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Lot 20155

Image Information

Type Currency
Title Lot 20155
Country United States
Description St. Louis, MO � Keokuk Packet Company 25 Cents Undated (Ca. 1850s-60s). PCGS Fine 15 Apparent. One of the great Newman Collection scrip note rarities with an Iowa tie title. This is the third St. Louis vicinity packet company issuer from the Collection, and perhaps the rarest. Packet boats are also featured on the vignettes of several St. Louis banks, particularly the Bank of St. Louis. Packet boats long plied the Mississippi River, transporting mail, freight, and passengers, but the Keokuk Packet Company was the first reliable outfit. Until John McCune established it in 1842, there was no certainty that a boat would depart at the scheduled hour -- or even on that day. Two prominent St. Louisans were the principle stockholders: John S. McCune and James E. Yeatsman. McCune, who ran the operation, was a partner in a foundry company; he would later become president of the Pilot Knob Iron Company and one of the directors of the Real Estate Savings Institution. Yeatsman was among the first directors of the Merchants Bank, becoming cashier after it became a national bank in 1865, and later serving as its president. The first of the Keokuk boats was the newly built Die Vernon (one of a number of vessels named after a character in one of Sir Walter Scott's novels). It was one of three ships making regular trips between St. Louis and Keokuk, Iowa, six days a week for nine months of the year. In 1844, the company secured a mail contract. The lucrative route attracted other companies, and the Keokuk Packet Company had to contend with serious competition for passengers, resulting in discounted fares, ever-increasing speed, and luxurious amenities. In 1852, the Keokuk Packet Company decided to pit its new, improved Die Vernon against rival Minnesota Packet Company's West Newton by moving into new territory above Galena to the Falls of St. Anthony. This Upper Mississippi route was popularized by artist George Catlin who exhorted travelers to embark on "the next �Fashionable Tour.'" The two steamboats engaged in a race, which was quite a common occurrence, and the Die Vernon was victorious. Another of the Keokuk Packet Company's boats, The City of Louisiana, carried both Lincoln and Douglass from Quincy to Alton, Illinois for their final debate on October 15, 1858. At the onset of the Civil War, packet boats were used for ferrying troops, as hospital ships, and as quarters for the Invalid Corps (later the Veteran Reserve Corps). A letter from Colonel Charles F. Johnson of the Corps to his wife on September 19, 1863 describes the opulence of the Die Vernon: "... you can judge of its length when I state that it [the saloon] contained 9 chandeliers each at full distance from the other ... why the Barber shop also is as large as our two parlors combined." The competition between the various packet boat companies led to low profits for all, and on February 26, 1873, The Keokuk Packet Company joined some of its rivals in establishing The Keokuk Northern Line Packet Company. Printed uniface on white paper, without imprint. The style is identical to packet boat company scrip in the Newman Collection from Alton and East St. Louis. The central vignette shows a steamboat in three-quarter view coming toward the viewer on the tree-lined river; the town is in the distance, and a large tree limb is in the water ahead. Counters are in the upper corners, and the obligation reads: "GOOD FOR TWENTY FIVE CENTS/ Receivable for Freight Passage & other dues." Noted with some "Repairs" seen from the back. A great rarity with a storied history. Ex: Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society. From Newman X (Heritage Auctions, November 2018), lot 20155, realized $2400.

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Image Collection Eric P. Newman Collection, Part X
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