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 10 : Bankers of the Gilded Age  >   Introduction and Index :   Previous  1 2 - 3 - 45   Next


In 1930 the Chase National Bank acquired the Equitable Trust Company, whose major stockholder was John Davison Rockefeller jr. Winthrop Williams Aldrich, Rockefeller's brother-in-law and the son of 'Senator' Nelson Wilmarth Aldrich, became president and later succeeded Wiggin as chairman of the board. His nephew David Rockefeller also joined the bank, became president in 1961 and is remembered as one of America's most influential bankers in the 1970s. By that time, Chase had merged with the Bank of the Manhattan (founded 1799) and become a major player in US foreign finance.

As if moved by their own energy America's leading banks merged again and again until they gathered under their umbrella, many if not most of the prestigious institutions, which were once distinctive parts of the nation's financial community. After absorbing Equitable Trust in 1930 and merging with the Manhattan Bank in 1955, Chase again acquired a major bank in 1996, when it merged with Chemical Bank. Founded in 1823 as the Chemical Manufacturing Company, the renamed Chemical Bank operated under a New York state charter until 1865 and again, as Chemical Bank & Trust Company, after 1929. It was long dominated by the Goelet and [ Cornelius van Schaack ] Roosevelt families. In 1954 it acquired the Corn Exchange Bank and Trust Company, in 1959 the Trust Company of New York and in 1991 it merged with Manufacturers Hanover, itself the result of several earlier mergers. The Hanover Bank of New York was once controlled by another of New York's banking dynasties : the Woodwards. In the year 2000, the combined Chase and Chemical group merged with J. P. Morgan to form J P Morgan Chase.

As the National Banking Act of 1863 forbid national banks from owning subsidiaries, New York with its large population and dominating influence on the US financial markets unavoidably also became the host of the nation's largest banks. For sure banks were created all over the United States (in 1900 there were some 13'000) and some even grew to become large institutions. But none could compete in power and influence with the large New York firms mentioned above. Although some bankers who operated in other places than New York City also became rich, few rose in wealth and power to comparable prominence as John Pierpont Morgan, James Stillman or George Fisher Baker. Among them, the Mellons of Pittsburgh deserve special attention, as they not only controlled two large banks, but also figured among the country's five richest families.

Judge Thomas Mellon started banking in Pittsburgh before Civil War. His five sons joined the business and two of them, Andrew William Mellon and Richard Beatty Mellon, built it into a multi-billion dollar financial empire. Unlike Morgan and other bankers, the Mellons took substantial equity positions in the companies they financed. Thus, they ended with controlling blocks in Aluminum Company of America and Gulf Oil, as well as substantial minorities in many other corporations. Their Mellon National Bank and Union Trust Company were two of the three largest banks in Pittsburgh. Andrew William Mellon served as Secretary of the Treasury under President Coolidge, during the Roaring Twenties.

Amadeo Peter Giannini also deserves special attention, as his Bank of America through outstanding growth became the US largest in the 1960's, surpassing even the huge First National City Bank and the Chase Manhattan. This was achieved thanks to its special structure, which allowed branches and by addressing the needs of the small businesses and ordinary people. Through his Transamerica Holding Company, A.P. Giannini also acquired a large block of National City stock in the 1930s and became a menace to the Wall Street powers.

Bankers of the Gilded Age >   Introduction and Index :    Previous  1 2 - 3 - 45   Next

The Mining Bonanza Kings

The Railroad Barons

The Trusts



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