A Century of Banking
May 9, 1814, the Harrisburg Bank
May 9, 1914 Harrisburg National Bank, Harrisburg, Pa..

Wallace, Helen Bruce.. Harrisburg, Pa.. Harrisburg National Bank. 1914.


Pages 1-5: Title, Bank photo and copy write

Page 6:  Personnel of the Harrisburg National Bank in 1914

Pages 7-8:  Foreword

Pages 9-12:  The Harrisburg of Long Ago

Pages 13-16:  The Need of a Bank

Pages 17-19: The Organization Of The Bank

1914 Personnel of the Harrisburg National Bank


Office Force

President: Edward Bailey Receiving Teller: Howard A. Rutherford
Cashier: William L. Gorgas Paying Clerk: Maurice E. Finney
Directors: Edward Bailey
J. G. M. Bay
William L. Gorgas
Ross A. Hickok
Henry A. Kelker, Jr.
Andrew S. McCreath
George W. Reily, Jr.
Thomas T. Wierman
Note Clerk: George P. Shotwell
Bookkeepers: Walter S. Ness
Harry Harmon
Russell Gleim
Correspondence Clerk: Charles R. Bartley
Clerks: Ralph C. Gingrich
William Swope


In celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of its founding, the Harrisburg National Bank greets its many friends and patrons with the story of a century of banking.

Born amidst the turmoil of war-time, and of the needs of a young county and borough community, the Harrisburg Bank has prospered with the civic advance it has constantly helped to bring about, and its wholesome growth is interwoven with the growth not only of Harrisburg, but all central Pennsylvania.

This century of successful banking has been possible because all through the years the Harrisburg Bank has been more than a carefully operated money-making enterprise. Directly and through its officers and stockholders, it has for three full generations maintained a broad, kindly, interested and helpful relation to every worthy cause having to do with the prosperity and uplift of Harrisburg and its vicinity. In its ripe and increasingly vigorous maturity, it continues and maintains the same idea of service to the community that has made it a civic force all through the years.

Following the progress of banking methods from its very inception, when under a state charter it took the place of a "Branch" bank, it accepted a national relation a half-century later because that was the best way to extend its service. In like manner it has now related itself to the just completed regional reserve banking system, thus continuing and strengthening its advanced and public spirited banking position.

From the minutes, ledgers and letter-books of a hundred years have been selected the facts that is in this sketch present to the Harrisburg of today the long career of a bank that has never failed to meet on obligation, has never known a run, and has never passed a dividend.

If this little book shall show forth not only the history of an institution which is much more than a bank, but shall as well indicate the value to a business of a sincere and constructive interest in the welfare of a great community, its purpose will be accomplished.

What The Harrisburg National Bank Has Meant To Harrisburg

An OLD guide-book of the Centennial year (1876) says of the Harrisburg National Bank that it "is universally esteemed one of the best baking institutions of the Commonweath." The source of this universal esteem, and its influence for good on the state, in the capital of which the Harrisburg Bank began business, is worth seeking.

In studying the records of this bank's business during the century just ending, it is impossible to avoid feeling that the unquestioned and constantly growing influence of the bank has rested on its civic pride as an institution and on the breadth, liberality and vigor of the men who were in it and behind it. These men were not only Harrisburg's best known, most prosperous and most progressive citizens, they were also her most living sons. Wherever a home industry could be fostered, wherever Harrisburg's influence could be extended, or the welfare of the residents of Harrisburg improved, in any way that a sound bank could help the growth and prosperity of its home city, this bank and the men concerned with it could be counted upon to do more than their part. This necessarily brief sketch may serve to show, in a fragmentary way only, how consistent the bank and its officials have been in promoting the welfare not only of the bank but of the town which made the bank possible, since it first opened its doors for business on July 6, 1814.

The Harrisburg of Long Ago

The little town, in which the need of a home bank was felt as early as 1810, had not much in common with the uniquely prosperous and notable city of today. It was not even at that time the capital of the state, acquiring that distinction only in 1812, when the government was removed from Lancaster.

Indeed, there had been only the semblance of an organized community since 1785, when John Harris offered the inducement of free streets, "a lot of the Court House and goal," and four acres reserved fro the State as a bid for the capital. Incorporation occurred in 1791, and by 1814 Harrisburg was a hustling little borough of 2,500 inhabitants. Its boundaries were quite different from those of the Harrisburg of 1914, including only the territory between Paxton Street and South Street along Front Street, while a diagonal line from there to Paxton Creek at Mulberry Street, formed its eastern boundary. All above South Street was known as Maclaysburg until 1838. On its Streets was built the beautiful stone mansion of United States Senator William MaClay, later bought and used for two  generations by the Harrisburg Academy (incorporated here in 1809), and now the residence of William E. Bailey.

John Harris was a trader, and about his place of business on Front Street, below Chestnut, where was located Harris' ferry across the Susquehanna, centered the little community, which by the time of the organization of the Harrisburg Bank was creeping up Front Street and along Market Street east to "The Square". Here was situated the old market-house, built by Christian Kunkel, one of the original directors of the Harrisburg Bank.

From Washington Inn, situated where now stands the Commonwealth Hotel, stages started three times a week for the west and daily for the east. Here it is supposed President Washington stayed enroute to quell the Whiskey Insurrection in 1794. Another famous "tavern stand" was that of "The Sign of the Wheat Sheaf," located at Front and Market Streets, where now stands the Harrisburg Club. It was conducted by John Schock, one of the first directors of the Harrisburg Bank; and at this tavern were held all the important conferences of that day.  The fashionable residence district of Harrisburg was on Second Street, below Chestnut, though much of the social life centered around the stone mansion built by John Harris in 1766, and occupied in 1814 by his son Robert Harris, one of the original directors of the  Harrisburg Bank. In 1835 this mansion was bought by Thomas Elder, who lived there until his death in 1853. After being occupied by the Pennsylvania Female College, until the death in 1861 of its president, Rev. Beverly R. Waugh, the mansion passed into the possession of Gen. Simon Cameron, famous for this connection with the affairs of the United States during the Civil War, a United Stated Senator, and a notable citizen of Harrisburg. It still stands facing Harris Park, where the grave of John Harris is preserved.

There were in Harrisburg in those days but two churches, the German Reformed at Third Street and Cherry Alley, and the Presbyterian ("English") Church at Second Street and Cherry Alley. The corner-stone of the Zion Lutheran Church was laid in August 1814. Harrisburg was the county seat of Dauphin County and a court house had been built, from which in 1812, the court removed in order to accommodate the Legislature of the state, occupying until 1822, a two-story red-brick house at Walnut Street and Raspberry Alley, where now stands the Bell Telephone building. Two newspapers were published in Harrisburg in those times: "The Oracle of Dauphin" by John Wyeth, and "The Harrisburg Chronicle" by Hugh Hamilton, who was for many years the notary of the Harrisburg Bank.

All this was during the time of the War of 1812, and from Hyneman's Inn, on Market Street, opposite the court house, where the Durang family played a fortnight in August 1814, one of the stars, Ferdinand Durang, enlisted in Capt. Thomas Walker's Company of the First Regiment. He marched to the defense of Baltimore, and there incidentally won undying fame by setting "The Star Spangled Banner", composed by Francis Scott Key to the tune of "Anacreon in Heaven".

The brigade commander was Gen. John Forster, an influential citizen, and for eighteen years cashier of the Harrisburg Bank. According to his son, Benjamin L. Forster, "The Star Spangled Banner" was first sung in the camps of the Pennsylvania troups instead of at Ford's Theater.

The Need of a Bank

Obviously a stirring community such as Harrisburg then was, even though small, needed banking facilities. Consequently in 1809 the Philadelphia (page 13) Bank established here a branch bank picturesquely known as "The Office of Discount and Deposit." Moses Musgrave was cashier, and on its board of directors were Robert Harris and John Howard, who were later to become directors of the Harrisburg Bank, while Thomas Elder, Jacob M. Haldeman, Christian Kunkel, Abraham Oves and others later intimately concerned with the Harrisburg Bank were depositors and were frequently accommodated with loans.

This branch bank flourished until 1817, when it was bought out by the Harrisburg Bank for $215,821.37. The cashier of The Office of Discount and Deposit wrote interestingly, and from his letter-books we learn some picturesque details of business and banking conditions a century ago.

The great Susquehanna River gave the transportation opportunity for developing the rich lumber counties to the north and west of Harrisburg. In times of high water the timber-raft traffic was immense, even in those early days, and according to Mr. Musgrave, "In lumber and flour alone this town does a business of $300,000 annually, the busy season being Spring and Fall, when the river is high." Obviously this active business made for profitable banking, and there were applications for discount "from men who are largely in the wheat line sixty miles about us, indeed, from every direction, as well as from Millers, Storekeepers, Furnace and Forge men and various Trades and dealers."

Despite the lively business conditions, it took pluck and good judgement to be a banker in those early days. The first bank in the United States was bur thirty-four years old, and there were barely fifty banks in the country. There was no fixed currency: "shin-plasters," "levies," two-penny bits, notes for twelve-an-a-half, six-and-a-fourth, eight and four cents were in daily circulation, along with French and Spanish gold. Each bank issued its own notes, which might be good when taken and worthless the next day, or good in Harrisburg and not current in Philadelphia or Baltimore. The state currency depended entirely for credit on the bank of issue, and too often these state institutions were political and must cater to a clientage with "pull," which did not lead to permanent values in the notes put forth.

There were also extant wild notions of banking profits. There existed deadly jealousies between the United States, state and unchartered banks, as also between city banks and their branches, and the country banks added difficulty to the situation. Moreover, there was ignorance and distrust among the people, hard to overcome. There had been a long suspension of specie payment. Coin was hoarded, and there was great scarcity of change, together with danger in transporting it. In 1814 there were no bills lower in denomination than five dollars, and a special minute is found, reading: "Resolved, that any of the Directors of Harrisburg Bank on application can be accommodated with change to the amount of $10." As late as September, 1840, Joseph Wallace, one of the bank's directors, was sent to St. Louis "to purchase $200,000 in specie and transfer the same to bank by conveyance, taking to his assistance such person or persons as he may see fit".

Minor worries from danger of fire and burglary, from counterfeiters and forgers, made a banker's life exciting in a town with only a "bucket brigade" fire department, with unlighted streets, and paying but four (page 15) watchmen, who were never on duty after the Legislature adjourned.

The Need For the Harrisburg Bank

There was a widespread feeling of opposition to branch banks, such as The Office of Discount and Deposit. As early as November 1810, Mr. Musgrave writes to Quentin Campbell, cashier of his home institution, the Philadelphia Bank: "Much talk of building a new bridge across the Susquehanna at $150,000. The Bubble has burst at last, and all hands are now trying from the richest to the poorest, in order to raise a new bank, which is to do or pay for the same - by way of gratuity for a Charter."

Mr. Musgrave thought that the Legislature was manipulated in an appeal to it for help in establishing banks. He writes: "At the last election in this State for member of Assembly, the Counties adopted a rule, universally in the choice of their men, decisive and revolutionary; that is, every man who voted against Bank at the last meeting of the Legislature was turned out and more pliant ones put in their stead."

Despite all the efforts of the city banks to prevent, an act was passed by the Legislature on March 21, 1814, authorizing the issue of charters to forty-one district banks, which were to pay the state 7 ½ per cent of their dividends. In the district surrounding Harrisburg there were named the projected Harrisburg Bank and the Bank of Swatara at Middletown. There was thus a clear legal road toward the establishment of the Harrisburg Bank. The value of shares was fixed at fifty dollars each, and commissioners

were appointed to open subscription books on April 20, 1814 (page 16) at the house of John Schoch, Harrisburg, and at the same time at the houses of John Fox of Hummelstown, Andrew Murray of West Hanover, and Michael Shure of Halifaz.

The authorized commissioners were John Forster, Jacob Boas, William Wallace, John Downey, Thomas Brown, John McCleery, Daniel Ferree, Joseph Clokey, Isaac Hershy, Abraham Brandt, John Fox Jr., and John Landis (of Spring Creek)

That the Harrisburg Bank was formed in response to a demand of popular character was well shown by the subscriptions to the capital stock. The books were open but six days, during which time 6,427 shares were subscribed for by 235 persons, providing a total subscription of $321,350, although the charter dated May 9, 1814, signed by Gov. Simon Snyder, and reproduced herewith, provided for but $300,000.

That the bank was to be more than a city institution was shown by the subscriptions from country districts of nearly half the amount. Jacob M. Haldemen canvassed Cumberland County, securing 235 shares in that county alone.

Among those taking one hundred shares were Robert Harris, John Forster, John Howard, Jacob Boas, Christian Kunkel, Jospeh Doll, John Zinn, William Wallace, Thomas Elder, Theodore Burr, James Snodgrass and Isaac Hershey. John Schock, Peter Keller, Frederick Kelker, Jacob M. Haldemen and John Fox Jr., of Hummelstown, each held fifty shares. Other prominent stockholders were John Wyeth, Robert Fleming, Adam Boyd, John Elder, Jacob Greenawalt, Stephen Hills (architect of the capitol), Samuel Fleming, Henry McCormick, John B. Cox, Peter Brea, William Pearson, John Wister, George Buchler, Daniel Stine, John McElhenny, William Graydon, Joseph Wallace, Richard M. Crain, Robert McElwee, Thomas Fox.

The Organization Of The Bank

Naturally, under such a demand for banking facilities, there was great interest in the organization of Harrisburg Bank, and in the newspapers of May and June, 1814, the personnel of its directors was a subject frequently mentioned. A nominating meeting was held at the home of Frederick Biessel on May 12, at which feeling ran high, and there was great interest on the occasion of the election for directors, held at the courthouse on Wednesday, June 8, 1814. The thirteen directors chosen were: Henry Beader, Robert Harris, William Wallace, Christian Kunkel, John Howard, David Ferguson, John Schoch, John Peter Keller II, Abraham Oves, of Harrisburg; and Isaac Hershey, Londonderry; Jacob M. Haldeman, Cumberland County; Thomas Brown, Paxton; John

MmcCleery, Halifax. These directors were men of influence and public spirit. William Wallace was the son-in-law of Senator Maclay, and was at the head of the Presqu' Isle Land Company which developed Erie. He was like-wise Burgess of Harrisburg, and also a wealthy iron manufacturer, owning the Pennsylvania Furnace of Huntingdon County.

It is significant of the way in which the Harrisburg Bank from its very inception has been intertwined with the affairs of the state, as well as those of the city, to note that Robert Harris, the son of the founder, who was active in politics and secretary of the Harrisburg Bridge Company, was also one of the commissioners (page 18) who located here the first Pennsylvania capital, Gen. John Forster, the second cashier of the Harrisburg Bank, was in the Senate of Pennsylvania which, in 1816, voted to erect this first capitol building. The president of today, Edward Bailey, served as treasurer of the commission which erected the present magnificent Pennsylvania capitol.

Henry Beader was a coppersmith and the Recorder of Dauphin County; Christian Kunkel and John Peter Keller II were wealthy merchants, and for years were members of Council. John Schoch was a popular innkeeper, as well as politician and the County Treasurer, Jacob M. Haldeman, at that time living near New Cumberland, was one of the great iron manufacturers of American, besides being a wealthy land-owner. He laid out New Cumberland in the fall of 1814.

The board of directors organized at John Schoch's tavern on June 13 1814, when William Wallace was chosen president by one vote over Robert Harris. John Downey was mad cashier; Frederick W. Leopold, then teller of The Office of Discount and Deposit, was elected clerk, and William Milcham was made messenger and watchman. The bank was thus organized for business.

-- To Be Continued

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