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Investment Constraints and New York City Mutual Savings Bank Financing of Antebellum Development


  • Olmstead, Alan L.


In studying the history of capitalism, one rarely encounters business enterprises without a capital stock or a profit account, founded and managed by men who expressed no desire for monetary rewards, and lacking owner-entrepreneurs. This paper deals with just such institutions—mutual savings banks. It has been recognized for some time that during the antebellum period mutual savings banks were relatively large and influential institutions. In 1860, when mutuals held a total of $150,000,000 in assets, the next most important type of non-bank financial intermediary, life insurance companies, held assets of only $24,000,000. More impressive was the size of some of the individual mutuals, for in 1860 several mutuals ranked among the ten largest business organizations in the country. Throughout most of the antebellum period the nation's largest mutual was the Bank for Savings in the City of New York. In 1825 this one bank held 56 percent of the nation's savings bank deposits; and ten years later, in 1835, it still accounted for over 34 percent of the country's deposits and 42 percent of its customers. Another New York institution—the Bowery Savings Bank—surpassed the Bank for Savings as the nation's largest mutual in 1860. At that time each of these banks commanded deposits in excess of $10,000,000 and a third New York mutual, the Seamen's Bank for Savings, was approaching that mark. In all, nineteen mutual savings banks were founded in New York City between 1819 and 1860. Table 1 shows the date that each bank opened for business, and the amount on deposit on January 1, 1861.

Suggested Citation

  • Olmstead, Alan L., 1972. "Investment Constraints and New York City Mutual Savings Bank Financing of Antebellum Development," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 32(4), pages 811-840, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:32:y:1972:i:04:p:811-840_07

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    Cited by:

    1. Howard Bodenhorn, 2016. "Two Centuries of Finance and Growth in the United States, 1790-1980," Working Papers id:11352, eSocialSciences.
    2. Vittas, Dimitri, 1995. "Thrift deposit institutions in Europe and the United States," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1540, The World Bank.
    3. Robert Wright, 2002. "Reforming the US IPO market: lessons from history and theory," Accounting History Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(3), pages 419-437.

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