As part of its 125th Anniversary celebration, WBA is digging deep into its archives to share a variety of historic gems. In this particular case, we’ve created a timeline of significant events related to Wisconsin’s banking industry that occurred between 1921 and 1930.
WBA moves into new Milwaukee headquarters at 203-9 Caswell Block. The association begins offering a $250 dead-or-alive reward for bank robbers; it pays out $1,555 in the first year. The Federal Reserve begins using federal funds as a money-market instrument. The first wave of bank mergers begins; 44 Wisconsin institutions will merge by the end of the decade.
Bankers and law enforcement lament the “crime wave” sweeping the state. The branch banking question rears its head; WBA unanimously opposes legalization of national-bank branches. Business lending begins to decline nationwide as large corporations turn to long-term investors.
WBA’s public and industry education campaign is in full swing; Marshall & Ilsley President John H. Puelicher, a school drop-out, urges bankers to teach banking in public schools and educate themselves and their employees as well. Banks’ share of farm mortgages hits its peak. Nonbank lenders begin making inroads into the call-loan market.
WBA completes the first major revision of its constitution and bylaws. Association dues double in order to pay for Protective Department efforts to track down “yeggmen” – burglars and robbers named after Charles Yegg, the first known U.S. safecracker. Parts of the annual convention are broadcast for the first time on the new Milwaukee radio station WIAO.
WBA President W.H. Doyle warns of “overbanking” and suggests hard times may be required to correct the spendthrift ways of bank customers. WBA itself falls on hard financial times, going $12,000 into debt by financing a myriad of activities. Banks begin applying service charges to expensive-to-maintain checking accounts.
Congress passes the McFadden Act, expanding the allowed range of national bank activities; banks get the power to invest in securities, make real estate loans, open branches and make larger loans to individuals. Branch legalization causes turmoil among anti-branch Wisconsin bankers.
WBA is pronounced “out of the woods” financially. WBA members step up their activity in the 61 county associations they organized, holding 150 meetings. Members begin presenting “School Talks” to educate students about banking.
WBA members develop a regional clearinghouse plan. The Protective Department reports that every bank robber of the past two years, except one, has been caught and half of stolen bank assets have been recovered. The U.S. introduces Treasury bills, which become the dominant element of the money market.
The previous year’s stock market crash causes little concern among WBA convention delegates. Their bigger worry: growth of bank groups and chains. Banks lose $521,487 in robberies.
Historical events compiled from “Good as Gold – A History of Banking in Wisconsin,” Copyright © 1992 by Wisconsin Bankers Association.