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General Gordon Autograph Signed Siege of Khartoum Banknote, 1884
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General Gordon Autograph Signed Siege of Khartoum Banknote, 1884

Measurements: Overall: 15cm (5.75in) x 19cm (7.5in)

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A 100 piastres denomination banknote. Printed using a lithographic process, the black text on cream card with Charles George Gordon's manuscript signature to the lower right authenticated with his Arabic signature seal lower right. The circular seal of the Governor-General with both English and Arabic text to the left, as appropriate to 100 piastre notes and above. Dated April 24, 1884 in Arabic. Note: 6.5cm (2.5in) x 10cm (4in). Framed and glazed.

Initially all notes were hand-signed by Gordon. As the issuance grew, notes with a hectographic signature were issued; however, merchants were reluctant to accept the printed signature variety, so Gordon returned to signing each note.

Having successfully executed H.M. Government's instructions to evacuate 2500 British nationals from the Southern Sudan in early 1884, General Gordon faced a sudden cash crisis due to hoarding. Reasoning that it was essential to continue to pay his local troops come what may, he decided to issue currency under the guarantee of his office. Initially all notes were hand-signed by Gordon. As the issuance grew, notes with a hectographic signature were issued; however, merchants were reluctant to accept the printed signature variety, so Gordon returned to signing each note.

Accordingly a lithographic press was set up to print serially numbered currency notes in denominations ranging from 1 to 5000 piastres. At first these were all signed by Gordon himself, a horrendous effort considering the time involved and the heat. Later on, a rudimentary technique was developed wherein the notes could be signed hectographically. Stating that he was personally responsible for the liquidation of the siege notes, Gordon invited anyone to bring action against him in a civil capacity to recover their money. Controversy surrounding their redemption lasted for several years after Gordon’s massacre at the hands of the Mahdi.

Gordon kept a diary while under siege which he sent out on the last steamer in mid December 1884. It vividly illustrates the portending doom that awaited him and the rest of the garrison on 26 January 1885: December 5: ‘We are going to make an attempt to relieve Omdurman Fort (really things are looking very black) ... A soldier deserted today to the Arabs.’ December 6: ‘The steamers went down and fired on the Arabs at Omdurman’... ‘We have L150 in cash left in the treasury’... ‘In the affair today we had three killed and thirty-six wounded in the steamers, the Arabs came down in good force.’ December 7: ‘The 270th day of our imprisonment.’ ... ‘It is rumoured the cock turkey (Madhi) has killed one of his companions, reason not known ...' Last entry - December 14: '... Now mark this, if the Expeditionary Force, I ask for no more than two hundred men, does not come in ten days, the town may fall; and I have done my best for the honour of our country. Good bye. C.G. Gordon'

Egmont Hake, A. (1885) The Journals of Major-General Gordon at Kartoum, Keegan Paul, Trench & Co., London.
 

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