Amedeo Giannini, son of Italian immigrants to the US, started the Bank of Italy in a converted saloon in San Francisco at 9 am on Monday, October 17, 1904. On the first day, 28 deposits totalled $8,780.
When an earthquake struck in 1907, he ran his bank from a plank in the street – the word “bank” is from the Italian “banca”, meaning a bench or counter. Word quickly spread about his service and by 1916 he had several branches. By 1929, the bank was strong enough to withstand the Great Depression stock crash. Giannini changed the name to Bank of America in 1928 and remained chairman until 1963. The Bank of America would become one of the largest banking institutions in the world but by 2008, due to poor management, had to receive government bailout.
The Bank of Italy in Italy was created in 1893 through the merger of 3 of the 6 banks at the time: Banca Nazionale nel Regno d’Italia and 2 Tuscan banks.
The Bank of England was founded by William Patterson after King William III of England found himself badly in need of funds to fight a war with France in 1694. Patterson provided the funds after the king agreed to order all the goldsmiths of London to stop issuing receipts as depositories for precious metals, forcing merchants to store their gold with the new bank. The Bank of England was finally authorized in 1946 and to this day remains as an institution mainly to the benefit of the rich.
The Reichsbank of Germany was founded by Meyer Amschel Rothschild (1743-1812), who appointed his son Karl over the Bank of Naples, and his son Salomon over the Bank of Vienna. Later, his son Edmund presided over the Bank of Germany, and his son Nathan over the Bank of England.
Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) became the first US Secretary of Treasury under Pres. Washington.
By the time of the American Civil War (1861 – 1865) there were 1600 banks in the US, issuing about 7,000 different kinds of bank notes.
In 1861, the US Congress authorized “promissory notes,” calling them “greenbacks” to contrast in color with notes issued by private banks. The US Treasury held the impressive sum of $346,681,016.