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Call No.: Mss:781 1792-1794 U58
Repository: Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University
Title: Bank of the United States (1791-1811). Boston Branch (Boston, Mass.) records
Date(s): 1792-1794 (inclusive)
Quantity: 3 linear feet (2 volumes)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: Two volumes of financial records, dated 1792-1794, of the Boston branch of the first Bank of the United States (1791-1811.)
The first Bank of the United States was chartered by Congress in 1791. Alexander Hamilton was the guiding force behind the creation of the bank, which he envisioned as a central bank for the new United States. Modeled after the Bank of England, the bank began accepting subscriptions at its Philadelphia headquarters in 1791. The bank's charter authorized 25,000 shares at $400 each, which raised $10 million in capital. The federal government owned 5,000 shares, while the remaining 20,000 shares were tendered in initial public offering. The Bank of the United States would hold a 20 percent share in the country's money supply, while private banks accounted for the rest.Subscriptions for the Bank of the United States were soon in high demand throughout the country. In cities beyond Philadelphia, subscriptions were accepted at local banks. However, the need for local branches of the Bank of the United States soon became apparent. Branches were subsequently opened in Boston, Baltimore, Charleston, and New York. Positions on the local boards of directors, which were chosen by the Philadelphia board, were eagerly sought by local business leaders.In Massachusetts, subscriptions for the bank were initially accepted at the Massachusetts Bank. The Boston branch of the Bank of the United States took over this role when it was established in 1792. Four Boston branch board members—Peter Roe Dalton, Christopher Gore, Jonathan Mason, Jr., and Thomas Russell—had previously served on the Massachusetts Bank board. Dalton, who served as cashier of the Boston branch for nearly twenty years, formerly held the same position at the Massachusetts Bank. These relationships helped the Boston branch and the Massachusetts Bank to avoid an adversarial relationship that other branches shared with their state banks.A number of prominent American businessmen had accounts with the Boston branch of the Bank of the United States. They include Ebenezer Storer, Thomas Amory, Oliver Wendell, John Kean (who was also the cashier of the Philadelphia branch of the bank,) Nathaniel Appleton, Samuel Breck, Samuel Otis, and John Coffin Jones, among others.Although successful, the first Bank of the United States had many enemies, whose fears included corruption, financial manipulation, and speculation. As a result of the controversy, Congress declined to renew the bank's charter in 1811. All branches were forced to liquidate their affairs and pay off their stockholders.
The collection consists of two volumes, dating from 1792 to 1794.Volume one is a ledger that includes account information for individuals, businesses, state and national offices that did business with the Boston branch of the first Bank of the United States. The entries, which date from April 1792 to November 1793, record general banking activities such as deposits, withdrawals, and balance information. There are large blocks of pages missing from the front and back of the volume. The ledger begins with page 74 and ends with page 271.Volume two is a discount bill book for the Boston branch, which dates from August 5, 1793 to November 6, 1794. Discounts, which was the term used for bank loans, were approved twice weekly when the branch's board of directors met to judge the bills. Borrowers, usually merchants, brought their trade receipts, or bills of exchange, to be discounted. The borrower would expect to receive a payment for goods shipped, and would present paper drawn on the buyer of his goods to the bank. The bank, in turn, would discount the paper at the current rate and the merchant would receive specie (gold or silver) or bank notes as payment at a discounted rate. The bill was also required to contain two responsible names for endorsements. Entries were made on Monday and Thursday. Each entry lists the following information: date, number of days to be paid, promissor, to whom payable, second endorser, by whom presented, time when due, number of days discounted, amount each, of note, when discharged, discount, sum to be paid.