By R. Neil Hening for CoinWeek …..
Part of being a responsible numismatist is contributing to the greater knowledge about the origins of a numismatic piece. With that in mind I set out to explore the origins of a piece of private script from Virginia. It is a 12 ½ cent note issued by B. D. Pitts but the note is undated and unnumbered and unsigned. It is catalogued in Virginia Obsolete Paper Money (1992) by Richard Jones and Keith Littlefield under the broad category of Private Script and the subtitle Location Unknown.
The primary clue to its being a Virginia note is the fact that it is redeemable in “Notes of the Bank of Virginia, or of the Farmers’ Bank of Virginia”. Since the Bank of Virginia was chartered in 1804 and the Farmers’ Bank of Virginia was chartered in 1812 and both lasted until the end of the Civil War, these dates make for a rather broad range for possible/probable issue and circulation.
In this case, with no numismatic attribution other than what is cited above, it was necessary to turn to alternative sources. In doing so I have discovered that this note was issued in Richmond, Virginia. I came to this conclusion using two different tracts; one unsuccessful and the other successful.
In hopes of discovering any information about B. D. Pitts I turned to Richmond’s first city directory.
Entitled “Richmond Directory, Register & Almanac for the Year 1819”, it was printed by John Maddox. It is, in fact, reasonably comprehensive, but unfortunately there is no B. P. Pitts listed. The next city directory available for Richmond is dated 1845 entitled “Ellyson’s Richmond Directory & Business Reference Book”, published by K. Ellyson. I searched this source with the same result.
I then turned my focus to resources from another of my interests: printers in Richmond prior to 1860. The note does contain a hard clue that leads to identifying its place of origin and is found in the lower left corner where is it bears the imprint “T. W. White, Printer”.
So who exactly was T. W. White?
Consulting one of several fascicles on the Richmond print trade published by A. Paull Hubbard I discovered T[homas] W[illis] White was actively printing in Richmond from 1824 to 1839. All the more interesting is that fact that White was the founder of the Southern Literary Messenger, for which Edgar Allan Poe was at one time the editor.
While I have yet to discover who B. D. Pitts was or the nature of his business I have been able to confirm that the note is of Richmond origin and was printed between 1824 and 1839.
My research journey shows that sometimes we must go beyond the normal and/or traditional sources to discover the true identity of a numismatic piece.