Pioneer Banks of Duluth

The first bank established in Duluth, that of Jay Cooke and directed by Gen. George B. Sargent, with George C.Stone, cashier, has been referred to in Part II of this chapter.

It was a small private bank, and was succeeded by the private bank of E. W. Clarke and Company, a financial house also connected with Jay Cooke.

On March 23, 1872, the First National Bank of Duluth was opened and had the support of the most substantial men of the city, J. B. Culver being president, George C. Stone, cashier, and James D. Ray, Sidney Luce, R. S. Munger, J. D. Ensign and Clinton Markell, directors. Authorized capital was $50,000.

Bell and Eyster had a promising banking business and J. C. Hunter had a “savings bank.” One of the institutions immediately established confidence with the people of the place by exhibiting on its opening day a window full of hard cash, some thousands of dollars.

The treasure was only shown for a day or so, and the banker paid a high rate of interest, probably, for the accommodation, but it was effective advertising.

And, when the greatest financial house of the whole country suspended payment in 1873, no reflection was cast upon local bankers 227for failing to continue banking service. The Duluth institutions met the fate of hundreds of financial houses throughout the United States in that year, and in any case banks were not well patronized for several years after 1873.

It is said that the American Exchange National Bank of today is the direct successor of J. C. Hunter’s Duluth Savings Bank of 1872, the name of the bank changing, under reorganization in 1879, to American Exchange Bank. The other Duluth banks of today can hardly be considered as successors of the pioneer banks.


  • Van Brunt, Walter, ed. Duluth and St. Louis County, Minnesota Vols. 1 – 3. The American Historical Society. Chicago: 1922.
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