion.
Payable to China and the Moslem Brotherhood.
I clearly remember writing checks in the 1960’s when no account numbers were used. The accounts were held in the holder’s name. Signatures were checked to verify the account holder if there were any questions. Usually the bank teller knew the customers.
Wonder if they all got free checking??
Is it “ thirty seven & half” dollars. In Post #2?
Birthplace: Jost Van Dyke, West Indies
Location of death: Washington, DC
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Congressional Cemetery, Washington, DC
Race or Ethnicity: White
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: First architect of the US Capitol
William Thornton was trained as a physician, but practiced medicine only briefly, instead earning his living as a self-taught architect. He won a public competition with his design for the United States capitol building, for which he was awarded $500 and a small plot of land in Washington, DC. His winning design, selected by President George Washington, was deemed impractical and altered significantly during construction, but remains recognizable in his blueprints. As an architect, his other buildings of note included Octagon House, which for many years served as headquarters of the American Institute of Architects, and is now its museum.
He served eight years on the Federal District Commission, charged with overseeing the new city's layout and construction, and as the first phase of the District of Colombia reached completion he was appointed the first Superintendent of the US Patent Office. In this position, he had most of the Patent Office's papers secreted to his own estate to save them from advancing British troops in the siege of 1814, and then, as much of Washington was burned, he successfully pleaded with British officers to spare the Patent Office's large collection of modeled inventions. James Madison was Thornton's next-door neighbor in DC until he became President in 1809.
US Official Superintendent of the United States Patent Office (1802-28)
US Official Federal District Commissioner (1794-1802)
American Philosophical Society
Naturalized US Citizen 7-Jan-1788
Or, if they received a free blender for opening an account?
Yes ... it appears it is for “thirty seven & half” dollars, $37.50
Thanks for the ping DogByte6RER, but this isn’t a GGG topic.
What I don't see explained is how Union Commerce Bank came to possess all these historic checks from banks all over the country.
I smell a rat.
I don’t believe for one second this treasure trove was in records storage. They’re awfully vague about it.
It’s a deliberate collection of disparate famous personages. I’m sure it belonged to a collector who kept them in a vault or a safe deposit at the bank. The person died and the bank never made a reasonable attempt to locate heirs — banks here in California sure don’t. They drill safe desposit boxes after one feeble attempt to contact often-elderly owners at old addresses. No obligation to actually find the owner, because they get to split the proceeds with the state.
I hope someone comes forward with information about the RIGHTFUL owner.
Yes! Like you said, the supposed “checks in their records” aren’t even FROM that bank; they’re from all over the country.
Something’s definitely fishy.
I guess the number of accounts and volume of checks processed were sufficiently low that name lookup could remain practical. Even without computers, I would think that if the volume of checks got very high, using account numbers would allow for somewhat faster information retrieval than using names. I'm not sure when various techniques of information processing were developed, though. Some optimizations which would be usable even for a paper-based account-management system may not have been developed until after computers came on scene, while others may have been used on paper before their use in computers. It's pretty amazing what people managed to do with paper when they had to.
All I needed to hear was “Huntington Bank” and it brought up such awful memories of dealing with them that I can’t imagine that this is the whole story!
What you’re seeing is a 2 cent tax stamp, similar to a postage stamp, that was mandated on bank checks by the Revenue Act of 1862, in order to finance the Civil War.
“I smell a rat.”
It’s not a rat. They inherited the Union Commerce material and bought the others from collectors like this crew:
Thanks. I actually thought it might be something along those lines, I just thought that the article should have explained how the bank came to acquire all those checks from diverse sources.