Jefferson: Constitutional Arguments Against The Bank of The United States
Your History Questions Answered. Even If You Never Asked.

When Hamilton submitted his proposal for a National Bank to President Washington, the President asked Jefferson for his evaluation. Jefferson's reponse shows how far apart he and Hamilton were on the nature of constitutional goverrnment in the United States. [Continued...]

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Hamilton vs Jefferson

Hamilton vs Jefferson
Your History Questions Answered. Even If You Never Asked.

Most clear thinking Americans could probably tell you at least the rudimentary facts of who Thomas Jefferson was. Far fewer would likely have a definite idea of who Alexander Hamilton was and what his contributions as a Founding Father were. Yet his conception of an American government was just as important as that of Jefferson. Both founders foresaw the new nation as a great future power, and both had very different maps of how to get it there. [Continued...]

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History - The Marshall Court

History of the Court
Marshall Court   1801-1835

Marshall skillfully asserted the Court’s mightiest power and dignity in its first great crisis. In Congress, the lame-duck Federalists had passed a law to reduce the Court’s membership to five (one less Justice for a Republican President to name). Abolishing circuit duties for the Justices and providing other reforms, this law set up new circuit courts with 16 judges. Before leaving office, Adams had quickly named his judicial appointees - the famous "midnight judges." Enraged, one Republican from Kentucky called Adams’s tactics "the last effort of the most wicked, insidious and turbulent faction that ever disgraced our political annals." [Continued...]

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A.P. Giannini & the 1906 Earthquake

A.P. Giannini & the 1906 Earthquake

The son of Italian immigrants, Amadeo Peter Giannini (1870-1949) became the pioneer of branch banking and builder of a financial empire, which in 1947 included nearly five hundred banks.

As a vegetable peddler he developed a small fortune, then sold his share to create the Bank of Italy. He later became the founder-chairman of the Bank of America National Trust and Savings Association, the largest private banking system in the world. [Continued...]

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King Andrew and the Bank

King Andrew and the Bank
By: Daniel Feller

On July l0, 1832, President Andrew Jackson sent a message to the United States Senate. He returned unsigned, with his objections, a bill that extended the charter of the Second Bank of the United States, due to expire in 1836, for another fifteen years. As Jackson drily noted, the bill was presented to him on the Fourth of July, a day freighted with portent. [Continued...]

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America's First Bank Robbery

America's First Bank Robbery

It was late summer 1798 and again the deadly yellow fever was raging in Philadelphia. Many abandoned the city. Others were forced to stay. About 1,300 would die a swift but horrible death.

One of those lucky enough to escape the city was blacksmith Patrick Lyon and his 19-year-old apprentice. They booked passage aboard a small sailing vessel to Cape Henlopen. By the time they disembarked at Lewistown, Delaware, (now Lewes) the young man was ill. [Continued...]

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The History of Banking

The History of Banking in Antebellum America
Financial Markets and Economic Development in an Era of Nation-Buidling

By: Howard Bodenhorn
  - Lafayette College

The hallmark, some may even argue - as many did during the era of Manifest Destiny - the birthright, of America is growth: growth in population, geography, economy. When Robert R. Livingston and James Monroe, under President Thomas Jefferson's direction, negotiated the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon for the paltry sum of four cents per acre, the United States was, with a population of about five million souls, confined to a tiny strip of land bounded by the Atlantic to the east and the Appalachians to the west. It was a marginal nation - marginal militarily, politically, and economically - on the periphery of the Western world. But it was not to remain so. The Louisiana Purchase, which Jefferson believed would accomodate the next one hundred generations of Americans, nearly doubled the nations territorial expanse. [Continued...]

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The Suffolk Bank and the Panic of 1837

The Suffolk Bank and the Panic of 1837

The Suffolk Bank in Boston is well known as having been the clearinghouse for virtually all the banknotes that circulated in New England between 1836 and 1858. An examination of 19th century bank balance sheets shows that during and after the U.S. banking Panic of 1837, this private commercial bank also provided some services that today are provided by central banks. These include lending reserves to other banks (providing a discount window) and keeping the payments system operating. Because of Suffolk’s activities, banks in New England fared better than banks elsewhere during the Panic of 1837. And after the panic, when much of the United States suffered a prolonged economic slowdown, New England fared better than the rest of the country, at least partly because of Suffolk’s central bank–like activities. [Continued...]

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U.S. Securities Markets and the Banking System

U.S. Securities Markets and the Banking System,

By: Richard Sylla

A fact underappreciated about the rise of the United States in the world economy is that a modern, "world class" financial system—by the standards of the time—emerged virtually at the beginning of the nation's history and provided a solid underpinning for the country's subsequent growth and development. This paper explores the emergence of that financial system. It emphasizes the mutual support between the banking system, which has been well studied by financial historians, and securities markets, which have been relatively neglected. Distinctive features of the U.S. banking system depended on the existence of securities markets, and before long, distinctive features of U.S. money and securities markets depended on developments in the banking system. [Continued...]

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The Depression of 1839 to 1843: States, Banks, Debt

The Depression of 1839 to 1843:
States, Banks, Debt

By: John Joseph Wallis

The 1830s are one of the great set pieces in economic history. In 1832, Andrew Jackson vetoed the recharter of the Second Bank of the United States. Over the next five years, while Jackson and Nicholas Biddle, president of the Bank, battled over the role of the bank in federal finances and the basis for the nation’s monetary policy, the country underwent rapid inflation and a massive boom in public land sales, culminating in the Panic of 1837. In May of 1837 -- following a period of growing financial stringency, a sharp increase in the Bank Rate of the Bank of England, and increasing disruption to domestic banking caused by Jackson’s Specie Circular and the distribution of the federal surplus – banks throughout the United States suspended specie payments, in most states until the summer of 1838. After a short recovery in 1838 and 1839, banks in the south and west of the country suspended specie payments in October of 1839, and the economy slid into four years of deflation and recession. During these years, the American political system developed two distinct national political parties, the Democrats and the Whigs, whose major points of contention were economic issues, particularly banking. At this critical juncture in American political history, political debates were about economic policies, and economic policies, seemingly, were causing the worst depression the young nation had yet suffered. [Continued...]

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Historical Beginnings - The Federal Reserve

Historical Beginnings ...
The Federal Reserve

by Roger T. Johnson

At 6:00 P.M. on December 23, 1913, President Woodrow Wilson entered his office. He was smiling as he looked around the circle of friends and associates who had assembled there. Spotting Carter Glass, the slightly built but exceedingly influential congressman from Virginia, at the far end of the room, the President beckoned him to join Senator Robert Owen of Oklahoma at his side. After shaking Glass’s hand warmly, the President sat down at his desk and, using four gold pens, signed into law the Federal Reserve Act. As Arthur S. Link, Wilson’s principal biographer, has written, "Thus ended the long struggle for the greatest single piece of constructive legislation of the Wilson era and one of the most important domestic Acts in the nation’s history.

With this law, Congress established a central banking system which would enable the world’s most powerful industrial nation to manage its money and credit far more effectively than ever before. As essential as our central banking system appears to be in the complex economy of the 1970s, the political and legislative struggle to create the Federal Reserve System was long and often extremely bitter, and the final product was the result of a carefully crafted yet somewhat tenuous political compromise [Continued...]

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A History of Money and Banking in the United States:
The Colonial Era to World War II

By: Murray N. Rothbard

In this volume, Murray Rothbard has given us a comprehensive history of money and banking in the United States, from colonial times to World War II, the first to explicitly use the interpretive framework of Austrian monetary theory. But even aside from the explicitly Austrian theoretical framework undergirding the historical narrative, this book does not "look" or "feel" like standard economic histories as they have been written during the past quarter of a century, under the influence of the positivistic "new economic history" or "cliometrics." The focus of this latter approach to economic history, which today completely dominates this field of inquiry, is on the application of high-powered statistical methods to the analysis of quantitative economic data. [Continued...]

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Symbols on American Money

Symbols on American Money

Paper money has circulated in America at least as far back as colonial times. But how did American currency come to look the way it does? What do all the symbols on our money mean?

Look at the image of perhaps the world’s most instantly recognizable paper money — the $1 U.S. Federal Reserve note. What does it mean to you? Despite our familiarity with this particular currency note, many of us have never looked closely at its design and symbolism. As you’ll learn as you read on, American currency displays many significant symbols. Once you know what they mean, you may never look at your money in quite the same way [Continued...]

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Money Matters: The American Experience With Money

From the earliest times when commodities such as tobacco and beaver pelts were used as money, to the present when credit and debit cards are commonplace, money has always played a central role in the American experience.

Early in our history, our monetary system consisted of numerous foreign coins and paper currencies issued by the thirteen colonies and the Continental Congress. More than two hundred years later, we now have a single national currency and privately owned banks chartered by state and federal governments. Furthermore, a central bank, the Federal Reserve, has replaced gold as the regulator of the value of our money.

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Benjamin Franklin and the Birth of a Paper Money Economy

Paper money has often been controversial and misunderstood. Why it has value, why that value changes over time, how it influences economic activity, who should be allowed to make it, how its use and creation should be controlled, and whether it should exist at all are questions that have perplexed the public, vexed politicians, and puzzled economic experts. Knowing how, when, and why paper money first became commonplace in America and the nature of the institutions issuing it can help us better comprehend paper money’s role in society. Benjamin Franklin dealt often with this topic, and his writings can teach us much about it.

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Art of Money Getting
By: P. T. Barnum

True economy is misapprehended, and people go through life without properly comprehending what that principle is. One says, "I have an income of so much and here is my neighbor who has the same; yet every year he gets something ahead and I fall short; why is it? I know all about economy." He thinks he does, but he does not. There are many who think that economy consists in saving cheese-parings and candle-ends, in cutting off two pence from the laundress' bill and doing all sorts of little, mean, dirty things. Economy is not meanness. The misfortune is, also, that this class of persons let their economy apply in only one direction. They fancy they are so wonderfully economical in saving a half-penny where they ought to spend two pence, that they think they can afford to squander in other directions. A few years ago, before kerosene oil was discovered or thought of, one might stop overnight at almost any farmer's house in the agricultural districts and get a very good supper, but after supper he might attempt to read in the sitting-room, and would find it impossible with the inefficient light of one candle. The hostess, seeing his dilemma, would say: "It is rather difficult to read here evenings; the proverb says `you must have a ship at sea in order to be able to burn two candles at once;' we never have an extra candle except on extra occasions."

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The Art of Making Money Plenty in Every Man’s Pocket
By: Doctor Franklin

The use of a rebus seems a most appropriate vehicle for Benjamin Franklin’s expression of his homespun philosophies. This early N. Currier print of Franklin’s effort did not include a "translation," but when deciphered, it reads as follows:

"At this time when the general complaint is that money is so scarce it must be an act of kindness to inform the moneyless how they can reinforce their purses. I will acquaint all with the true secret of money catching, the certain way to fill empty purses and how to keep them always full. Two simple rules will do the business: 1st Let honesty and labor be thy constant companions; 2nd Spend one penny every day less than thy clear gains. Then shall thy purse soon begin to thrive, thy creditors will never insult thee nor want oppress nor hunger neither bite, nor naked freeze thee, the whole hemisphere will shine brighter, and pleasure spring up in every corner of thy heart. Now thereby embrace these rules and be happy."

B. Franklin. Born January 7th 1706 O.S. Died, April 17th 1790.

Lancaster Bank Formed

In December 1832 a petition was made to the State Legislature for the formation of a bank in Littleton. For reasons that are not clear today, the proposal was soon altered for a bank in another town. In any event, the incorporators of the Lancaster Bank had no particular connections to Littleton, and that town was not to have a commercial or discount bank until decades later in 1871, a latecomer in the state banking scenario.

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Andrew Jackson and the Bankwar

It has been called a war throughout history yet no blood was shed, lives lost nor weapons fired. There were, however, two strong, opposing sides that waged a bitter struggle for what each firmly believed. Although Congress made no formal declaration, the issue of the Second Bank of the United States can easily and appropriately be considered a war. The primary players included President Andrew Jackson who fought against the bank and Nicholas Biddle, president of the bank, who fought in loyal support of it.

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The Assembly and Paper Money, 1723-1756

In August 1721 Philadelphia merchant and politician Jonathan Dickinson surveyed the colony's grim situation: trade nearly stopped, money scarce, and imports depressed. Dickinson further worried that unless people were given additional time to pay for their necessities, many of them would be ill-prepared for the ensuing winter. Similar sentiments were voiced by other Pennsylvanians, who were faced, according to the provincial and proprietary secretary, James Logan, with the worst economic depression the colony had ever experienced. While a variety of factors caused the economic failure, including consistently falling grain prices beginning in the late 1710s, and financial collapse in England following the bursting of the South Sea Bubble in 1720, most of the colonists agreed that the continued cause of their distress was, according to Philadelphia merchant Thomas Griffitts, the "Want of some proper medium for Currency."

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A Modest Enquiry into the Nature and Necessity of Paper Currency

There is no Science, the Study of which is more useful and commendable than the Knowledge of the true In terest of one's Country; and perhaps there is no Kind of Learning more abstruse and intricate, more difficult to acquire in any Degree of Perfection than This, and there fore none more generally neglected. Hence it is, that we every Day find Men in Conversation contending warmly on some Point in Politicks, which, altho' it may nearly concern them both, neither of them understand any more than they do each other.

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Causes of Bank Suspensions in the Panic of 1893

There are two competing theories explaining bank panics. One argues that panics are driven by real shocks, asymmetric information, and concerns about insolvency. The other theory argues that bank runs are self-fulfilling, driven by illiquidity and the beliefs of depositors. This paper tests predictions of these two theories using information uniquely available for the Panic of 1893. The results suggest that real economic shocks were important determinants of the location of panics at the national level, however at the local level, both insolvency and illiquidity were important as triggers of bank panics.

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The American Bank Note Company

Across the globe in private collections, in vaults, safety deposit boxes and even passed hand-to-hand in daily, common transactions, are thousands of pieces of valuable, fine art. These range from antique stock and bond certificates, traded and sought by collectors around the world, to the daily exchange of a high technology, hologram-bearing credit card. And while these art forms are diversified in function and form, each also represents a miniature example of the early engraver's art-raised to its finest level. They also document, in a living legacy, the growth and expansion of America's capital markets and represent one of this country's oldest, continuous corporate success stories-the American Bank Note Company.

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Banking & Politics: As Old As The Republic

Recently, banks have won the right at the right to charge up to $4 for use of their ATM. They won this right after years of lobbying heavily at the federal level. Other rights they have won with their Pac dollars during the last several years include: the elimination of many of the interstate banking regulations; saving banks have moved into commercial banking; commericial banks moved into financial services and there have been bank mergers all over the country eliminationing tens of thousands of jobs. All these changes in regulations meant millions more for the bankers. As the S&L scandal proved, millions more for many of our nations elected officials and their friends.

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History of American Money & Banking

During the 17th century, American settlers were starting to grow from small colonies and villages into larger towns and cities. Barter was the earliest method of trade, the direct exchange of one good for another. Soon certain commodities became most favored, such as furs and tobacco. In Virginia, warehouse receipts for bales of tobacco circulated as money.

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The Reader's Companion to American History:


Not banks but merchants were the sources of money and credit in the colonial period of American history (1607-1783). It was only after independence that the first commercial bank received a charter of incorporation—the Bank of North America, in 1781. British merchant banking houses stood at one end of a long chain of credit that stretched to the American frontier.

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A Brief History of Our Nation's Paper Money

By Karen Flamme

In our society today, money's value is measured by what it can buy--its purchasing power--not by its material worth, but it hasn't always been so. American currency has spanned centuries of evolution and numerous transfigurations to reach the size and shape that we carry in our wallets today. It has been an evolutionary process which often came about in times of crisis--like the Civil War or Great Depression--

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt's First Fireside Chat

  President Franklin D. Roosevelt, addresses the nation on the Bank Crisis, March 12, 1933.

"My friends, I want to talk for a few minutes with the people of the United States about banking..."

Read his complete address.

Debunking the Federal Reserve Conspiracy Theories (and other financial myths)

Read this story

A Brief History of Central Banking in the United States

Read this story

United States Monetary Policy

Read this story

Changing Faces of The Dollar

Money hasn't always looked like it does today. Explore the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco's American Currency Exhibit online and watch history come alive as you step back in time to our nation's beginning. Learn how our country's rich history is closely tied with our currency. Discover the role the Federal Reserve has played - and continues to play - in that history.

View The Exhibit

Coca Cola Company

In 1919, the Coca Cola Company was sold to Atlanta banker Ernest Woodruff, along with an investor group, for $25 million. Four years later, Robert Winship Woodruff, Ernest’s son, was elected President of the company. He was determined to make the drink available all over the world-and succeeded. complex than ever before. This coupled with the fact that there are fewer banks today than five years ago, increases the basic “franchise” value even further.

The Rockefellers

The Rockefeller family is one of the first major philanthropists in the U.S. The Rockefellers donated $540 million to charitable causes. John D. Rockefeller was the driving force behind the creation and development of the Standard Oil Company. By borrowing from and investing in community banks, Rockefeller quickly made his fortune. William Rockefeller, John’s brother, joined his brother in the oil business, and was instrumental in building up the National City Bank of New York. Today, known as Citibank, it is one of the largest banks worldwide

Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton, one of the most influential of the founding fathers, was the first Secretary of the Treasury for the newly formed Untied States government. Using knowledge he gained as one of the original founders of the Bank of New York, the oldest financial institution in the country, Hamilton placed the nation on firm financial footing.

Sears & Roebuck

Richard Warren Sears is the founder of Sears, Roebuck and Company, one of the world’s most successful department store chains. In 1889, before teaming up with Roebuck, he sold his business and worked as a rural banker in Iowa. Four years later, with an understanding of small towns and rural life, he got together with Roebuck to create the modern company we know today.

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