The English word ‘bank’ comes from the Italian work 'banco,' which roughly translated as ‘bench’. It turns out Italian moneychangers actually transacted their business from benches as early as 1157.
Eventually, the image of the bench became the insignia of their trade. The first English "Bank Notes" were receipts written by Goldsmiths to customers for valuables left in their custody.
Dated 1670, they were discovered at Child's Bank, who was the jeweler to King William III of England. This system of trade soon spread throughout the English empire.
In the early North American British colonies, the colonial treasury served as a bank. A system of barter was in full swing: farmers used their grain as payment for taxes, which were recorded as "country pay."
Something called "Wampumpeage", often shortened to simply "Wampum/" This medium consisted of different colored beads: black beads, which were created from poquanhock or quahog shells; and white beads, which were created from periwinkle shells.
As the black beads had double the value of the white beads, some less-honest traders began dying the white shells black. Wampum could be used for up to 40 Shillings of trade goods: for instance, 960 wampum would buy one Beaver pelt.
In the Southern British colonies, trading was conducted somewhat differently, for in 1642, the Virginia Legislature forbade the making of contracts payable in money, insisting that tobacco be t he sole form of currency.
In 1727 formal written tobacco notes became the legal tender of the day, as they represented farmers tobacco stocks being held in warehouses. In 1734, "crop notes" were introduced which could be exchanged for specific casks of tobacco that had been graded, sealed, and marked.
John Colman of Boston proposed "Erecting a Bank of Credit in Boston, New England, founded on Land Security" in 1714, it wasn’t until 1740, that Edward Hutchinson formed the first commercial "Specie Bank".
Hutchinson issued twenty-year paper "Merchant Notes" payable upon demand in silver currency. At the same basic time, the "New London Society for Trade and Commerce” formed in Connecticut in 1732, issued their first paper "Bills of Publick Credit."
The "Pennsylvania Bank," opened in Philadelphia in 1780, became the nation's first chartered bank. Its name changed twice in rapid succession: first to "Girard's National Bank," and then to the "Bank of North America."
In 1791, Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, decided to create the first ‘Bank of the United States’. Soon, a Savannah Branch office was opened on the corners of Julian and Drayton Streets. It shut down in 1809.
The ‘Second Bank of the U.S.’ was established in 1816 at the urging of Stephen Girard, a well-known Philadelphia merchant and banker.
He convinced former Bank of North America President William Jones to become its first President.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. Email Roger at rwasrer53 @gmail.com