A Classification of American Wealth
History and genealogy of the wealthy families of America - Sponsors

 Part 1 : Colonial and Mercantile America  Part 2 : America in the Gilded Age
 Part 3 : America in the Twentieth Century  Encyclopedia of American Wealth

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   Part II-Chapter 5 : Bankers I  > Index and Introduction  :  « Previous  1 - 2 - 3  Next » 

   Bankers I : Bankers of the Early Republic 
            Robert Morris – financier of the American Revolution

            Stephen Girard – America’s richest shipping merchant and

            foremost private banker

            Nicholas Biddle – the most powerful man in the US after the president
            (Individual profile from the Encyclopedia of American Wealth)

            Alexander Brown and his sons – the leading banking family in
            pre-civil-war America

            The Brown Brothers in transportation : packet lines and railroads
         The Brown Family  (profile from the Encyclopedia of American Wealth)

            Other Antebellum American banking houses
            (still to come)

Banking was another economic sector which became increasingly popular among America’s merchants, both as a lucrative activity and as a well yielding investment. It was virtually unknown in North America during the colonial times, when the local economy was dominated by the large landowners and trade of the colonies was controlled and regulated by England. Although the Colonies issued notes, notably to finance military campaigns, and land banks existed, where bills of credit could be obtained, using land as collateral, the real need for American banks emerged when the nation gained its independence.
When it faced the dilemma of financing Washington’s vital Continental Army to fight the revolutionary war, with no sources of income other than the contributions of the states, the Continental Congress, which acted as interim government of the new nation, issued notes and bills of credit in increasing quantities. Although after Washington’s victory over Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, peace and independence seemed finally assured, the new nation was virtually bankrupt and its paper money worthless, when Robert Morris was appointed Superintendent of Finance in 1781, a position which along with his already extensive business interests, made him America’s foremost financier. Along with Jewish bond broker Haym Salomon and other wealthy Philadelphians, he formed the Bank of North America, the country’s first bank and reestablished the Nation’s credit overseas. Although they were the nation’s most influent financiers, and built huge private estates in the process, both Robert Morris and Haym Salomon were eventually ruined by the weakness of the US credit or the under-performance of its economy against their bold anticipations.
In as far as the Bank of North America was created with a large subscription by the US government out of a loan from France, it was a forerunner of the First Bank of the United States, which followed in 1791 with a twenty year charter and a capital of $ 10 million. The Bank of North America later received a state charter from Pennsylvania and after the government sold its shares, it remained one of many commercial banks, was rechartered as a national bank under the National Currency Act of 1964 and was acquired by a life insurance company in 1929. Other state chartered banks were created in the meantime, including the Bank of Massachusetts and the Bank of New York. The latter was organized by members of the then leading Federalist party in New York, including Alexander Hamilton and his father-in-law Philip Schuyler. Isaac Roosevelt, a wealthy sugar refiner and ancestor of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was president of this bank.

Bankers I  > Index and Introduction  :    « Previous  1 - 2 - 3 Next »  

Patroons and Manor Lords

Planter  Aristocrats

Shipping Merchants

The Landlords of New YorkCity

Bankers I

Early American Industrialists


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