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Bank of the
40 Wall Street
[Illustration: PRESENT OFFICE OF THE MANHATTAN COMPANY
40-42 WALL STREET
Building erected jointly in 1884 by the Manhattan Company and the
Merchants' National Bank]
A PROGRESSIVE COMMERCIAL BANK
[Illustration: CHIEF OF THE MANHATTANS]
40 WALL STREET
[Illustration: Common Seal]
On May 8th, 1799, the Committee of By-Laws reported "that they had
devised a common seal for the Corporation, the description of which is
"Oceanus, one of the sea Gods, sitting in a reclining posture on a
rising ground pouring water from an urn which forms a river and
terminates in a lake. On the exergue will be inscribed 'Seal of the
There are nine banks now in existence whose history reaches back into
the Eighteenth Century. Of these, two are in Massachusetts, two in
Connecticut, one in Pennsylvania, one in Delaware, one in Maryland and
two in New York.
Corporate banking in New York began with the organization of the Bank of
New York by Alexander Hamilton in 1784, which received its charter in
1792. For fifteen years this bank, together with the New York branch of
the first Bank of the United States, were the only banks doing business
in either the City or State of New York. With Hamilton and the Federals
in control of the Legislature, new bank charters were unobtainable. This
monopoly of banking facilities in the City and State was of great
strategic value to the political party in control, and naturally aroused
jealousy and resentment among the members of the opposition, whose
leader was Aaron Burr.
[Illustration: EXCERPT FROM CHARTER]
In 1798 New York City suffered from a severe yellow fever epidemic,
which was attributed to an inadequate and inferior water supply. Upon
the assembling of the Legislature in 1799, an association of
individuals, among whom Aaron Burr was the moving spirit, applied for a
charter for the purpose of "supplying the City of New York with pure and
wholesome water." With a capital of $2,000,000, the project was an
ambitious one for those days, and, as there was considerable uncertainty
about the probable cost of the water system, a clause was inserted in
the charter, permitting the Company to employ all surplus capital in the
purchase of public or other stock or in any other monied transactions or
operations, not inconsistent with the constitution and laws of New York
or of the United States.
A great effort was made to defeat the charter on account of this clause
granting the Company banking privileges. But the necessity for a proper
water system, which could be procured only by the organization of a
responsible company with large capital, carried it through the
Legislature and it received the Governor's signature.
[Illustration: FORM OF EARLY STOCK CERTIFICATE]
The Bill was passed April 2d, 1799, and by April 22d books were opened
for public subscription to the $2,000,000 Capital Stock of the Manhattan
Company, the par value of which was $50. These original books are still
in the possession of the Company, and contain the signatures of many of
the prominent men of the time. By May 15th the entire amount had been
subscribed by several thousand persons - the City of New York having
taken 2,000 of the shares. The Charter provided that the Recorder of the
city should be _ex-officio_ a director of the Company, a provision which
was in effect for 108 years, until the abolition of the office in 1907.
[Illustration: SUBSCRIPTIONS OF DIRECTORS
Reproduced from original subscription book]
[Illustration: OATH OF FIRST PRESIDENT]
THE WATER SYSTEM
At the first meeting of the Directors, held at the house of Edward
Barden, Innkeeper, on April 11th, 1799, the following Directors were
JOHN B. CHURCH,
PASCAL N. SMITH,
JOHN B. COLES,
AARON BURR, and
Recorder of the City of New York,
the only absentee being William Edgar.
Daniel Ludlow was chosen President, and the following minute was made:
The principal object of this incorporation being to obtain a
supply of pure and wholesome water for the City of New York.
RESOLVED that Samuel Osgood, John B. Coles and John
Stevens be a committee to report with all convenient speed
the best means to be pursued to obtain such supply.
[Illustration: OLD WOODEN WATER MAINS]
On May 6th, 1799, the water committee was empowered "to contract for as
many pine logs as they may think necessary for pipes and also for boring
[Illustration: Contemporary Cartoon]
A number of wells were sunk, reservoirs and tanks built, and the
distributing system extended generally through the city south of City
About 1836 the system was extended north along Broadway as far as
Bleecker Street, and at that time the company had about twenty-five
miles of mains and supplied 2,000 houses.
[Illustration: MANHATTAN COMPANY RESERVOIR ON CHAMBERS STREET]
While the water was said to be "wholesome," its quality did not give
entire satisfaction, as may be seen from the muddiness of the water in
the glass held by "Pure Manhattan" in the contemporary cartoon
reproduced on the opposite page.
Over one of the earliest wells, at the corner of Reade and Center
Streets, a tank of iron plates was erected. This tank is now inclosed in
an old-fashioned building which is still owned by the Manhattan Company.
The Company continued to operate its water service until about the time
the Croton system was completed in 1842.
[Illustration: OLD WATER GATE DUG UP IN PARK ROW IN 1900]
FOUNDING AND EARLY HISTORY OF THE BANK
On April 17, 1799, a committee of the Directors was appointed
"to consider the most proper means of employing the capital
of the Company."
The committee reported on June 3, 1799, in favor of opening an office of
discount and deposit, and a house was bought on the site of the present
No. 40 Wall Street, in which, on September 1, 1799, the "Bank" of the
Manhattan Company began business.
The following is one of the earliest advertisements, reproduced from the
Mercantile Advertiser, October 9, 1799:
The Office of Discount and Deposit will open for the
transaction of business, for the present, at 10 o'clock in
the forenoon, and continue open until 3 o'clock in the
afternoon, when the business of the day will be closed.
HENRY REMSEN, Cashier.
[Illustration: WALL STREET IN 1803
Present No. 40 Wall Street]
The first action of the Directors after the opening of the Bank was:
RESOLVED, That this Board will hereafter meet twice
a week, to wit, on Mondays and Thursdays of each week, at 11
The policy of semi-weekly meetings still prevails in the Manhattan
Company, and its Board of twelve Directors keeps in close touch with all
[Illustration: MANHATTAN COMPANY CURRENCY]
Two months after the Bank was opened the Directors
RESOLVED, That a committee be appointed to visit
the vaults and examine the cash and look over the effects of
the Manhattan Company deposited therein.
Thus, at the outset, the Manhattan Company required its Directors
periodically to examine its cash and securities, a safeguard which, 106
years later, the State of New York made compulsory for all State banking
The Bank of the Manhattan Company was profitable from the start and
commenced paying dividends in July 1800. The total dividends to and
including January, 1913, have aggregated $19,726,000.
[Illustration: FRACTIONAL CURRENCY USED IN UTICA]
Although the main office of the Bank has always been at the present No.
40 Wall Street, in the autumn of 1805 all the banks moved temporarily to
the Village of Greenwich to escape the usual autumn fever epidemic. The
Directors then determined to provide a country office for use during the
"sickly season." Many persons offered sites; among them "Mr. Astor
proposed verbally to cede eight lots of ground near Greenwich, being
part of his purchase from Gov. Clinton." Finally land was acquired
between the "Bowery Road" and the East River. From 1809 to 1819
branches of the Bank were maintained in Utica and Poughkeepsie.
In 1805 negotiations were consummated for a "union of the capitals and
interests" of the New York State Bank of Albany and the Manhattan
Company. A bill authorizing the consolidation was offered in the
Legislature, but it failed to pass, and the plan was abandoned.
In 1808 the Legislature, in enacting certain amendments to the Charter
of the Manhattan Company, reserved for the State the right to take 1,000
shares of its capital stock. This right was exercised and the capital
stock was increased for the purpose from $2,000,000 to $2,050,000. Both
the State and the City of New York are still stockholders, this being
the only bank stock which the State holds.
In 1833, as shown in the cartoon reproduced on the following page, the
Manhattan Company was one of the banks to receive the Government
deposits when they were withdrawn from the second United States Bank by
[Illustration: Published and for sale wholesale and retail by A Imbert
at his Caricature Store No 106 Broadway]
PRESENT ORGANIZATION AND POLICY OF THE BANK
In 1853 the Manhattan Company became one of the original members of the
New York Clearing House Association, and stands, in order of seniority,
No. 2 on its roll.
From 1853 down to 1880, the Manhattan Company's deposits averaged
between $3,000,000 and $5,000,000. The deposits doubled during the
eighties, again during the nineties, and again in the decade ending
1910. This growth has been made along healthy and normal lines, and not
by absorbing or consolidating with other banking institutions. The fact
that the Manhattan Company is an entirely independent institution has
doubtless assisted its growth in recent years.
The steady increase in both the deposits and the surplus of the
Manhattan Company is evidence of its vitality, its sound banking
traditions and its ability to keep its methods so modernized as to give
efficient service to its widening circle of clients. To meet both its
own needs and those of its commercial and banking patrons, well
organized credit and foreign exchange departments are maintained.
[Illustration: Building of the Manhattan Company
WALL STREET IN 1860]
The Manhattan Company, acting as the reserve agent of many State banks
and trust companies throughout the country, has a substantial volume of
bank deposits. But it was originally established as an "Office of
Discount and Deposit," and is today primarily a commercial bank, seeking
the active accounts of merchants and manufacturers and extending them
accommodation in keeping with their credit and standing, for which the
diversified character of its deposits has always provided ample funds.
119 and 121 East Thirty-first Street