The 5 Biggest Companies In 1812
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Recently, Fortune magazine published a list of the 500 biggest companies in America in 1812. Looking at the number of banks in the first five spots, it's easy to see that the financial sector was a driving force behind our fledgling country's economy. However, a lot has changed in 200 years. Many of these companies exist under different names than they used back then, and some have even been shut down entirely. To get you up to speed, here's a look at where the five biggest companies of 1812 are today.

The Bank Of The United States

As the first central bank in the country, it makes sense that the Bank of the United States tops the list of the most powerful companies of the era. Chartered in 1791, the Bank of the United States had over $10 million in authorized capital and was essential in establishing a line of credit for our fledgling country.


Where is it Now?
From the start, the bank was opposed by antifederalists like James Madison and Thomas Jefferson who saw a federally-chartered central bank as unconstitutional. As a result, when the bank's 20-year charter expired in 1811, Congress voted against renewing it. After the war of 1812 resulted in massive inflation, Congress revived the charter as the Second Bank of the United States in 1816.

Bank Of America

After the Bank of the United States lost its charter in 1811, one of its directors, Oliver Wolcott, decided to establish the Bank of America. It opened with more than $6 million in authorized capital in 1812.
Where is it Now?
Businessweek's assumption that Wolcott's Bank of America was related to the current Bank of America Corporation by name only isn't entirely correct. The original Bank of America was acquired by the Blair Corporation in 1929 and its name was changed to Bancamerica-Blair. A year later, it was incorporated into Transamerica. While Transamerica sold the assets of the original Bank of America to the National City Bank of New York (which would later become Citigroup), it retained control of Bancamerica-Blair. Later, it acquired the separate Bank of America of California and the Bank of Italy National Trust & Savings and merged them both into a new Bank of America - the same one we know today.

State Bank Of Massachusetts

The State Bank of Massachusetts was chartered in 1784 as a state-regulated alternative to the centralized First Bank of the United States. By 1812, the bank had amassed more than $3 million in capital. It was widely known for financing the first U.S. trade mission to China in 1786.
Where is it Now?
The State Bank of Massachusetts was incorporated under the National Bank Act in 1864 and changed its name to the Massachusetts National Bank. In 1903 it merged with the First National Bank of Boston. Thanks to its large amount of Latin American assets, the bank continued to expand and merge until it was eventually acquired by Bank of America Corporation in 2004 for $47 billion. Today, the bank – now known as BankBoston – exists as a private international subsidiary of Bank of America.

The Bank Of Pennsylvania

The Bank of Pennsylvania was chartered in 1793 as another state-run bank similar to the State Bank of Massachusetts. At the beginning of its lifespan, the bank was wildly successful – raising its total capital from $400,000 to over $3 million in just a few years. As a result, the bank earned the dubious honor of being the victim of the first recorded bank robbery in U.S. History in 1798.
Where is it Now?
The Bank of Pennsylvania remained competitive with the emerging National banks until 1857, when a series of gross managerial mistakes by then-president Thomas Allibone caused the bank to collapse entirely.

The City Bank Of New York

Oliver Wolcott wasn't the only federal bank director to start his own institution after the Bank of the United States ceased to exist in 1812. With Samuel Osgood elected as its first president, the City Bank of New York opened its doors to the Big Apple in June of that year with more than $2 million in authorized capital.
Where is it Now?
A few key mergers and the invention of such services like customer checking accounts and unsecured loans propelled the City Bank of New York to the forefront of the banking industry. Today, the institution is known as Citigroup. The publicly traded company now operates in every finance-related field, from credit cards to wealth management, and has more than 16,000 offices in 140 different countries. It currently boasts a market value of around $98 billion.

Conclusion

In 1812, the financial sector was a driving force in the economy and remains so today. Things are definitely not the same as they were 200 years ago. Some of these banks from 1812 still exist, albeit with different names. On the other hand, some have shut down entirely.


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