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Kirtland Safety Society Bank five dollar bill

 File — Folder: 1
Identifier: MSS 69

Scope and Contents

The folder contains a photocopy of a five dollar bill issued on 10 Feb. 1837 and signed by the Mormon Church leaders Joseph Smith (1805-1844) and Sidney Rigdon (1793-1876).


  • 1837


Conditions Governing Access

Open for public research.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from the Kirtland Safety Society Bank five dollar bill, 1837, must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.

Organizational History

In 1836, Church leaders wanted to organize a bank to provide credit for a growing economy and an outlet to offer liquidity to meet pressing short-term obligations. In December 1836, Orson Hyde was sent to the Ohio legislature to obtain a bank charter. Three of the legislators had close contacts with the rabid Mormon hater, Grandison Newell. National politics also worked against Hyde's efforts as a national anti-banking campaign swept the country. Even without a charter, the Safety Society founders proceeded to organize an "anti-bank." A second attempt to obtain a charter was made in February 1837. This time they requested authorization for much less capital stock, and several non-Mormons were added to the petition to give it a nonsectarian flavor. Samuel Medary, a legislator with no immediate connections to Kirtland, sponsored an amendment to charter the Kirtland bank. This attempt also failed. The decade of the 1830s was a period of great proliferation in the number of banks because of the vast demand for credit to finance Western expansion. This quick growth in the banking industry also created instability, particularly along the Western frontier, because few bank founders had the experience to expertly manage a bank. The crash of 1837 brought a run on the banks, which caused many of them to fail. Hence, the failure of the Kirtland Safety Society shows that it was fairly typical of the many banks that failed. The Society fell victim to events beyond its control and also, like many other banks, lacked the management expertise to adequately strengthen itself. The Kirtland economy was viable and enjoyed prosperity in 1836 similar to the rest of northern Ohio. In addition, rising land values are better explained by increasing population and optimistic expectations than by excessive speculation. Joseph Smith's assets were extensive and would likely have been adequate to cover his business ventures had there been sufficient liquid capital and a continuing prosperity. The Ohio legislature's failure to grant a banking charter to the Kirtland Safety Society severely hindered the Society's ability to circulate its notes. Consequently, the notes traded at a high discount, and the real value outstanding against them was less than previously thought. Mormon investors suffered an average loss of approximately a quarter of their annual income with Joseph Smith and other leaders suffering even heavier losses. While the Safety Society was a political misjudgment, it appears that Joseph Smith and others were operating on common assumptions about contemporary economic trends.


1 folder (0.01 linear ft.)

Language of Materials



The folder contains a photocopy of a five dollar bill issued on 10 February 1837 and signed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leaders Joseph Smith (1805-1844) and Sidney Rigdon (1793-1876).


19th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts.

Related Materials

The item is a photocopy of a five dollar billed issued on 10 February 1837.

Register of Kirtland Safety Society Bank five dollar bill
Rose Frank
23 March 2011
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States