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Currency Notice, 1855
Currency Notice, 1855

This broadside advises the public that the Illinois Central Rail Road will no longer accept Georgia or Tennessee currency in exchange for service. In the years before the Civil War individual banks, and not the federal government, issued currency. Americans taking part in a market economy faced the prospect of assessing each of these currencies' value in every transaction. For instance, a note issued by a bank usually stated that its bearer might exchange his paper for bullion or coin of the same value at the bank itself. But the vast majority of banks maintained only small such reserves, making notes' value a representation of the public's faith in them. These private notes' values often fluctuated wildly, leading merchants and businessmen such as the Illinois Central to reject currency they regarded as having no value. The several states each regulated banks and their notes differently, making some states' bank notes more reliable than others. In this instance, railroad officials have deemed Tennessee and Georgia currency too risky to accept.

Image source: Chicago Historical Society
©Copyright 2002 Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project