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HISTORY OF THE BANK FOR SAVINGS IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK 1819-1929
History, Trustees, Officers from 1819 to 1936.
A) CONDITIONS AFTER THE WAR OF 1812
When the movement to found The Bank for Savings was inaugurated, soon
after the War of 1812, the United States was striving to readjust itself to
the sudden shift from war to peace.
The industries that had been prostrated by the war were springing into
new life, while those that had been encouraged by it were struggling to
The commerce of New York City, which had sunk to half a million in
1814, jumped to $14,000,000 in 1815, while total exports leaped from $7,000,
000 in 1814 to $82,000,000 in 1816. The producers of wheat, flour, cotton,
tobacco, bacon, and the other chief exports, who had been almost ruined
during the war, found themselves in the midst of a boom.
A new rush to the West began, due largely to the opening up of the
rivers and Great Lakes by the steamboat. In 1815 the first steamboat made
its way up the Mississippi, and in 1818 the first one, the
Walk-in-the-Water, was launched on Lake Erie. To get ready for the new era
in transportation, New York State, urged by De Witt Clinton, pledged itself
to the building of the Erie Canal to connect the Hudson with the West.
With the prospects of trade with the West, New York City was rapidly
increasing in importance. With a population of fully 100,000 in 1815, it had
passed the city, but not the county, of Philadelphia, and was now
challenging for commercial supremacy.
In contrast with all this, the effect of peace on the new factories,
which had sprung up when the war cut off imports, was disastrous. The mills
spinning cotton, for example, which had increased six times over between
1811 and 1815, now found themselves forced to compete with the yarn rushed
in from the old English mills. In short, all sorts of wares, including
almost everything then handled in the shops, were sent over to be auctioned
off at whatever prices they would bring. Hundreds of the new factories had
to close down, and for years those which kept running had to fight for their
The dissolution of the First Bank of the United States in 1811 had
opened this field to the state banks,which had increased from 88 in that
year to 246 in 1816. Each of these was operated under a special charter of
its own, which was limited, as a rule, to twenty years. There were nine such
banks in New York City, of which six still exist. But many banks had been
chartered in out-of-the way places, solely for the purpose of floating
unsecured bank bills, and had practically no assets except on paper. To make
the circulation still worse, counterfeits were common and about as well
executed as the originals.
In 1814, when the British captured Washington, all the banks
throughout the nation had suspended specie payment and the country had been
thrown on a paper basis. Gold and silver were unobtainable, New York City
had issued $190,000 in fractional paper scrip, and toll roads, ferry
companies, factories, and other corporations put out their own paper change.
In New York City, meetings of the grocers and butchers in September,
1816, resolved to accept bills under a dollar only of banks redeeming them
in specie on demand.
As a wider remedy, Congress established the Second Bank of the United
States, which opened January 1, 1817, and the government by refusing to
accept the bills of any bank not paying specie, succeeded in forcing a
resumption of specie payments February 20, 1817.
There was, nevertheless, no source of specie in the country, and, as a
consequence, the gold coins of England and Portugal were received as legal
tender by the New York banks and elsewhere at 89 cents per pennyweight,
while those of France, Spain, and the Spanish dominions brought two cents
less. The silver crown of England was legal tender at $1.10, the Spanish
dollar at par, and the pistareen at 20 cents.
The whole scale of living was on a very much lower plane than to-day,
though some prices were just as high. Wheat had varied greatly in value,
depending upon the possibility of export, but in 1816 was $1.75 a bushel,
while flour was $8.00 a barrel. Bacon was 16 cents a pound, and tea a
dollar. Cotton was 30 cents a pound, and calico 34 cents a yard. Shoes were
$2.00 a pair.
In comparison with these prices, in 1816 a Skilled workman received a
dollar, and a laborer 75 cents, for a day of from 12 to 14 hours. Besides
room and meals, a "hired man" got $10 a month and a servant $2.00 a week.
Imprisonment for debt was still legal, and many workmen were thrown into
jail for small unpaid bills.
If these conditions seem severe, they were made still worse by the
breaking of the boom in western land and the failure of many eastern
factories, which led to the crisis of 1819 and the hard times that followed
In those critical years, were founded the first savings banks in
America including The Bank for Savings in New York
B) THE FIRST EFFORTS TOWARD ESTABLISHING THE BANK FOR SAVINGS
In the foundation of the country's pioneer savings banks, it is a
recognized fact, that the name of some one man stands out conspicuously.
That name, it is quite evident, in the case of New York's oldest savings
bank, is Thomas Eddy.
This public-spirited citizen was born in the city of Philadelphia ,
September 5th, 1758, and lived there until he reached his twenty-first
birthday, when he decided to start his career in New York. Having had a good
home training under Quaker parentage, with a stout heart, and what money he
possessed, he directed his way toward New York, travelling as far as Rahway,
New Jersey, on horseback.
He sold his horse in Rahway and pushed on to New York City, reaching
his destination a complete stranger with only $96.00 in his pocket. Finding
a high class lodging place in Wall Street at $8.00 per week, one dollar
extra for washing, he went to a coffee house and started to make friends.
As the years passed he began to make a name for himself in his adopted
city. About 1790, after various vicissitudes his career led him into the
insurance world, in which he subsequently became the foremost insurance
broker of the country, and made money rapidly.
His associates included such well-known persons as General Schuyler,
Governors George and De Witt Clinton, Governor Jay, and many others. He was
a member of many philanthropic societies, one of the governors of the New
York Hospital, and secretary of the board.
The first recorded meeting to organize a savings bank in New York was
held on Monday, November 25th, 1816.
The NEW YORK POST of November, 1816, contains this notice:
A BANK FOR THE POOR
"Among the many institutions which are established at the present day
for the mitigation of human misery and misfortune, the associations termed
in Europe, "Savings Banks," are perhaps not the least important. In London,
Liverpool, and Edinburgh, they have been established and carried on with
great success. The design of these associations is extremely simple. It is
to effect a secure place of deposit for the earnings of the laboring part of
the community: and at the same time to give them the benefit of an
accumulation of interest.
"Impressed with the importance of establishing an institution of this
kind in the City of New York, a number of gentlemen met on the 25th
(November, 1816) and by adjournment on the 27th inst., and after due
consideration resolved to submit a plan of such an establishment for the
approbation of their fellow-citizens , who are hereby invited to attend a
general meeting at the City Hotel, this evening (November 29th, 1816) at
"Signed by order of the meeting,
Committee: Thomas Eddy
New York, November 29th, 1816
The object of the meeting and the principles of the proposed institution
were briefly and pertinently explained by Mr. James Eastburn. Then, on
motion of Mr. John Griscom, seconded by Dr. Watts, it was resolved, "that it
is expedient to establish a savings bank in New York."
Mr. Zachariah Lewis presented the constitution for the new bank "which
having been read and its principles discussed was unanimously adopted."
According to this first proposed constitution the institution was to be
denominated "The Savings Bank of New York" and was to be under the
management of thirty "directors," as they were called in the preliminary
meetings, "organized as a self-perpetuating body," none of whom was "to
receive directly or indirectly any pay or emolument for his services, nor be
responsible for any loss whatsoever."
These directors were to select a cashier or treasurer, and were to
appoint from among their number, an "Attending Committee."Each member of
this committee was to serve one week in "attendance at the Bank" and "to
have general supervision and management during the recess of the Board,"
with special instructions to "note particularly the amount deposited and
withdrawn on each bank day."
The constitution also fixed the rate of interest to be allowed to
depositors, " five per cent per annum on sums from five to fifty dollars and
six per cent on fifty dollars and on all larger sums." All investments were
to be made "in Government securities of the United States of New York State,
of the Corporation of the City of New York and such other funds as the
Directors should deem expedient." The depositors were to be given a book on
which should be entered the amount and date of the deposit or draft. This
was the inception of the "pass-book" of the present day. The idea of the
passbook was evidently copied from trade usages, where there was given the
customer a "book" in which the tradesman entered the record of goods sold on
credit. The book was then passed back to the customer and so this term came
to be used in the savings bank world.
The directors reserved the power to refuse the deposit of any
depositor whenever they deemed it expedient, or compel the depositor to
close the account, in like manner. These pass-books were to be balanced only
on the first business day of January and at no other time unless the
depositor decided to close his or her account. A printed table was to be
given each depositor on which was to be figured the amount of interest on
any number of dollars from one to one hundred, for any number of months from
one to twelve. Each depositor was also to be furnished with a printed copy
of the rules of the Bank.
Such is a brief synopsis of the "Constitution" under which the
following named directors were to manage New York's first savings bank:
Henry Rutgers Jeremiah Thompson
Thomas R. Smith Duncan P. Campbell
Thomas C. Taylor Josiah H. Coggeshall
De Witt Clinton James Eastburn
Archibald Gracie John Pintard
Cadwallader D. Colden Jonas Mapes
William Few Brockholst Livingston
John Griscom Andrew Morris
William Bayard Gilbert Aspinwall
William H. Harrison Zachariah Lewis
Rensalaer Havens Thomas Buckley
Richard Varick Najah Taylor
Thomas Eddy Francis B. Winthrop
Peter A. Jay William Wilson
John Murray, Jr.
This was the distinguished list named in the meeting of November 29th,
1816. The conference was held in the City Hotel, a famous hostelry on
historic ground, situated on the site of the old DeLancey residence, just
north of Trinity church-yard. In 1793 this mansion had been torn down, and
in 1806 the City Hotel, most illustrious in its day, had replaced the older
home of fashionable city life. The meeting closed with the customary motion
of a vote of thanks to Mr. Gibson of the hotel management, "for his
liberality in declining any compensation" for the use of the room at the
C) THE FUTILE ATTEMPT TO BEGIN BANKING OPERATIONS IN 1816
After that early session of November 29th, 1816, two further meetings
were held in quick succession. One on December 10th was called "The First
Stated Meeting of the Directors of the Savings Bank of New York," and was
also held at the City Hotel on Broadway, north of Trinity Church. Those
Thomas Eddy John Griscom
Thomas Buckley Jonas Mapes
John Slidell John Pintard
De Witt Clinton William Wilson
Zachariah Lewis Thomas C. Taylor
Peter A. Jay Thomas R. Smith
Jeremiah Thompson Josiah H. Coggeshall
Thomas Eddy was again chosen chairman. Noah Brown and Augustus Wright
were named as directors in place of Colonel Rutgers and William H. Harrison
who declined to serve, but Augustus Wright also declined to serve. Three
committees were appointed; the first, composed of Thomas R. Smith, Jonas
Mapes and Peter A. Jay "to make application to the Corporation for a
suitable place for the operations of the institution"; the second, composed
of De Witt Clinton, Zachariah Lewis and Jeremiah Thompson, "to draft an
address to the public, developing the principles and advantages of the
Institution"; the third, composed of Peter A. Jay, Thomas Eddy and Josiah A.
Coggeshall, "to report on the expediency of applying to the Legislature for
an Act of Incorporation."
The meeting was then adjourned to meet in the "apartment of the New
York Historical Society in the New York Institution on the Seventeenth of
At this meeting of December 17th, 1816, the trustees of the Bank were
still called directors and the proposed institution was termed "The Savings
Bank of New York."
The following directors were present:
De Witt Clinton Thomas Buckley
Peter A. Jay John Griscom
William Few Cadwallader D. Colden
John Pintard Jonas Mapes
Jeremiah Thompson Noah Brown
Thomas Eddy William Wilson
Thomas R. Smith Archibald Gracie
Thomas C. Taylor Francis B. Winthrop
and Josiah H. Coggeshall
Officers of the institution were chosen as follows:
William Bayard, President 1819-1826
Noah Davis, 1st Vice President
Thomas R. Smith, 2nd Vice President
Thomas C. Taylor, 3rd Vice President
Thomas Eddy, Jr., Cashier
Jeremiah Thompsin, John Pintard and William Wilson were appointed the First
The legislature refused to grant the charter for reasons stated:
First, "because the principles of a Savings Bank were not distinctly
comprehended." This objection was one which appeared intermittently for many
years in New York State, and has been combatted many times by The Bank for
Savings. The second reason for the legislature's refusal to grant a charter
in the year 1816 was connected with the financial condition of the country
at that time. Statistics show that between the years 1811 and 1820 nearly
200 banks failed throughout the country. So, because of mistrust of banks as
such, and hostility among banking interests themselves, the legislature was
loath to grant incorporation papers to all such institutions. Another
important objection was that while the charters to the banks extended over
only 21 years, here was apparently a bank asking for a perpetual charter.
This was something which some of the legislators were theoretically opposed
to granting under any circumstances, on the ground that no one could foresee
the distant future, and one generation should not bind a subsequent one.
D) THE CHARTER SECURED AND THE BANK STARTED
When the early directors of "The Savings Bank of New York" found they
had failed to secure a charter from the legislature for a bank to aid the
poor in the matter of thrift, they joined in the formation of a more general
society to furnish such aid, just as years before Aaron Burr had imbedded a
bank in the charter of the Manhattan Company purporting to supply pure water
to the city.
This organization was called The Society for the Prevention of
Pauperism. In the society's report it appears the organization was
definitely committed to the formation of a savings bank in New York City. It
is stated clearly that among the many projects of the Society for the
Prevention of Pauperism, it was planned "to encourage and assist the
laboring classes to make the most of their earnings by promoting the
establishment of a Savings Bank" and in this endeavor they were successful
when the savings bank directors had utterly failed.
This organization was that out of which came The Society for the Care
of Delinquents, or House of Refuge, being "the first establishment in the
World on a similar plan."
Among its promoters are found the names of most of the founders of The
Bank for Savings. General Clarkson, one of the Bank's earliest trustees, was
its first chairman and president. On October 27th, 1818, the officers of
this society were:
General Matthew Clarkson,
Honorable Brockholst Livingston,
John Murray, Jr.
Nicholas Fish, Esq.
John E. Hyde
Others of the Board of Directors were:
John Murray J.V.B. Varick, Esq.
G. N. Bleecker Jas. Bell, Esq.
Thomas Eddy Rev. Jas. Milner
Rev. Cave Jones Rev. F.C. Schaefer
Divie Bethune Jos Curtis
James Eastburn Isaac Laurence
Z. Lewis E. W. King
Dr. D. Watts Andrew Morris, Esq.
Jos. Smith, Esq. Thos. C. Taylor
Solomon Wheeler Benj. Wood
Elaser Lord Samuel Wood
Thomas Gibbons Wm. N. Carter
R.C. Cornell John Pintard
J. Curtis, Secretary pro-tem
The failure and revival of the project for a savings bank stand out on
the minute book like the inscription on a tombstone and like the same
marbled notice so often ending with a resurrection hope, the minute book
tells at the end of the recital, how the Society for the Prevention of
Pauperism, after three years, resurrected the dead organism of 1816, its
name changed from that of "The Savings Bank of New York" to "The Bank for
Savings in the City of New York." It reads in part:
"The subject of a Savings Bank was revived by the Society for the
Prevention of Pauperism in the City of New York, instituted in 1818.
The records of the legislature show that the subject of The Bank for
Savings was introduced on January 19th, 1819. The bill on February 13th,
1819 was passed on by the committee. February 27th, 1819, the house resolved
itself into a committee of the whole and considered the bill. March 1st,
1819, the bill passed the Assembly, went to the Senate March 5th, and the
act of incorporation of the Bank was passed on the 26th of March, 1819.
The legislative records were carefully followed by the Society for the
Prevention of Pauperism which sponsored the bill for incorporation. The act
of incorporation passed the legislature, March 26th, 1819, whereupon "The
Board of Trustees of The Bank for Savings," as named and provided for in the
act of incorporation, met by order of the president, William Bayard, at the
room of the Historical Society in the New York Institution, on April 5th,
1819, the first meeting since 1816. Zachariah Lewis, one of the
incorporators of the Society for the Prevention of Pauperism, and
subsequently trustee of the Bank for twenty-two years, was elected
They were able to lease, free of charge, with the consent of the City
Corporation, for at least two years, the northeast basement room, front, in
the New York Institution, through the favor of the Academy of Arts. The
occupancy of the apartment in this building, the Old Alms House, cost the
Bank nothing, simply occasionally a share in the repair of the building,
such as thirty dollars in October, 1820, " to help improve the condition of
the roof" and a slight charge for the erection of a "fence" or railing about
City Hall Park on Chambers Street. The Bank was also called upon to share
its quota of expense in Painting the exterior of the Building. This building
accordingly, the Old Alms House, called the New York Institution, became the
first home of the first savings bank in the City of New York, July 3rd, 1819.
ACT OF INCORPORATION
Passed March 26th, 1819
An ACT TO INCORPORATE an Association by the name of a Bank for Savings
in the City of New York.
Whereas the Society for the prevention of pauperism in the City of New
York, have petition'd the Legislature for an act of incorporation for the
laudable purpose of encouraging in the community habits of industry and
economy by receiving, and vesting in Government Securities or stock created
and issued under and by virtue of any law of the United States, or of this
State, and in no other way, "Such small sums of money as may be saved from
the earnings of Tradesmen, Mechanicks, Labourers, Minors, Servants, and
others, thereby affording the two fold advantage of security and interest,
and the Legislature considering it their duty to cherish all laudable
attempts to ameliorate the condition of the poor and labouring class of the
Be it enacted by the People of the State of New York represented in
Senate and Assembly, that William Bayard, John Murray, Jun., Noah Brown,
William Few, Brockholst Livingston, Cadwallader Colden, George Arcularius,
Thomas Buckley, Duncan P. Campbell, Benjamin Clark, James Eastburn, Henry
Eckford, Thomas Eddy, Philip Hone, John E. Hyde, Peter A. Jay, Zachariah
Lewis, Dennis McCarthy, Andrew Morris, James Palmer, John Pintard, Abraham
Rupell, Jacob Sherred, Joseph Smith, Najah Taylor, Jeremiah Thompson,
William Wilson and James Wood shall be, and are hereby constituted a body
corporate and politic by the name of "The Bank for Savings in the City of
New York" and by that name they shall have perpetual succession, and shall
be persons capable of suing and being sued, pleading and being impleaded,
answering and being answered unto defending and being defended in all courts
and places whatsoever, and may have a common seal, with power to change and
alter the same from time to time; and shall be capable of purchasing,
taking, holding and enjoying to them and their successors, any real estate
in fee simple or otherwise; and any goods, chattels and personal estate,
which shall be necessary for the purposes above recited, and of selling,
leasing, or otherwise disposing of the said real and personal estate, or any
part thereof at their will and pleasure, Provi'd always, that the clear
annual value of such real and personal estate "exclusive of the Profits that
may arise from the interest accruing upon the stock, or from the sale of any
stock in which the deposits made in the said Bank may be invested". Shall
not exceed the sum of Five Thousand Dollars. And the trustees or managers of
said Institution, shall not directly or indirectly receive any pay or
emolument for their services, nor shall they issue any notes, make any
discounts, or transact any business which belongs to, or is transacted by,
incorporated Banks, other than is herein specified--. Provided also, that
the funds of the said corporation shall be used and appropriated to the
promotion of the objects stated in the preamble to this Act, in the manner
herein mentioned and those only.
And be it further enacted, that the said association, so incorporated,
shall receive as deposits from persons of the discription contained in the
recitall to this act all sums of money that may be offer'd for that purpose,
in such sums, and on such terms, for the purpose of being invested as
aforesaide, which shall be invested accordingly, and shall be repaid to each
depositor when required, and at such times and with such interest and under
such regulations as the board of trustees to be appointed as is hereafter
mention'd shall from time to time prescribe, which regulations shall be put
up in some public and conspicious place in the room where the business of
said corporation shall be transacted, but shall not be alter'd so as to
affect any one who may have been a depositor previous to such alteration, no
president, vice President, Trustee or accountant shall directly or
indirectly borrow or use the funds of the corporation except to pay
necessary current expenses and all certificates or evidences of deposit made
by the proper officer shall be as binding on the corporation as if it were
under the common seal, and the said corporation shall from time to time have
power to make, constitute, ordain and establish such bye laws and
regulations as they shall judge proper, for the election of their officers
for prescribing their respective functions, and the mode of discharging the
same, for regulating the times and places of meeting of the officers and
trustees, and for the transacting, managing and directing the affairs of the
institution. Provided such bye laws and regulations are not repugnant to
this act, to the constitution or Laws of this State, or of the United
Provided further, that it shall be the duty of the trustees of said
Bank to regulate the rate of interest to be allowed to the depositors so
that they shall receive a rateable proportion of all the profits of said
bank after deducting therefrom all necessary expences authorized by this act
to be incured.
And be it further enacted that the officers of the said institution
shall consist of a President and three Vice Presidents who together with
twenty-four trustees shall constitute a board of managers five of whom
"Provided the President or one of the Vice Presidents be present" assembling
at the time and place designated for the purpose by any bye laws or
regulations of the institution, shall constitute a legall meeting thereof.
And be it further enacted, that William Bayard shall be president,
John Murray, Jun., first Vice Pres., Noah Brown Second Vice President and
William Few third Vice President. Brockholst Livingston, Cadwallader D.
Colden, Geo. Arcularius, Thos. Buckley, Duncan P. Campbell, Francis Cooper,
James Eastburn, Henry Eckford, Thos. Eddy, Philip Hone, John E. Hyde, Peter
A. Jay, Zach'h. Lewis, Dennis McCarthy, Andrew Morris, James Palmer, John
Pintard, Abrm. Rupell, Jacob Sherred, Joseph Smith, Najah Taylor, Jeremiah
Thompson, William Wilson and Samuel Wood to be the first trustees who shall
constitute the first board of managers of said institution, and in case of a
vacancy by death, resignation or otherwise among the said officers and
trustees, such vacancy shall be fill'd up by ballot by the board of managers
at their first regular meeting thereafter and the person having the majority
of the whole number present and voting shall be consider'd as duly elected
and not otherwise and the said board shall from time to time appoint a fit
person as an accountant of the institution--removable at pleasure, who shall
give such reasonable security for his fidelity and good conduct as the board
of managers may from time to time require, and they may, if necessary,
appoint a Clerk to assist him.
Be it further enacted, that the board of trustees shall have power to
appoint a Clerk or Clerks and other officers and servants as they may deem
necessary for conducting the affairs of the institution and to remove them
at their pleasure and to appoint others in their places, and to fix the
salaries of such clerks or other officers so appointed.
And be it further enacted, that it shall be the duty of this
corporation to make an annual report to the Legislature and to the common
council of the City of New York of their funds.
And be it further enacted, that this act is hereby declar'd to be a
Public Act and that the same shall be construed in all courts and places
favourably and benignly for every beneficial purpose therein intended and
that no misnomer of the said corporation in any deed, gift, grant, or demise
or other Instrument of Contract or Conveyance, shall not vitiate or defeat
the same, provided the corporation shall be sufficiently described to
ascertain the intention of the partes, and provided also, that the
Legislature may at any time hereafter amend or repeal this act, and dissolve
the said Corporation, or vary or modify its Powers, as to them shall seem
fit and proper.
STATE OF NEW YORK
I certify the preceeding to be a true copy, of an original act of the
Legislature of this State on file in this office.
Albany 27th, 1819.
Sign'd ARCH. CAMPBELL,
N.B.____The month is omitted in the date of certificate of above copy.
Source: History of the Bank for Savings in the City of New York 1819-1929
Author: Charles E. Knowles
Copyright: The Bank for Savings in the City of New York
First Edition, 1929 and Second Edition, 1936.
Researched, Prepared and Transcribed by Miriam Medina
Bank of Savings..Pt2
Bank of Savings NYC Trustees
Bank of Savings NYC Trustee Officers
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