(Spoiler Alert: not many of them are actually green.)
If there is anything that could confirm evidence of the stature of our town, with almost mythic American legitimacy, it would be seeing our name printed prominently on the face of Federal crisp green bills.
There it is, on one supremely sanctioned official unit of legal tender, like a sacred seal: Mansfield, Ohio next to an iconic President, with liberty and justice for all.
Nothing confers validity like money; our confirmation that the United States mint recognizes Mansfield, Ohio.
Here are some bills—a whole wallet full—that offer proof our hometown has achieved the gold standard of authenticity in American history.
Cash in the Wilderness
The story of Mansfield’s currency goes clear back to frontier days when the town numbered fewer than 500 people. In those early times, when the county was still mostly forest and gangs of Wyandots still passed through the Square, commerce existed in a barter economy.
The US Government was not yet in the business of minting paper money, so everything Federally sanctioned was in the form of hard coin.
A local grocer in 1818 advertised that the store would sell their goods “for cash, or bear skins, deer skins, venison hams, and furs.”
But any town that wanted to show up on the map needed a bank, so in 1816 eager entrepreneurs cobbled together the Richland & Huron Bank of Mansfield. They printed lovely paper currency before the State Legislature even confirmed their charter; and when the State refused to recognize them they went ahead and opened for business anyway.
Mansfield’s first financial institution was a wildcat bank.
Only three months after their grand opening their wagon had rolled into the deep mud with dozens of law suits; within a year it was completely swamped under hundreds of thorny litigations. Five years later, all of the bank officers had lost their shirts, their lands, their credibility.
These beautiful bills were not ‘worth the paper they were printed on’ for very long.
Farmers Bank of Mansfield
During the first half of the 1800s the only kind of legal tender that the US government produced to grease the wheels of finance was in the form of coins. To meet the demands of daily commerce it was necessary for the State of Ohio to authorize local banks; and each of these individual institutions came up with their own paper notes.
The Federal Government finally initiated the minting of greenbacks during the financial crisis of the Civil War, and that is when Mansfield got its first national bank—called, interestingly enough, the First National Bank of Mansfield.