The Growth of the Midwest
(1886 to 1966)

The Growth of the Midwest
(1886 to 1966)

Introduction

“The Huntington is a personal matter to many of you. It is the sum of contributions by skillful bankers from seven other banks which merged with the Huntington. How could one phrase contain their Huntington? The Huntington is a party to the objectives of thousands who wanted to build railroads, power companies, factories, office buildings, hospitals, apartments, theatres, colleges . . . with no single theme. The only authentic summary I ever heard was by a professor of economics answering a graduate student why the Huntington did not fit the patterns, textbooks, nor theories. ‘Well, you see,’ the professor shrugged, ‘The Huntington … is The Huntington.’”

– Clair E. Fultz, Newcomen Speech

INTRODUCTION

The Grand Encampment

The city welcomed an estimated quarter-million patriots. One hundred years after the first settlers set up camp in Marietta, the Ohio Centennial Exposition had opened in Columbus. Leading this influx of visitors was the Grand Army of the Republic — a Civil War veterans organization of former Union Army troops — that chose to hold its 22nd and largest reunion to date in conjunction with the Centennial celebration and the Ohio State Fair. To accommodate the brief but massive population increase, Columbus formed a “National Encampment” of tent cities for the former soldiers and their families. On Sept. 4, 1888, a cloudless fall day, about 50,000 veterans opened the celebration with an impressive parade. Marchers waved flags and formed neat rows beneath High Street’s new wooden archways, each outfitted with gas lamps and decorated just as patriotically as the uniformed troops below.

“The Capital City was in holiday attire,” a Cincinnati Daily Enquirer reporter wrote. “On the principal streets all the business houses and private residences were decorated. It seemed that there was a spontaneous effort to make the visitors feel that they were welcomed … The veterans marched with firm step, and in the ranks were many soldiers who would answer the call to war again if the country needed their services.”1

1898-columbus-map
Copy of 1899 Columbus Map_http---digital-collections.columbuslibrary.org-cdm-compoundobject-collection-maps-id-59-rec-3

Above Images: Maps of Columbus and the Capitol Square region, 1899. Credit: Columbus Metropolitan Library

Copy of 1888 High Street Line_www.columbusrailroads.com-hc-photos
Copy of 1888 Grand Encampment Parade_http---columbusneighborhoods.org-wp-content-uploads-2013-08-AL03297

Left Image: Columbus prepares for the Grand Army of the Republic’s arrival, summer 1888. Credit: Ohio Historical Society

Right Image: Parade of the Grand Army of the Republic at the opening of the Ohio Centennial Exposition, 1888.

In autumn 1888, High Street also hosted Columbus’ first electrified streetcar, which offered free rides east along Chittenden Avenue (named for transportation magnate H.T. Chittenden) to a specially constructed gate at the Ohio State Fairgrounds. Although this initial, experimental “short line” ultimately failed, it set a precedent for a series of electrified street railway lines in the city. Following the fairgrounds model, operating companies like the Glenwood and Greenlawn Street Railway Co. developed amusement parks or other appealing destinations at their termini, to lure city dwellers onto the rails. High Street’s now-iconic wooden arches were replaced with metal ones and their system of gas lamps was replaced by power lines serving the streetcars below. By 1892, most of the horse-drawn streetcars had given way to electric ones and the aging equestrian engines were put out to pasture. 1892 was the same auspicious year that P.W. Huntington welcomed his son Thomas Dunlap Huntington into the banking partnership, a move that represented succession more than replacement. A new era was beginning.

Copy of 1863 Columbus First Streetcar-http---www.columbusrailroads.com-hc-photos
Copy of 1891 First Electric Streetcar_http---digital-collections.columbuslibrary.org-cdm-compoundobject-collection-ohio-id-8678-rec-7

Left Image: Columbus’ first horse-drawn streetcar, 1863. Credit: Columbus Metropolitan Library

Right Image: Columbus’ first electrified streetcar, 1891. Credit: Columbus Metropolitan Library

Through all the growth and change of the nineteenth-century industrial revolution, Columbus has still stayed predominantly a walking city. That is, people walked to work, to church, to market, to play in the park. All sorts of people walked. Rich people like P.W. Huntington walked the same as the working people who labored in the factories along the river. . . . (B)y the 1880s many of the main streets of the city were carrying streetcars. . . . A working person could live away from the noise, smoke, and dirt of the downtown factories and in a neighborhood with trees and grass like more prosperous people were wont to do. . . . Then, in the early 1890s, the world changed again. The streetcars were electrified.2

Act 1

Transforming Transportation

The late 1890s Views of Columbus souvenir booklet illustrates this shift perfectly: on one side of the panorama we see Broad Street mottled with horses and buggies; on the other side we see two neat sets of electric-streetcar tracks traversing High Street. The Huntington Building stands at this landmark intersection. And a few doors down, we find the newly erected Wyandotte Building — the first Chicago-style steel-framed skyscraper erected in Columbus (which would become a Huntington outpost itself in 2015).3

P.W. Huntington had foreseen the importance of rail travel and electricity for decades and “throughout his life P.W. actively participated in rail line and street car line development.”4 P.W. helped lead seven railway companies, including serving as president of the Columbus, Shawnee & Hocking Railroad, the Columbus & Xenia Railroad and director of the Hocking Valley Railroad. The rails facilitated the extraction of the state’s considerable natural resources — including timber, coal, natural gas and iron ore — and P.W. was president of the Columbus Gas Co. and an incorporator of the Columbus Rolling Mill Co. (an iron and steelworks). He was not alone in these ventures. According to Betty Garrett and Edward R. Lentz, authors of Columbus, America’s Crossroads:

 

Copy of 1895 Corner of Broad and High_Souvenir Booklet
Copy of 1895 Corner of Broad and High_Souvenir Booklet2

Above Images: The corner of Broad and High streets, 1895.

Copy of 1890 Railroad Map

Railroad map of Ohio, 1890. Credit: Library of Congress

In the 1880s, Columbus banking and financial interests began to invest in coal mines, timber development and iron ore extraction at a phenomenal rate. By controlling many of the railroads, mines and other major extractive companies in the region, Columbus was in a power position. … These (railroads) — largely financed and controlled by Columbus interests — were critical in forming the industrial Columbus.5

One of the most important interstate lines through the Midwest was known as the Panhandle Route. The route leased the Columbus & Xenia line in 1869 and tracks many of Huntington’s vital regions today: the route eventually stretched from Pittsburgh, across West Virginia’s northern panhandle, through Columbus and continued west to Indianapolis.6

Copy of 190x Indianapolis Railway Map_http---www.barrysbest.net-OminousWeather-images-IndianapolisRailroadMap

Railroad map of Indianapolis, c. 1900.

Serving Rail Workers

Indianapolis, another railroad hub that competed with Columbus for the “America’s Crossroads” title, in the 1880s gave rise to new financial entities that grew up among the railroads and would become part of the Huntington’s growing family. The Union Railway Co. had been formed in Indianapolis in 1849 to address the growing issue of crisscrossing railroad lines — Union Railway laid connecting tracks and built a “Union Depot” at this major junction point. Though little more than a brick barn, the original structure nonetheless “appears to have been the first to collect all the major rail lines entering a city and put them in one building,” according to railroad historian John H. White.7

The Union Railway Co. was incorporated as the Indianapolis Union Railway Co. in 1883 and its president proved instrumental in planning other seminal rail depots including Washington, D.C.’s Union Station and New York City’s Penn Station. The Indianapolis Union Station was modernized between 1886 and 1888.

During this construction period, on Aug. 11, 1887, the Railroadmen’s Building and Savings Association received its charter. The organization was the brainchild of the Indianapolis Union Railway Co.’s paymaster, William Taylor Cannon, who observed that, “many railroad workers, prone to spending most of their earnings, were falling prey to unscrupulous loan sharks.”8At its founding, the operation was little more than an informal savings account: Cannon withheld a portion of each worker’s wages and stored this growing amount in a drawer in his Union Station desk, hardly a secure vault.

The association’s stated goal in its articles of incorporation was “to provide its members a safe and profitable investment of small weekly installments, and to loan them money on easy terms, to enable them to purchase a home or make other investments.”9 He offered no insurance, so we can only assume that the quality of his character served as the collateral necessary for these workers to willingly hand over a percentage of their pay. As the dollars accumulated, Cannon looked for a better, securer model, and hit upon the “Dayton Plan,” a subscription-based building-and-loan association model that emerged in the 1880s. Members could borrow money (membership could be gained for 25 cents), and the association was willing to loan about two-thirds the value of property in question at the nominal interest rate of 12 cents per each $100 borrowed. The repayment structure was equally friendly:

 

Copy of 1861 Indianapolis Union Depot_https---www.flickr.com-photos-hoosier_recollections-15240377804Original Indianapolis Union Depot, c. 1865.

 

Copy of 189x Indianapolis Union Station_https---archives.historyfactory.com-contentengine-detail.cfm-cid=141317Modernized Indianapolis Union Station, c. 1890. Credit: Indiana Historical Society

Every borrower is required to pay at least twenty-five cents per week on each $100 of his loan. This would make $2.50 per week on a loan of $1,000, or $10 per week on $4,000, and so on. This is all he is required to pay, and includes the interest and premium, but he is left free to pay as much more as he wishes. He may, therefore, choose his own time to pay his loan, provided he does not pay less than the required payments. He may pay it in five years, or in one year, or even in one week if he wishes.10

Cannon’s idea was for the association to be run by a consortium of railway executives throughout Indianapolis, and he soon persuaded 14 other railroad managers to join together in establishing the Railroadmen’s Building and Loan Association. Cannon served as executive secretary and I.H. Wilson was appointed the organization’s first president. The organization was inclusive from its inception. Railroadmen’s 1888 annual report states clearly, “This Association, while known as the Railroadmen’s, is not confined in its membership to persons in railroad employ. All persons of honorable occupation are welcome to membership.”11 W.T. Cannon welcomed a new member to his family that year, as Fermor Spencer Cannon arrived on Aug. 4, 1888, about a week before the association completed its first year of operation.

Copy of 1887 Railroadmen's Incorporation Doc_117-1930 Railroadmens incorporation docs - IN State Archives
Copy of 1887 William Cannon Account_https---archives.historyfactory.com-contentengine-detail.cfm-cid=139426
Copy of 188x William Cannon Portrait_https---archives.historyfactory.com-contentengine-detail.cfm-cid=139248

Left Image: Railroadmen’s Building and Savings Association’s original articles of incorporation, August 1887.
Middle Image: Co-founder William T. Cannon’s account order form allocating $40 of his salary to the Railroadmen’s Building and Savings Association, October 1887.  Credit: Indiana Historical Society
Right Image: Railroadmen’s Building and Savings Association co-founder William T. Cannon. Credit: Indiana Historical Society

Indianola Building and Loan Association

On Sept. 3, 1887, only a month after Railroadmen’s received its charter, Irish immigrant George Sadlier helped found the Indianola Building and Loan Association.12Sadlier was a blacksmith who worked in a horseshoe shop in the early 1900s, so he must have felt the changing transportation trends acutely in the late 1890s.13The new organization set up shop just 2 miles west of Union Station, across the White River, at 1402 W. Washington St. Similar to the Railroadmen’s Building and Loan, the Indianola Building and Loan offered membership at the bargain price of 25 cents per share, and the organization’s aim was “to accumulate capital for its members out of weekly payments, to be made by them on their shares.”14 No individual member was allowed to subscribe for or hold more than 20 shares. The group held its first annual meeting on Sept. 12, 1888, and would years later evolve to become the Union Federal Savings Bank, which Huntington Bank eventually acquired.

Aside from Indianapolis’ role as a transportation hub for passengers, goods and livestock, the city counted meatpacking and manufacturing as primary industries. Hundreds of freight cars arrived daily throughout the 1870s and 1880s (in 1882, the Belt Railroad and Stock Yard Co. leased its rail operation to the Indianapolis Union Railway Co.).15Beyond the city, Indiana gained further national relevance in 1906, when the city of Gary was founded as a new home for U.S. Steel’s massive plant. U.S. Steel was the country’s first billion-dollar corporation — formed in 1901 by the merger of Carnegie Steel, National Steel and Federal Steel. And town incorporator Elbert H. Gary knew the Midwest was becoming a vital bastion of industry, natural resources, laborers and transportation.

Early Consolidation

Mergers, acquisitions and consolidation were, by the turn of the century, emerging as vital trends in banking and steel. In 1900, as Columbus’ population reached 125,000, the city’s Hayden National Bank (est. 1891), formerly Hayden, Hutcheson & Co. (est. 1866) merged with Clinton National Bank (est. 1887) to form Hayden-Clinton National Bank. With new industry and population growth across Ohio, new banks sprang up, including Citizens Banking Co. in Salineville. This institution, founded on May 9, 1902, — and the 1887-founded Ohio Bank and Savings Co. in Findlay, Ohio17 — are two of the earliest precursors to what became Sky Bank.

By the end of the 19th century, cultural and educational institutions had blossomed in Columbus. The Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College changed its name to The Ohio State University in 1878, and a year later honored its first female graduate. By the 1890s, Ohio State offered master’s, doctoral and law degrees. P.W. Huntington, having weathered the worst of the Panic of 1893 and prepared to pass his bank to his sons during that same decade, gave a rousing address to the next generation of Ohio State’s economics and sociology students on Oct. 25, 1899. The address culminated with a renewed call for transparency and scrupulous accounting in economics, the opposite of which had contributed to the recent economic crisis:

 

Copy of 1869 Hayden Clinton Bank Building_https---archives.historyfactory.com-contentengine-detail.cfm-cid=141211Hayden-Clinton Bank Building on East Broad Street, c. 1870s. Credit: Columbus Metropolitan Library
The Bank of New Castle, later renamed the First National Bank of Lawrence County at New Castle, was established in 1855 and is the oldest predecessor institution for what became Sky Bank, later part of Huntington.16

Many of us are in the afternoon of life, and our faces are turned toward the swiftly declining sun. We have seen the most and the best of life; our places will soon be filled by the students of to-day, for the world cannot do without bankers and business men and women. Allow me then, my young friends, to admonish you to so live, and so discharge the duties of life, that those who come after you shall find nothing in your record difficult of explanation and nothing requiring apology. Men often look abroad for that which is at home, and seek at a distance for that which is near; but I am sure you may find at home that which it is desirable for you, as business men and women, to possess. A plain simplicity is more to your purpose than the adoption of any new or delusive methods, promulgated by those who build upon unstable foundations and reason from false premises. The plain, old-fashioned rule of two and two make four, in all its ramifications, is better, far better, for your use than the platitudes of any argument or scheme which ignores such a rule. Sound integrity and natural prudence always create dignity, while they inspire confidence and respect. On these would I wish you to build your character; on these would I see your methods constructed; and in the practice of these would I hope for the Divine blessing on yourselves, your State, and your Nation.18

A National Bank

At his own bank, integrity and prudence also meant transparency. P.W. and his new colleagues expanded P.W. Huntington & Co.’s services by obtaining a national charter. This shift from private to public banking also entailed issuing an annual statement of condition. In 1905, when the bank incorporated as Huntington National Bank of Columbus, Ohio, its first statement of condition — the balance sheet at the close of business on Nov. 9, 1905 — offers an initial glimpse into the bank’s capital and liquidity position.

A single statement of condition is only a snapshot (i.e., the balance sheet as of close of business on a particular day might differ considerably from the one generated a week before or later). But comparing these statements over years or decades provides more context and a clearer picture of financial trends, and of Huntington’s financial health at different times.

The 1905 statement, for instance, lists $406,928 in “capital accounts” — which includes capital stock, surplus, and undivided profits — against $1.42 million in overall assets, which yields a very modest “tier 1” leverage ratio of about 3.5-to-1.19 Though an admittedly oversimplified view, this means that the bank maintained high asset coverage in relation to overall liabilities. Low leverage ratios typically mean lower risk — the bank is conservatively maintaining a less aggressive position rather than taking on undue risk to maximize profits.

Copy of 1905 HNB Statement of Condition_https---archives.historyfactory.com-contentengine-detail.cfm-cid=139723Huntington National Bank’s first Statement of Condition, Nov. 9, 1905.

 

Copy of 1907 Financial Panic_https---upload.wikimedia.org-wikipedia-commons-7-72-1907_Panic_cropWall Street amid the Panic of 1907.

The Panic of 1907

The new Huntington entity remained prudently positioned, but a new panic hit in October 1907. In New York, the Knickerbocker Trust Co. — the nation’s second-largest trust — was implicated in a scheme to manipulate the stock (or “corner the market”) of the United Copper Co.20On Oct. 22, Knickerbocker experienced a bank run, creating a crisis of confidence and sparking other bank runs and failures. Banks nationwide began hoarding cash. Financial magnate J.P. Morgan and a consortium of other bankers infused considerable liquidity into the system to halt the downward slide.21

The panic, P.W. said, “struck our country … with such force and suddenness as to remind one of a cyclone, the business of the land has gradually assumed a condition of depression, which is seriously felt on all sides.”22Nevertheless, the Huntington National Bank stayed consistent, and Clair Fultz wrote, the bank “is in such an unusually liquid position that it is able to discount notes for financial institutions in Central Ohio. Though its own surplus is thus drained low, it lasts long enough to get many to the other side of the canyon in the economy.”23 Another outcome of this belt-tightening manifested in 1912, when Huntington opted not to issue a dividend, the only year in its history that this occurred.

P.W.’s son Thomas left the banking partnership in 1910 to start his own business. That same year, the Deshler National Bank, started by David W. Deshler’s son and grandson in 1879, was acquired by the Hayden-Clinton National Bank.

The Panic of 1907 sparked the creation of the Federal Reserve System, which would include the country’s latest attempt at “a central bank, an institution that could regulate the economy and serve as a lender of last resort to bail banks out of trouble,” just as financiers like Huntington and Morgan had done in this latest crisis.24A series of academic symposia and a federal commission led to the creation of the Federal Reserve on Dec. 23, 1913.

Also in 1913, as the financial and banking industry shifted toward increased regulation and consolidation, transportation trends headed in a similar direction, with rail companies merging and consolidating. But in 1913, the assembly line arrived, and amid an era marked by growing viability of public transportation — from the transcontinental railroad to electric streetcars and interurban trains — a new vehicle hit the streets: the automobile.

Copy of 1913 Federal Reserve_https---commons.wikimedia.org-wiki-Category-Federal_Reserve#-media-File-Fed_Reserve
US-$1-FRBN-1918-Fr.713

Left Image: President Woodrow Wilson signed the Currency Law on Dec. 23, 1913 to create Federal Reserve System.
Right Image: Federal Reserve bank note, 1918. Credit: National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution

Driving Forward

From the start, Michigan was the unquestioned leader in automobile technology and manufacturing. Central Michigan — Lansing and Jackson, predominantly — and eastern Michigan — Detroit, obviously — grew quickly. Beginning in the 1890s, tinkerers like Ransom E. Olds in Lansing, and former railroad car engineer Charles B. King in Detroit led the way. Henry Ford rolled out his first prototype car in 1896, and soon established eastern Michigan as the locus of innovation. Meanwhile, historian Scott Martelle, author of “Detroit: A Biography,” wrote, “the American dream shifted from one of freedom to one of riches and acquisition. The self-made millionaire became the hero, the iconic role model. … The creative and entrepreneurial vibe in Detroit was contagious, and a magnet.”25 Early car manufacturers like the Packard brothers moved from Warren, Ohio, to Detroit, and the population of the city grew from around 286,000 in 1900 to 466,000 10 years later.26

Driving this growth (pun intended?) was Ford’s Model T, introduced in 1908 at a much lower price compared with rival cars. Automobiles increasingly went from high-end luxury items owned only by the elite to a popular and ubiquitous fact of urban life, hastening the rise of suburbs. Along with geographic freedom, automobiles brought economic and social freedom. People could build houses, open businesses and form communities removed from city life’s hustle and bustle. As if to underscore this point, in the mid-1910s Ford began moving his factory out of Detroit and into Dearborn, a nearby suburb.27

The auto industry’s influence rippled across the Midwest. Entrepreneurs like Bethlehem Steel’s Charles M. Schwab expanded into auto manufacturing, capitalizing on the thriving steel industry, purchasing large or controlling interests in the Stutz and American Motor Body companies headquartered in Indianapolis.28 Other companies like Studebaker, Cole, and Marmon also operated out of the Hoosier State. In 1909, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened as a test track for automakers, and beginning in May 1911, the Indianapolis 500 became a perennial draw for auto innovators and spectators alike.

Columbus, the former buggy-manufacturing capital of the world, claims to be home to one of the country’s first dedicated gas stations — the Standard Oil of Ohio station — which opened in 1910. That same year brought the Streetcar Strike from workers of the Columbus Railway and Light Co. The walkout failed, but not before rioters damaged city streets and railcar barns.29This destruction was followed by the catastrophic flood of 1913, and the overflowing Scioto and Miami rivers, which devastated Columbus and Dayton and rattled Indiana.30

Copy of 1913 Ford assembly line_https---commons.wikimedia.org-wiki-File-Ford_assembly_line_-_1913
oldcar

Left Image: Ford assembly line, 1913.
Right Image: Model T Ford roadster, 1913. Credit: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

carcarPoster advertising the newly opened Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 1909. Credit:  Library of Congress

 

Copy of 1912 Standard Oil Gas Station_https---100yearsagotoday.files.wordpress.com-2012-06-1912060141The first known gas station, operated as Standard Oil of Ohio and opened in Columbus, Ohio, photographed in 1912.

Next-Generation Leadership

Amid this turmoil and change, a new generation emerged to lead Midwestern banks. In 1912 in Indianapolis, co-founder George Sadlier became president of the Indianola Building and Loan. A year later, William Cannon became the Railroadmen’s Building and Loan’s president and maintained his railroad job until 1917. Baldwin Gwynne Huntington (B.G.) was appointed cashier of Huntington National Bank in 1911,31 succeeding his brother Theodore Sollace Huntington (T.S.). In 1914, after his father, P.W. became chairman and transferred the rest of his stock to his sons, Francis Ropes (F.R.) became the bank’s president.

F.R. and B.G. maintained a large number of business and community service interests beyond their namesake bank. The brothers worked with the Midland Mutual Life Insurance Co. in 1906, with F.R. founding and serving as treasurer and director and B.G. serving as finance committee chairman.32 F.R. helped organize the Columbus Stock Exchange in 1903 and, like his father, was a director of the Hocking Valley Railroad. He also served as director of the Ohio Bell Telephone Co., Erner & Hopkins Electric Co. and the Morehouse-Martens department store.

B.G. also sat on Erner & Hopkins’ board, was a director of the Little Miami Railroad, and served on the board of four coal companies.33 Like P.W., he was president of the Ohio Bankers Association, serving from 1924 to 1925.

Both brothers followed their passions to help develop cultural institutions in Columbus. F.R., an artist and close friend of contemporary painter George Bellows, was instrumental in developing the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts. F.R., who initially served as a contributor, became board president in 1923:

 

1of3
Copy of 190x Baldwin Gwynne Huntington_https---archives.historyfactory.com-contentengine-detail.cfm-cid=139017
Copy of 190x Theodore Sollace Huntington_https---archives.historyfactory.com-contentengine-detail.cfm-cid=139008

Above Images: P.W. Huntington’s “Banking Sons,” Francis Ropes (F.R.), Baldwin Gwynne (B.G.), and Theodore Sollace (T.S.), led the bank from the 1910s until the late 1950s.

The Museum became what it is today because of F.R. Huntington. Mr. Huntington and his leadership were the driving force and vision that transformed a Gallery of Fine Art into a modern museum. He spearheaded the campaign that raised the money to build the current Museum, which was the first real museum space, largely by making personal solicitations. He helped form the foundation of our permanent collection by solidifying the donation of the Howald Collection, which was at the time of its donation one of the most significant modern art collections in the country.34

B.G joined his brother in supporting the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts and followed in his father’s footsteps as president of the Green Lawn Cemetery Association, which P.W. had established. He also helped lead the Instructive District Nursing Association, the Children’s Hospital, the Columbus Academy and Columbus School for Girls and, notably, the Columbus Community Fund, which was reorganized years later in the United Way.35

Huntington at 50

As World War I was erupting in Europe, Huntington National Bank was growing. The bank had assets of $1.42 million when it received its national charter in 1905, and by 1914, the year F.R. became president, the bank’s assets had more than doubled to $3.11 million, with a leverage ratio of 5.7-to-1. The following year, the bank bought the Harrison Building at 21 S. High St. to accommodate its growing business, which had added limited trust powers approved by the Fed.

To mark the bank’s 50th anniversary in 1916, Huntington moved into its impressive new home. The remodeled building designed by architect Frank L. Packard, featured ceilings of marble, American walnut and plaster ornamentation; and bank vaults “lined with steel plates and entered by vault doors of the most modern workmanship. The equipment stands as a model for banking purposes.”36

The year after Huntington moved, Railroadmen’s Building and Loan moved from its informal paymaster’s office in Union Station to proper facilities on 21 Virginia Ave. Also during this transitional time, on Dec. 12, 1916 Jacob Den Herder died. The Zeeland State Bank directors pledged to sustain the “absolute probity, scrupulous honesty, and conservative wisdom,” always displayed by their founder.37

P.W. lived long enough to witness this celebration and relocation, but died in 1918 at age 81. Midwestern institutions that would later come under the Huntington umbrella were changing; new leaders had new buildings to fill and tough acts to follow.

Copy of 1910s Huntington bank building
Copy of 1916 Huntington Bank Lobby_https---archives.historyfactory.com-contentengine-detail.cfm-cid=141266

croplogo

Left & Middle Images: Huntington Bank moved into its new building in 1916, featuring a beautiful new bank lobby with a ceiling of interlocking honeycombs. Credit: Columbus Metropolitan Library
Right Image: Huntington’s 50th anniversary logo, 1916.

Copy of 1909 Zeeland State Bank building construction
Copy of 19xx Zeeland State Bank street scene

Above Images: The Zeeland State Bank building, seen under construction in 1909 and in its finished form. Credit: Zeeland Historical Society

Copy of 1915 Hamtramck Dodge Main Plant_http---www.woodhavenhistoric.com-index.php-era-1910s-dodge-motor-plant-dodge-main-hamtramck-mi-1915-photo-306
Copy of 1925 Railroadmen's bank building_https---archives.historyfactory.com-contentengine-detail.cfm-cid=141311

Left Image: Dodge Main plant in Hamtramck, Michigan, c. 1915.
Right Image: Railroadmen’s Building and Loan Association building, c. 1925. Credit: Indiana Historical Society

Act 2

Mass Production

As the Roaring ’20s kicked into gear, Detroit’s industry pushed the national economy forward. Ford’s Model T had dropped in price — the mass-production experiment worked for laborers and consumers alike. In the preceding decade “the ranks of industrial workers more than doubled, and their wages and the value of the products they made nearly quintupled. Detroit’s ancillary businesses, from clothing stores to restaurants, thrived.”38So did many surrounding suburbs and townships.

Hamtramck, a city that was once a mostly rural outcropping of Polish neighborhoods in western Detroit, benefited when the Dodge Main auto plant was built there in 1910. Fisher Body opened another factory near Hamtramck in 1919.39 By the mid-1920s, “about 85 percent of Hamtramck’s household heads were factory workers, half of them unskilled. Nonetheless, nearly 78 percent of the city’s residents owned or were buying their own homes.”40 Banks like Hamtramck’s Liberty State Bank & Trust, founded in 1918, helped spark this trend.

As new banks opened in thriving industrial areas, some banks were failing in rural areas; industrialization was wearing on the agrarian economy. A moral tug-of-war emerged to coincide with this economic one, for this was the era of Prohibition. Many rural hinterlands in Michigan and elsewhere decried the influx of immigrants and racial minorities to the nearby cities — and the debaucherous godlessness they associated with urban living. Support of Prohibition laws was often as much a veiled attempt at discrimination as a move toward temperance. When Prohibition took effect, many cities, largely ignored it — Detroit, for example, could easily import booze from nearby Canada. But by the mid-1920s, a dangerous underworld sprang up around the illegal sale of liquor; many public officials were implicated in wrongdoing, including two of Hamtramck’s mayors. However, much of the farmland around cities was ripe for development and annexation into nearby cities.

In Columbus, Huntington realized this and shifted gears. F.R. was a painter and took an artist’s approach to banking — one emphasizing the vision to see what’s missing and the will to create it. He created a bank department dealing in government and regional bonds, which helped the bank sift through the mass of developers looking to improve the Scioto Valley and invest in projects that would help Columbus grow economically. (The new department ultimately became the Huntington Securities Corp.)41The bank received full trust powers from the Federal Reserve in 1922.

In keeping with F.R.’s vision, the bank made its first acquisitions. Huntington expanded from its typical role as “a banker’s bank” — focusing only on industrial and commercial accounts along with correspondence banking — and merged with the State Savings Bank on Feb. 17, 1923. The savings institution, founded in 1891, had purchased the Capitol Trust Co. in 1911, so the merger gave Huntington its first $250,000 foothold in personal savings accounts and an expanded service for trusts.

A month later, F.R. orchestrated the acquisition of the Hayden-Clinton National Bank. The institution that traced its roots back to the beginnings of banking in Columbus, and to P.W. Huntington’s founding partner David Deshler, was now part of Huntington. “As had his father before him,” Clair Fultz wrote, “F.R. had successfully employed growth and change to strengthen the bank’s essential continuity.”42

This latter merger brought another serendipitous stroke of institutional continuity: John Stevenson, Huntington’s future CEO, had started as a messenger at the Deshler National Bank at age 15. By the time he came to Huntington along with Hayden-Clinton, he had amassed a lifetime of experience in finance. Clair Fultz wrote:

 

Copy of 192x High Street_https---noblecountygold.files.wordpress.com-2013-05-high-street-2High Street in the 1920s.
Copy of 195x John Stevenson_https---archives.historyfactory.com-contentengine-detail.cfm-cid=139178John Stevenson, the first nonfamily member to lead Huntington Bank.

(Stevenson) brought some major ideas which were way ahead of the Huntington. For example, the Huntington always had been headed by highly professional bankers, students of banking, learned in the subject. But it stopped close to the top. It was Stevenson who set out to see that this professionalism extended to every level of bank personnel. He began pushing our people to school. He aggressively promoted the Columbus chapter of the American Institute of Banking educational program. And when the (American Banking Association) started graduate schools in banking at Rutgers, he pushed our people into those schools, and he studied their report cards, too.43

The State Savings Bank’s staff joined Huntington in its new building. But despite the remodeling, the building had no room for the acquired Hayden-Clinton employees. So, a new, all-inclusive expansion was planned, one that would, according to a front-page Columbus Dispatch article, “provide room for expansion for the next half century.”44The goal was to complete the expansion in time for Huntington’s 60th anniversary, and it was worth noting that during the entire time of its existence, “Huntington Bank never has been more than 200 feet from the spot which is recognized by everyone as the social and business center of the city.”45

A Roof Over Our Heads

As Huntington focused on construction that could accommodate its growing team of employees in Columbus, Railroadmen’s Building and Loan had focused on helping Indianapolis’ growing population afford new homes. By the 1920s, Railroadmen’s had become the world’s largest building and loan. The association, which began with capitalization of $5,017.9046boasted more than $19 million in assets by 1920 and more than $60 million by the end of 1930.47

As William Cannon served as Railroadmen’s president, his son Fermor made a name for himself in Indianapolis as an architect. After graduating from University of Illinois, the younger Cannon ran his own practice from 1913 to 1929, designing buildings like Butler University’s Butler (Hinkle) Fieldhouse, built in 1928. The arena became known as “Indiana’s basketball cathedral” and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.48 Fermor, a railroadman by birth if not by trade, also helped design the Interurban Freight Terminal in the early 1920s, and was an avid model train enthusiast. After the construction of the Butler Fieldhouse, Fermor joined his father and became vice president of the building and loan; in 1929, he became executive vice president. The following year, also in Indianapolis, George Sadlier died and his son George Sadlier Jr. became an Indianola Building and Loan Association director. The next generation was assuming leadership just as financial storm clouds were gathering over the nation’s economy.

Succession was coming to Huntington, too. On March 1, 1928, F.R. died of heart disease after a 14-year run as the family business’s president; T.S. followed as the new president.

T.S. was a numbers guy, the financial brain behind F.R.’s artist’s eye. He incorporated his brother’s bond department as Huntington Securities Corp., adding an investment branch to the bank’s services.

“In Mr. Theodore there was a strange magic,” Fultz said. “The sheer intellectual power of the man projected instantly to businessmen. Mr. Theodore knew banking by the book. He knew the old banking laws and the new ones, national and state. Bankers sought his counsel.”49

Such a student of banking knew well its frequent boom-bust cycles — and how to prepare for the worst and handle crises. But the magnitude of the country’s next broad economic bust would be unprecedented.

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Fermor Cannon, son of co-founder William T. Cannon, led Railroadmen’s Building and Savings Association after his father’s tenure. Photo Credit: Indiana Historical Society

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Cannon, a trained architect, designed the historic Butler (Hinkle) Fieldhouse, made famous by the many Indiana high school basketball championships played on its court and immortalized in the 1986 film Hoosiers.

The Great Depression

Although debate still rages over what exactly precipitated the Great Depression, a case can be made for the crisis originating in Detroit. Most of the commercial banking that supported the growing auto industry had initially derived from New York and Chicago lenders, with smaller Detroit-area banks like Liberty State Bank & Trust serving smaller, local interests. By the mid-1920s, all of this had changed:

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During the Great Depression, bank runs were common like the ones pictured here at Railroadmen’s Building and Savings Association in 1930 and Guardian Detroit Bank in 1933. Photo Credit: Indiana Historical Society

In 1927, a group of local bankers, with auto executives tagged for seats on the board of directors, formed the Guardian Detroit Bank, which consisted of a traditional bank, an investment branch, and a trust company. Edsel Ford, Henry Ford’s only child, was a key player despite his father’s misgivings about banks, and it grew quickly, developing a reputation as the auto companies’ bank. Guardian merged with or swallowed up twenty-three other banks or trust companies.50

As others in finance were caught up in speculation and Roaring 20s excesses, Huntington remained conservative. Then, Black Tuesday hit on Oct. 29, 1929, ushering in the Great Depression. In 1925, United States had 617 bank failures. In 1930, there were 1,350 bank failures. The following year, 2,293 banks went under. More than 10,000 banks51failed across the country during the Depression, and “with each failure came an obliteration of many people’s life savings, and fear began to spread through the country that an unstoppable cascade would soon materialize. … There was no welfare, no unemployment insurance, no Social Security, and no deposit insurance to protect the meager savings of these workers against the cascading bank crisis.”52

In Detroit, banks not affiliated with Guardian Detroit Bank banded together in 1930. The newly expanded Detroit Bankers Group merged with or acquired about 40 smaller banks, “in effect giving Detroit two behemoths.”53 As automobile sales tanked, single-industry-focused Detroit tanked with them. In February 1933, amid widespread bank runs, Guardian applied for a government bailout through the Reconstruction Finance Corp. To cover these potential loans, auto magnates from General Motors and Chrysler pledged to keep their company assets in Guardian accounts.

As a last-ditch measure, Michigan Gov. William Comstock declared a bank holiday on Feb. 14, 1933, triggering a nationwide panic. Withdrawals from Cleveland banks were restricted a couple of days later. At 1 a.m. March 6 of that year, President Franklin D. Roosevelt applied this bank holiday nationally. The crisis began to subside on March 9, when Congress passed the Emergency Banking Act, and the bank holiday lasted until March 13, when some banks reopened.

“Some of our bankers had shown themselves either incompetent or dishonest in their handling of the people’s funds,” Roosevelt said in his first fireside chat explaining the drastic move. “This was of course not true in the vast majority of our banks but it was true in enough of them to shock the people for a time into a sense of insecurity and to put them into a frame of mind where they did not differentiate, but seemed to assume that the acts of a comparative few had tainted them all.”54

1933 Bank HolidayPresident Franklin D. Roosevelt declared an initial four-day “bank holiday” in 1933, which was ultimately extended an additional four days to March 13. Photo Credit: The Circleville Herald
Franklin_Delano_Roosevelt_signs_Banking_Act_of_1935President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing the 1935 Banking Act into law, which created the FDIC.

Surviving and Thriving

Huntington counted itself among the majority of lenders that continued to operate with competence and honesty. Columbus’ diversified economy fared much better during the Depression than the economies in the nation’s auto, steel or rubber capitals. Still, unemployment was keenly felt.

Under T.S.’ watch, the bank continued to grow dramatically and improve its capitalization, driving its leverage ratio down from 15.1-to-1 in 1920 (during F.R.’s presidency), to 7.74-to-1 in 1929. By the end of a brutalizing year, the ratio had dipped further, to 7.44-to-1. And by the end of the first phase of the Great Depression, overall capital accounts declined by about one quarter through 1933, and the ratio rose back up, to about 11.1-to-1. Despite a challenging operating environment, the bank’s balance sheet remained healthy throughout the Depression, holding steady around $30 million in overall assets through the crisis’s peak and rebounding to $66 million by 1936. Capital accounts had risen to $5.6 million by this time, a substantive increase.

Despite this unqualified success, T.S.’ short reign as the bank’s leader ended. His health began failing in the early 1930s, and he ceded the presidency in 1932, secure in knowing he’d kept his family’s bank not only afloat but stable during the downturn. His brother B.G. took over as president.

Railroadmen’s was hit slightly harder during the Depression, partly because William T. Cannon, its founder and longtime leader, died suddenly in 1931. His son Fermor succeeded him as president. The association’s assets, which peaked at $60 million in 1930, dipped to about $35.6 million by 1936, the year of its 50th anniversary. On June 6 that year, the association obtained a federal charter. The newly named Railroadmen’s Federal Savings and Loan Association of Indianapolis allowed members to participate in share insurance, among other safeguards.55 The association’s commitment to accessibility and member service never wavered.

“This association has always been ready and eager to advise with any of its members on any problem with which they are confronted,” Fermor Cannon wrote in the 1936 statement of condition. “It was a basic policy of the ‘founders’ and will be maintained by the staff at all times. If you want to talk things over, it is our privilege to advise with you at your convenience. Please call upon any of our officers for this service.”56

Railroadmen’s survived the Depression while 10 local banks failed by 1933.57

Huntington and its legacy institutions aimed for consistency, but the financial turmoil of the 1930s sparked big regulatory changes nationally. On March 6, 1933, all banks were forced to close — a bank holiday initially scheduled to last four days but ultimately extended to March 13 for federal reserve banks and March 15 for all banks. That same year, Congress formed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., or FDIC, which increased federal regulatory control over national banks while insuring deposits up to $2,500. The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 required a separation of commercial and investment banking businesses. The following year, the National Housing Act helped form the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp. to serve a similar role for savings-and-loan institutions as the FDIC did for national banks. In 1935, a new Banking Act greatly expanded the Federal Reserve system’s powers, making the FDIC permanent and increasing the insurance coverage it offered to $5,000.

Because of Glass-Steagall, Huntington Securities Corp. was liquidated and shareholders received a substantial dividend. Under B.G.’s leadership, meanwhile, Huntington again proved its worth as a major correspondent bank. Fultz, who joined Huntington National Bank as a messenger in 1934 said:

 

This meant that many banks in smaller towns throughout the region kept deposit balances at The Huntington against which drafts could be issued and checks could be collected. … The volume of business generated by these trips necessitated a special early morning shift of personnel to handle checks. Beginning in 1926 and continuing until the arrival of the computer in 1963, several people would arrive at the bank at five o’clock, six days a week. … They received extra pay and there were always more volunteers for that shift than were needed.58

A Correspondent Bank

Huntington’s expanded role as a correspondent bank was auspiciously timed. As country banks scrambled to keep money circulating in their regions, Huntington’s exceedingly liquid position allowed it to send the necessary cash and keep things moving. During this period, P.W.’s grandson — also named Pelatiah Webster Huntington but known as “Web” — served as a messenger, driving high sums of cash to correspondent banks so they could cover the modest needs of long lines of customers. Huntington was a leader throughout its region, providing liquidity and emergency loans when help was scarce.

Elsewhere across Huntington’s future footprint, in February 1934 Henry Gassaway Davis’ Elkins National Bank merged with the Peoples National Bank of Elkins (est. 1906) to form the Tygarts Valley National Bank. At Zeeland State Bank, where assets had dipped to $2 million in 1935, World War I veteran Edward M. Den Herder was named president in 1937, following his father Christian into leadership of the family business. The second-generation bank leader Christian J. Den Herder had died that year, as did second-generation Huntington leader “Mr. Theodore.”

On a brighter note, amid a recession in 1937 (which was relatively minor compared with the devastation of the early 1930s), Indianola Building and Loan followed Railroadmen’s model and converted to a federal savings and loan to take advantage of the protections offered by the FSLIC. The newly named Union Federal Savings & Loan Association also took up new residence on 137 E. Market St. that year. And in Cleveland, another future Huntington growth market, the Union Bank of Commerce was established on May 16, 1938, taking up residence at East Ninth Street and Euclid Avenue. This was the former home of Union Trust Co. (est. 1920), once the nation’s fifth-largest trust company, which was closed and liquidated in March 1933.59

As a decade marked by tremendous struggle and change for banking neared its close, a massive new international challenge emerged that would test the Midwest’s mettle like never before. When Japanese bombers attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, America joined the global fight that would cost hundreds of thousands of lives and forever change domestic and global economics.

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Christian J. Den Herder (top) and Edward Marion Den Herder (bottom). Photo Credits: Zeeland Historical Museum

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Union Commerce Bank building in Cleveland, c. 1938.

Act 3

The Arsenal of Democracy

By 1940, Columbus’ population had reached 306,087, placing it just outside the nation’s largest 25 largest cities. Detroit counted more than 1.6 million residents, making it the nation’s fourth-largest city, just behind New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. The Federal Reserve System focused on financing the U.S. war effort. Loans and other federal financing were offered to help Detroit’s heavy industry adapt from auto manufacturing to wartime industry — the building of tanks, military engines, light and heavy artillery. Henry Ford applied his assembly-line technology to the manufacture of B-24 bombers. In Columbus, the Curtiss-Wright aircraft plant shifted from small private and commercial planes to war machines, employing some 12,000 people beginning in 1940.61

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Left Image: Polish-Americans in Hamtramck contributing to the war relief effort, 1939. Credit: Detroit News Collection, Walter P. Reuther Library
Right Image: Detroit auto plants, known as the “arsenal of democracy,” were converted to supporting the war effort, including this Chrysler facility shown at peak production of Sherman tanks, June 1944. Credit: U.S. Army

Detroit became the “arsenal of democracy.” Trucks and tanks were produced en masse and interest rates were pegged at low levels — around 2 percent — throughout the war.62 Many new financial securities and investment opportunities were created to back the war effort — war bonds, specifically. Partly for this reason, “the United States emerged from the Second World War with the only major functioning army, with more than half of the usable production capacity in the world, and as the banker and creditor to both former allies and former enemies,” historians Barry Bluestone and Bennett Harrison wrote.63 Huntington National Bank emerged from the war-spurred growth period with more than $126 million in assets, $7.3 million in capital accounts and a leverage ratio of more than 17 to 1.64 The ratio would rise to more than 20 to 1 by the early 1950s, but much of the asset base was invested in highly liquid government securities. This shows the growing limitations of viewing a bank’s leverage ratio in isolation, without factoring in some of the nuances of the underlying risk.65

The 1944 Bretton Woods accord pegged the U.S. dollar as the standard for all other international exchange rates, allowing for increased commercial globalization. Detroit reverted to its automaking expertise rather than maintaining its newly diversified industrial portfolio. In the short term, the city benefited from the postwar consumerism boom and cars flew off the assembly line. Detroit’s population would surpass 1.85 million by 1950, with about 200,000 manufacturing jobs — a high-water mark that preceded a long, slow decline. 66

The Postwar Boom

Columbus’ population, meanwhile, rose slowly and steadily, reaching nearly 376,000 by 1950. Major new commercial experiments like Don Casto Sr.’s Town & Country Shopping Center, which opened in 1949, proved the viability of the regional shopping mall. Suburbs became synonymous with the American dream. Americans envisioned living in a house with a lawn, a white-picket fence and a car or two waiting outside. Inside, a respectable arsenal of appliances and luxury goods would make life easier and more fun. The “one-stop” shopping model of department stores and shopping malls would come to define banking, too.

In West Michigan, Zeeland State Bank was back on top, boasting $7.09 million in assets by the end of World War II, and nearly $10 million by 1950. The bank had in 1939 acquired the nearby State Commercial Savings Bank, a casualty of the Depression. But Zeeland State Bank and many other Huntington-owned banks were entering another era of leadership transition. In 1952, two years after his son Robert Jay Den Herder joined the bank as a teller, Zeeland President Ed Den Herder died suddenly. His brother Jay died three years later. Ed’s wife memorialized him as follows:

Town & Country Shopping Center - 1974.
Copy of 1947 Zeeland State Bank building

Left Image: Columbus’ Town & Country Shopping Center, c. 1960. Credit: The Columbus Dispatch
Right Image: Zeeland State Bank building, 1947. Credit: Zeeland Historical Museum

Ed was a gentle man. A man who loved people and was loved in return. At Christmas, customers came to the bank with produce and baked goods in appreciation of the service they had received. Ed inherited the personal integrity and sense of community responsibility his father and grandfather had been noted for. … I believe Ed was responsible for something that is very much a part of the bank today: the ‘we want to help’ spirit of the staff.67

At Zeeland State Bank, Adrian Vanden Bosch succeeded Ed as president. Like the Den Herders, the Vanden Bosches had been an original settling family of Zeeland a century earlier. Adrian started at Zeeland State Bank in 1918 as a teller and janitor, working his way up to assistant cashier in 1928 and then executive vice president under Ed. He also helped many businesses get up and running in Zeeland, serving as Chamber of Commerce chairman for more than 20 years.68

In Indianapolis, Fermor Cannon retired in 1954, with Railroadmen’s declaring assets totaling $57 million. The association had, by then, helped build more than 100,000 homes in the region — an impressive feat. Liquidity and high cash reserves were as important to this institution as to the Huntington; Fermor highlighted the 33.3 percent liquidity ratio in his 1950 president’s message.69

In 1960, President and Board Chairman Noble C. Hilgenberg announced strong, continued growth of the institution’s savings business (which reached $91 million that year) and home loans (which reached $72 million). A year earlier across town, Union Federal, which opened its first new branch in 1948 at 7 E. Maple Road, merged with the Colonial Savings and Loan. The bank’s president, George Sadlier Jr., also co-founded WTHR-TV (Channel 13) in 1957, foreseeing television’s power to reach communities.

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Above Images: Robert Jay Den Herder and Adrian Vanden Bosch, the first nonfamily member to lead Zeeland State Bank.

The Stevenson Years

At Huntington, B.G. became chairman in 1949, ceding the presidency to John Stevenson — the first non-Huntington family member to assume the lead role in more than 80 years of the bank’s history. Stevenson, who instituted the bank’s accrual system in 1934, expanded Huntington’s services. Cars were here to stay, and Stevenson led the bank’s new installment loan business for autos, paving the way for home mortgage, equipment, education and small-business loans.

Extending from its home office in the center of Columbus, Huntington realized its first branch in 1958 when it acquired the Market Exchange Bank. The acquisition closed just before the last of P.W.’s banking sons, B.G. Huntington, died on Aug. 25, 1958. His death ended 92 years of Huntington family leadership, but the next generation inherited a solid foundation in banking and the community.

This expansion and transition came after Congress passed the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, which aimed to regulate and limit banking activities by prohibiting FDIC-insured entities from owning nonbanking businesses. The holding company provided a vehicle to let banks expand and acquire businesses in other markets and locations. As a result, expansion reigned, and as John Stevenson became board chairman and longtime Huntington banker (and historian) Clair E. Fultz was elected president in 1958, more branching ensued.

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Left Image: Market Exchange Branch, c. 1959.
Right Image: Clair E. Fultz, c. 1982. Credit: Columbus Citizen Journal

Branching Out

To adapt to the population shift to suburbia, Huntington and its legacy banks needed a convenient presence outside major cities. After opening its first newly constructed branch in the Eastmoor neighborhood in 1961, Huntington followed with branches on Lane and Cleveland avenues. Mergers in 1962 with First National Bank and People’s Bank added three more branches by year’s end. Additional mergers and new construction, including the major addition of the Huntington Trust Building in 1965, gave the Columbus institution 13 locations by its 99th year.

Zeeland State Bank had grown as Huntington had in the past decade. Zeeland decided in 1958 to open branch offices. In 1959, reflecting its growing place in the Michigan community beyond Zeeland, the bank changed its name to First Michigan Bank. In 1963, First Michigan opened its first new branch in Holland, Michigan. That same year, Jack Stevenson became honorary chairman of the Huntington board and Clair Fultz became bank CEO.

 

Huntington at 100

Huntington’s centennial came amid great national change. Civil rights, the Vietnam War, the Cold War and growing countercultural unrest foretold an evolving nation, increasingly unsure of its place on the global stage. Columbus, meanwhile, continued to grow and sprawl outwards from its city center, which counted a population of 551,000.

Huntington had changed considerably in the previous decade, and 1966 was a landmark year. From the beginning of Stevenson’s presidency in 1949, when the bank maintained a little more than $140 million in assets, the bank grew to $228 million in 1961, and nearly $420 million by 1966. (The leverage ratio was back down to a more modest 13 to 1 by 1966).70

Still, the bank’s size and scope meant that “no longer could one strong leader manage the entire organization, as it had for a century. Delegation ruled and the need for competent managers brought about a personnel recruiting and training program in which experienced bank officers were teamed with new young management prospects.”71 The company was organized into eight decentralized divisions: commercial, correspondent and branch banking; installment loans; trusts; auditing; operations; and personnel. A new international banking division was created that year and many branch operations were managed by a computer center, rather than the system of messengers and clearing that had characterized correspondent banking.

Perhaps most importantly, this was also the year that the bank created the Huntington Bancshares Inc. holding company. During a time when banks were prohibited from acquiring banks or branching outside their home counties, the new holding company, according to a Columbus Dispatch article, would “permit various state or national banks to become affiliated with Bancshares without surrendering local identities or losing the local directorates and management.”72The holding company would in turn be able to capitalize on Huntington Bank’s computer capabilities, among other specialized banking services.

At his address to the Newcomen Society on May 25, 1966, Clair Fultz prognosticated that the future of banking, and of Huntington, would hinge on harnessing technology, broadening reach through marketing, expanding services and meeting the needs of retail and commercial customers. As he issued this prophecy he self-deprecatingly tied back to the generations before him:

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Left Image: Huntington’s Eastmoor Branch, c. 1960s.
Right Image: By Huntington’s 100th anniversary in 1966, the bank had opened 13 branches throughout the county along with its main headquarters on 17 S. High St.

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Zeeland State Bank’s Allendale branch, 1958.

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Huntington at its 100th anniversary

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Left Image: Huntington’s first annual report, published in 1966.
Right Image: The bank’s 65th annual report.

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Left Image: Clair E. Fultz at the Newcomen dinner, 1966.
Right Image: Fultz’s famous Newcomen speech on the first 100 years of “The Huntington,” 1966.

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The centennial year of Huntington National Bank represented a major transition between early banking techniques and a new era marked by increased technology, industry consolidation and expanded customer service.

It is the proper role of banks to lift from the shoulders of industry all financial matters. Technology will enter the money industry in more ways. The check may diminish in use. Large payrolls are made by crediting dollars directly to the employee’s account. Since money earns money or loses money in the mail, we will settle accounts electronically for speed. The transition must be done well because … “credit is a subtle thing.” Now I said these things were a change. And I suppose I looked rather smug as if I were saying that the bank has advanced way beyond old P.W.’s vision and imagination and judgment.

Yet I imagine that if P.W. and Franz and T.S. and B.G. are somewhere together tonight looking down — or up — P.W. would snort, “Hell, Clair, we always kept our customers from paying too much rent.” And Franz would say, “Is that payroll supposed to be something new? We used to handle the payrolls for five railroads. All you’re adding is machinery.” And T.S. would say, “Naturally it’s the job of the banker to be the best financial counselor in the community. Are you bragging because you’re doing your job?”

And I guess B.G. would add, “The function of a bank has always been to facilitate the rest of the community’s objectives. When those objectives get bigger … the bank has a bigger job. Be sure to do that job.”

So, despite the many new services and branches and customers, I guess after all … well, The Huntington is The Huntington.73