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Iowa History Daily: America's first First National Bank

Iowa History Daily: On June 20, 1863, the First National Bank of Davenport opened as the first bank in the United States chartered under the National Banking Act of 1863. Nearly 160 years later a bank still stands on the site at 201 West Second Street in Davenport (although now as a branch of US Bank)

In response to many banks across the county issuing their own currency as the American Civil War raged, Congress passed the National Banking Act to ensure stable, uniform currency Americans could trust. Signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln, the act marks an important moment in the financial history of the country.

Immediately after the act went into effect, a charter application from Austin Corbin and Tristam Dow arrived for The First National Bank of Davenport. Over the first three days after subscriptions opened, roughly 80 Davenport citizens committed $100,000 to the project. Assigned charter #15, the first First National Bank of the United States opened in Davenport at the end of June 1863.

Most major community leaders and businesspeople of Davenport formed the group of stockholders in the three-story bank opened on West Second Street. $80,000 in deposits streamed in on the first day of operations, and Henry Hess’s $12.60 cent check gained status as the first in the country to clear the new banking system. Over the first quarter, investors realized a 5% dividend.

The first charter period ran from 1863-1882, and the bank directors steadily guided the institution to success in spite of economic recession during the 1870s. By 1900, the bank decided to raze the original structure to accommodate a larger building. Again in the early 1920s growth again led toward a decision to expand, and after tenants got word of their eviction in early 1924 a fire raged through the building. Pairing with the cold January temperatures, frozen water used to put out the flames damaged sections of the building not scorched by the fire.

A new 9-story building designed by Frank A. Childs and William Jones Smith rose to replace the building, and still stands today. The First National Bank merged with Union Bank and Trust Company shortly after the opening of the new building, and the nation’s first First National Bank became the Union Savings Bank. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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