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The large financial institutions of the world have dominated the news cycle for the past few years, and it got me thinking, what were the first large banks in the US? I am interested in hearing about the first big retail banks, as well as financial banks. I know that some of the banks that are still in existence today can probably trace their lineage back to much earlier banks, but I'm curious what were the institutions that were the first to become truly national and be dominant forces in the US economy.

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Goldman Sachs has been around for quite a while. –  quant_dev May 14 '12 at 12:48

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This is a very good question with a very weird and convoluted answer. This is my first post, so I've only got two links - I've bolded terms you should google, and referred to interesting wiki articles by their title.

First, banks and corporations did not fill the same functions as they do today - and the giant powerhouse financial institutions were municipal, state or federally chartered institutions. The very first, created to finance the Revolutionary War was the Bank of North America. This acted like a central bank as well as a commercial bank.

Here is an article on commercial banking in the early Republic, listing the chartered banks in chronological order. Here is another article on post-colonial commercial banking.

There is very little information online on private banks before the Free Banking Era (see wiki's article on Banking in The United States), where the sheer perniciousness of the wildcat banks made them infamous.

The first investment bank (see wiki's "History of Investment Banking" article) was J. Cooke & Co., founded to finance the Union's war effort in the Civil War by selling government bonds, and later underwriting the expansion of railroads.

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