Images of the Month Gallery
October 2004
Financial paper of the nineteenth century--banknotes, promissory notes, checks, stock certificates, and bonds being the most common--was often adorned with miniature works of art. Those who issued such currency sought to inspire confidence among the populace that those paper representations were acceptable substitutes for real wealth, i.e., gold, silver, commodities, etc. This was accomplished in part through the use of symbolic elements in the design of their legal tender. Portraits of governmental and financial leaders, drawings of banks and other institutions, images of the source of wealth--shipping, agriculture, manufacturing--and a variety of allegorical figures were used to decorate “money” in all of its many forms.

The City Archives/Special Collections at New Orleans Public Library abounds with examples of artistry in financial paper. Several examples are included in the Rare Vertical File, but many more can be found among the suit records in the Civil Courts Collection. We offer a small sample of this “valuable” artwork in this month's gallery of images.

Click on the images below to see a larger version and accompanying text.

And click HERE to visit previous Images of the Month.

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10/1/2004