Acting comptroller commemorates National Currency Act, Freedman’s Bank

A statement recognizing the 158th anniversary of the National Currency Act and the 156th anniversary of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company was issued to agency staff Wednesday by Acting Comptroller of the Currency Blake Paulson, the agency said in a release.

Paulson noted that Feb. 25 marked the 158th anniversary of the 1863 National Currency Act, which allowed for the creation of the national banking system and the establishment of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). “Engrained in our tenets, as we ensure financial institutions operate in a safe and sound manner, is to make sure national banks and federal savings associations also provide fair access to financial services and to treat customers fairly,” he said in his statement.

The federal statute establishing Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company, commonly referred to as Freedman’s Bank, was signed March 3, 1865. “While the OCC did not supervise the bank, the agency was critical to its legacy,” Paulson stated. “After its closure in June 1874, Comptrollers fought for decades to return losses to the more than 61,000 depositors who lost nearly $3 million.”

Freedman’s Bank was established as a savings institution primarily for former slaves and their descendants. A National Archives article on the bank notes that the institution experienced a steady period of expansion but was closed in 1874 after an accumulation of issues arising from a 1870 change in its charter, operational problems, the Panic of 1873, and fraud. The bank’s assets were not backed by the federal government. The article notes that half of the depositors eventually received about three-fifths of the value of their accounts.

Acting Comptroller Marks Anniversary of Freedman’s Bank and the National Currency Act

National Archives article

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