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Bulloch History with Roger Allen - Savannah bank survives 'panic'
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Roger Allen

    Note: The following is the second in a series of columns on the origin of currency in the American colonies and Georgia.

    The first private banks founded in Georgia were the Planters Bank of the State of Georgia (1810), the Bank of the State of Georgia (1815), and the Bank of Darien (1818).
    During the "Panic of 1819," Bank of Darien customers had to swear before a justice of the peace that the banknotes were theirs, pay a fee of $1.36 on each note, and then accept a payment of $60 worth of pennies a day.
    The Second National Bank demanded Georgia's Banks pay their debts in hard currency, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed. Therefore, both the Planters Bank and the Bank of the State of Georgia refused to redeem Second Bank notes.
    Opponents of the Second Bank decided to "Break the Bank" by causing a run — at of all places — the Savannah branch. They quietly began buying up all the outstanding notes of the Savannah branch.
    Branch President Nicholas Biddle noticed that very few banknotes were being returned for redemption. Suspecting there might be trouble, Biddle arranged for $200,000 in specie to be shipped to the Savannah branch.
    Lo and behold, one day a gentleman walked into the bank, introduced himself as Mr. Clark from New York and presented $173,000 in Savannah banknotes that he demanded be redeemed.
    Biddle ordered 5 kegs of silver coins, each weighing over 500 pounds, to be brought out from the vault. Unprepared to receive that much hard currency, Clark discovered he now had a major problem.
    Clark, to his dismay, had to both arrange transportation for the 2,500 pounds of silver coin and then hire a small army of guards to protect this small fortune in silver coins, until it was safely back in New York.
    When the Central Bank of Milledgeville was formed in 1828, the State of Georgia moved its funds from the Bank of Augusta, Planters Bank, and Bank of Darien over to the new partially state-owned Central Bank.
    In order to raise the needed capital for building their railroads, both the Georgia Railroad Company and the Central of Georgia Railroad and Canal Company opened their own banks in 1833 and 1836.
    The first two "Savings Banks" to open in Georgia were the Savings Institution (or Institution for Savings) in 1844, and the Mechanics Savings Bank in 1854.
    The first two black banks to open in Georgia were the Freedman’s Savings & Trust Company and the Wage Earners Bank. President Lincoln signed a bill creating the Freedman’s Bank in 1865.
    There were 32 branches of the bank, including branches in Savannah and Augusta. The Freedman's Savannah branch opened in 1865 and remained open until 1874 when Congress closed the Freedman down.
    President Lucius E. Williams opened the Wage Earners Bank in 1901. The Wage Earners Bank was the largest and most profitable black-owned bank in the entire country until it closed in 1928.
   
    Roger Allen is a local lover of history. He provides a brief look at the area's historical past. Email Roger at rwasr1952@gmail.com.

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