This article will profile titles where the Comptroller’s clerks had to append the town names because the bankers failed to do so. We’ll use the Original and 1875 notes made for The Cambridge National Bank in New York state, charter 1275, to illustrate why this happened and how it was handled, not once but twice for this bank.
The official definition of a bank title as used by the Comptroller of the Currency was the name of the bank including the name of town, but not that of the state.
The bankers had to file an organization certificate that specified their title. The bankers or their attorney had to write the title between quote marks on a blank reserved for the title on that form; and then, in two succeeding blanks, specify the type of town and repeat its name.
A common mistake was that the name of the town was omitted from inside the quote marks because many applicants figured that the blank reserved for the town had that base covered. The concern in the Treasury Department was that when the titles appeared on national bank notes, they should provide sufficient information so that note holders could find the bank if they wished to redeem the note for lawful money.
The Comptroller’s office didn’t bounce the organization certificates back to the bankers for revision. Instead, the deficient titles were honored as submitted. The remedy for the missing town by the Comptroller’s clerks was that they had the name of the town engraved in script letters on the left side of the title blocks on the bank’s large-size notes opposite to the plate date. Generally, the location written in script was reserved for the postal location of the bank.
Otherwise, the banker-supplied title was treated as sacrosanct. It was placed prominently above the will-pay line in the title block exactly as submitted right down to punctuation regardless of completeness, grammatical syntax or how awkward it sounded.
The result was that the Comptroller’s clerks technically changed the deficient title by appending the town to it, but the town appeared inconspicuously in script so as not to detract from the banker-submitted title above the will-pay line.
The titles that routinely caused this problem were those that did not have a bank name connected to the town by a preposition. In contrast, having of, at or in virtually dictated that the town would follow as in The First National Bank of TOWN.
Troublesome titles such as these were typical examples:
• The Tradesmens National Bank (Philadelphia, PA, 570)
• The American Exchange National Bank (New York, NY, 1394)
• Chatham Phenix National Bank and Trust Company (New York, NY, 10778)
• The National Bank of New Jersey (New Brunswick, NJ, 587)
• The Niagara County National Bank (Lockport, NY, 639)
• The National Bank of the State of Florida (Jacksonville, FL, 3327)
• The Haldley Falls National Bank (Holyoke, MA, 1246)
• The Southwark National Bank (Philadelphia, PA, 560) – Southwark is a district in Philadelphia
• The Messalonskee National Bank (Oakland, ME, 2231) - Messalonskee is the name of a river.
Even some titles with a preposition caused problems such as:
• The National Bank of the Northern Liberties (Philadelphia, PA, 541)
• The First National Bank of Bar Harbor (Eden, ME, 3941)
because the name is a district within the town or something else entirely.
The case under glass in this article involves a succession of two town names that were appended to a deficient title supplied by the organizers of The Cambridge Valley National Bank in upstate New York. At the outset, the bankers or their lawyer failed to include North White Creek—the original name of their town—inside the quotes on the blank reserved for their title on their organization certificate. Next, the name of their town was changed to Cambridge, but the bankers didn’t file a title change request to update the town. In both cases, the Comptroller’s clerks simply appended the town to the banker-supplied title.
The Cambridge Valley National Bank was chartered June 14, 1865, as a conversion of a state bank. The bank was located in a hamlet called North White Creek located 30 miles northeast of Albany and 10 miles from the Vermont state line. The first title to appear on its notes was The Cambridge Valley National Bank, North White Creek. North White Creek appeared solely in the postal location on the Original Series $1, $2 and $5 notes.
Towns in New York are sprawling areas usually defined as townships elsewhere. The town of North White Creek extended westward from the Vermont state line to a common boundary with the town of Cambridge lying further to the west. Hamlets within these towns respectively named North White Creek and Cambridge seamlessly abutted each other.
The hamlets of North White Creek and Cambridge merged in 1866 to form the village of Cambridge. Two thirds of the village of Cambridge consisted of old North White Creek with its business center that hosted the bank, but the name North White Creek was discarded.
The listing for the bank in the annual reports of the Comptroller of the Currency was changed from North White Creek to Cambridge between the 1867 and 1868, revealing that the Comptroller’s office was well appraised of the change in the name of the town. However, this situation, which seemed to call for a formal title change to reflect its new name, had not come up before.
There was no provision in national banking law to provide for title changes, so the records and annual reports simply reflected Cambridge as the location of the bank. The notes continued to carry the name North White Creek, a name that had vanished.
The management of the bank ordered a 10-10-10-20 plate in 1875. It came through as one of the last Original Series plates and carried a plate date of August 25, 1875, from which 1,900 sheets were printed. The ordering clerk in the Comptroller’s office specified the postal location as Cambridge, so he in essence gave the bank a second Comptroller-imposed town name. The title that appeared on the $10s and $20s was The Cambridge Valley National Bank, Cambridge. This title was used on all new plates for the remainder of the bank’s issues through the Series of 1929 type 2 issues.
When other bankers desired to change their titles or move subsequent to 1867-8, the Comptroller’s office instructed them to obtain an act or resolution of Congress to authorize the change. This cumbersome process was invoked until May 1, 1886, when Congress, tiring of trivial nuisance requests for such legislation, finally passed an act giving the Comptroller authority to allow bank name changes and short distance moves.
The North White Creek to Cambridge change didn’t result from a banker-initiated act or resolution. Instead it was made without banker knowledge, most likely under Comptroller Hiland R. Hulburd of his own volition. Hulburd served from February 1, 1867, to April 3, 1872. It is doubtful that anyone in Congress or elsewhere in the Treasury Department noticed or cared.
An interesting fact is that notes continued to be printed from the 5-5-5-5 North White Creek plate after the 10-10-10-20 Cambridge plate was made. No one in Treasury considered it important to swap out the obsolete town name on it, even through the Bureau of Engraving and Printing had to otherwise alter the plate for use in the Series of 1875.
In general, if you want to determine where a bank was located, forget the prominent bank name that screams for your attention with its bold letters on the face of a national bank note. Bypass the tombstone if there is one. Instead focus your attention on the location written inconspicuously in script on the left side of the title block. This usually—but not always—was the postal location for the bank. Consequently, it is the most reliable place to find the name of the town on a note.
In cases where the name in the postal location is not somehow incorporated above the will-pay line, then the postal location takes precedence. It should be appended to the rest of the bank name to arrive at the complete title in order to satisfy the definition of a title as set forth by the Comptroller.
When you are dealing with a large-size national where the only place you can find the town name is in the postal location, you know that the bankers omitted the town from within the quotes on their organization certificate. The Bank of California title block nicely illustrates an example from a Series of 1902 proof.