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The history of Columbia County, Wisconsin, containing an account of its settlement, growth, development and resources; an extensive and minute sketch of its cities, towns and villages--their improvements, industries, manufactories, churches, schools and societies; its war record, biographical sketches, portraits of prominent men and early settlers; the whole preceded by a history of Wisconsin, statistics of the state, and an abstract of its laws and constitution and of the constitution of the United States

McGregor, John P.
Banking in Wisconsin,   pp. 191-197 PDF (3.4 MB)

Page 192

taken to authorize the corporation to assume or exercise any banking powers;
and this proviso!
was even added to acts incorporating church societies. For some years there
can hardly be said
to have been any banking business done in the territory; merchants and business
men were left
to their own devices to make their exchanges, and every man was his own banker.
     In the year 1839 an act was passed incorporating the " Wisconsin
Marine and Fire Insurance
 Company," of Milwaukee. This charter conferred on the corporation,
in addition to the usual
 powers of a fire and marine insurance company, the privilege of receiving
deposits, issuing certifi-
 cates of de2posit and lending money,- and wound up with the usual prohibition
from doing a
 banking business. This company commenced business at once under the management
of George
 Smith as president and Alexander Mitchell as secretary. The receiving deposits,
issuing certifi-
 cates of deposit and lending money, soon outgrew and overshadowed the insurance
branch of the
 institution, which accordingly gradually dried up. In fact, the certificates
of deposit had all the
 appearance of ordinary bank notes, and served the purposes of an excellent
currency, being
 always promptly redeemed in coin on demand.    Gradually these issues attained
a great
 circulation all through the west, as the people gained more and more confidence
in the honesty
 and ability of the managers; and though "'runs " were several
times made, yet being successfully
 met, the public finally settled down into the belief that these bills were
good beyond question, so
 that the amount in circulation at one time, is Said, on good authority,
to have been over
     As the general government required specie to be paid for all lands bought
of it, the Wis-
 consin Marine and Fire Insurance company, by redemption of its " certificates
of deposit,"'
 furnished a large part of the coin needed for use at the Milwaukee land
office, and more or less
 for purchases at land offices in other parts of the state, and its issues
were of course much in
 request for this purpose. For many years this institution furnished the
main banking facilities
 for the business men of the territory and young state, in the way of discounts
and exchanges.
 Its right to carry on the operations it was engaged in, under its somewhat
dubious and incon-
 sistent charter, was often questioned, and, in-1852, under the administration
of Governor Farwell,
 some steps were taken to test the matter; but as the general banking law
had then been passed
 by the legislature, and was about to be submitted to the people, and as
it was understood that the
 company ,otild organize as a bank under the law, if approved, the legal
proceedings were not
 pressed. While this corporation played so important a part in the financial
history and commer-
 cial development of Wisconsin, the writer is not aware of any available
statistics as to the
 amount of business transacted by it before it became merged in the "Wisconsin
Marine and
 Fire Insurance Company's Bank."
     In 1847, the foundation of the present well-known firm of Marshall &
Ilsley was laid by
Samuel Marshall, who, in that year, opened a private banking office in Milwaukee,
and was joined
in 1849. by Charles F. Ilsley. This concern has always held a prominent position
among the
banking institutions of our state. About this time, at Mineral Point, Washburn
& Woodman
(C. C. Washburn and Cyrus Woodman) engaged in private banking, as a part
of their business.
After some years they were succeeded by Wm. T. Henry, who still continues
the banking office.
Among the early private bankers of the state were Mr. Kellogg, of Oshkosh;
Ulmann and Bell, of
Racine; and T. C. Shove, of Manitowoc. The latter still continues his business,
while that of
the other firms has 1 een wound up or merged in organized banks.
     In 1848, Wisconsin adopted a state constitution. This constitution prohibited
the legislature
from incorporating banks and from conferring banking powers on any corporation;
but provided
the question of "banks or no banks " might be submitted to a vote
of the electors, and, if the
decision should be in favor of banks, then the legislature might charter
banks or might enact a

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