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On this day in 1791, the First Bank of the United States opened for business in Carpenters’ Hall in Philadelphia, then the seat of the federal government. The new bank was a national institution engineered by the first Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, and authorized by Congress to hold $10 million in capital — an astronomical sum at the time — and operate across state borders. The bank was quasi-public, owned mostly by businessmen and lawyers motivated by profit but also intended to serve the public interest by improving the financial standing of the federal government and fostering economic growth. In July of that year a public offering of bank stock sold out in less than an hour, setting off frenzied speculation in bank shares. By December, it was ready to begin accepting deposits, making loans, selling U.S. Treasury bonds and issuing paper currency backed by gold and silver coin stored in its vaults. Bank branches were established the following year in different cities. It received serious push back from anti-Federalists especially Thomas Jefferson.
(Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis)
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