The National Commercial Bank

"What was the Building?"

If you thought your bank offers you great things, check out what one of Albany’s greatest banks had to offer a whole State.

The second location on this tour is The National Commercial Bank, now known as Key Bank. When the bank was first established in November 25, 1838, under the General Banking Act it was simply known as the Commercial Bank. However on June 13, 1864 the bank was recognized as a national bank and renamed The National Commercial Bank. Before the bank existed, New York only had three major banks: the City Bank of Albany, New York State Bank and the Mechanics and Farmer Bank. As more people migrated and more businesses opened, Albany city began growing. Citizens realized that having three banks was not enough to meet the economic demands of the increased businesses. As a result, citizens began petitioning for another bank. [1]

Once a new bank was granted to Albany city, there were still many legal aspects left for finalization. For example, the bank wanted a capital (net worth) of $500,000 unfortunately when the bank first opened it only received $300,000. This net worth decision resulted from the House of Senate being skeptical about creating a new bank. In fact, it took two tries before the senate passed the bill to create the Commercial Bank. However this did not discourage the bank’s establishment and in 1875 the bank earned its desired net worth. [1]

The National Bank became a symbol of Albany’s financial stronghold and for over seventy year it was known as the depository of the funds of the state. Its motto was “Bravely, Faithfully, Felicitously” and these three words described the manner in which the bank fulfilled its obligation. There have been three major incidents where the National Bank proved its worthiness to its people. The first was in 1838, a year after the economic panic of 1837. The economic panic led to the government suspending specie payments (coined money) nationwide. In 1837 a convention was held by the representative of each New York bank. Together they decided that the recommended date to resume specie payment (coined money) would be in April 1838. However, the National Bank ignored the recommended time and began resumption of coin money on January 11, 1838. The second incident was in 1862 when the bank voluntarily came to the relief of the state. The President during the Civil War called for 300,000 men to enlist, but there was not enough money in the state treasury to pay the enlisted men’s bounties (a sum paid to those who enlist). As a result, the bank loaned $3,500,000 without security. The bank made this loan because they trusted that the legislature would eventually re-pay the loan. Finally the third incident was in the 1893 economic panic. When the panic grew worse the bank permitted the withdrawal of up to $800,000 by the state without any delays. This shows the bank’s reliability, it served its purpose in helping the state receive aid for the economy. [1]

The National Commercial Bank became the protector of both the state and federal’s fund. The bank left a legacy of being one of the greatest banks in Albany.

Cite this Page:

S.Porter, “The National Commercial Bank,” Albany Walks for Health, accessed October 18, 2019,


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