Allen A. Curtis, who signed this check, was a silver mining pioneer in Nevada and a redwood lumber magnate in California. He was also one of the richest men in America at the time. His Manhattan Silver Mining Company in Austin, Nevada produced $16 million in silver between 1868 and 1885 – an incredible sum in that era. The population of Austin quickly grew to 10,000 thanks to the silver rush that came along with his silver mine. Today, Austin is a "living ghost town", a well-preserved example of an early Nevada mining town with a population of about 340. Mr. Curtis was instrumental in building the Nevada Central Railroad to connect Austin with the transcontinental railroad at Battle Mountain in 1880. He also built the Episcopal Church in Austin – considered by many to be the most beautiful frontier church still standing, built in 1878 and still in regular use.
With his vast silver and railroad fortune, Mr. Curtis invested in and founded several banks in the area, most notably the Paxton & Curtis Banking Company with banks in Austin, Eureka, Belmont and Reno, Nevada. He remained business partners with Paxton for many years as he returned to California in 1885 and invested heavily in the Pacific Lumber Company which became the largest producer of redwood lumber at the time. The company town of Scotia, California grew around his redwood lumber venture and is still fully owned by the Pacific Lumber Company today. Scotia is one of the last true company towns from the Wild West to survive to present day. He later founded both the Bank of Eureka and the Savings Bank of Humboldt County in Eureka, California while investing in two other California lumber companies – the Glen Blair Redwood Company and the Pacific Coast Redwood Company. Wide recognition of his business success was honored at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915 where he was referred to as “a Nevada pioneer of whom we are justly proud”.
The check image offered here is from the Bank of California in San Francisco and is dated June 9, 1873 and is signed by magnate Allen A. Curtis. The check amount of $15,000 was an astronomical sum in those days, considering the average worker of the period earned roughly $500-$1000 per year. Imagine writing a check today valued at 15 to 30 times your annual salary! I suppose this was not all that unusual between a wealthy silver/railroad/banking/lumber tycoon and one of his business partners, Paxton. The check has the customary US Internal Revenue Bank Check two-cent tax stamp and has a spindle tear in the center as found on most used checks of the era. Offered here as a fascinating and extremely rare Allen Curtis autograph document image of American Wild West pioneer history! This reproduction would look great in an album or display.