The Short-Lived Signature Combination of Napier and Thompson

For all areas of collecting, small details can make the difference between the common and extremely rare. One such detail pertains to a short-lived signature combination encountered on some of the most iconic notes ever issued by the United States.

Serving from November 22, 1912, to March 13, 1913, Carmi Thompson of Ohio was appointed Treasurer by President Taft toward the very end of his term and amidst an unusual set of political circumstances. Confirmed by the United States Senate a day after his predecessor left office, Thompson filled the void left by outgoing Treasurer Lee McClung. McClung resigned in light of an internal political disagreement following President Taft’s landslide defeat at the hands of Woodrow Wilson. In turn, Thompson would be replaced in less than four months by John Burke of North Dakota, a Wilson appointee who would serve through 1921 before resigning in the final months of Wilson’s second term.

Opposite Thompson’s signature on all notes of his tenure is that of James Carroll Napier, a prominent African American leader and lawyer from Nashville. First appointed Register of the Treasury by Taft in 1911, Napier succeeded William T. Vernon who had resigned to accept a federal appointment. In 1913, a few months after Wilson’s inauguration, Napier would resign in protest of administration policy giving cabinet secretaries broad authority in mandating racial segregation in federal workplaces like the Treasury Department and the Bureau of Engraving & Printing.

As their period of concurrent service was only 111 days, few plates were made during this time and as a result few notes were printed bearing the engraved signatures of both men. Even though such plates were most likely used past Thompson’s resignation, the surviving population of notes bearing their signatures reflects the brevity of their tenure. As an example, there are 17,011 examples known for the Fr. 236 $1 Silver Certificate featuring the signatures of Speelman and White, while only 240 examples of the Fr. 231 $1 Silver Certificate with signatures of Napier and Thompson are recorded by Track & Price.

Few examples of this signature combination are offered at public auction in any grade, let alone exceptional examples that did not face circulation. Collectors will have the opportunity to acquire such a note in our August Global Showcase auction: the highly popular “Mini-Porthole” 1899 $2 Silver Certificate (Fr. 254). Bearing a low serial number of H70 and assigned a grade of Gem Uncirculated 66 EPQ by PMG, this will be among the impressive rarities offered from the Porter Collection.

To consign your numismatic items to one of our upcoming auctions, please call 800-458-4646 or email [email protected].

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