in 1812, the City Bank was the oldest of the three great national
banks of New York. Always a merchant's bank, the City gained a
reputation of stability during the 1850's thanks to a policy of
solid cash reserves, practiced by its major shareholder and
president Moses Taylor. Conservative, the bank reorganized under the
National Banking Act of 1864 only after the Federal Government
imposed a 10% tax on state bank notes in 1865. Using the credit of
the National City Bank, Moses Taylor built himself a $ 40 million
estate and left his seat to his son-in-law, Percy Rivington Pyne,
when he died in 1882. Pyne was replaced in 1891 by James Stillman,
who brought his friend William Rockefeller on the Board and engaged
in an aggressive expansion policy, which made the National City the
largest bank in America in 1894 and the first to reach a billion
dollar balance sheet in 1919.
Stillman and Rockefellers sealed their business partnership with a
double marriage of their children and controlled the National City
Bank for many years. James Stillman Rockefeller, a grandson of James
Stillman and William Rockefeller, was president and chairman of the
bank in the 1950's and 1960's. In 1955, the National City Bank
merged with the First National Bank of New York to become the First
National City Bank of New York, later known as Citicorp and today,
Citigroup, the largest banking and financial institution of the
United States of America.
First National Bank of New York was founded in 1863 by John
Thompson, a currency trader and good friend of treasury secretary [
Salmon Portland ] Chase. The first New Yorker bank to use a Federal
charter, it grew into an important institution notably thanks to its
involvement in the sale of government bonds. In 1873, John Thompson
had to sell his shares to a group including George Fisher Baker, the
bank's cashier, and Harris Charles Fahnestock, head of the New York
branch of Jay Cooke & Company. George F. Baker subsequently became
president and built the First National into the second largest bank
of New York.
close friend and ally of John Pierpont Morgan, Baker had interests
in numerous railroads, public utilities and industrial corporations.
In 1912 he held 58 directorships in major American corporations,
more than Morgan, Stillman or any other American. George Fisher
Baker remained chairman of the First National Bank until 1926 and
was succeeded by his son George F. Baker jr. The Baker's control of
the First National Bank of New York ended after the latter died in
1937, none of his sons being able or ready to assure the succession.
In 1955, the First National Bank of New York was merged with the
National City Bank to form what later became Citicorp.
years after losing control of the First National Bank, financier
John Thompson and his son Samuel Thompson founded yet another of
what became the three largest (national) banks of New York. The
Chase National Bank of New York was named after Thompson's friend
Salmon Portland Chase, Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury and the
father of the National Banking System. Salmon P. Chase had died in
1873 and was obviously not linked in any other way to the
institution, than inspiring its name. Thompson was succeeded by
Henry White Cannon and later by Alonzo Barton Hepburn and Albert
Henry Wiggin, expansive bankers who built the institution into the
third largest bank of New York.
Bankers of the Gilded Age
Introduction and Index