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The First National Bank of Moscow

Updated: Apr 7, 2020

Today we are taking a break from women’s history month to discuss the First National Bank of Moscow.  This blog post comes from the President of the Board of Directors at Latah County Historical Society (LCHS), Earl Bennett.

Just a few weeks after I talked about the history of the First National Bank of Moscow at our annual meeting in January, Zach Wnek (LCHS Museum Curator) noticed a note (Figures 1 & 2) from the bank while checking over old accession lists of our collections. The National Banking Act was enacted in 1863 during the Civil War to try and bring some order to our currency system as well as raise money for the North’s war effort.  Each National Bank had a unique charter number and the name of the bank was printed on each banknote that the bank released.  Zach’s find is what we call a Type 2 small note first issued in 1929 and along with Type 1 notes replaced three issues of large “horse blanket” notes issued from 1863 to 1929. The Type 2 notes differ from the Type 1s as the charter number of the bank was printed twice on the Type 2s. This made it a lot easier to sort the notes in other banks and federal clearing houses.

The FNB of Moscow was formed in 1886 when Dorsey Syng Baker and Dr. Herbert Clark chartered their earlier Baker-Clark Bank (1883-1886) as a National Bank (#3408). The original bank was built on a lot first occupied by Moscow pioneer, Almon Asbury Liewellen, who was also Moscow’s first banker. A new bank building was built on this lot located on the southwest corner of First and Main streets. The bank was sold in 1890 to Asa N. Bush who built a new home for his bank on the southwest corner of Third and Main in 1891 (Figures 3, 4 & 5). This bank would survive until the National banking system ended in 1935. It then became a branch of the Idaho First National Bank in Boise and would be a branch of several successor banks until the building was torn down in 1965 and replaced with the current structure currently the home of US Bank (Figure 6).

All of the National bank notes were supposed to be removed after 1935 and replaced with Federal Reserve notes like we use today.  However, a number of the older notes escaped destruction and are very collectible and valuable. Of some $17 billion issued by over 14,000 National banks less that $50 million is outstanding today. All of these notes are relatively rare, but the ones from our bank are especially so as there are only 4 large notes, 20 small Type 1s and until Zach’s discovery only a single Type 2 known. The bank issued $495,000 of National currency including a paltry $750 worth of Type 2 notes. What is really rare are notes issued by our bank while Idaho was a territory.  Moscow was one of only eight Idaho banks that issued such notes and none have been found from our bank; at least not yet.

When Zach showed me the note, I told him I thought it was worth about $500, however, before making such rash judgments one should always do a little research. Turns out that, as noted, there was only one other Type 2 note known from our bank so the value of the LCHS note is at least double my original guess and perhaps more than that.  Of course, the note will never be sold as it is part of our collection and will be in our files for researchers and the curious to study and enjoy for many years to come. Stop in the next time you are near the Annex and Zach can show you the real thing.

Earl H. Bennett President-LCHS

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