By Peter Huntoon
Gary Parietti likes Series of 1882 $5s with exotic title block layouts, so he was ecstatic when he obtained this jewel from Bel Air, Md. A Series of 1882 $5 from the bank previously was unreported.
The bank was chartered Oct. 13, 1882, close to the startup of the Series of 1882, which meant its plates were prepared during the height of the Casilear patent lettering era at the BEP. Chief Engraver George Casilear patented a concept whereby an engraver engraved an entire alphabet in a particular font so that the individual letters could be picked up on a transfer roll.
Then, when a siderographer needed to lay out text on a die or plate, he could lay in the letters one at a time to construct the text. This process was eminently efficient because the services of the engraver were needed only once for each different font instead of having do each line of text as a custom job every time a new layout was required.
In this case, the letters in Bel Air were laid onto a similarly repeated rosette produced on a geometric lathe. All the other letters in the title block were made using the same process except for the scrip “will-pay” line, which was borrowed from the Original Series $5s, and the script postal location and plate date, which were necessarily hand-engraved.
The title blocks on most of the Series of 1882 faceplates made between 1882 and 1885 employed words constructed using the patented lettering process, and they are highly prized. This was one of the best.
The lettering in the title block on the 10-10-10-20 plate for the bank also employed the patented lettering technology. Notice that the letters used to spell out Bel Air in the tombstone on the $10 are identical to those on the $5.
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