Arago: Continental Bank Note Company (1873-1878)

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Continental Bank Note Company (1873-1878)
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Intense competition for contracts to engrave and print U.S. Treasury bank notes raged among engraving firms prior to 1876. The struggle ended that year, when the government assumed responsibility for printing all currency. Though competition for contracts to print currency waned at that point, firms still competed for contracts to print stamps.

Founded in early 1863, the Continental Bank Note Company (CBNCo) promised greater efficiency and profitability than its competitors. It melded business savvy, independent and highly skilled engraving, and well-connected entrepreneurs to secure important contracts, among them the U.S. Treasury Department's sole currency contract. CBNCo triumphed where the National Bank Note, American Bank Note, and Butler & Carpenter failed, an incredible accomplishment for a newly-formed company. That it occupied space owned by a senior assistant to the Department of the Treasury might have come into play.

Continental Bank Note Company's greatest accomplishment, however, was securing the sole contract to print U.S. postage stamps. On May 1, 1873, the firm became National Bank Note Company's successor. NBNCo had held the contract since 1851. In 1877 CBNCo secured another four-year contract to print U.S. stamps. The following year Continental merged with the American Bank Note Company, and the contract transferred to this new name.


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