Continental Bank, Boston


Plate Note 100 Greatest American Currency Notes

Attractive and always in demand, this $3 note’s main drawing card is its central vignette, Polar Bear Attack / The White Bear, engraved by De Witt Clinton Hay and adapted from the art of internationally-known artist Felix O.C. Darley. Four fur-clad men in a small boat attempt to fend off an aggressive polar bear rising out of the water, his large paw already on the gunwale; their ship looms on the horizon. The Polar Bear Attack vignette, though not specifically historic, is relevant to the period of issue. It was engraved at the time of Henry Grinnell’s expeditions in search of ill-fated explorer John Franklin and his ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, which were lost in the mid-1840s in the Canadian Arctic wilderness. The portrait at right is that of American patriot General Joseph Warren, who died a martyr’s death at the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775. The state auditor’s die appears at left, indicating that this bank, which was in business from 1860-64 before becoming the Continental National Bank of Boston with charter number 524, operated under the state’s free banking laws. This particular example with serial number 79-B is the plate note on page 53 for the 24th ranked note in 100 Greatest American Currency Notes by Q. David Bowers and David M. Sundman.