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Chapter 14
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Early Banks--Causes Which Stimulated the Growth of Banking Interests--Financial Condition of Portland Banks--Ladd & Tilton--First National Bank--Bank of British Columbia--Oregon and Washington Mortgage Bank--Portland Savings Bank--London and San Francisco Bank-Merchants' National Bank--Oregon National Bank--Portland National Bank--Ainsworth National Bank--Commercial National Bank--Northwest Loan and Trust Company--Portland Trust Company--Northwest Fire and Marine Insurance Company--Pacific Fire Insurance Company.

THE first banking house of Portland was established in 1859 by William S. Ladd and C. E. Tilton, under the firm name of Ladd & Tilton. It was a private enterprise and was undertaken to facilitate the commercial business of the city. For several years thereafter it was the only banking institution in the city and fully met all the demands made upon it. In 1866 the First National Bank and the Bank of British Columbia entered the field. In 1868 these three banks had a working capital, including deposits, of $1,500,000, ample for the mercantile business then conducted, since the entire exports of Oregon at that time did not exceed $1,250,000. Money lending on mortgages, by corporations, was then unknown, and there was little mortgage money in the hands of individuals. So much was this the case that interest readily commanded twelve per cent. with a brokerage of five per cent. and often a much higher rate was obtained.

In 1869, 1870, 1871 and 1872, the construction of that portion of the Northern Pacific railroad which connected the Columbia River with Puget Sound, and the extension of the Oregon & California railroad through the Willamette Valley for 200 miles, considerably increased the imports into Oregon, which were principally rolling stock, tin and salt in British ships. These vessels for the first time carried wheat and flour to Europe. Foreign capital was thus attracted to Oregon, and in 1873 the Oregon and Washington Trust Company was formed in Scotland, with a capital of $250,000, [page 404] exclusively for mortgage loans on farms. In 1875 its capital was increased to $500,000, and in 1878 it had invested over $1,000,000 in the State.

Little progress was made in commercial banking, however, from 1874 to 1877 on account of the stoppage of railroad construction and the small immigration of this period. The three banks referred to held practically control of the commercial banking of the entire State from 1868 to 1878. So carefully had the moneys of these institutions been invested that the commercial panic, which, in 1875, caused the suspension of the Bank of California, and many similar banking institutions, did not affect Portland at all.

The Oregon and Washington Savings Bank was the fourth bank organized in Portland. It came into existence in 1876. It was followed in 1878 by the Bank of British North America, and in the next two years the Portland Savings Bank, the Metropolitan Savings Bank, and the Willamette Savings Bank entered the field.

From 1879 to 1883 the construction and extension of the Villard system of railroads, which included the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company, Northern Pacific, Oregon and California, and Oregonian Railway, under one management, caused a vast increase of population. The commerce of the State took rapid strides and the money spent in the community, from the building of 1,890 miles of railway rapidly enhanced the value of the banking institutions of Portland. Fortunately the gold coin basis on which the banks first did business in Oregon, from 1880, was continued and prevented that depreciation in value of securities which was so common in the western states after the war.

When the foreign export trade of Portland advanced from $1,250,000 in 1868, to $12,936,493 in 1884, and the import trade to, $28,203,746, considerable local capital of the city sought for further extensions by the subsequent organization of the Portland National, Ainsworth National, Commercial National and latterly the Oregon National and the Merchants National Banks, with a united paid up capital of $750,000. These five National institutions, with the First National, Ladd & Tilton, Bank of British Columbia, London and San Francisco banks practically do the entire [page 405] commercial banking business of the State, some of them having many subsidiary institutions all over Oregon and Washington which are tributary and feeders to the Portland banks.

It is safe to say that Portland, at the present time, has as strong banking institutions as any city in the United States of equal population. All are doing a safe business and are conducted on a conservative basis, and the people of Portland take pride in their management and reputation. As there are no State laws requiring the publication of the deposits or capital of State banks and private bankers or those of foreign banks doing business in Oregon, their present condition and aggregate strength cannot be accurately ascertained. The following is a summary of the condition of the six national banks of Portland taken from the last report of the United States Comptroller of the currency for the year ending in December, 1888: Total paid up capital, $1,250,000; surplus fund, $187,500; undivided profits, $573,359.64; individual deposits (excluding government deposits), $3,627,497.79; loans and discounts, $3,717,789.12; invested in United States bonds, $825, 000; total liabilities, $7,209,734.65; while the lawful money reserve was more than double the amount required by law. These figures reveal the remarkable healthful condition of the national banks of Portland. Indeed, there has never been a failure or suspension of any national bank in Oregon.

The following table will show the available banking capital of the city for the year ending December, 1889, compiled from reliable sources:

Oregon Banks


Surplus and Undivided Profit.

First National

$ 500,000

$ 700,000.00

Ladd & Tilton



Commercial National



Oregon National



Portland Savings



Ainsworth National



Portland National



Merchants National



Oregon Capital





Total Oregon Capital



[page 406]


Bank of British Columbia


$ 557,750.00

London and San Francisco





$ 872,750.00




Total British Capital



Total Oregon Capital



Grand Total



The average standing deposits in the ten banks named above is equal to $10,000,000, which, with the legitimate banking capital and the capital of the various loan companies of the city would make the present available banking resources of Portland fully $20,000,000, a statement based on a conservative rather than over estimate.

A Clearing House was opened in Portland, July 15, 1889, and from that date we are enabled to give the reports for the first twenty-four weeks of its existence.




July, two weeks



August, five weeks



September, four weeks



October, four weeks



November, five weeks



December, up to 28th, four weeks






Banking statistics such as the above are conceded to furnish the best possible gauge for determining the real condition of a city's commercial standing, and Portland's exhibit in this regard places her, according to population, as a trade center, unsurpassed in the United States.

In mortgage banking the success of the Oregon and Washington Trust Company from 1873 to 1880, when it was consolidated with the Dundee Mortgage Company at a premium of seventy per cent. profit, caused foreign mortgage companies to seek investment on the North Pacific Coast. In 1880 the Pacific Loan Company of Liverpool, and the Dundee Mortgage and Trust Investment Company, of Scotland, entered the field. Subsequently the American Freehold and Land Mortgage Company, of London, and the New England Mortgage Company, of Connecticut, followed by [page 407] the American Mortgage Company, of Scotland, in 1881 and the Oregon Mortgage Company, in 1883, all of which opened offices at Portland. These companies had a combined capital of over $3,500,000 invested in the State of Oregon and Washington Territory, which was the means of developing, to a great extent, the lands of Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington, supplying the new settlers, who arrived from 1879 to 1883, through the building of the Villard system of railroads, with. money to improve the vast tracts of land which was then opened up for settlement. Their aggregate strength, however, alarmed the granger portion of the State Legislature and in December, 1882, a special mortgage tax law was passed, declaring that all mortgages should be taxed at their face or par value. The effect of this law has been, in the main, harmful. The companies previously named immediately called in all matured loans and have greatly reduced their investments since the law went into effect. That the development of the resources of the country has been retarded by this legislative attempt to decrease the -profits to the mortgagor, is an acknowledged fact. Foreign capital, in a great measure, has sought other fields, while the mortgage demand being much greater than the supply, has caused a higher rate of interest to be maintained than would have been the case if competition for mortgage securities had prevailed.

In the following pages we have aimed to present more in detail the history of each banking institution in Portland.

No change occurred in the firm of Ladd & Tilton, private bankers, from the time they commenced business, in April, 1859, until 1880, when Mr. Tilton withdrew. They commenced business at 73 Front street, and so successfully were they that, in 1861, the capital was increased from $50,000 to $100,000. A few years later the earnings of the bank turned into the business brought its capital up to $1,000,000. When the partnership was dissolved, that is, in 1880, bills receivable amounted to upwards of $2,500,000. As an evidence of the sound and safe business conducted by this concern, it may be stated, that when the bank made its statement, in 1888, there was less than $1,300 of this balance still outstanding. Business was conducted on Front street until 1869, when the present [page 408] bank building, corner of First and Stark street was completed. The career of W. S. Ladd, who has been at the head of this financial house from the start, is so thoroughly given in other portions of this volume as to make further mention in this connection unnecessary. His close business calculation and powers of financiering have made possible the accumulation of the largest private fortune in the Pacific Northwest. He still personally superintends and manages his extensive interests with all the shrewd, far-seeing business sagacity which marked his younger years. Since the retirement of Mr. Tilton, Mr. Ladd's eldest son, William M., has been a partner in the bank. He inherits many of his father's traits, a strong will, perseverance and sterling integrity. He was prepared for college at Andover, Massachusetts, and graduated from Amherst College in 1878.

The First National Bank, as its name implies, was the first bank organized on the Pacific Coast under the national banking law, and remained for several years the only one. It was organized early in 1866 and opened its doors for business in May of the same year with a paid up capital of $100,000. L. M. Starr was president and James Steel, cashier. The opening was announced by advertisement in the Oregonian of May 9, stating that the bank was the designated depositary and financial agent of the government, and that exchange would be drawn on San Francisco and New York at favorable terms. For some time the bank occupied the upper floor of the building, No. 73 Front street.

In August, 1869, the greater part of the stock of the concern passed into the hands of Hon. Henry W. Corbett and Hon. Henry Failing, who have since so successfully controlled its destinies and extended its business. Its capital has been increased from $100,000 to $500,000, while its foreign business has been extended until now it has correspondents in ever important city in the world and has become the principal banking house of the city. Since 1869 Henry Failing has been president of the bank and Henry W. Corbett, vice president. The other officers are: G. E. Withington, cashier and H. J. Corbett, assistant cashier. The present building occupied by [page 409] the bank on the corner of First and Washington streets was erected in 1883 at a cost of $80,000, and is the finest bank building in the city.

The Bank of British Columbia is a branch of a London, England, corporation, which was founded in 1860 and has a capital of $2,425,000. The Portland branch was established in 1866 with E. Russel as acting manager. It has been very successfully conducted and enjoys a liberal patronage. For several years, George Good, a financier of well recognized ability, has had charge of the business in this city. The bank building, at the junction of A, Front and Vine streets, was erected in 1882 and cost $65,000.

The Oregon and Washington Mortgage Savings Bank was incorporated in 1876, with William Reid as president, and reorganized in 1881. It has done a large amount of business, principally among the farming population of the Willamette Valley, several million dollars having been loaned to this class during the first eleven years of the bank's existence. William Reid has continued as president ever since the organization of the bank. William Lowe is cashier.

The Portland Savings Bank was organized in 1880, and for the first two years of its existence was conducted largely as a matter of experiment. From a small beginning it has grown, however, to be one of the leading banks of the city. The first location of the bank was at the corner of Ash and Front streets, but at the end of the first year the demands of the business requiring larger quarters the bank was removed to the corner of Second and Stark. Here it remained until the completion of the elegant bank building at the corner of Washington and Second, where the bank occupies most attractive quarters. The president of the bank is Frank Dekum, who was also one of the incorporators of the institution. The other officers are W. K. Smith, vice-president, and H. C. Stratton, cashier. The board of directors is composed of D. P. Thompson, W. F. Burrell, Frank Dekum, W. K. Smith, R. M. Wade, George H. Durham, S. A. Durham, C. A. Dolph, Ward S. Stevens, E. J. Jeffrey and Cleveland Rockwell. The bank has a paid up capital of $125,000, with a surplus and undivided profits of $120,000. [page 410]

The London and San Francisco Bank is a branch of an English corporation, with headquarters in London. It was established in 1882, and represents a paid up capital and reserve of $2,375,000. Under the direction of W. Mackintosh, manager, this institution has had a well deserved success in Portland.

The Merchants' National Bank is successor to the Willamette Savings Bank. The latter institution was incorporated in 1883, with James Steel as president, but, in 1886, it was changed to a commercial bank under the present name of the Merchants' National Bank. Mr. Steel was chosen president, and has continued to retain the position ever since. His connection with the bank has largely contributed to its success. For many years he was cashier of the First National Bank and is not only a financier of acknowledged ability, but is a moving spirit in many important enterprises which have been inaugurated in Portland during recent years. Associated with Mr. Steel in the management of the bank is J. Loewenberg, the vice-president, who is prominently identified with some of the strongest financial organizations in the Northwest. I. A. Macrum is cashier. The board of directors is composed of James Steel, J. Loewenberg, H. L. Hoyt, J. K. Gill, J. F. Watson, W. C. Johnson and I. A. Macrum.

The Oregon National Bank is the out growth of the Metropolitan Savings Bank, which was incorporated in September, 1882, with a capital of $150,000. Hon. Van B. DeLashmutt was the leading spirit in its formation, and was elected president. Under his able financiering the venture proved a success, notwithstanding the depressed condition of the country which immediately followed its inception. On the foundation of the success achieved, the Oregon National Bank was organized in June, 1887, with a capital of $150,000, which later on was increased to $200,000. Mr. DeLash mutt was elected president, a position he has ever since retained. The other officers of the bank are George B. Markle, vice-president, and D. F. Sherman, cashier. The directors are: Richard Williams, George H. Williams, George B. Markle, W. W. Thayer, Van B. DeLashmutt, D. F. Sherman, J. H. Smith, H. Thielsen and C. H. Dodd. The Oregon National Bank has rapidly gained a large [page 411] business and holds a place in the foremost rank among the financial concerns of the city. The officers have in contemplation the erection of a new bank building which will be an ornament to the city and furnish adequate accommodations for the growing business of this institution.

The Portland National Bank was incorporated in May, 1884, and has been in successful operation ever since. Wm. Reid is president and Wm. Lowe, cashier. The directors are: William Reid, A. Reid, C. J. McDougall, John McGuire and P. E. Habersham.

The Ainsworth National Bank was organized in 1885, with a capital of $100,000. This bank is located in the Ainsworth block, corner Third and Oak streets, a substantial fire proof building. In connection with the bank is a safe deposit vault for the storage of valuables, which is extensively patronized. The officers of the bank are: L. L. Hawkins, president; W. K. Smith, vice-president: J. P. Marshall, cashier. The directors are L. L. Hawkins, W. K. Smith, Preston C. Smith, J. P. Marshall and W. S. Charleston.

The Commercial National Bank commenced business January 4, 1886, with a capital of $100,000, which has since been increased to $250,000. D. P. Thompson the president of the bank is largely interested in country banks and has thus been enabled to draw around him an extensive clientage. Frank Dekum is vice-president, and R. L. Durham, cashier. The board of directors is composed of D. P. Thompson, Frank Dekum, R. M. Wade, E. S. Kearney, George H. Williams, R. Jacobs, L. White, Henry Weinhard, Cleveland Rockwell, J. W. Hill, H. C. Wentman, J. B. David, W. F. Burrell, George H. Durham and R. L. Durham. This bank occupies a portion of the Portland Savings' Bank building, corner of Second and Washington streets.


The 'Northwest Loan and Trust Company, and the Portland Trust Company of Oregon, both do a savings bank business. The former was incorporated February 2, 1887, with a capital of $150,000. It receives and pays interest on sums of one dollar and upwards, and also executes trusts of every description; acts as assignee, receiver, guardian, executor and administrator or in any other [page 412] fiduciary capacity. The officers are George B. Markle, president; J. L. Hartman, treasurer, and W. G. Dillingham, secretary. The board of directors is composed of George H. Williams, Herbert Bradley, S. B. Willey, H. Thielsen, J. A. Sladen, C. A. Alisky, Thos. F. Osborn, D. F. Sherman, Geo. B. Markle, J. L. Hartman, Chas. F. Beebe and J. Thorburn Ross.

The Portland Trust Company was incorporated April 22, 1887. It receives deposits in sums of two dollars and upwards. Its officers are H. L. Pittock, president; A. S. Nichols, vice-president, and Benj. I. Cohen, secretary. These officers, with A. M. Smith, C. E. Sitton, Cleveland Rockwell, W. W. Spaulding, L. G. Clarke, Charles H. Woodward and A. F. Hildreth compose the board of directors.


During the last few years four local insurance companies have come into existence in Portland, and all of them are prosperous and on a solid financial basis. The oldest of these is the Oregon Fire and Marine Insurance Company which was incorporated in 1881 and has a paid up capital of $220,000. L. White is president; H. W. Corbett, vice-president and Edward Hall, secretary.

The Northwest Fire and Marine Insurance Company was incorporated in January, 1886, but did not commence business until the fall of 1887. It has a capital of $500,000. The officers are:

J. Loewenberg, president; J. McCraken, vice-president; R . P. Earhart, secretary and manager; F. M. Warren, treasurer, and E. Everett, assistant secretary.

The Columbia Fire and Marine Insurance Company was organized in May, 1887, with a cash capital of $500,000. It engages in all the business pertaining to fire and marine insurance. The directory of the company includes: D. P. Thompson, Asabel Bush, Frank Dekum, H. Thielsen, Walter F. Burrell and John A. Child. The officers are: Frank Dekum, president; A. H. Breyman, vice-president, and Peter Outcalt, secretary.

The Pacific Fire Insurance Company of Portland was organized March, 1888, with a capital of $500,000. F. E. Beach is president; Wm. McFall, vice-president; J. A. Strowbridge, treasurer, and W. F. Brownton, secretary.


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