The Hagerstown Bank collection consists primarily of correspondence directed to Elie Beatty, the institution's cashier and president. Beatty was a prominent citizen of Hagerstown, Maryland, having served as assistant postmaster, bank president, and a member of the Hagerstown Academy's board of directors.
The historical significance of the collection lies primarily in the insights it offers to the operations of a prosperous regional bank during a tumultuous period in United States banking history. The antebellum decades witnessed a series of banking crises, most notably the Panics of 1819 and 1839, recurring recessions and depressions, and the famous "Bank Wars." The financial and political upheaval, combined with disastrous harvests during the 1830s, wreaked havoc on Washington County, Maryland, and caused the Williamsport Bank to suspend specie payments in 1839. Despite the prevailing economic climate, the Hagerstown Bank emerged as a stable financial institution with considerable holdings.
Founded on March 12, 1807, the Hagerstown Bank was originally a business association headed by Colonel Nathaniel Rochester. During its early years, the Hagerstown Bank operated from Colonel Rochester's home, which had been modified to house the institution. The bank's capital stock was limited to $500,000, divided into 10,000 shares valued at $50 each. One-tenth of the original stock was "reserved for the use and benefit of the State of Maryland," while the remaining 9,000 shares were divided between Hagerstown (5,000 shares), Baltimore (2,000 shares), and Frederick (1,000 shares). The bank flourished throughout the antebellum decades, surviving numerous financial panics and depressions. In May 1810, the Bank's stock commanded a twenty-five percent premium and shares were in great demand. While the Williamsport Bank suspended payment during the 1837 Banking Panic, and Mineral Bank in Cumberland failed in 1858, the Hagerstown Bank continued to expand. In 1837, the bank had $126,127 on deposit, $45,500 of which was in specie. The bank also owned real estate valued at $11,500 and had $214,000 in circulation.
Among the original officers were Nathaniel Rochester, President, and Elie Beatty, Cashier. Beatty, who also served as clerk and teller, received an annual salary of $500. Before accepting his position with the bank, Beatty served as Hagerstown's assistant postmaster under Colonel Rochester. In 1810, Rochester moved to western New York, where he founded the city of Rochester. William Heyser succeeded Rochester as president of the Hagerstown Bank, while Beatty retained his position as cashier, teller, and clerk. Upon Heyser's death in 1831, Elie Beatty became president of the bank, with Daniel Sprigg serving as cashier. Beatty's tenure as president of the Hagerstown Bank was brief. In 1833, Otho Lawrence was elected president, and Beatty resumed his position as cashier. Beatty resigned his position on April 23, 1859, citing "feeble health and the infirmities of age." Beatty died on May 5, 1859 at the age of eighty-three.
Beatty's death prompted an outpouring of sympathy from his friends and business associates. The Hagerstown Bank's Board of Directors ordered that "the Bank will be closed and suitably draped in mourning during the present week" and praised their late cashier's "unblemished official reputation." At the Hagerstown Academy, where Beatty served as a trustee, students pledged to "accompany, in a body, the remains of our deceased friend to his final resting place and wear the usual badge of mourning." Beatty was interred at the Hagerstown Episcopal Church on Saturday, May 7, 1859, his body accompanied by the directors and officers of the bank, students from the Hagerstown Academy, and "a large number of citizens of the town."
The Hagerstown Bank remains in operation as the Hagerstown Bank and Trust Company.