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   New York Clearing House Association Records, 1853-2006

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Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); New York Clearing House Association Records; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

COinS Metadata available (e.g., for Zotero).

Summary Information

Abstract

New York Clearing House Association (now The Clearing House Association) was founded in 1853 as the first banking clearing house in the United States. The records include amicus briefs, constitutions and amendments, letter books, meeting minutes, financial ledgers and statements, photographs, publications, and reports.

At a Glance

Call No.:MS#1464
Bib ID:7094252 View CLIO record
Creator(s):New York Clearing House Association
Title:New York Clearing House Association Records, 1853-2006
Physical description:Approximately 151 linear ft. (85 record cartons, 43 document boxes, 5 flat boxes, 3 card files, and 84 ledgers in custom boxes)
Language(s):English .
Access: This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. This collection has no restrictions.  More information »

Arrangement

Arrangement

This collection is arranged in nine series and several subseries:

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Description

Scope and Content

New York Clearing House Association (now The Clearing House Association) was founded in 1853 as the first banking clearing house in the United States. The records include amicus briefs, constitutions and amendments, letter books, meeting minutes, financial ledgers and statements, photographs, publications, and reports.

The collection includes documentation of the organization’s governance, decision and policy making, membership, and advocacy work on banking and financial issues. These records include meeting minutes and files from the Clearing House Association, Clearing House Committee, Steering Committee, and other committees, such as the Bank Officers, Committee on Admissions and Loan Committees, as well as documentation of who served on these committees. In addition, the records include amicus briefs, annual reports, constitutions and amendments, exchange agreements, letter books, and publications.

The records also document the organization’s daily work as a banking clearing house. For decades, daily exchanges were documented in the settlement statements in the collection’s proof ledgers. The records include documentation of daily transactions for most of 1868-1972, as well as annual figures for 1853-1883. The records also include information on the health of both member and non-member banks, documented in the weekly and quarterly statements of member banks, state banks, national banks, commercial banks, and trust companies in the metropolitan area of New York City.

Lastly, the records include articles, photographs, publications, and general historical records that speak to the history of the organization, and document persons, buildings, and events associated with that history.

Series I: Associations and Committees 1853-2004

This series contains minute books for the Clearing House Association, Clearing House Committee, and other committees, including the Bank Officers, Committee on Admissions, Loan Committees, Nomination Committee, and Tax Committee. There is some additional material on committees in Series IX: General Historical Records.

The series also includes 20th century meeting files for the Clearing House Association, Clearing House Committee, and the Steering Committee.

There are two volumes, New York Clearing House Association Officers and Members of Committees Since Organization , in Series IX: General Historical Records. One volume (Box 123) is arranged by name (1853-2000) and the second volume (Box 150) is arranged chronologically (1854-1970). These volumes document the membership of organization’s committees in two comprehensive volumes.

There are also two volumes of duplicate minutes (1853-1875) in Boxes 172 and 173, which include the minutes of the New York Clearing House Association, Bank Officers, and various other committees in chronological order.

Subseries I.1: Clearing House Association 1862-1995

This subseries contains the Clearing House Association’s minutes and minute books (1862-1958) and meeting files (1922-1995). Early records (1892-1915) include proceedings from annual meetings.

Minute books in multi-volume sets include the volume number in the container list.

Subseries I.2: Clearing House Committee 1854-2000

This subseries contains the Clearing House Committees minute books (1854-1979) and meeting files (1905-2000). There are also two volumes with typed copies of the Committee’s minutes for 1854-1911 (Box 134); these may contain minutes that are missing from the original volumes.

Minute books in multi-volume sets include the volume number in the container list.

This subseries also includes files on the Ad Hoc Committee-Deposit Insurance (1988-1990) and the Subcommittee of Associate Bank Officers (1907-1908). Some of the committees in Subseries I.4 Other Committees were possibly also subcommittees of the Clearing House Committee.

Subseries I.3 Steering Committee 1932-2004

This subseries contains the meeting files of the Steering Committee.

Subseries I.4: Other Committees 1853-1998

This subseries contains records from committees and groups not represented in Subseries I.1-I.3. These include the Bank Officers, Committee on Admissions, Loan Committees, Nomination Committee, and Tax Committee.

The records in this subseries consist primarily of minute books. Individual volumes can contain the minutes of several committees but often include a table of contents for the volume, and also note where a preceding or continuing volume of the minutes for a particular committee can be found: where this information is available and differs from the volume’s title, it is noted in the container list.

The records for the Committee on Admissions include minutes and files on individual banks applying for admission to the New York Clearing House Association. There are also bank histories and membership applications in Series IX: General Historical records.

Series II: Correspondence 1892-1993

This series contains letter books and circular letters. There are no correspondence files, as such, prior to 1892.

Subseries II.1: Letter Books 1925-1969

These volumes consist of incoming and outgoing letters, and contain both Clearing House correspondence and comments to regulators. Early volumes have indexes, while later volumes are usually divided by tabs by names and subjects within the individual volumes.

Subseries II.2: Circular Letters 1892-1948, 1984-1993

These volumes consist of incoming and outgoing letters, and contain both Clearing House correspondence and comments to regulators. Early volumes have indexes, while later volumes are usually divided by tabs by names and subjects within the individual volumes.

The first set, Circular Letters, consists of twelve volumes covering the years 1892-1948. These volumes are photocopies, and each volume includes copies of the original letters and accompanying materials, as well as an index.

The second set, City Collection Circulars, were originally filed as a set in a large binder. These files contain printed copies of the original letters and the accompanying materials. The City Collection Circulars cover the years 1984-1993.

Series III: Financial Ledgers and Statements 1853-1995

This series contains financial ledgers with daily settlement statements, as well as weekly financial statements for both member and non-member banks. In addition, there are statements detailing the condition of state, national, and commercial banks, as well as trust companies.

Subseries III.1: Daily Proof Ledgers 1868-1986

This subseries contains the daily proof ledgers (settlement statements) for the member banks of the New York Clearing House for 1868-1986, with some gaps. Volumes for 1885 and later are titled “Records” with volume numbers, which are noted in the container list.

There are no daily records prior to 1868. For the years 1868-1972, Volumes 34-38, 53, 56, and 62-63 are missing and there are no daily records for 1871-1872, 1875-1877, 1918-1922, 1940, 1946-1948, and 1951-1954. There are yearly transaction statements (total figures for the year) in the Weekly, Monthly, and Yearly Ledger for 1853-1883 in Subseries III.5 (Box 3). After 1972, there are proof ledgers available for 1983-1986, only.

Subseries III.2: Weekly Statements of New York Clearing House Members 1874-1985

These volumes contain weekly financial statements for all member banks of the New York Clearing House Association.

Subseries III.3: Weekly Statements of Non-Member Banks 1897-1928

These are weekly financial statements for non-member banks in New York City, as well as a few from the larger metropolitan area in New Jersey.

Subseries III.4: Percentage of Reserves to Deposits Statements for State Banks 1888-1913

These volumes contain weekly figures for state banks that were members of the New York Clearing House.

Subseries III.5: Quarterly Statements on the Condition of State Banks, National Banks, Trust Companies, and Commercial Banks in the City of New York 1867-1983

These records consist of quarterly statements on the condition of state banks, national banks, and trust companies, as shown by their official statements. These were compiled for the New York Clearing House Association for the use of its members. After 1972, the statements are for commercial banks.

Subseries III.6: Other Ledgers and Statements 1853-1995

This subseries contains a few unique ledgers and statements that do not form part of a larger set of financial records as is the case with the other financial ledgers and statements in this series.

An important record is the Weekly, Monthly, and Yearly Ledger (Box 3). While this ledger primarily has weekly and monthly figures for transactions for 1878-1883, it also contains yearly transaction figures for 1853-1883, which do not appear to exist elsewhere in the financial ledgers and statements. These yearly figures are also the only extent transaction figures for 1853-1867 within the financial ledgers and statements.

This subseries also contains a note depository record, a general statement book, and reports from the return entry processing system.

Series IV: Reports Studies and Publications 1885-2006 [Bulk Dates: 1892-1985]

This series contains annual reports, memoranda, newsletters, pamphlets, press releases, reports, statements, and studies issued by the New York Clearing House Association, as well as a file on the history of the organization.

Subseries IV.1: Annual Reports

This subseries contains a set of annual reports (1892-1962) bound into seven volumes, and a set of extracts from these reports (1893-1985) in five volumes.

Subseries IV.2: Other Reports, Studies, and Publications 1885-2006

This subseries was grouped together as “Studies and Reports” by Clearing House. The records include memoranda, pamphlets, reports, statements, and studies on various issues created by the New York Clearing House Association. In addition, the records include descriptions of training programs, newsletters, press releases, and a file containing publications and articles related to the history of the New York Clearing House Association.

There is additional information on the history of the New York Clearing House Association in Series IX: General Historical Records.

Series V: Constitutions, Rules, and Regulations 1884-1982

This series contains files documenting revisions to the Constitution of the New York Clearing House Association, and its Rules and Regulations. Folders are filed by date of the revision and include the Constitution and/or Rules and Regulations, with the new amendments. Most documents are originals; a few are photocopies of the originals.

The series also includes two volumes containing the Constitution of the New York Clearing House Association and revisions for 1941-1943.

Series VI: Return Item Exchange Agreements 1940-1947, 1956, 1970-1971

This series consists of correspondence and copies of agreements and resolutions from member and sometimes non-member banks pertaining to exchanges and Saturday closings.

Series VII: Photographs and Other Images 1858-1987, undated

This series includes photographs, as well as other images, such as architectural renderings and drawings from Harper’s magazines.

The images include officers and other staff, buildings, events, images used for publications, and photographs taken to document art and portraits owned by the Clearing House.

Series VIII: Amicus Briefs 1963-1988

This series consists of files containing correspondence, legal case materials, and amicus briefs filed by the New York Clearing House Association.

Series IX: General Historical Records 1853-2000

This series consists of four boxes (Boxes 125-129, and a few oversized items) labeled as “Miscellaneous Historical Records” by the New York Clearing House Association, as well as materials from unlabeled boxes. These files include bank histories, volumes with comprehensive lists of officers and members of committees of the New York Clearing House Association (circa 1853-2000), histories, membership applications, sample certificates and forms, and subject files on the City Collection Department, Federal Reserve, National Currency Association, New York Clearing House Building Company, Gold Fund Committee, as well as committees, exchanges, taxes, and other topics.

There is additional information on the history of the New York Clearing House Association in Subseries IV.2: Other Reports, Studies, and Publications.

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Using the Collection

Offsite

Access Restrictions

 This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.

Restrictions on Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); New York Clearing House Association Records; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

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About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries. Rare Book and Manuscript Library; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

Processing Information

Papers processed in March 2009 by Justin Jackson, GSAS 2012. Additional papers processed by Catherine C. Ricciardi, 2016-2018.

Finding aid written in March 2009 by Justin Jackson, GSAS 2012, additions added by Catherine C. Ricciardi, 2016-2018.

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion May 2, 2009 Finding aid written in English.
    2009-05-02 File created.
    2009-06-02 xml document instance created by Lea Osborne.
    2016-10-25 xml document instance updated by Catherine C. Ricciardi.
    2018-09-20 xml document instance updated by Catherine C. Ricciardi.

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Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.

Genre/Form

HeadingCUL Archives:
Portal
CUL Collections:
CLIO
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
ArchiveGRID
Ledgers (account books)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Letter booksPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Minute booksPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
PhotographsPortalCLIOArchiveGRID

Subjects

HeadingCUL Archives:
Portal
CUL Collections:
CLIO
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
ArchiveGRID
Banks and Banking--AccountingPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Banks and Banking--New York (State)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Banks and Banking--New York (State)--New YorkPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Clearinghouses (Banking)--New York (State)--New YorkPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Finance--New York (State)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Finance--United StatesPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Finance--United States--AccountingPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
New York Clearing House Association.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

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History / Biographical Note

Historical Note

The New York Clearing House Association was the first and largest bank clearing house in the United States. Established before the Civil War, this entity was intended by its founders to systematize and rationalize previously disorganized exchanges and settlements between New York City's banks. These institutions which established the Clearing House became the very heart of American finance in the late nineteenth century as the nation developed a financial system increasingly autonomous from the English and European banks on which Americans had previously depended for credit and capital investment. During the American Civil War, the federal government intervened in a growing financial sector and developed fiscal and monetary policies adequate to the Union's military and industrial needs. In the war's aftermath, New York's banks, and the credit the banks made available, financed a rapid expansion of American industry and transportation infrastructure which made the United States a global economic power and conquered the American West by the end of the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century, some of the New York Clearing House's member banks, symbolized in American society, politics, and culture by "Wall Street," came to represent both the awesome power of a robust American financial sector and the greed and irresponsibility which many believed precipitated the disastrous stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The California Gold Rush and an explosion in railroad construction marked the four years before 1853, when the Clearing House was founded. In this same period the number of New York City's banks more than doubled, from 24 to 57. Before the Clearing House, banks had settled their accounts in a laborious manner, employing porters to travel from bank to bank to exchange checks for gold specie. This process became a daily event as the number of banks multiplied. However, the actual reckoning of accounts between banks typically occurred on Fridays in front of a Wall Street bank, in what came to be called the "Porter's Exchange." This practice necessarily led to errors in records and abuse. Several bankers looked to London's Clearing House system as a model for resolving the cumbersome weekly settlement process as others expressed frustration with the current system. In 1831, Albert Gallatin, previously the Secretary of the Treasury for the United States and President of the National Bank of New York, wrote that the lack of a daily exchange of drafts among banks "produces relaxations, favors improper expansions and is attended with serious inconveniences."

In 1851, George D. Lyman, a New York bank's bookkeeper, suggested in an anonymous article that banks should consider sending and receiving checks through a central office. On August 18, 1853, he repeated his proposal in another article to which he affixed his name, and asked interested cashiers to contact him if they endorsed his plan. The city's banks responded enthusiastically. On October 4, 1853, the New York Clearing House was officially established by a group of cashiers led by Francis E. Edmonds of the Mechanics Bank. On October 11, in the basement of 14 Wall Street, 52 banks participated in the first transaction, exchanging checks worth $22.6 million. Two decades later, the average daily clearing approached $100 million. At the new Clearing House, specie certificates replaced gold as the means of settling balances. Porters exchanging certificates for gold deposited at the Clearing House's member banks now no longer exchanged specie, thus experiencing fewer errors and risks. The use of specie certificates also relieved the strain of the banks' cash flows and reduced the potential for runs on deposits. Requirements for all member banks, such as weekly audits, minimum reserve levels, and a daily settlement of all balances, ensured increasingly efficient and regularized exchanges.

Lyman retired from his position as manager of the Clearing House in 1864, and was succeeded by William A. Camp. Camp had previously been appointed in 1855 as a discount clerk in the Importers and Traders' Bank of New York. Appointed first teller of the Artisans' Bank the next year, Camp in 1857 was hired as the assistant manager at the Clearing House. He was manager for the Clearing House for the years in which the first volumes of these records began to be kept. "To executive ability of a high order," Albert S. Bolles wrote of Camp and his Clearing House in Practical Banking (1884), Camp "unites unusual accuracy and promptness in the dispatch[sic] of business, as well as a wide acquaintance, both theoretical and practical, with financial subjects...":

"It speaks volumes for the care and scrupulous accuracy with which the business has been conducted, that in the entire history of the Clearing-house, extending over nearly thirty-one years, its transactions have always balanced to a cent. The only instance on record of an error in any statement emanating from it occurred a few years ago in the weekly bank statement, and this was due to an error of one of the clerks in transcribing the figures. In making the entries, the officials at the Clearing-house and their subordinates use ink only. The clerks sent by the banks may at their option make their entries in pencil."

The New York Clearing House naturally became an instrument of financial self-regulation in the numerous economic downturns and financial panics that occurred on average every five-and-a-half years between 1853 and 1913, in a rapidly expanding American economy. Leading Clearing House member banks first attempted to stabilize a tottering financial system in the 1857 panic. When specie payments were suspended, Clearing House banks, in an effort to shorten the panic's duration and increase public confidence, started to issue "Clearing House Loan Certificates." Effectively a kind of currency, these certificates were backed not by gold but by discounted county and state bank notes held by member banks. Printed with the words "Payable Through the Clearing House," these loan certificates were the joint liability of all Clearing House member banks, making them a far more secure form of payment. They were issued in smaller denominations in the 1873 panic, and were maintained by member banks as a substitute currency in later financial crises, including the depression which began in 1893-1894. Though it has been argued that these certificates violated federal laws against privately-issued currencies, a contemporary once wrote that the Clearing House's loan certificates "performed so valuable a service...in moving the crops and keeping business machinery in motion, that the government...wisely forbore to prosecute."

Because of their stability during financial panics, the Clearing House Loan Certificate's value became a reliable measure of the financial health of the American economy as a whole. Bolstered by discounted collateral, each Loan Certificate was worth more than its dollar equivalent. The currency premium, or exchange rate, between Clearing House money and greenbacks (or gold specie) thus operated as an indicator of the gradual restoration in bank money. When the premium dropped to zero, a one-to-one relationship obtained between certificates and currency, making substitution unnecessary. In 1913, the passage of the Federal Reserve Act by the U.S. Congress established a clearing house system at the federal government level, modeled after the private New York Clearing House and other similar financial exchange institutions across the nation. The Federal Reserve system subsequently and effectively assumed the role which private clearing houses had played in stabilizing and regularizing exchanges and mitigating financial panics.

Since the creation of the Federal Reserve System, the New York Clearing House Association has concentrated on facilitating the completion of financial transactions by clearing the payments involved in these transactions. The Clearing House also continues to function as a banking association, and promotes the interest of its members, while also serving as a proactive resource to promote common interests and help shape the United States banking industry.

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