On February 25, 1863, The National Bank Act was passed in order to help finance the ongoing Civil War and promote a stable national currency. There were four national bank charters issued and dated the same day, June 20,1863. However, the charter numbers were assigned in the order of application. The First National Bank of Stamford received charter No. 4. In recent years, charters Nos. 2 and 3 were surrendered, while charter No. 1, although now operative, had a long period of inactive status. As a result, the nation's oldest national bank in continuous existence is The State National Bank of Connecticut, successor to the originally chartered First National Bank of Stamford.
Historically, the oldest component of the bank was founded in 1834 when The Stamford Bank was chartered by the State legislature. The opportunity to convert to a national bank in 1863 found its directors of divided opinion. Those opposed had strong support in New York, where the merits of the new banking system were openly doubted. Ultimately, two members of the board of directors of “The Old Bank” and its cashier, feeling that new and more progressive banking policies were needed in Stamford, split off and led a movement to found The First National Bank of Stamford. After receiving Charter No. 4 on June 20, 1863, the bank opened for business on July 1, 1863. It was located in the Seeley Block of Stamford, later known as Miller's Hall, opposite Gay Street on the south side of Main Street. In 1873, a new home for the bank was completed, and quarters were moved to 166 Atlantic Street in Stamford. When the Federal Reserve Act was passed in 1914, The First National Bank of Stamford became a member of the Federal Reserve System.
On July 12,1919, The First Stamford National Bank resulted from the merger of the First National Bank, founded in 1863, and The Stamford National Bank. The Stamford Bank was the predecessor of the Stamford National Bank, which in 1865 substituted a national bank charter for its 1934 state bank charter. The office of the former Stamford National Bank at 313 Main Street became the merged bank's new home.
On October 9, 1923, The First Stamford National Bank acquired trust power under the authority of the Federal Reserve Act, and opened a Trust Department. A name change occurred in 1929, when the title of the bank was extended to The First Stamford National Bank and Trust Company. Then, on June 23, 1930 the bank moved its headquarters facility to One Atlantic Street in Stamford which currently serves a State National's Stamford Executive Office. In succeeding years, several expansions too place. The People's National Bank was absorbed by the First Stamford National Bank and Trust Company in January of 1933, and the bank joined the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation on January 1, 1934. Its first branch office was opened in Glenbrook in 194 serving as a prelude to the bank's expansion throughout Fairfield County. With the opening of business on March 3,1958, major consolidation resulted in the formation of The National Bank and Trust Company of Fairfield County. The First Stamford National Bank and Trust Company, with its five offices had merged with The Greenwich Trust Company. Among the predecessors ofThe Greenwich Trust Company, with its six offices, was the former Byram National Bank and the former Security Bank and Trust Company of Stamford. In addition, the Greenwich Trust Company had been the oldest bank in Greenwich, and housed the oldest chartered Trust Department in Fairfield County.
During 1958 two new branches were opened in New Canaan and one in Wilton, bringing the total number of offices to fourteen. In addition, the first equipment to implement the bank's program for automation was installed. A facility in Ridgefield was opened in 1959.
On July 21, 1960, The Black Rock Bank and Trust Company merged with The National Bank and Trust Company of Fairfield County, resulting in a financial institution having combined total resources of $152 million, and 18 Offices throughout Fairfield County. New offices in South Stamford, North Stamford, Southport and East Danbury were opened in 1961.
In 1962 the growing bank changed its name to The State National Bank of Connecticut to reflect its expansion into new areas of the state. The main office of the bank was moved to the site of the former Black Rock Bank. An executive office was established in Danbury in 330 Main Street, and the East Danbury Office was opened. State National also moved further toward the establishment of automated bank processes through the opening of a new Computer Center in Fairfield.
During succeeding years, the bank continued its expansion to fill the increasing needs of its service market. A century of service, marked On July 1, 1963, saw the State National Bank continuing to expand by moving a main office to Bridgeport and opening branch offices in Shelton and Ansonia, and expanding its facilities in Bridgeport through two more new offices. By 1965, the bank was serving 19 communities throughout Connecticut and had opened a new office as an addition to the Computer Center.
As State National Bank expanded its markets and continued to grow to fill the needs of its customers, deposits reached over $250 million in 1966. Five new offices were opened, several offices were expanded, and the Old Greenwich and Greenwich Executive Offices were expanded to include drive-up facilities. In 1969, the bank was serving 21 communities and expanded its services with the establishment of an International Banking Department to serve the businesses in those communities.
In 1972, construction was completed on the State National Tower in Bridgeport at 10 Middle Street to serve as the bank's new main office. State National had grown to serve 25 communities with 42 full-service banking offices, and moved many of the management groups to its new Bridgeport headquarters, including the International Banking Department, the Personnel Department and the Credit Department.
In 1973, State National introduced a new customer service, the 25-Hour BanKey® Banking Center. The centers allowed customers having any type of personal checking account to perform any of twelve different banking transactions 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in a closed and secure vestibule. Fourteen BanKey Centers were established, beginning a network that has expanded to include 30 centers through three counties in southwestern Connecticut. Construction was begun on an addition to the Greenwich Executive Office, and several offices underwent expansion and modernization.
In 1974, the bank continued its expansion, and, as an additional convenience to its customers, assumed complete responsibility for the direct servicing of the BankAmericard operation. The BanKey Centers were expanded to 28 during 1974. Also during 1974 a management succession plan was consummated with the election of Joseph F. Fahey, Jr., to succeed Benjamin Blackford as chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the bank.
During 1976, State National again expanded its International Banking services with the establishment of a branch office in the Grand Cayman Islands in the British West Indies. With this new facility, State National offers Euro-currency capabilities to all its customers. In addition, a second international banking office was established in the bank's Stamford Executive Office to better serve customers in the southern portion of Fairfield County. As a result of the constant growth of the bank's marketing areas, and recent changes in the nature of banking services and technology, State National in 1976 also reorganized the bank along new lines with emphasis on corporate and consumer banking. This was accomplished so that the bank could serve its customers in these markets more effectively. Mr. Fahey concluded his announcement by saying, Today as one of the 200 largest commercial banks in the United States, State National's resources are over $550 million, and the bank has continued to pay an uninterrupted cash dividend through each year of its 114 years of operation since 1863. Over 1,100 employees now offer banking services through State National's 43 offices in 25 communities in Fairfield, New Haven and Litchfield counties. State National will continue to meet the challenges of providing the best in banking services and offering the finest in professional and personal financial services to our customers. We are proud of our fine tradition as a national bank and the promise of a bright future as the nation's oldest national bank.
Photos © Stamford Historical Society