History of San Diego, 1542-1908

PART SIX: CHAPTER 8: Banks and Banking

The first bank in the city was the Bank of San Diego. It was organized early in June, 1870, by Bryant Howard, E. W. Morse, A. E. Morton, Joseph Nash, James M. Pierce, Mathew Sherman, A. M. Hathaway, Colum­bus Dunham, and Wm. H. Cleveland. The first officers were: A. E. Horton, president; James M. Pierce, vice-president; Bryant Howard, treasurer; and Wm. H. Cleveland, attorney. Thomas L. Nesmith became president; E. W. Morse, treasurer; and Bry­ant Howard, cashier and manager. A year later the brick bank building shown in the cut was completed and occupied, and the newspapers called it “the handsomest brick structure in the city.” In 1874, Charles Hubbell became cashier and so contin­ued until 1879.

BANK OF SAN DIEGO. This was the first bank in the city, being organized June, 1870.

The beginning of the “Tom Scott” boom soon brought about the organization of another bank—the Commercial Bank of San Diego. This bank was organized in October, 1872, by J. H. Braly, George Puterbaugh, Edward Kilham, and J. C. Braly. The capital stock was fixed at $200,000. The bank did not begin business until the first of March, 1873, in temporary quarters in the Vezie & Schuler building. The contract for the construc­tion of its own building, on the corner of Fifth and G Streets (now the city hall) was let to William Jorres in October, 1873, and the building was completed and occupied the following spring. The heaviest stockholder was Hiram Mabury, of San José. The first officers were: Captain A. H. Wilcox, president; E. F. Spence, cashier; and José G. Estudillo, assistant cashier.

The next development in banking business in San Diego was the consolidation of the Bank of San Diego and the Commercial Bank, under the name of the Consolidated Bank of San Diego, with a capital of $200,000. The first officers were: Bryant Howard, president; J. A. Fairchild, cashier; E. W. Morse, O. S. Witherby, George Geddes, Levi Chase, James M. Pierce, George A. Cowles, and Bryant Howard, directors. The new bank occu­pied the old quarters of the Commercial Bank, on the corner of Fifth and C Streets. In January, 1880, Mr. Fairchild resigned as cashier and was succeeded by Bryant Howard, and 0. S. Witherby became president in Howard’s place. Later Howard became president and J. H. Barbour, cashier. In 1883, the bank was changed from a state to a national bank. The Consolidated National Bank was a power in San Diego for several years. It survived the bursting of the boom, but went down in the failure of 1893, and was never reopened. Among those hardest hit by this failure was Judge O. S. Witherby, whose fortune was prac­tically all invested in it.

The Savings Bank of San Diego County opened for business in May, 1886, with a capital of $100,000. Its officers were James M. Pierce, president; George A. Cowles, vice-president; John Ginty, secretary and treasurer; later, E. W. Morse became president. This institution was a branch of the Consolidated National Bank and had its quarters in the same building. It was swept away with the failure of the parent bank, in 1893, and never resumed business. The same is true of the Pacific Coast Loan and Trust Company, which was an offshoot of the Consolidated Bank, and had its quarters in the same building and was managed by the same officers.

The next bank organized, in point of time, was the Bank of Southern California, which was reorganized in October of the same year as the First National Bank. It was founded in July, 1883, by Jacob Gruendike, R. A. Thomas, J. R. Thomas, John Wolfskill, and M. T. Gilmore. The officers for the first year were: Jacob Gruendike, president; R. A. Thomas, vice-pres­ident; and C. E. Thomas, cashier. Mr. Gruendike served con­tinuously as president until his death in 1905, with the excep­tion of a year or two in the late 80’s.

Upon his death, D. F. Garrettson was elected president and he still fills the office. The original capitalization was $50,000. In October, 1885, this was increased to $100,000, and E. S. Bab­cock Jr. and W. L. Story were added to the board of directors. The present capital is $150,000, fully paid. The bank has owned and occupied its building on the northwest corner of Fifth and E Streets since its organization. The present officers are: D. F. Garrettson, president; Homer H. Peters, vice-president; F. W. Jackson, second vice-president; G. W. Fishburn, cashier; J. E. Fishburn and Simon Levi, directors. Besides its capital, the bank has $119,761.08 surplus and profits, and $1,443,210.72 deposits.

The First National Bank absorbed, about the year 1888, a sec­ond “Bank of San Diego,” which had been organized Septem­ber 1, 1887, and opened its doors March 8, 1888. The officers of the latter bank were: J. H. Braly, president; J. C. Braly, vice-president; George M. Dannals, cashier; General T. T. Crit­tenden, H. C. Watts, L. S. McLure, John C. Fisher, and W. D. Woolwine, directors. It continued in business but a short time.

COMMERCIAL BANK OF SAN DIEGO. Organized October, 1872.

The San Diego Savings Bank is the oldest savings bank now doing business in San Diego. It was organized in April, 1889. The bank’s quarters are in the Keating Block, on the northwest corner of Fifth and F Streets. It has a paid-up capital of $100,000, surplus and undivided profits of over $30,000, and resources exceeding $1,400,000. A well equipped safe deposit is maintained. The present officers are: J. W. Sefton, president; M. T. Gilmore, vice-president; E. M. Barber, cashier; R. M. Powers, Henry Timken, W. R. Rogers, and M. F. Heller, directors.

The Bank of Commerce was incorporated under state laws in 1887, and was one of the products of the rapid growth of that time. There were a number of changes in management, and at the time of the bank failures in 1893, the bank closed its doors, but for four days only. Dr. R. M. Powers then became the pres­ident and manager and served until 1903. In July of the latter year, Julius Wangenheim entered the bank and became its pres­ident, and at the same time it was reincorporated under national banking laws. Since that time, its growth has been constant. The old capital stock of $100,000 was increased to $150,000, the deposits have grown from $600,000 to almost $1,000,000, and there is a surplus and undivided profits of over $60,000. A general banking business is done, special attention being given to the commercial accounts of the city. The present officers are: Julius Wangenheim, president; B. W. McKenzie, C. Fred Henking, cashier; J. C. Rice, assistant cashier; I. W. Hellman, B. W. McKenzie, C. Fred Henking, Julius Wangenheim, and Vic­tor E. Shaw, directors.

The Security Savings Bank and Trust Company is an out­growth of the National Bank of Commerce, the stockholders being chiefly the same. This bank was organized May 26, 1905, with a paid-up capital stock of $125,000, the largest of any sim­ilar institution in Southern California outside Los Angeles. It has recently moved into its handsomely equipped rooms on E Street near Fifth. Its officers are: Julius Wangenheim, president; George W. Marston, vice-president; Nat R. Titus, cashier and secretary; and John S. Hawley, Jr., assistant cashier and secretary. The deposits are $400,000 and the profits, $5,000.

GEORGE A. FISHBURN. Who has been cashier of the First National Bank since January 15, 1901, the period of its greatest growth.

The founding and career of the California National Bank are episodes still feelingly remembered by San Diegans. It opened its doors on January 8, 1888, with the following officers: Wil­liam Collier, president; D. D. Dare, vice-president; J. W. Col­lins, cashier; D. C. Collier, J. W. Burns, M. Kew, Douglas Gunn, and T. R. Gay, directors. The organizers and managers of the concern were Collins and Dare, who were newcomers in San Diego. It is said that Collins had once wrecked a bank in Chey­enne, and that Dare brought with him less than $7,000, and had had no banking experience. These matters were unknown to the people of San Diego, however, and when attractive quarters were fitted up in the Methodist Church block, the managers soon gained the confidence of the public. The bank was opened in the midst of the crash following the boom, was liberal with loans, and was an important factor in the restoration of confidence which began to be felt in the fall of 1888. The following year the California Savings Bank was incorporated, and opened next door to the California National. Matters apparently went well until the fall of 1891, by which time there was a general feeling of hopefulness about the situation, in which the condition of the banks was a large factor. But in October, the California National Bank failed suddenly and disastrously, and it was some time before the extent of the disaster was realized. Prom­ises of resumption helped to keep up hope; but the investigation by bank commissioners quickly revealed a condition of rotten­ness which astonished the public.

Collins and Dare had applied “boom” methods to their busi­ness, had made “wildcat” loans, and indulged in speculation of every kind. Dare was absent in Europe at the time of the failure, and never returned. There was a good deal of sympathy for Collins at first, until the gross mismanagement of the bank had been fully exposed. His wife and daughter had been drowned in the Bay by the capsizing of a boat on September 1, 1890. Mrs. Collins was the daughter of Rev. R. G. Wallace, the minister of the United Presbyterian Church. But the

J.W. SEFTON. Located 1889; president San Diego Savings Bank and president of San Diego Flume Company, 1890; succeeded E. S. Babcock as president of San Diego Water Company in 1894, and, in 1895, brought about the consolidation of the two water companies. Began erection of Sefton Block in 1899, completing it in 1901.

develop­ments grew worse rapidly; by February, 1892, it was known that the bank could not resume, and on February 23d Collins was arrested and brought before the bank commissioners. On March 3d, he committed suicide in the Brewster Hotel, by shooting him­self. The embezzlement was estimated at $800,000. The depos­its were over a million dollars, and only a small dividend was realized at the close of a long receivership. The California Savings Bank, of course, went down with its parent organization.

None of the other San Diego banks failed at that time, but in the summer of 1893 the financial stringency which prevailed all over the country obliged several of them to close their doors. On June 20th and 21st in that year, six Los Angeles banks failed. The air was full of rumors, and soon a run began on the San Diego banks. They stood it well and paid out money as long as coin could be had for the purpose. They were solvent, but like other solvent banks, when cut off from outside support, were unable to convert their assets into cash on short notice. The Consolidated Bank closed on June 21st and never resumed busi­ness, although its depositors were ultimately paid in full. The First National Bank and the Bank of Commerce also closed the following day, but soon resumed business. The Merchants’ National Bank and the San Diego Savings Bank were the only ones which survived the panic unscathed. The first named was a new institution, with its capital practically intact and uninvested. This was San Diego’s first and only panic of the kind. From that time on, the story of the city’s financial institutions is one of conservative management and steady, healthful growth.

GALUSHA B. GROW. Prominent in business, political and social life and cashier of Merchants National Bank until his death, February 7, 1903.

The Merchants’ National Bank of San Diego, which has been mentioned as surviving the panic soon after its formation, was organized in the spring of 1893, with a paid-up capital stock of $100,000. The first board of directors were: M. A. Weir, Ralph Granger, E. J. Swayne, Dr. E. V. Van Norman, Moses Kimball, and Philip Morse; and the officers: M. A. Weir, president; Ralph Granger, vice-president; and Frank E. Hilton, cashier. In Octo­ber, 1893, control of the bank was purchased by Edward Ivin­son and the bank reorganized. Edward Ivinson, Levi Chase, and G. B. Grow entered the board of directors; Ivinson became president; Chase, vice-president; Ralph Granger, second vice-presi­dent; and G. B. Grow, cashier. An aggressive policy was adopted and the bank soon began to do a large business. Mr. Grow died February 7, 1903, and W. R. Rogers, who had been assistant cashier of the bank for several years, was chosen cashier. In January, 1904, Ralph Granger, Dr. F. R. Burnham, A. H. Frost, W. R. Rogers, and others bought the controlling interest in the bank from Ivinson, Granger became president and Burn­ham vice-president, and these officials, with Mr. Rogers as cash­ier and H. E. Anthony as assistant cashier, continue to manage the bank. The bank has an excellent location, in the Granger building, on the southwest corner of Fifth and D Streets. Its deposits are almost $1,200,000, and the surplus and undivided profits amount to nearly $100,000. There is a safe deposit department and every modern banking facility.

The Blochman Banking Company was organized November 27, 1893, by A. Blochman and his son, L. A. Blochman, and they are still its manager and cashier, respectively. A. Blochman first landed in San Diego in 1851, on his way to San Francisco. In that city he was vice-president and manager of the French Savings Bank. He is the French consul for San Diego. L. A. Blochman was connected with the Commercial Bank of San Luis Obispo before coming to San Diego.


This institution transacts banking in all its branches, and is the only bank in Southern California which draws direct on the City of Mexico, Guadalajara, Guaymas, Mazatlan, Ensenada, and other Lower California points. A number of Los Angeles banks transact their Mexican business through the Blochman Banking Company. They also handle gold and silver bullion from San Diego County and Lower California, and deal in domestic and foreign securities. The company owns a substantial building at No. 635 Fifth Street, which they first occupied in October, 1905.

The Citizens’ Savings Bank of San Diego was organized by Dr. C. M. Briggs and others, in the spring of 1904. Dr. Briggs died suddenly before the organization was completed, and his stock was acquired by Louis J. Wilde and Fred Jewell, who placed a portion of it upon the market. The bank was opened August 15, 1904, with Louis J. Wilde as president; Fred Jewell, vice-president and cashier; and C. B.

CARL ALEX. JOHNSON. Vice president Sixth Street Bank, and a powerful factor in the reorganization of the Sixth and H Streets business district.

Whittlesey, assistant cash­ier. At the end of the first year, Mr. Wilde’s holdings of stock were purchased by Mr. Jewell, who then became president. This bank has had a steady and healthful growth and ranks among the most conservative savings banks of Southern California. On the anniversary of its second year it had opened accounts with over 1,700 depositors and had $300,000 in deposits. The directors are: H. W. Hellman, A. B. Cass, U. S. Grant Jr., Samuel Gor­don Ingle, John H. Gay, Joseph H. O’Brien, Edmond Mayer, C. B. Whittlesey, I. Isaac Irwin, J. F. Jaeger, and Fred Jewell.

The American National Bank was organized September 8, 1904, with the following officers: Louis J. Wilde, president; Charles E. Sumner, vice-president; W. H. Hubbard, cashier; directors, Louis J. Wilde, Fred Jewell, W. H. Hubbard, U. S. Grant, Jr., Henry E. Mills. It opened for business in its present location, No. 1051 Fifth Street, April 6, 1905. Its capital is $100,000, fully paid; it has a surplus and undivided profits of nearly $40,000, and deposits of $325,000. More than a hundred San Diego business men are owners of its stock. The present officers are: L. J. Wilde, president; Henry E. Mills, vice-pres­ident; C. L. Williams, cashier; L. J. Rice, assistant cashier.

The Sixth Street Bank was opened for business May 1, 1907, with the following officers: D. H. Steele, president; Carl Alex. Johnson, vice-president; F. H. Oliphant, cashier; directors, D. H. Steele, Carl Alex. Johnson, F. H. Oliphant, J. A. Green. The bank’s paid-up capital is $50,000. Its place of business is No. 540 Sixth Street.

W.H. HUBBARD. The First Cashier of the American National Bank; later, president of the Peoples State Bank, National City.

The Southern Trust and Savings Bank commenced business June 28, 1907, with the following officers: G. Aubrey Davidson, president; Philip Morse, vice-president; E. O. Hodge, cashier; directors, Heber Ingle, Ed. Fletcher, Godfrey Holterhoff, Jr., T. L. Duque, John E. Boal, R. C. Allen, Patrick Martin, Edward Chambers, T. A. Riordan, James E. Wadham, Adolph Levi, Robert Hale. The bank has a subscribed capital of $250,000, of which $100,000 has been paid-in. It occupies magnificent quarters in the new U. S. Grant Hotel building. It also maintains a branch establishment at La Jolla, under the management of A. B. Perkins.

The latest development in banking circles, as these pages go to press, is the announced consolidation of the National Bank of Commerce with the Security Savings Bank and Trust Com­pany, under the presidency of Julius Wangenheim. The capital of the re-organized institution is $500,000, which makes it the largest of San Diego banks.

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Main Page
Author’s Foreword
Introduction: The Historical Pre-Eminence of San Diego

PART ONE:   Period of Discovery and Mission Rule

  1. The Spanish Explorers
  2. Beginning of the Mission Epoch
  3. The Taming of the Indian
  4. The Day of Mission Greatness
  5. The End of Franciscan Rule
    Priests of San Diego Mission

PART TWO:   When Old Town Was San Diego

  1. Life on Presidio Hill Under the Spanish Flag
    List of Spanish and Mexican commandants
  2. Beginnings of Agriculture and Commerce
    List of Ranchos in San Diego County
  3. Political Life in Mexican Days
  4. Early Homes, Visitors and Families
  5. Pleasant Memories of Social Life
  6. Prominent Spanish Families
  7. The Indians’ Relations With the Settlers
    List of Mission Indian Lands
  8. San Diego in the Mexican War
  9. Public Affairs After the War
  10. Accounts of Early Visitors and Settlers
  11. Annals of the Close of Old San Diego
  12. American Families of the Early Time
  13. The Journalism of Old San Diego
  14. Abortive Attempt to Establish New San Diego

PART THREE:   The Horton Period

  1. The Founder of the Modern City
  2. Horton’s Own Story
  3. Early Railroad Efforts, Including the Texas and Pacific
  4. San Diego’s First Boom
  5. Some Aspects of Social Life

PART FOUR:   Period of “The Great Boom”

  1. Coming of the Santa Fe
  2. Phenomena of the The Great Boom
  3. Growth of Public Utilities
  4. Water Development

PART FIVE:   The Last Two Decades

  1. Local Annals, After the Boom
  2. Political Affairs and Municipal Campaigns
  3. Later Journalism and Literature [new material in second edition]
  4. The Disaster to the Bennington
  5. The Twentieth Century Days
  6. John D. Spreckels Solves the Railroad Problem

PART SIX:   Institutions of Civic Life

  1. Churches and Religious Life
  2. Schools and Education
  3. Records of the Bench and Bar
  4. Growth of the Medical Profession
  5. The Public Library
  6. Story of the City Parks
  7. The Chamber of Commerce
  8. Banks and Banking
  9. Secret, Fraternal and Other Societies
  10. Account of the Fire Department

PART SEVEN:   Miscellaneous Topics

  1. History of the San Diego Climate
  2. San Diego Bay, Harbor and River
  3. Governmental Activities
  4. The Suburbs of San Diego

Political Roster, City of San Diego
Political Roster, San Diego County