Creator: Rolnick, Arthur J., 1944-, Smith, Bruce D. (Bruce David), 1954-2002, and Weber, Warren E. Series: Working paper (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Research Department) Number: 592 Abstract:
Before the establishment of federal deposit insurance, the U.S. experienced periodic banking panics, during which banks suspended specie payments and reduced lending. There was often a corresponding economic slowdown. The Panic of 1837 is considered one of the worst banking panics, and it coincided with a slowdown that lasted for almost five years. The economic disruption was not uniform across the country, however. The slowdown in New England was substantially less severe than elsewhere. Here we suggest that the Suffolk Bank, a private bank, was one reason for New England’s relative success. We argue that the Suffolk Bank’s provision of note-clearing and lender of last resort services (via the Suffolk Banking System) lessened the effects of the Panic of 1837 in New England relative to the rest of the country, where no bank provided such services.
Subject (JEL): N11 - Economic History: Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations: U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
Creator: Rolnick, Arthur J., 1944-, Smith, Bruce D. (Bruce David), 1954-2002, and Weber, Warren E. Series: Working paper (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Research Department) Number: 584 Abstract:
The classic example of a privately created and well-functioning interbank payments system is the Suffolk Banking System that existed in New England between 1825 and 1858. This System, operated by the Suffolk Bank, was the first regionwide net-clearing system for bank notes in the United States. While it operated, notes of all New England banks circulated at par throughout the region. The achievements of the System have led some to conclude that unfettered competition in the provision of payments services can produce an efficient payments system. In this paper, we reexamine the history of the Suffolk Banking System and present some facts that call this conclusion into question. We find that the Suffolk Bank earned extraordinary profits and that note clearing may have been a natural monopoly. There is no consensus in the literature about whether unfettered operation of markets in the presence of natural monopolies produces an efficient allocation.