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.