A Testament of Adventure: The Many Annotations of James W. Ferry

Paper money isn’t simply a medium of exchange, but also a tangible testament to history. From courtesy autographs of Treasury officials to celebrities to the “Short Snorters” of World War II, paper money can bear witness to history and help to preserve one’s memory.

Although unusual in most respects, this note is not simply an accumulation of signatures collected from strangers, but a detailed listing of travels across Northern Europe.

It is attributed to James W. Ferry, a director of the Commercial Safety Deposit Company of Chicago and president of the City Cab Company. Ferry was a prominent citizen of Chicago in the latter half of the 19th century; he died at the age of 67 in 1897.

This note traces Ferry’s journey across Europe during summer 1874, from his departure from New York aboard the RMS Oceanic at the end of May through his eventual return to Chicago in early September, after a return voyage on the SS Baltic. Ferry’s journey followed a long and winding path through Ireland, England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Wales, and Scotland as detailed by his annotations. Included on Ferry’s itinerary were notable destinations like Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle, Bavaria, Berne, Paris, and Blarney Castle.

This note was eventually passed down through his sister who gave it to her grandson Richard Weston Patton in September 1956.

For collectors interested in this very special numismatic item, this note will be offered in our January 25, 2024, U.S. Currency Collectors Choice Online Auction. It presents a fascinating opportunity that is unlikely to be repeated owing to the unique nature of this lot.

To consign your numismatic items to one of our upcoming auctions, please call 800-458-4646 or email

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