Stamford Hosted Several Banks|
July 01, 2013
It’s a hot summer already here on the East coast, so this month let’s journey north to New England, and visit Stamford, Conn., the seat of Fairfield County, just a short train ride north of New York City.
My interest in Stamford stems from the fact that my father was born there in late 1925, and grew up in what was then a fairly idyllic small town with a population of around 50,000, until he departed for service in the U.S. Navy in 1943. Stamford is one of the oldest towns in Connecticut, and it boasted three note-issuing national banks.
Stamford was known as Rippowam by the Native American inhabitants of the region, and the very first European settlers to the area also referred to it that way. The name was later changed to Stamford after a town in Lincolnshire, England.
The name of the settlement was changed to Stamford on April 6, 1642 when Capt. John Underhill settled in Stamford and the following year represented the town in the New Haven Colony General Court. Stamford was included in the creation of a New Haven confederation called the United Colonies of New England.
Starting in the late 19th century, New York residents built summer homes on the shoreline, and even back then there were some who moved to Stamford permanently and started commuting to Manhattan by train, although the practice became more popular later. The densely settled portion of Stamford incorporated as a borough in 1830, and later as a city in 1893.
Stamford grew rapidly in the 20th century. A beautiful town hall in the Beaux Arts style was erected 1905-1907.
The proximity to New York City brought considerable industrial development, with the Yale Lock Co. factory opening in 1868. Other industrial concerns were the Stamford Manufacturing Co., the Schick Electric Shaver Corp., and Philips Milk of Magnesia. Banks, sparse before the Revolution, grew quickly in number during the early decades of the 19th century.
Stamford Bank, Stamford’s first bank, was chartered in 1834 and became a national bank in 1863. A second institution, Stamford Savings Bank, was chartered in 1851. Two other national banks followed. The growth of banks together with the corporations provided the investment capital crucial for the support of manufacturing.
The First National Bank of Stamford was one of the first national banks in the United States. It received charter No. 4 in mid-1863 and flourished throughout all of the national currency era. In 1865, Stamford’s second bank, the Stamford National Bank, charter 1038, opened for business. It eventually built a marble-faced edifice in the center of town next to the Stamford Savings Bank. In 1919, the Stamford National Bank was merged with the First National Bank, which then took the name First-Stamford National Bank, retaining charter 4.
The last national bank to open in Stamford, the Peoples National Bank, received charter 12400 in June 1923. It operated for around 10 years before being closed by the receiver during the Depression.
Each of Stamford’s banks was a large issuer. The Stamford National Bank had a total issue of over $5 million before it merged with the First National Bank. The First National Bank (later First-Stamford) had a total issue of nearly $9 million, and the short-lived Peoples National Bank put out $1.15 million. The large circulations reflected Stamford’s industrial base and trade with New York City.
Accordingly, National Bank Notes from Stamford are generally available, with notes from the First National Bank (and particularly the First-Stamford title) being plentiful, even in early issues. The Stamford National Bank, a large-only issuer, has around 20 notes reported, and the Peoples National Bank shows around 10 large and nearly 30 small reported. I have included photos of a variety of notes issued by these banks.
My father described life in Stamford as a child and teen as quite pleasant. The town, though close to New York City, retained its local flavor, and everyone walked to school and around the downtown area. The public schools were not segregated, and people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds got along well.
The effects of the Depression did hit Stamford hard, and my father recalls having to move residences several times when his father’s (my grandfather’s) various retail business ventures failed.
In the late 1960s, Stamford began to attract corporations looking to move out of expensive New York, and pretty soon many major corporations had selected Stamford for their headquarters. This resulted in a real estate boom and influx of wealthy persons who worked in New York City. The small town atmosphere faded away and today Stamford has a far more patrician air.
Stamford is easily reached off Interstate 95, and now is home to a motley population of young professionals and immigrant workers. The downtown area has been largely revitalized, with outdoor cafes and coffee houses. If one looks hard enough, though, vestiges of the earlier, laid back town can be found. The Stamford Town Hall, a Beaux Arts structure erected between 1904 and 1907 after the earlier structure was destroyed by fire, is the centerpiece of downtown. The old Stamford National Bank still stands next to the Stamford Savings Bank.
The classic eight-story First-Stamford National Bank, once Stamford’s tallest structure, still appears much as it did when constructed in 1931 and today houses a Bank of America branch. We were fortunate to be there during business hours, and went in for a look. The interior was magnificent: marble floors, a wide lobby and classic teller cages with brass accoutrements. Large chandeliers hung down from the ceiling. Even more striking was the large mural that stretched around much of the lobby, depicting Stamford’s history from the mid-17th century to the time of the construction of the building. A visit to this Art Deco interior is worth a visit to Stamford alone.
We drove around Stamford and my father pointed out buildings and houses that remained from his youth. He also pointed out the location of his father’s toy store (now demolished) and my great-uncle’s candy store. When I was a boy, and we traveled to Stamford to visit my grandmother, we would always stop by my great-uncle Henry’s candy store. Henry’s wife Ruth, ignoring my mother’s protests, would give me a paper bag and let me fill it with whatever I wanted from the shelves. It was a boy’s dream.
Thanks for letting me reminisce about Stamford with you. Those of you who live nearby should take the opportunity to visit the old downtown and check out the lobby of the old First-Stamford National Bank—it is a treat.
Readers may address questions or comments about this article or National Bank Notes in general to Mark Hotz directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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