Among the early issuers, the General Bank of Bengal and Bahar (1773-75) was a state sponsored institution set up in participation with local expertise. Its notes enjoyed government patronage. Though successful and profitable, the bank was officially wound up and was short lived. The Bank of Hindostan (1770-1832) was set up by the agency house of Alexander and Company was particularly successful. It survived three panic runs on it. The Bank of Hindostan finally went under when its parent firm M/s Alexander and Co. failed in the commercial crisis of 1832. Official patronage and the acceptance of notes in the payment of revenue was a very important factor in determining the circulation of bank notes. Wide use of bank notes, however, came with the note issues of the semi-government Presidency Banks, notably the Bank of Bengal which was established in 1806 as the Bank of Calcutta with a capital of 50 lakh sicca rupees. These banks were established by Government Charters and had an intimate relationship with the Government. The charter granted to these banks accorded them the privilege of issuing notes for circulation within their circles.
Notes issued by the Bank of Bengal can broadly be categorised in 3 broad series viz: the 'Unifaced' Series, the 'Commerce' Series and the 'Britannia' Series. The early notes of the Bank of Bengal were unifaced and were issued as one gold mohur (sixteen sicca rupees in Calcutta) and in denominations deemed convenient in the early 19th Century, viz., Rs. 100, Rs. 250, Rs. 500, etc.
Unifaced Notes of the Bank of Bengal
Note issued by the Bank of Bombay
The other private banks which issued bank notes were the Orient Bank Corporation established in Bombay as the Bank of Western India in 1842. Its notes featured the Bombay Town Hall as vignette. The Commercial Bank of India established in 1845 in Bombay (also an Exchange Bank) issued exotic notes with an interblend of Western and Eastern Motifs. The bank failed in the crash of 1866. The paper currency Act of 1861 divested these banks of the right to note issue; the Presidency Banks were, however, given the free use of Government balances and were initially given the right to manage the note issues of Government of India.