by Bill Kanowsky
Checks of the Downer & Bemis Brewing Company of Chicago are familiar to many check collectors. There are four distinct vignettes to this series.
Vignettes I and II have a train in the foreground. Vignette I has a building with the flag on the left, while vignette II has the same building enlarged on the right. Vignette III has a double-roofed ice house in the center. In vignette IV a stable replaces the ice house.
All of the checks except for the ones with revenue imprint RN G-1 were printed by Ed Mendel. The checks with RN G-1 imprints are the product of the Western Bank Note and Engraving Company.
As a point of reference, the following list compiled from the author's collection indicates which RN imprints are found with each vignette. (Editor's note: for technical reasons the checks illustrated are in the Editor's collection, rather than Mr. Kanowsky's.)
The author's collection contains check #1271 dated January 10, 1868, and check #3633 dated November 6, 1869, both printed in purple and imprinted with an RN B-1.
Examples with vignette II are check #4464 dated July 2, 1870, printed in purple, with RN B-1; check #5725 dated September 11, 1871, printed in green with RN C-1; checks #6689 dated June 24, 1872, and #7942 dated April 14, 1873, both printed in purple and bearing RN E-4.
The examples in the author's collection with vignette III are as follows: checks #8466 dated August 21, 1873 and #11092 dated May 11, 1875, both with RN D-1; checks #12329 Dated February 9, 1876, and #13345 dated October 10, 1876, with RN F-1; checks #14500 dated June 26, 1877, and #15412 dated May 10, 1880, with RN G-1. All are printed in purple.
Vignette IV appears on the following examples: checks #16225 dated August 6, 1878, and #20541 dated February 4, 1882. Both are printed in violet and bear RN G-1.
There are at least two settings of the checks bearing vignetteIV. They can be distinguished by the position of the printer's name at the bottom. The illustrated check, dated early in 1883, bears a handstamped change of name from Downer & Bemis Brewing Co. to Bemis & McAvoy Brewing Co .
This article was run in the October - November 1994 issue of The Check Collector.
In his 1994 article Bill states that his check #5725 with vignette II is printed in green and bears an RN C1 imprint. The checks I am familiar with that are printed in green have vignette I and bear an RN B1, and the checks with C1 imprints and vignette II were printed in purple.
Also, in the October - December 2005 issue I included a short article to highlight two other rather unusual Downer & Bemis items. That article can be found here.