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Recycled Norwich, Conn., plate was the first

By Peter Huntoon

Two First National Banks of Norwich, Conn., were chartered during the Original Series; the second a successor to the first. In what proved to be an unusual occurrence, the Comptroller of the Currency authorized the plates for the earlier bank to be recycled for use by the later. This occurred in only a handful of instances across the country, and the Norwich case was the first.


Fig. 1. Norwich Original Series proof from charter 65 (top) and Series of 1875 from 458 (bottom), lifted from the same printing plate. The comptroller authorized the recycling of plates on a few occasions during the Original/1875 series era if the predecessor and successor banks had the same title. The intermediate Original Series version of the plate for charter 458 carried Chittenden-Spinner signatures and a plate date of June 8, 1864.

The first of the First National Banks of Norwich was chartered Aug. 18, 1863 and received charter No. 65. It became the second national bank in the country to reorganize. The explanation for why the bankers reorganized is unknown to me. They liquidated their first bank on May 2, 1864 and received the charter for the second on June 6, 1864. The new bank was assigned No. 458.

Two Original Series plates were made for charter 65, a 10-10-10-10 and 20-20-20-100. Only the 10-10-10-10 was used, and 250 sheets were delivered to the comptroller from it Jan. 18, 1864 bearing bank and Treasury sheet serials 1-250, 38205-38454 red. The entire $10,000 printing was sent to the bank but the notes never circulated. Instead, the bankers returned them to the comptroller when they liquidated their bank. They were logged in as a $10,000 redemption on May 24, 1864.

The comptroller authorized that both plates be altered for use by charter 458. The only thing that needed to be changed was the plate date from Nov. 2, 1863 to June 8, 1864. The Chittenden-Spinner Treasury signature combination happened to be current on both of those plate dates, so they were left unchanged on the plates.

Original Series printings from the two plates were made for charter 458, as well as from new 1-1-1-2 and 5-5-5-5 plates.

Next, the 5-5-5-5, 10-10-10-10 and 20-20-20-100 plates were altered into Series of 1875 plates by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing after they were turned over to the bureau from the bank note companies. The alterations consisted of the addition of the “Printed at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing” statements and updating the Treasury signatures to Allison-Wyman because they were in office when the plates were altered. All else remained unchanged including the June 8, 1864 plate date as was customary.

Series of 1875 printings were made from all three of the plates, but no 20-20-20-100 sheets were ever sent to the bank. As fate would have it, the 200 Series of 1875 20-20-20-100 sheets printed for the bank were the only sheets of that combination ever made in the Series of 1875. They bore bank and Treasury sheet serials 1-200 and A1-A200, and were delivered to the comptroller’s office on July 10, 1877. They were canceled after the bank was extended in 1884.

The notable thing about the first of the Norwich banks was that its entire issue was destroyed following the return by the bankers of their 10-10-10-10 Original Series sheets. Being an Original Series-only issuer means that no proof from that bank exists in the Smithsonian proof holding. Collectors were deprived of the opportunity to collect a note from the bank and I was deprived of an opportunity to compare one with the Series of 1875 proof lifted from the Series of 1875 version of the plate used for the charter 458 printings.

Jess Lipka changed all that when he showed off a $10 Original Series proof from the bank that he turned up in the June 2015 BNR. I immediately requested a scan so I could mate it with a scan from the Smithsonian 458 proof. That pair is illustrated here as Fig. 1 above.

The reported Original Series notes from charter 458 consist of a few aces and a lone deuce. No Series of 1875 notes are in the census. Numismatics at least has the fabulous $10 proof as an unexpected representative from charter 65.

Original Series proofs of any denomination from any bank are decidedly rare. It was chance that one from the first Norwich bank was saved.


All the entries in Table 1 above share two characteristics. The predecessor and successor banks had identical titles and both issued Original/1875 series notes. Recycling of the plates involved updating the plate date and updating the Treasury signatures if necessary so that the new plate date coincided with the period during which the officer’s signatures were current. Implicit was that the predecessor plate(s) were still serviceable, a condition that was applicable for all the entries in the table.

Some of the successor banks listed on Table 1 eventually required a duplicate plate, which resulted in a new plate distinguished from the recycled plate by having incremented plate letters.

At the outset of this article, it was pointed out that The First National Bank of Norwich was the second bank in the country to be reorganized under a new charter. The first was The First National Bank of Penn Yan, N.Y. (169), a bank that was liquidated April 6, 1864 so that its officers could move the bank to Watkins, now called Watkins Glen. They reorganized as The First National Bank of Watkins, which was chartered April 1, 1864 with No. 358.

They chose to liquidate and reorganize because there was no provision in national banking law at the time that allowed for moves. Their only other option would have been to win passage of a Congressional act or resolution authorizing the move. The only gain from using this procedure was that it would have allowed them to retain their 169 charter number.

Ironically, they decided to move back to Penn Yan. This time they won for themselves passage of an act on Feb. 19, 1873, that allowed for the move. The comptroller approved the second move with title change to The First National Bank of Penn Yan on April 15, 1973.

This article was originally printed in Bank Note Reporter. >> Subscribe today.

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