Featuring Research Volunteer Contributions

National Bank Note Company (1861-1872)

refer to caption
90-cent Lincoln with G. Grill single

Some people saw the formation of the American Bank Note Company in 1858 as a threat. A firm formed by the merger of seven companies suggested monopoly. The National Bank Note Company was created in an act of opposition to the growing monopoly in the engraving and printing industry. Principal members of Danforth, Perkins & Co., which held a 21.8 percent share of the newly formed ABNCo, left when DP&Co and the six other firms comprising ABNCo had a disagreement about the terms of the merger. These four employees from Danforth, Perkins & Co., two employees from its earlier firm (Danforth, Wright & Co.), and three bankers organized their new firm (NBNCo) in 1859 before actively pursuing business in the old offices of Danforth, Wright & Company. The equipment and other effects that had transferred to ABNCo with the merger had been replaced.

The new company was created with $60,000 of equity in 1,200 shares worth fifty dollars each. The nine founders held 980 shares of the company; seven NBNCo engravers and friends of the principal stockholders held the remaining 220 shares. While the new National Bank Note Company strove to attain status, its team of engravers was already renowned in the industry: Cyrus Durand (geometric lathe designs on banknotes); Joseph I. Pease (premiere portrait engraver); James Smillie (picture engraver); Joseph Ourdan (portrait engraver); William E. Marshall (portrait engraver); William D. Nichols and George W. Thurber (lettering and intricate designs).

With this foundation of marketable artistic talent, the banking partners solicited business from banks wanting engraved banknotes. National Bank Note received its first order by early 1860. Then in mid-1861 it won the contract to print all U.S. postage stamps, which it held it through 1872. NBNCo also printed many special-use stamps and postage currency for the United States. The company experienced fierce competition from American Bank Note Company during this time and finally capitulated to a consolidation with Continental and American Bank Note Companies in 1879. National Bank Note was drawn into the monopoly that it had struggled to defeat. Two decades of fierce competition between the three companies then ended.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

refer to caption 90-cent Washington single

In March 1861 Abraham Lincoln took office as the sixteenth president of the United States. One month later...

24-cent Washington single

The stamps of the 1862-1866 Issues do not have a uniform plan of design, color, or denomination. They were...

10-cent Washington F. Grill single

Following the Civil War, the federal government feared revenue losses because some people were cleaning and re-using postage stamps. It commissioned...

refer to caption 30-cent Shield, Eagle & Flags Re-issue single

In 1868 the National Bank Note Company was the only firm under contract to the federal government to print United States stamps. When...

refer to caption 90-cent Carmine Perry with Grill single

The public heartily disliked the 1869 Pictorial Issue, and this accounts for its short lifespan. Difficulties, mentioned earlier, included...

About U.S. Stamps