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 1931 and 1940.

1931:
Regional group meeting turnout remains high despite tightening bank budgets. Fifteen banks fail or close.

1932:
Seventy-two banks fail, close or merge. Facing loss of dues, WBA cuts expenses. The WBA Legislative Committee successfully fights ill-conceived banking law changes proposed by panicked legislators. Some county banking associations merge into districts.

1933:
Wisconsin banking enters dark days, and 110 banks fail, close or merge before the year ends. President Franklin D. Roosevelt declares a national four-day banking moratorium. WBA and local associations curtail activities; WBA also cuts staff and salaries. Dues income drops by a third, and membership dwindles to half the number of 15 years earlier.

1934:
The prime rate debuts at 1.5 percent and remains at that level until 1947. John Dillinger, who robbed American Bank and Trust of Racine in November 1933, is killed in a Chicago gun battle with government agents.

1935:
The U.S. authorizes the Fed to enact flexible reserve ratios to curb the inflationary potential of member banks’ excessive reserves. The National Banking Act limits new bank charters and marks the official end of the “free banking” movement championed for a century by successive generations of bankers.

1936:
WBA membership rebounds above 500, about 82 percent of all Wisconsin banks. Robert L. Banks of Superior becomes president of WBA, making him and William B. Banks the only father and son among the many families of Wisconsin bankers to hold the WBA presidency.

1937:
WBA opens a public relations department to buff WBA’s image and help individual banks with advertising campaigns. Reports show 331 banks now levy service charges approved and encouraged by the Office of the Commissioner of Banking. By 1940, 80 percent of all Wisconsin banks will levy service charges, drawing notice from the FDIC ad other authorities.

1939:
WBA moves to new offices at 312 East Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee. The association releases its own movie, “Your Money and Mine,” to be shown in Wisconsin community theaters and schools. More than 120,000 people see the film in its first two years of release.

1940:
Banks being earnest marketing of safe-deposit services. At the time, 351 banks rent only 62 percent of their 195,550 safe-deposit boxes. WBA credits FBI zeal and bankers’ self-protective steps for reducing robberies statewide to a total of one for the entire year.

Historical events compiled from “Good as Gold – A History of Banking in Wisconsin,” Copyright © 1992 by Wisconsin Bankers Association.