A Rare Bank Note from the Kirtland Safety Society to Mormon Pioneer Joseph Kingsbury, Who Went West to Salt Lake City

The Kirtland bank was set up by the leaders in the Mormon Church

In the fall of 1836, Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and other residents in Kirtland, Ohio, the majority of whom were members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints (known today as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons), began organizing a bank. They did this because the credit...

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A Rare Bank Note from the Kirtland Safety Society to Mormon Pioneer Joseph Kingsbury, Who Went West to Salt Lake City

The Kirtland bank was set up by the leaders in the Mormon Church

In the fall of 1836, Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and other residents in Kirtland, Ohio, the majority of whom were members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints (known today as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons), began organizing a bank. They did this because the credit needs of the church, growing population, and ongoing land transactions required a local bank.

They decided on a name—the Kirtland Safety Society Bank—and began selling stock in the bank in October. On 2 November, they drafted a constitution and elected officers. This constitution was printed in December 1836 as an “extra” to the church’s Kirtland newspaper, the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. An original of the constitution is available on The Joseph Smith Papers website.

After some discussion by the leadership of the Church, church apostle Orson Hyde went to the Ohio legislature to request a bank charter while Oliver Cowdery went to Philadelphia and acquired plates to print notes for the proposed Kirtland Safety Society bank. On January 2,1837, Hyde returned to Kirtland emptyhanded. He had been unable to persuade any legislator to sponsor a bill giving KSS a bank charter. Church president and founder Joseph Smith attributed the lack of sponsorship to disfavor toward the Mormons.

Hyde returned to the Ohio legislature in February with a petition, joined by several non-Mormons, for a bank based on far less capital stock. This time Hyde secured legislative sponsors, and the request was added as an amendment to another bill. However, the bill was defeated by the Ohio legislature.

Under the advice of non-Mormon legal counsel, the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company (KSSABC) was formed under revised articles on January 2, 1837 as a joint stock company to serve as a quasi-banking institution.

Subscribers and organizers of the KSSABC were members of the Kirtland community (merchants, farmers, etc.), many of whom became shareholders of the company. Sidney Rigdon served as the KSSABC’ chairman and president, Warren Parrish as signatory, secretary and teller; Joseph Smith was cashier. Supporters hoped that they would eventually be able to secure a formal banking charter. In the interim, the KSSABC began issuing notes as a quasi-bank in early January 1837. Banks in the United States in the period before the Civil War issued and often backed their own currency.

Joseph Corrodon Kingsbury was a Mormon pioneer who went West with the original group that settled Salt Lake City. From 1851 to 1854 he was bishop of the 2nd Ward in Salt Lake City. Starting in 1883. he was a patriarch in the LDS Church.

Document signed, being one of the original Kirtland bank notes, signed by Joseph Smith as cashier, a note for 10 dollars on demand to JC Kingsbury or bearer. This document is signed on behalf of Smith by a fellow Church elder.

By November 1837, KSSABC failed and its business closed. In the aftermath, Smith was fined for “running an illegal bank.”

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