Westward Expansion

Broken Bank Notes & Wildcat Issues: Ready Funds for Westward Expansion

Between 1837 and 1866, a period known as the “Free Banking Era,” lax federal and state banking laws permitted virtually anyone to open a bank and issue currency. Paper money was issued by states, cities, counties, private banks, railroads, stores, churches, and individuals.

The term “wildcat bank” referred to the remote locations of some banks, more accessible to wildcats than people. When a bank “went broke,” the currency they issued became worthless. The era ended with the passing of the National Bank Act of 1863.

+ References

Gallery

Private Bank Note, Drover's Bank, Salt Lake City, Utah, $3, 1856
Private Bank Note, Drover's Bank, Salt Lake City, Utah, $3, 1856

Private Bank Notes

Private Bank Note, Drover’s Bank, Salt Lake City, Utah, $3, 1856

Private Bank Note, Mechanics Bank, Tennessee, $10, 1854
Private Bank Note, Mechanics Bank, Tennessee, $10, 1854

Private Bank Notes

Private Bank Note, Mechanics Bank, Tennessee, $10, 1854

Private Bank Note, Stonington Bank, Connecticut, $2, 1858-1865
Private Bank Note, Stonington Bank, Connecticut, $2, 1858-1865

Private Bank Notes

Private Bank Note, Stonington Bank, Connecticut, $2, 1858-1865

Private Bank Note, Bank of North America, Pennsylvania, $1, 1862
Private Bank Note, Bank of North America, Pennsylvania, $1, 1862

Private Bank Notes

Private Bank Note, Bank of North America, Pennsylvania, $1, 1862

Private Bank Note, Bank of Desoto, Nebraska, $3, 1863
Private Bank Note, Bank of Desoto, Nebraska, $3, 1863

Private Bank Notes

Private Bank Note, Bank of Desoto, Nebraska, $3, 1863

Private Bank Note, Allegany County Bank, Maryland, $5, 1860
Private Bank Note, Allegany County Bank, Maryland, $5, 1860

Private Bank Notes

Private Bank Note, Allegany County Bank, Maryland, $5, 1860

Private Bank Note, Bank of East Tennessee, $5, 1860
Private Bank Note, Bank of East Tennessee, $5, 1860

Private Bank Notes

Private Bank Note, Bank of East Tennessee, $5, 1860

Private Bank Note, Peoples' Bank of Patterson, New Jersey, $8, 1837-1872
Private Bank Note, Peoples' Bank of Patterson, New Jersey, $8, 1837-1872

Private Bank Notes

Private Bank Note, Peoples’ Bank of Patterson, New Jersey, $8, 1837-1872

Private Bank Note, Brownville Bank, Nebraska, $10, 1857
Private Bank Note, Brownville Bank, Nebraska, $10, 1857

Private Bank Notes

Private Bank Note, Brownville Bank, Nebraska, $10, 1857

State Issue, Louisiana, $5, 1862
State Issue, Louisiana, $5, 1862

State Issues

State Issue, Louisiana, $5, 1862

State Issue, Mississippi, $3, 1862
State Issue, Mississippi, $3, 1862

State Issues

State Issue, Mississippi, $3, 1862

State Issue, Florida, $50, 1861
State Issue, Florida, $50, 1861

State Issues

State Issue, Florida, $50, 1861

State Issue, Republic of Texas, $50, 1840
State Issue, Republic of Texas, $50, 1840

State Issues

State Issue, Republic of Texas, $50, 1840

State Issue, Virginia, $50, 1862
îState

State Issues

State Issue, Virginia, $50, 1862

City Issue, Village of Salem, New York, 10 cents, 1862
City Issue, Village of Salem, New York, 10 cents, 1862

City & County Issues

City Issue, Village of Salem, New York, 10 cents, 1862

County Issue, Parish of Iberville, Louisiana, 25 cents, 1862
County Issue, Parish of Iberville, Louisiana, 25 cents, 1862

City & County Issues

County Issue, Parish of Iberville, Louisiana, 25 cents, 1862

City Issue, Village of Newburgh, New Hampshire, 5 cents, 1862
City Issue, Village of Newburgh, New Hampshire, 5 cents, 1862

City & County Issues

City Issue, Village of Newburgh, New Hampshire, 5 cents, 1862

City Issue, Newark, New Jersey, 15 cents, 1862
City Issue, Newark, New Jersey, 15 cents, 1862

City & County Issues

City Issue, Newark, New Jersey, 15 cents, 1862

County Issue, County of Lowndes, Alabama, 25 cents, 1866
County Issue, County of Lowndes, Alabama, 25 cents, 1866

City & County Issues

County Issue, County of Lowndes, Alabama, 25 cents, 1866

County Issue, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, $1, 1865
County Issue, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, $1, 1865

City & County Issues

County Issue, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, $1, 1865

îPrivate
îPrivate

Private Issues

Private Issue, Phoenix Bank, Connecticut twelve and one-half cents, 1816

îPrivate
îPrivate

Private Issues

Private Issue, Mathews and Brothers Druggists, New York, 2 cents, 1861-1863

Private Issue, Delmonico's Restaurant, New York, 15 cents, 1862
Private Issue, Delmonico's Restaurant, New York, 15 cents, 1862

Private Issues

Private Issue, Delmonico’s Restaurant, New York, 15 cents, 1862

Private Issue, Peabody Ladies Furnishings, Massachusetts, 3 cents, 1862-1863
Private Issue, Peabody Ladies Furnishings, Massachusetts, 3 cents, 1862-1863

Private Issues

Private Issue, Peabody Ladies Furnishings, Massachusetts, 3 cents, 1862-1863

Private Issue, Young's Hotel, Massachusetts, 10 cents, 1862
Private Issue, Young's Hotel, Massachusetts, 10 cents, 1862

Private Issues

Private Issue, Young’s Hotel, Massachusetts, 10 cents, 1862

Private Issue, Hyson Tea, New York, 25 cents, 1862
Private Issue, Hyson Tea, New York, 25 cents, 1862

Private Issues

Private Issue, Hyson Tea, New York, 25 cents, 1862

Private Issue, Parker House, Massachusetts, 25 cents, 1862
Private Issue, Parker House, Massachusetts, 25 cents, 1862

Private Issues

Private Issue, Parker House, Massachusetts, 25 cents, 1862

Private Issue, Haverhill Association, Massachusetts, 25 cents, 1862
Private Issue, Haverhill Association, Massachusetts, 25 cents, 1862

Private Issues

Private Issue, Haverhill Association, Massachusetts, 25 cents, 1862

Private Issue, Van De Bogart Brothers, New York, 25 cents, 1862
Private

Private Issues

Private Issue, New York, 25 cents, 1862

Private Issue, Phenix Manufacturing Company, Pennsylvania, 50 cents, 1837
Private Issue, Phenix Manufacturing Company, Pennsylvania, 50 cents, 1837

Private Issues

Private Issue, Phenix Manufacturing Company, Pennsylvania, 50 cents, 1837

Transportation Issue, Delaware Bridge Company, New Jersey, $1, 1836-1841
Transportation Issue, Delaware Bridge Company, New Jersey, $1, 1836-1841

Transportation Issues

Transportation Issue, Delaware Bridge Company, New Jersey, $1, 1836-1841

Transportation Issue, Tallahassee Rail Road Company, Florida, $1, 1860-1865
Transportation Issue, Tallahassee Rail Road Company, Florida, $1, 1860-1865

Transportation Issues

Transportation Issue, Tallahassee Rail Road Company, Florida, $1, 1860-1865

Transportation Issue, Indiana Plank Road Company, 1850-1859
Transportation Issue, Indiana Plank Road Company, 1850-1859

Transportation Issues

Transportation Issue, Indiana Plank Road Company, 1850-1859

Transportation Issue, Newark Plank Road Company, Ohio, $1, 1860
Transportation Issue, Newark Plank Road Company, Ohio, $1, 1860

Transportation Issues

Transportation Issue, Newark Plank Road Company, Ohio, $1, 1860

Transportation Issue, Dubuque Western Railroad Company, Iowa, $5, 1858
Transportation Issue, Dubuque Western Railroad Company, Iowa, $5, 1858

Transportation Issues

Transportation Issue, Dubuque Western Railroad Company, Iowa, $5, 1858

Transportation Issue, Mississippi & Alabama Railroad Company, $5, 1838
Transportation Issue, Mississippi & Alabama Railroad Company, $5, 1838

Transportation Issues

Transportation Issue, Mississippi & Alabama Railroad Company, $5, 1838

Transportation Issue, Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Company, Maryland, $10, 1840
Transportation Issue, Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Company, Maryland, $10, 1840

Transportation Issues

Transportation Issue, Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Company, Maryland, $10, 1840

Transportation Issue, South Carolina Rail Road Company, 1873-1879
Transportation Issue, South Carolina Rail Road Company, 1873-1879

Transportation Issues

Transportation Issue, South Carolina Rail Road Company, 1873-1879