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Eufaula bank note part of Titanic exhibit

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ After nearly a century, a piece of Oklahoma history has returned to the state _ if only briefly.

A water-stained, but still legible $5 National Bank Note issued by the First National Bank of Eufaula was among the artifacts recovered 15 years ago beneath more than two miles of icy North Atlantic water surrounding the wreck of Titanic.

The note is part of the Titanic display at the Omniplex, along with other currency and coins that were found in a leather Gladstone bag amid items surrounding the broken ship.

The tanning process used on the leather in the bag protected the fragile paper money from deep-sea organisms, said Allison Worrall, operations manager for RMS Titanic Inc., the company that recovered the artifacts.

The satchel also contained a three-diamond ring, a sapphire ring and a pocket watch.

How the bill got to Europe and who carried it aboard the doomed luxury liner remains a mystery. There were no known Titanic passengers from Oklahoma. The ship sank April 14, 1912, after striking an iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland. More than 1,500 died in the tragedy.

Currency collector Scott Thomas of Edmond said regional currency occasionally was circulated far from its place of origin.

The Eufaula $5 bill's presence is more remarkable because Titanic was sailing from England to the United States when it slammed into the iceberg.

``To make it from Eufaula to Europe or somewhere else and then to make it on the Titanic, it's really kind of neat,'' said Thomas, the owner of Edmond Coins and Currency.

The currency bears the name of First National Bank of Eufaula and just beneath that is the date Nov. 16, 1907, the day Oklahoma became a state.

The currency has long outlasted the bank itself. Chartered in 1901, the First National Bank of Eufaula didn't survive the Great Depression.

National Bank Notes were the most common type of paper money in circulation between the Civil War and World War I. From 1863 to 1935, National Bank Notes were backed by government bonds and were issued by thousands of banks throughout the country and in U.S. territories.

The currency replaced frequently counterfeited state bank-issued ``greenbacks'' that often became worthless when banks failed, said Tricia Thompson, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma City branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. National Bank Notes remain legal tender, Thompson said.

``We would honor it strictly at face value no matter how rare the note might be,'' she said.

Museum and RMS Titanic Inc. officials didn't realize that one of the artifacts was from Oklahoma when they built and opened the exhibit, said Omniplex spokeswoman Nancy Coggins.

A teacher viewing the artifacts during a preview of the show noticed the Eufaula bank note and brought it to the attention of museum workers, Coggins said.

``I'm sure the RMS Titanic people didn't realize they were selecting an item from Oklahoma. It was a little bit of serendipity,'' Coggins said.
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