Ohio bank displays checks signed by famous Americans
BROOKLYN, Ohio (AP) – Dozens of personal checks from former U.S. presidents, authors and other famous people, including one written by President Abraham Lincoln the day before he was assassinated, are part of a collection that has been rediscovered by an Ohio bank and is being displayed to the public.
A total of 70 checks have been stored in a vault at Huntington Bank’s Columbus headquarters since 1983 after Huntington acquired the check collection when it took over Cleveland’s Union Commerce Bank. A Union Commerce president had developed the check collection, said Huntington spokeswoman Maureen Brown told The Associated Press.
The list of notable check-signers includes inventor Thomas Edison, composer George Gershwin and authors such as Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway.
Huntington officials decided last year to start publicly displaying some of the checks after an employee looking through the collection was struck by their historical significance and suggested that they really needed to be shared with everyone, Brown said. Huntington had not forgotten the checks’ existence, but “through the years—as employees left and new ones came in—the actual value of the checks hadn’t been recognized,” she said.
She said the bank began displaying some of the checks last summer at a Pittsburgh branch, and the public reaction was so positive that officials decided to display some of the checks at various branches across the Midwest.
“We were surprised that there are so many history buffs out there,” Brown said
Some of the checks are currently displayed at Huntington’s Brooklyn branch in suburban Cleveland. Branches in Akron, Canton and Toledo will have similar displays this year.
Abraham Lincoln’s check was written on April 13, 1865, the day before he was shot by John Wilkes Booth. The check for $800 was written to “self” and drawn on the First National Bank of Washington, D.C., according to an appraisal done for the bank by Cowan’s Auctions in Cincinnati.
That check was reportedly used to get cash to pay debts incurred by Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, “who apparently was a shopper,” Brown said.
A special collection librarian at Cleveland State University sees the checks as quite a find, The Plain Dealer of Cleveland reported.
“These are remnants of a vanished society,” librarian Bill Barrow said.
Checks with original signatures shows that famous historical figures like Lincoln had bills, too, Barrow said.
“The fact that President Lincoln had this in his hand the day before he was shot, it helps connect people,” Barrow said.
Twenty-four of the checks bear the signatures of American presidents.
The Lincoln check is worth about $25,000 today, while one written by George Washington to William Thornton for $500 is valued at $10,000. A check written by Thomas Jefferson in 1793 for $22.69 is now worth about $6,000, according to the appraisal.
Hemingway’s check was written to Curtis Publishing Co. for $3.50, and is worth about $1,500 today.
Cowan’s has valued the entire collection of checks around $73,000.
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