The Banking Facilities of Greater New York 1898 Part II

Although a purely voluntary association, that is, an institution without a charter of any sort, and unincorporated, the Clearing-house Association is said to be inherently the strongest financial institution In the world. In it are combined all the resources of the New York banks, united in times of panic as one bank, and practically, as was seen as recently as in the panic of 1893, the representative and corner-stone of all the banks of the United States. The New York Clearing-house was established October 11, 1853. Twenty years before that Albert Gallatin, the founder and President of the Gallatin National Bank, had, with the foresight for which he was famous, pointed out the necessity for such an institution, and had outlined the plan for thus easily effecting exchanges between the banks. The business of the first Clearing-house was carried on at No. 14 Wall Street. Afterwards the association moved to No. 82 Broadway, about the site of the present Union Trust building, then occupied by the American Express Company. From there the association migrated to the corner of Wall and William Streets, where it transacted business on the upper floor of the building of the Bank of America. In 1875 the association moved to its own building at Pine and Nassau Streets, now occupied by the new building of the Western National Bank. It remained there until It moved (January, 1896) to its present magnificent building in Cedar Street, which is conceded to be by far the handsomest clearing-house building In the world. In all those forty-four years of its existence there have been, including the present one, but three managers of the Clearing-house George D. Lyman, William A. Camp,and William Sherer. There is now also an assistant manager, William J. Gllpin.

When the Clearing-house Association was organized it consisted of fifty-two banks, that had a combined capital and surplus of $49,000,000, and deposits aggregating $39,000,000. Their loans were $97,000,000, and their cash on hand (gold) amounted to $9,700,000. There were no government notes then. The banks had outstanding, however, their own notes, amounting to $9,500,000. Compared with the present day, when one bank in the association (National City Bank) has alone, according to its last sworn report, deposits exceeding $100,000,000, those figures seem small; but they were then considered enormous, and, compared with the figures of fifty years prior thereto, when the Bank of New York kept its accounts in pounds, shillings, and pence, and a day's deposits sometimes amounted only to a few pounds sterling, they undoubtedly were very large. During the first year of its existence the total clearings for the year were $5,750,455,987.06, and the average daily clearings $19,140,504.94. Now the daily clearings sometimes approach very closely to the $200,000,000 mark; and prior to the establishment of the Stock Exchange clearinghouse they often exceeded that sum, one day reaching as high as $238,555, 981.58. The average daily clearings for the forty-four years of the association's existence have been $84,127,115.69. Besides the forty-five national banks and nineteen state banks composing the association, and which make their exchanges at the clearing-house, there are seventy-seven banks and trust companies, not members, which make their exchanges through the associated banks. The Assistant United States Treasurer at New York also makes exchange at the clearing-house with the banks, having all the privileges of membership without responsibility as such. Thomas Tileston, then President of the Phoenix Bank, was the first chairman of the Clearinghouse. The title of the chief executive officer has since been changed to President, and the present occupant of the office is J. Edward Simmons, President of the Fourth National Bank. The present Clearing-house executive committee consists of Frederick D. Tappen, President of the Gallatin National Bank, chairman; R. M. Galloway, President of the Merchants' National Bank; William A. Nash, President of the Corn Exchange Bank; George G. Williams, President of the Chemical National Bank, and James Stillman, President of the National City Bank.

What the banks of this city have done for the country in times of panic and other emergencies, notably during the war of the Rebellion, has already been pointed out. Naturally, by reason of their enforced relations with the United States Treasury, the banks are always in close touch with the financial interests of the government; but in addition to that, they may be said to have had a close personal connection with the government from the time of Alexander Hamilton to the present. Albert Gallatin was Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Jefferson and Madison; a Chicago bank president is now Secretary of the Treasury (New York bankers were largely instrumental in his being selected for the office), and a New York bank director, Cornelius N. Bliss, is Secretary of the Interior. Other instances might be cited. In addition to these connections with the government, it is also notable that many former Treasury officials are now at the head of large financial institutions in this city. Henry W. Cannon, ex-Comptroller of the Currency, is President of the Chase National Bank. A. B. Hepburn, another ex-Comptroller of the Currency, is Vice-President of the National City Bank.William L. Trenholm, still another ex-Comptroller of the Currency, is President of the American Surety Company. John Jay Knox, for twelve years Comptroller of the Currency, was President of the Bank of the Republic. E. O. Leech, formerly Director of the Mint, is cashier of the National Union Bank. Thomas L. James, formerly Postmaster-General, is President "of the Lincoln National Bank. Oliver Wolcott, an ex-Secretary of the Treasury, was the first President of the Bank of America, and also of the Merchants' Bank. William Sherer, manager of the Clearing-house, was for many years cashier of the United States Sub-Treasury In this city. On the other hand, Conrad N.Jordan, the Assistant United States Treasurer, and formerly Treasurer of the United States, was formerly President of the Western National Bank, and that naturally leads one to remark that the founder of that bank, and its first President, Daniel Manning, was President Cleveland's first Secretary of the Treasury. The present Treasurer of the United States, Ellis H. Roberts, was the first President of the Franklin National Bank of this city. Thus it is easy to see that there is continually a close personal association of interests in banking and government circles, so far as the financial relations of the latter are concerned, and particularly so in this city, as the chief financial centre of the country.

The history of many of the older banks of this city Is extremely interesting, but in a brief article of this character It is impossible to do more than allude to some of the principal facts in connection therewith. To a great extent, however, it may be said that the history of the banks is the history of their founders or managers, the financial magnates of the time, who have left their mark on the history of this city, and whose portraits now adorn the walls of the Chamber of Commerce or the hall of the Clearing-house. The Bank of New York, founded by Alexander Hamilton in 1784, is the second oldest bank in the country. The Bank of North America at Philadelphia was organized in 1781. The Massachusetts Bank of Boston was organized the same year as the Bank of New York, and these three banks have acted as each other's correspondents for more than half a century. The Bank of New York has occupied its present site at Wall and William Streets for more than a century. Gen. Alexander McDougall was its first President. The bank prides itself on never having passed a dividend except once, and that was in 1837, when it was compelled by law to do so. The next year, however, it paid a double one, and so maintained its record. When the banks were admitted into the Clearing-house Association upon its organization they were placed according to their age, and numbered accordingly. Thus the Bank of New York stands first on the list. The history of the Bank of the Manhattan Company is well known. It supplied water to the city for years as well as doing a banking business under the charter procured for it by Aaron Burr. It still maintains under the provision of its charter a huge water-tank near Centre Street, and its old wooden mains are still occasionally unearthed. With the exception of these two banks the Bank of New York and the Bank of the Manhattan Company and a branch of the United States Bank, all the other banks that followed them were organized after the beginning of the present century. The Merchants' Bank was organized in 1805, the Mechanics' in 1810, the Bank of America, the Phoenix Bank, and the City Bank in 1812, the Tradesmen's in 1823, the Chemical in 1824, the Merchants' Exchange Bank in 1828, the Gallatin (then known as the National) in 1829, the Butchers' and Drovers', the Mechanics' and Traders', and the Greenwich in 1830, the Leather Manufacturers' in 1832, the Seventh Ward (now Seventh National) in 1833, and the Bank of the State in 1836. The American Exchange National Bank was organized in 1838, the Bank of Commerce in 1839, and the Broadway and the Mercantile Bank in 1849, and the Pacific Bank in 1850. The remainder were organized subsequent to 1850, and many of those also have interesting histories.

The oldest three bank presidents in active service today are Francis A. Palmer of the Broadway Bank, the oldest In point of age; George G. Williams of the Chemical Bank, and Frederick D. Tappen of the Gallatin Bank. The last named is the oldest bank president in point of service. He entered the Gallatin Bank a junior clerk in 1850 (he was born the year the bank was organized), and rose through every grade to that of President, to which office he was appointed in 1868. The bank has only had two other presidents during the whole of its existence Albert Gallatin, 1829-1838, and James Gallatin, his son, 1838-1868. Mr.Tappen was appointed cashier on the night of the suspension of specie payments in 1857. An interesting story is told of the Gallatin Bank's first President. It was after the panic of 1836. The banks held a meeting to discuss when they should resume specie payments. A motion was offered to resume after certain notice had been given. Albert Gallatin moved as an amendment that the banks should "resume to-morrow." The amendment was carried, and the banks resumed specie payment on the morrow without trouble.

George G. Williams, President of the Chemical Bank, has had a banking experience of more than fifty years. He entered the service of the bank as junior clerk in 1841 and has been its President since 1878. He Is regarded as the Nestor of the New York bank presidents, although Mr. Tappen is his senior in point of service as President. The Chemical Bank was started as a chemical manufacturing company, but in many respects it is regarded as the most famous bank in the country. It has a capital of only $300,000, but its surplus is more than $7,000,000, and its $100 shares sell for nearly $5,000 each. Its first office was on the present site of the National Park Bank, opposite St. Paul's Chapel, but in 1850 it moved to its present building.

Website: The History
Article Name: The Banking Facilities of Greater New York 1898 Part II
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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