An early supporter of cooperative banking, Amos W. Downing was the first president of the Haverhill Cooperative Savings Fund and Loan Association. Now known as Haverhill Bank, it is the state’s oldest remaining cooperative bank. Photo courtesy of Haverhill Bank

What: Massachusetts’ first cooperative banks 
When: August 1877
Where: Massachusetts 

Modeled after British building societies, the first U.S. cooperative building and loan association launched in Pennsylvania in 1831. With a focus on using depositors’ funds for home loans, these institutions spread across the U.S. during the next few decades, but not in Massachusetts.  

After the Massachusetts legislature rejected cooperative banking bills introduced by Josiah Quincy in 1875 and 1876, public support for the banks grew. Legislation was then enacted in May 1877 establishing state-chartered “co-operative savings fund and loan associations,” a name the legislature later shortened to cooperative banks.  

Ten cooperative banks opened in 1877, led by the Pioneer of Boston which opened on Aug. 6 with Quincy as president. Others were formed in Brockton, Cambridge, Fitchburg, Haverhill, Lynn, Taunton and Worcester. Pioneer Cooperative Bank was acquired by Bank of Boston in 1994, and only two cooperatives of the first 10 remain: Haverhill Bank and Taunton-based Mechanics Cooperative Bank. 

“To Mr. [Josiah] Quincy, more than to any other man, properly belongs whatever credit may be due for the introduction into Massachusetts of this most beneficial system of savings. He was unsuccessful in his first attempt, really meeting with but little encouragement, except from a few philanthropic gentlemen (and ladies, too); and his effort of [1875] was made in vain.” 

— Daniel Eldredge in “Massachusetts Co-operative Banks: A History of Their Growth from 1877 to 1893” 

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

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by Diane McLaughlin time to read: 1 min