Funny money


Oldie but a goodie from March 23, 2012: This week we have another history nugget belonging to lifelong Warrenton resident Jim Culp Sr.: a Democratic Wild Cat Money $5 bill (pictured).

The note was issued in fictional Bungtown, N.J., on Oct. 21, 1892, and features a portrait of Grover Cleveland and an illustration of a wildcat. A satirical bit of currency, aka funny money, the bill was issued during the presidential campaign of 1892, when Cleveland (Democrat) ran against Benjamin Harrison (Republican). Cleveland won, becoming the only president to serve two nonconsecutive terms (

As an aside: In a bit of presidential irony, Cleveland is also pictured on the very real $1,000 Federal Reserve note, first printed in 1928.

The funny money bill says, “Democratic National Platform 1892. Sec. 8 – We recommend that the prohibitory 10 per cent tax on State Bank issues be repealed. Which I accept. – Grover Cleveland,” and “receiveable in payment for five cent drinks at twenty cents each.”

The best part, though is how to redeem it. “The Cleveland Bank Promises, whenever it D___ pleases, to pay to bearer Five Dollars in Money, Coon Skins or Cord Wood at the option of the bank.” Naturally, the bank is as phony as Bungtown.

“So who is Harry F. Culp, and why is his name on the bill?” the Ear asked. He was Jim Culp’s father, who inherited the bill from his father, “who was close friends with the Jesse James gang and all them,” Jim said.

There was a centennial celebration in Warrenton years ago, and the family heirloom was put on display. Jim’s mother put Harry’s name on the note because she didn’t want it to get lost in the shuffle. The funny money was eventually passed down to Jim’s sister, and finally, to Jim. How’s that for provenance?

Elleda Wilson is an editorial assistant for The Astorian and author of the award-winning In One Ear community column. Contact her at 971-704-1718 or