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A History of Minneapolis: an Overview by Staff at the Hennepin County Library

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Featuring historical photos and items from the collections of the Hennepin County Library, with contemporary photos from the Phototour of Minneapolis by Chris Gregerson.

Banking and Finance

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The growth of lumber and flour milling and ancillary industries necessitated the development of a banking system. The first bank in St. Anthony was established in 1857. The first major bank in the area was the First National Bank of Minneapolis in 1864. The Northwestern National Bank of Minneapolis was chartered in 1872, and its president was Dorilus Morrison (the first mayor of Minneapolis).

Reproduction of a "shinplaster"--a type of emergency currency issued in the Northwest following the start of the Civil War. Issued at Minneapolis October 10th, 1862. Name of issue is R. J. Mendenhall. Denomination is 5 cents.
Minneapolis Collection, BR0021.

Northwestern National Bank. (circa 1870)
Minneapolis Collection, BR0081.

Minneapolis was recognized as an important financial center in 1914 when the City became the headquarters of the Ninth Federal Reserve District, which consists of Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, northwestern Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Minneapolis fared better than most American cities during the Great Depression. A contributing factor to this was the relative stability of the state's banking system. Two large bank-holding companies were formed a few months prior to the stock market collapse. The Northwestern National Bank formed the Northwest Bank Corporation in February, 1929. The First Bank Stock Corporation was put together by the First National Banks of St. Paul and Minneapolis the same year. During the Depression, not a single affiliate of these two holding companies closed its doors. The Northwest Bank Corporation acquired numerous affiliates over the years. It acquired Wells Fargo in 1998 and took the Wells Fargo name for its banks. Minneapolis lost a Fortune 500 company when the headquarters of the bank was consolidated in San Francisco. The First Bank Stock Corporation today is known as US Bancorp.

Other Minneapolis finance companies that predate the depression years, and are present to this day, include Lutheran Brotherhood, Piper Jaffray (acquired by U.S. Bancorp in 1998), ReliaStar Financial Corporation, acquired by ING in Spring 2000 (formerly Northwestern National Life Insurance Co.), Twin City Federal (TCF) Financial, and IDS (Investors Diversified Service), presently an investment subsidiary of American Express.

Weatherball on roof of Northwestern National Bank, 1950. The Weatherball was put on the building in 1949. It was placed in storage after the Thanksgiving Day fire of 1982. Weatherballs on other Northwestern Bank locations were retired in 1983.
Minneapolis Collection, M4819.

For many years, the familiar Weatherball atop the Northwestern National Bank building provided weather forecasts for city residents:

"When the Weatherball is green, no change in weather is foreseen.
When the Weatherball is red, warmer weather is ahead.
When the Weatherball is white, colder weather is in sight.
If colors blink by night or day, precipitation's on the way.

Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, October 2000.
Photo courtesy of Chris Gregerson

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