The Banking Facilities of Greater New York 1898 Part III

Naturally, many of the banks of the city have had more or less connection, direct or indirect, with municipal matters through their officers or in some other way. Thus the first President of the Fourth National Bank was George Opdyke, who was the first Republican Mayor of this city. A son of his, William S. Opdyke, a well-known lawyer. Is a director of the same bank. The only other Republican Mayor this city has ever had, and the last Mayor the present New York city will have, is the present occupant of the office, William L. Strong, and he was President of the Central National Bank until he entered on his duties as Mayor. The Seventh National Bank (formerly Seventh Ward Bank), organized in 1833, has had three directors who were Mayors of this city, as well as some who were on the bench. This bank has two depositors who have kept accounts with it continuously since 1845, and framed in the President's office is the first pass-book belonging to one of them, as well as the first check drawn by him.

One of the interesting facts in connection with the history of New York banks and the clearing-house was the refusal of the latter to admit national banks to membership in the Clearing-House Association when they were first organized, under the national banking law in 1853, because they were regarded as dangerous institutions. The First National Bank was refused admission at first, but the Clearing-house Association subsequently rescinded its action, and nearly all the other banks then took out charters under the national banking act, many of them being allowed to retain their old names, instead of losing their identity by being designated by number. The opposition, however, at first to the national banking law and the banks organized there under was very fierce. One of the most cherished documents in the archives of the Chase National Bank, preserved by President Henry W. Cannon, is a copy of a long printed circular, urging the associated banks to stand together for their own protection and the protection of the property confided to their care, "in many cases the all of women, children, the infirm, and those who look to us as their only means of support,. . .and sound the alarm ere it is too late. Let the associated banks in the three great cities of New York, Philadelphia, and Boston decline all recognition of these institutions, directly or indiscreetly, in their exchanges, and let them at once, at whatever expense, return the notes that they are compelled to receive from the government to their respective points of issue for redemption. In so doing, you will keep the heart of the currency at the great city centers unscathed and whole." Endorsed on this circular in the handwriting of John Thompson, the founder of the Chase National Bank and its second President, is this memorandum:

"This paper, sent out by the then President of the Merchants' Bank, was followed by a resolution of the Clearinghouse binding its members to treat as uncurrent money all national-bank notes and to refuse to exchange with national banks. Thompson's bank was the only one open at that time."

The Thompson's Bank referred to in the memorandum was the First National Bank, which was organized by John Thompson. He subsequently sold out his interest in that bank, and later, in 1877, organized the Chase National Bank. His son, Samuel Thompson, was its first President. When he died his father took the presidency for a year, and was then succeeded, in 1886, by Henry W. Cannon, ex-Comptroller of the Currency, the present President of the bank.

That history repeats itself in banking as well as in other affairs of life is a matter of course. An illustration of the truth of this is seen in the fact that as far back as 1858 the associated banks made efforts to prevent the payment of interest on deposits. An adjourned meeting of bank officers was held at the Clearing-house, March 15 in that year, for that purpose, when Mr. Gallatin presented a report from a committee, in which they pointed out the many evils produced by the baneful practice of allowing interest on current deposits, and which "were made manifest during the late monetary and commercial pressure." As a result of the movement, forty of the forty-six banks in the association, it seems, had agreed not to allow any interest on such
deposits directly or indirectly, but the Bank of Commerce, the Bank of the State, and the Mercantile Bank declined to unite in any such agreement, and the Nassau and St. Nicholas Banks would only do so provided all would sign the proposed agreement. Notwithstanding the failure of the six banks to unite on the agreement, the other forty banks agreed to carry out the arrangement not to allow any interest on any current deposits, as though all the banks had agreed to do so, and a committee of five was appointed to observe the practical operation and effects of the action taken, and report as occasion required. The committee appointed comprised William A. Bcoth, William P. Havemeyer, J. L. Everitt, J. T. Soutter, and William S.Hooker. In connection with this subject, it is interesting to note that two of the banks represented at that meeting, the Chemical National Bank and the American Exchange National Bank, of which Mr. Booth was then President, have never paid interest on current deposits, and one or two other banks have only done so recently.

Sub-Treasury and Assay Office

An article on the banking facilities of this city would scarcely be complete without some mention of the two government institutions with which they have very intimate relations, namely, the United States Sub-Treasury and the United States Assay Office. The Sub-Treasury was opened here in 1846. It handles fully two-thirds of all the business done by the Treasury and the nine sub-treasuries, amounting to nearly four thousand million dollars per anum. The cash balance at the New York Sub-Treasury now frequently exceeds $200,000,000. The cash balance in the fifties was about $3,500,000 only! The first en try on the books of the Sub-Treasury was a credit to Lieut. W. S. Rosacrans as a government disbursing officer. The Sub-Treasury first did business in the building formerly occupied by the branch of the United States National Bank, now the site of the Assay Office. The first Assistant Treasurer was W. C. Bouck, formerly Governor of the state. In 1863 the office was removed to the present building, the site of old Federal Hall, in which the first Congress of the United States met and in which Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States. The present building was first erected for a custom-house. The successors of Mr. Bouck as Assistant United States Treasurer were John Young, Luther Bradish, John A. Dix, John J. Cisco, John A. Stewart (now President of the United States Trust Company),
Henry H. Van Dyke, Daniel Butterfield, Charles J. Folger, Thomas Hillhouse, Thomas C. Acton, Charles J. Canda, Alexander McCue, Ellis H. Roberts, and Conrad N. Jordan. The Cashiers and Deputy Assistant Treasurers have been Jacob Russell, William H. Ferris, William G. White, Walter J. Brittin, Joseph M. Floyd. William Sherer, and the present incumbent, Maurice L. Muhlcman.

The United States Assay office, a branch of the United States Mint, adjoining the Sub-Treasury, was established in 1853. To the Assay Office the banks and bankers take their gold bullion to be coined, receiving pay for it at the Sub-Treasury. There the exporters of gold also buy gold bullion for shipment when It is not convenient to export coin. There also the jewelers buy such gold as they require for use in the arts. The first assayer was Dr. John Torrey, the famous botanist and chemist. Andrew Mason, the present Superintendent of the Assay Office, has filled that place since 1883, and has been connected with the office ever since its establishment. The total deposits of gold in the Assay Office since its establishment exceed one thousand million dollars.


Website: The History
Article Name: The Banking Facilities of Greater New York 1898 Part III
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


 Greater New York: Its Government, Financial Institutions, Transportation Facilities and Chronology; The Evening Post Publishing Co. New York 1898
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