Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Wall Street Bankers: Aaron Burr, and Alexander Hamilton

Very few know its history: Chase traces its roots back to the founding of The Manhattan Company by Aaron Burr on September 1, 1799, in a house at 40 Wall Street.

After an epidemic of yellow fever in 1798, in which coffins had been sold by itinerant vendors on street corners, Aaron Burr established the Manhattan Company, with the ostensible aim of bringing clean water to the city from the Bronx River but in fact designed as a front for the creation of New York's second bank, rivaling Alexander Hamilton’s, Bank of New York.

In addition to being fierce political and personal rivals, Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton competed in business, with Burr's Bank of the Manhattan Company competing against Hamilton's Bank of New York. In 1804, their rivalry erupted into a duel, leading to the death of Alexander Hamilton. The dueling pistols are owned by the successor company of Chase Manhattan. They are currently on display on the executive conference floor of the JP Morgan Chase building at 277 Park Avenue in New York City.

Chase National Bank

Chase National Bank was formed in 1877 by John Thompson. It was named for former United States Treasury Secretary and Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, although Chase did not have a connection with the bank.

The Chase National Bank acquired a number of smaller banks in the 1920s, through its Chase Securities Corporation. In 1926, for instance, it acquired Mechanics and Metals National Bank.

It’s most significant acquisition though was the Equitable Trust Company of New York in 1930, the largest stockholder of which was John D. Rockefeller, Jr. This made it the largest bank in America and indeed the world.

Chase was primarily a wholesale bank, dealing with other prominent financial institutions and major corporate clients, such as General Electric, which had, through its RCA affiliate, leased prominent space and become a crucial first tenant of Rockefeller Center, rescuing that major project in 1930. The bank also is closely associated with and has financed the oil industry, having longstanding connections with its board of directors to the successor companies of Standard Oil, especially Exxon Mobil, which are also Rockefeller holdings.

Merger as Chase Manhattan

Bank In 1955, Chase National Bank and The Manhattan Company merged to create Chase Manhattan Bank. As Chase was a much larger bank, it was first intended that Chase acquire the "Bank of Manhattan", as it was nicknamed, but it transpired that Burr's original charter for the Manhattan Company had not only included the clause allowing it to start a bank with surplus funds, but another requiring unanimous consent of shareholders for the bank to be taken over. The deal was therefore structured as an acquisition by the Bank of the Manhattan Company of Chase National, with John J. McCloy becoming chairman of the merged entity. This avoided the requirement of unanimous consent by shareholders.

Under McCloy's successor, George Champion, the antiquated 1799 state charter was relinquished for a modern one. In 1969, under the leadership of David Rockefeller, the bank became part of a bank holding company, the Chase Manhattan Corporation.

Two famous American families the Burr’s and the Hamilton’s were Wall Street Bankers.