Hugh McCulloch was the first comptroller of the currency from 1863-1865. He was later treasury secretary from 1865-1869 and again in 1884 and 1885. Photo Credit Library of Congress/Public domain

What: Passage of the National Banking Act
When: June 3, 1864
Where: Washington, D.C. 

  • A Maine native who had studied law in Boston, Hugh McCulloch spent nearly three decades as a banker in Indiana and saw a national banking system as a threat to state banks. After unsuccessfully lobbying to defeat the National Currency Act of 1863, however, McCulloch was appointed the first comptroller of the currency by Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase. 
  • McCulloch found flaws with the Act of 1863 and rewrote the legislation, which was passed by Congress on June 3, 1864. The legislation detailed the requirements for forming a national bank and put the U.S. on the path to its dual system of national and state banking. 
  • Along with creating a uniform currency and national bank charters, the 1863 and 1864 acts established the process for selling U.S. bonds to provide funding for the Civil War. 

“The legislation’s leading proponents … saw the legislation not only as a way to tap the North’s wealth and win the war but also as a means to assure the future greatness and permanence of the United States. At the heart of their vision was a safe, sound, and reliable banking and monetary system.” 

— From the OCC’s “Founding of the National Banking System” 

To celebrate its 150th anniversary, Banker & Tradesman is highlighting significant moments in the history of Massachusetts’ real estate and banking industries. To suggest a topic, email

This Month in History: National Banking’s Foundations Laid

by Diane McLaughlin time to read: 1 min