What's Up With the Eagle on this Mills Check?
By Bob Van Ryzin
made it to Rosemont, Ill., for the Chicago Paper
Money Exposition. It was great show and while I
was there, I picked up a new check for my
collection. It's nothing rare, but it does have
an interesting overprint - "National Gold Bank
of D.O. Mills & Co." - and links to one of my
areas of interest.
Upon closer examination, I realized it also has
a depiction of a train, something I hadn't
noticed when I purchased it. By chance, this
fits in with Neil Shafer's "Paper Money News &
Views" column in this issue of BNR. He depicts
several interesting checks including some with
More surprising to me than the train was the
female figure at the left with an eagle next to
her. The female figure is well done, but the
eagle is probably the worst I've ever seen.
Eagles have often been the target of criticism
when appearing on U.S. money. For instance, some
called the Flying Eagle cent the "buzzard cent."
When the Walking Liberty half dollar came out,
an ornithologist claimed sculptor Adolph Weinman
had made the bird look like it was "wearing
overalls and marching through tar."
And of the Peace dollar's bird, a Chicago
newspaper thought it looked like a tom turkey.
Actually, as most numismatists know, Benjamin
Franklin, argued for adopting the turkey as the
national bird, as he thought the bald eagle was
of "bad moral character."
The eagle on this check appears to be looking up
at the female figure, which I assume is Liberty.
It has its left claw on some arrows (and
presumably, though they can't be seen, its right
on an olive branch). But what's it doing with
its left wing - beginning to salute the flag
she's bearing, is it waving at her, or does it
want to ask a question?
Looking at this eagle, I'm beginning to think
there may have been something to Franklin's