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)
HISTORY OF WISCONSIN. 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 $2,000,000. 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 192
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