David Munro (1784-1866) was pictured on the $20 bill issued by the Salt Springs National Bank of Syracuse.
The Salt Springs Bank opened in the Empire House on the south side of Syracuse, NY on Monday, April 5, 1852. The new bank was the seventh bank in the young town. Among them they had an aggregate capital of $1,022,000.
Soon after opening their doors, the bank began issuing its own private currency. This was standard practice between between 1810 and 1865 for banks, railroads, states, canal companies and private merchants. Today, collectors refer to these issues as “obsolete currency.” Each issuer designed their own bills and they were often works of local art. The Salt Springs Bank included portraits of prominent citizens on theirs. The proof sheet to the right shows three denominations of the bills. This sheet was sold in an online auction.
The currency is mentioned in this article:
“The new Salt Springs Bank is now in successful operation, and many of its bills are already in circulation. The new bills are decidedly neat and elegant in their appearance, (who ever heard of a good bank bill that was not a beautiful article) and are each embellished with a miniature portrait of one of our citizens, Director or stockholder in the Bank. On the twentys, the features of David Monro [sic], of Camillus, are easily recognized. The tens present the Jacksonian countenance of Major Heron. The numerous friends and acquaintances of B. Davis Noxon, cannot fail to discover his familiar features on the fives. The portrait of William Clark of Salina embellishes the twos, and that of John D. Norton Esq. on the ones cannot be mistaken. No threes have yet been issued. The engravings are all highly finished and the likenesses very correct. The custom of embellishing bank bills with the portrait ol honored citizens is a very good one, and we are pleased to see it adopted by the new Bank. Their Banking Rooms for the present are in the office of the Empire House and those persons wishing to do business with the Bank, will find as gentlemanly a set of officers as ever signed a Bank Bill or discounted a note.”Religious Recorder, Syracuse New York dated April 15, 1852
It is reported that the bank printed $3,399,050 worth of national currency between 1865-1934, issuing 11 different types and denominations. In spite of this 70 year span, these early obsolete bills are probably quite rare today.
Munro Family & Early ‘Banking’
From the moment Squire Munro set foot in Onondaga County, NY in 1799, he and his sons began buying up land throughout the county. Their success at farming and other business ventures made them wealthy enough to begin acting as banks for their neighbors as indicated in this first hand account:
“In passing through Camillus, the richly cultivated farms and large granaries of the brothers [sic] Squire, David and Nathan Munro, attracted attention and some one would be pretty sure to remark that “the Munro’s not only owned the best farms in the town themselves, but had mortgages on all their neighbors’ farms,” which was true.”— Autobiography of Thurlow Weed, Volume 1 (1884, Houghton Mifflin & Co.)
Moving to Formal Banking
As Syracuse grew in size, Squire’s son David and other family members began to play a role in the formation of banks. David’s role in these early banks is mentioned here:
“He was also a director and for several years president of the old Bank of Salina, and a director of the Salt Springs Bank from its incorporation until his decease.”Onondaga’s Centennial by Dwight Hall Bruce, page 666 (1896, the Boston History Company)
Elsewhere, Bruce provides the following details on the Bank of Salina:
“…April, 1832, the Bank of Salina was incorporated by Nehemiah H. Early, Nathaniel Munro, Ashbel Kellogg, David Munro, Moses D. Burnet, Thomas J. Gilbert, Hezekiah Strong, Charles A. Baker, and Albert Crane. The old Bank of Salina was organized in 1832, and for some years was of great assistance to early merchants and manufactures. With the growth of Syracuse this bank was removed and located on South Salina street, where its affairs were subsequently closed up.”Onondaga’s Centennial by Dwight Hall Bruce, pages 231 and 579 (1896, the Boston History Company)
Finally, Bruce mentions the founding of several banks, including the Salt Springs National Bank:
“The Salt Springs National Bank was organized as the Salt Springs Bank in 1852, with a capital of $125,000, which has been increased to $200,000. The first board of directors were David Munro, Thomas G. Alford, George H. Waggoner, James E. Herring, Henry S. Candee, Matthew Murphy, Cornelius Lynch, Dennis McCarthy, E. B. Judson, George Geddes, William Clark, Orly F. Whitney, S.N. Kenyon, John D. Norton, and B. David Noxon. Alfred A. Howlett was made a director in 1854. Thoms G. Alford was first president; was succeeded by William Clark, and he by Alfred A. Howlett in 1859. Cornelius Alford succeeded Mr. Judson as cashier, and Thomas J. Leach was chosen to the office in 1859. In 1865 the institution was chartered as National bank.”Onondaga’s Centennial by Dwight Hall Bruce, page 579 (1896, the Boston History Company)
The picture of the $20 bill above is from page 1804 of Haxby’s US Obsolete Bank Notes Volume 3, which may have been photographed from an as yet unseen companion proof sheet. It includes an engraving of David Munro, that was modeled after a photograph of David. The engraving can be compared to the original photo below. This is the only known photo of David Munro and was found in the collection of Catherine Munro Stickler (1943-2011) who graciously allowed me to scan it for our archives prior to donating it to the Elbridge Historical Society where it resides to this day.
The Syracuse Journal reported on May 16, 1866 about a special meeting of the Directors of the Salt Springs National Bank, held on May 11, including this excerpt:
“The Late Hon. David Munro – At a special meeting of the Directors of the Salt Springs National Bank, held at their Banking House on the 11th inst., to take action relative to the death of one of their number, the Hon. David Munro, the following resolutions were adopted:–Resolved, That it is with feelings of peculiar sorrow that we have heard of the sudden death last evening of our late associate, the Hon. David Munro, who was one of the founders of this institution, and who from its origin has been a member of its direction. Long association in acting and deciding upon matters of great importance–many times of critical delicacy–has taught us fully the character of our late associate for decisions based on careful consideration of every question that has arisen, and has constantly shown his readiness to assume his full share of responsibility. Our relations have been of the most agreeable kind; and while we have regarded his opinions, based on a long life of successful experience, as of great weight and value, he has never sought to press them any further than they commended themselves by their justness on the minds of his associates. It is thought to be due to the memory of the deceased that a brief notice of some of the principal events in his life should be entered on our minutes, and thus be preserved among our records.”— Syracuse Journal, May 16, 1866
Other Notable Involvement
“By 1853, half of the board of the Bank of Salina was in some way related to David Munro. Notable among these are James Munroe, Isaac Hill, David Allen Munro, Thomas H. Hill, Payne Bigelow, and Robert Townsend.”—The Syracuse Evening Journal, June 20, 1853
Banking the attention of David’s son in law, Payn Bigelow (1814-1893), ” and he organized the State Bank of Baldwinsville in 1875, of which he was president. He was among the founders and directors of the Salt Springs and Third National banks of Syracuse.”—The Baldwinville Gazette and Farmer’s Journal, September 7, 1893
“David Munro’s son David Allen Munro (1818-1897) was “connected with the bank for 28 years he was connected with the Salt Springs National Bank of this city, being a director and vice-president at the time of his death.”—The Syracuse Daily Standard, September 1, 1897 (page 6, column 6)
“David’s grandson, Isaac Hill Munro (1848-1922) also “devoted much of his time to his duties as vice president of the Salt Springs National bank, of which he had been a director since 1877.”—The Syracuse Evening Herald, March 1, 1922
Thomas Hill Munro (1876-1939) was also a “former director of the Salt Springs National Bank.”—The Syracuse Herald, February 20, 1939