First Bank of the United States


The war left us in debt. Some states were bankrupt. We needed one unified currency … Hamilton suggested a central bank. (Please note the classical facade!)


bank note
Click to learn more about this 1840 bank note, number 8894

The First Bank of the United States was needed because the government had a debt from the Revolutionary War, and each state had a different form of currency. It was built while Philadelphia was still the nation’s capital. Alexander Hamilton conceived of the bank to handle the colossal war debt — and to create a standard form of currency.

Up to the time of the bank’s charter, coins and bills issued by state banks served as the currency of the young country. The First Bank’s charter was drafted in 1791 by the Congress and signed by George Washington. In 1811, Congress voted to abandon the bank and its charter. The bank was originally housed in Carpenters’ Hall from 1791 to 1795. The neo-classical design of the bank was intended to recall the democracy and splendor of ancient Greece. When you’re there, note the eagle which crowns the two-story portico. At the time of the bank’s creation the eagle had been our national symbol for only 14 years. The bank building was restored for the Bicentennial in 1976.

bullet Future home of the Civil War Museum of Philadelphia
bullet Oldest bank building in America
bullet Considered the oldest building in America with a classical facade
bullet Bank charter was in effect for only 20 years
bullet It cost $110,168.05 to build!
bullet The page you’re reading now is a history of a bank which ceased operations in 1811; Microsoft tried to sell our website banking software and the story was carried by CNet in a 12/4/96 piece.

bullet Location: Third Street, between Chestnut and Walnut Streets (Map)
bullet Built: 1795-97
bullet Architects: Samuel Blodgett/James Windrim
bullet Style: Classical Revival
bullet Commissioned by: Congress on Hamilton’s suggestion
bullet Tourism information: Not open to the public.
bullet Facilities: outdoor seating
bullet Cell phone tour: 267-519-4295, then press number 26


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