Different Notes, Different Spelling?

Question: I have noticed on different paper money notes, that the names of towns are not always spelled the same. I collect Massachusetts notes and have found that they often have two different spellings. For example, there is Marlboro and Marlborough, Northboro and Northborough and Attleboro and Attleborough. I have also been told that sometimes the spelling of boro’ with an apostrophe was used, including on National Bank Notes from Waldoboro, Maine.

I remember reading something you wrote in the past about this also being true of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire notes. Can you revisit this?

Answer: I have noticed these differing spellings on bank notes, but also on other things. For example, you mentioned Marlboro, Massachusetts. I have noticed that while most traffic and other signs use Marlboro, there is an occasional Marlborough to be found.

Wolfeboro was named for General James Wolfe. Oddly, in its early days it was known as Wolfborough, omitting the “e” that was much a part of Wolfe’s name. Such banks as the Wolfborough Bank (the first financial institution in town), the Lake Bank of Wolfborough, and the Lake National Bank of Wolfborough reflect this “misspelling,” which occurred on printed material, including legal documents and bank notes through the 19th century and beyond.

It was about 1910 when the name was standardized as Wolfeboro, although the local train station still has Wolfeborough, and that spelling does crop up here and there, usually intended to be old-time or nostalgic. The Wolfeboro National Bank, which opened in 1906, used the shorter spelling, and continued in business into the late 1980s. It would seem that Wolfeboro’s bank names reflected current usage of town names, and perhaps that explains it for other towns as well.

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