Siege of Khartoum General Gordon Banknote, 1884
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Overall: 13.5cm (5.25in) x 17.5cm (7in)
General Gordon Siege of Khartoum, Sudan banknote, 20 piastres, 1884, lithographically printed with black Arabic text on cream card. Half-moon design beneath the upper rectangle indicating 20 piastre denomination. Gordon’s seal stamp in green ink endorsed with the General’s hectograph signature. Frame and glazed.
In a series of telegrams in early March 1884, General Charles George Gordon informed the British government that followers of the self-proclaimed Mahdi were closing the roads to Khartoum, cutting off supplies and severing communications. As the fighting drew closer to the city walls, and reinforcements were denied, Gordon told the authorities (on about 8 April 1884): - ‘As far as I can understand, the situation is this: you state your intention of not sending any relief up here or to Berber, and you refuse me Zubeir. I consider myself free to act according to circumstances. I shall hold on here as long as I can, and if I can suppress the rebellion I shall do so.’
In the face of a rising black market and mutinous murmurings from his Ottoman soldiery, Gordon issued £2,500 in emergency banknotes on 26 April 1884, payable six months from issue. By the end of July, up to £50,000 had been issued, all personally guaranteed with the backing of the Khedival government in Cairo. Accepted by both merchants and soldiers, the notes initially provided economic relief and trade stimulus, but had begun to depreciate by July. At first all notes were hand-signed by Gordon. As the issuance grew, notes with a hectographic signature were issued; however, merchants proved reluctant to accept the printed signature variety, so Gordon returned to signing. General Gordon with much of the Khartoum garrison met his fate on 26 January 1885, when amidst the wholesale slaughter perpetrated by Mahdist forces, he was hacked to pieces and his head paraded through the city on the end of a pike.