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Mike Maddock, General Manager
2013-02-01 / Society

This is not Confederate money

By Warner M. Montgomery
WarnerM@ TheColumbiaStar.com


A 5$ note of the Bank of the State of South Carolina printed by Evans & Cogswell in Charleston in 1862. A 5$ note of the Bank of the State of South Carolina printed by Evans & Cogswell in Charleston in 1862. Dr. Jack A. Meyer emphatically stated at the January meeting of the Columbia Torch Club, “This is NOT Confederate money! This is money printed by the Bank of the State of South Carolina between 1812 and 1865, redeemed and stored in the basement of the State House in 1880, and forgotten until rediscovered in 1961.”

During renovation of the State House, 40 boxes of these banks notes were turned over to the State Department of Archives and History ( Archives), where they were declared “obsolete bank notes” and placed in secure storage where they sat for 46 years.

In 2007, Dr. Rodger Stroup, Director of Archives, called on Meyer to sort the bank notes and determine if they could be sold to raise money for his agency.

Meyer was well qualified for the job. He had served 23 years in the U.S. Air Force, 18 years in the S.C. State Guard, and retired as a colonel. After receiving his M. A. and Ph.D., he taught history at U.S.C. for 14 years. For his military and academic work, he has received the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, S.C. State Guard Distinguished Service Medal, Order of the Palmetto, and the S.C. Palmetto Patriot Award. And, at the time, he was serving as a volunteer conservator at Archives and the S.C. State Museum.


David Coward (r), president of the Columbia Torch Club, congratulates Dr. Jack Meyer on his excellent talk. David Coward (r), president of the Columbia Torch Club, congratulates Dr. Jack Meyer on his excellent talk. In the past five years Meyer has gone through five of the 40 boxes, cleaned and classified the bank notes, put the surplus notes up for auction, and raised considerable money to support the collections at Archives.

His research has discovered that the bank notes were issued by the Bank of the State of South Carolina (The Bank) by an 1812 act of the General Assembly. The Bank was a not-for-profit entity with all profit becoming state revenue. Notes of $1 to $100 were issued. Except during the Panics of 1837 and 1857 and after the beginning of the Civil War, the notes were backed by gold and silver specie.


Samples of bank notes discovered in the basement of the State House in 1961 Samples of bank notes discovered in the basement of the State House in 1961 The Bank had branches in Columbia, Georgetown, Camden, Abbeville, and agents in Hamburg, Chester, Greenville, Georgia, Louisiana, N.C., Mississippi, Florida, New York, and England.

In the decade prior to the Civil War, fearing The Bank had too much power and influence, many politicians, governors, and newspapers attacked The Bank trying to get its charter revoked. The attack fizzled when war began.

The Bank was closed in 1868 by the General Assembly with the provision that the notes could be redeemed for state bonds. The S.C. Supreme Court declared the act unconstitutional and put The Bank in receivership in 1869. During Reconstruction corruption was rampart. In 1873 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that notes of The Bank had to be accepted for taxes; then, in 1879, state law provided for redemption of the notes for 50% face value until July 1, 1881. The notes redeemed were boxed up and put in the basement of the State House.

In 2008, the General Assembly ruled that Archives could auction selected bank notes, sell individual notes through the Archives Gift Shop, and add the revenue to its budget.

The Columbia Torch Club meets monthly for dinner and a talk. Guests are welcome. Call Ed Latimer, past-president of the International Association of Torch Clubs, at 803-776-4765 for information.

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