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Revenue Stamp on Bank Check from 1864

Updated: Oct 19, 2022

During the Civil War, one of the ways the Union raised funds was to require the payment of taxes on documents like bank checks and bonds and on proprietary articles like matches, perfume, and medicine.[i]


One example is this $40.00 bank check dated January 15, 1864. The payment of the 2-cent tax is indicated by the affixed revenue stamp, which in the US Scott Catalog is number R5c.


The check was issued by the Office of the Treasurer, State of Wisconsin and is signed by Samuel D. Hastings (1816-1903), the 4th State Treasurer of Wisconsin.[ii] He served as State Treasurer from 1858 to 1866.


The funds were disbursed from what was called the “Allotment Fund/Wisconsin Volunteers.” In accordance with Chapter 190, Section 3, Laws of Wisconsin of 1862, individual soldiers during the Civil War were able to directly allot a portion of their pay for their dependents. These funds were paid into the state treasury for disbursement and were known as the Allotment Fund.


The check was made out to "Mary L. Harker." Through a process of elimination (outlined below), I believe that was Mary Harker (nee Buxton) (Figure 3) of New Diggings, Wisconsin, a small mining town in the southwestern part of the state. She was born in England in 1800 and died in New Diggings in 1868. She is buried at Leadmine Methodist Episcopal Cemetery in that town.


I started with the National Park Service's database of Civil War soldiers. There were 12 men with the last name Harker from Wisconsin who fought for the Union. Five of 12 mustered in after January 1864, the date of the check. Three others had no apparent relatives by the name of Mary. Another had a daughter by the name of Mary, but she was not born until 1867. I could find no information on one individual. That left two Harker's - brothers John and Thomas - from southwestern Wisconsin who both enlisted on August 11, 1862, in the 31st Wisconsin Infantry and whose mother was Mary Harker (nee Buxton).


The check was drawn on a State of Wisconsin account at Farmers’ and Millers’ Bank, a state-chartered bank founded in Milwaukee in 1853. Upon converting to a national bank charter in 1865, it changed its name to First National Bank of Milwaukee, and in 1919, after several mergers, it became First National Bank of Wisconsin. The bank was headquartered in Milwaukee until 2001, at which time it was known as Firstar Corporation. In 2001, Firstar acquired U.S. Bancorp and assumed its name, moving its headquarters to Minneapolis. U.S. Bancorp is the fifth largest banking institution in the US as of mid 2022.


The check cleared through Marshall & Ilsley Bankers, a well-known Milwaukee financial institution. Marshall & Ilsley, or M&I Bank, was founded in Milwaukee in 1847 and remained independent until 2010 when it was purchased by Bank of Montreal. Its operations were folded into Harris Bank, which is in business today as BMO Harris.


I acquired this item from Richard Friedberg Stamps at a stamp show in Washington, DC in mid 2022 for about $20.00.

Figure 1 - Front of check

Figure 2 - Back of check

Figure 3 - Mary Harker nee Buxton



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