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Hagerstown Bank collection

 Collection 0171-MDHC
This collection is composed almost entirely of letters primarily addressed to Elie Beatty, cashier of the Hagerstown Bank, and concerns various financial matters to be handled by Beatty and other cashiers. Included are requests for collection of debts and transfer of funds as well as transmittals of bank notes and drafts and identifications of counterfeit notes. The collection also includes three checks. The collection provides an overview of banking operations in early to mid-nineteenth century western Maryland.

Dates

  • 1814-1899
  • Majority of material found within 1820-1840

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open for research.

Duplication and Copyright Information

Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.

Extent

373 Items

Scope and Content of Collection

The Hagerstown Bank Collection consists primarily of correspondence directed to Elie Beatty. The correspondence covers the period from 1814 to 1852, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1820 to 1840. The majority of the correspondence is from bankers in Baltimore and Frederick, Maryland, the District of Columbia, and New York City. The bank's business dealings were, however, quite extensive, and the collection also includes correspondence from New Orleans; Dayton and Zanesville, Ohio; Georgia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

The correspondence contained in this collection reveals the extent of the institution's financial dealings and illustrates how antebellum banks managed complex credit and specie exchanges. The collection also highlights the chaotic nature of antebellum banking and the problems created by the widespread printing and circulation of paper money. Included in the collection are letters requesting the current value of the Hagerstown Bank's currency and a letter from the Farmers' Bank of Virginia warning Beatty not to accept counterfeit currency (May 28, 1827).

The collection also includes three cancelled checks, including two from the Hagerstown Bank and one from the banking house of Hoffman, Eavey and Co. located in Hagerstown. The checks are dated 1877, 1881 and 1899.

Administrative History

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.

Arrangement

The collection is organized as two series.
Series 1
Correspondence
Series 2
Checks

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The University of Maryland Libraries purchased the Hagerstown Banking collection and the Papers of Elie Beatty from rare books and manuscripts dealers. In July 1991, the libraries bought a large collection of 172 letters from Charles Apfelbaum. An additional 12 letters, all dated 1815, came from Carmen D. Valentino in July 1994. Robert N. Willis, a private collector, donated 4 additional letters in February, 2007. Another private collector sold the Libraries a letter in September 2008 and the Libraries purchased 10 additional letters from George Krzyminski in October 2008. The Libraries purchased 5 additional letters from Timothy H. Bakken in May, 2009. In September 2012, 73 letters dating between 1814 and 1846 were purchased from Yankee Doodle Antiques. The Libraries purchased 25 more letters in October 2013 from Jessica Staines. Three checks were donated to the Libraries in September 2014 by Charles Meyer. Two letters were transferred from the Maryland Manuscripts collection in February 2016 - they were Maryland Manuscripts numbers 3813 and 3814; they are labeled with these numbers in the item level listing. In December 2016, Howard Snyder donated ten additional letters.

Related Material

J. Thomas Scharf's History of Western Maryland and Thomas J. C. Williams's A History of Washington County Maryland, From the Earliest Settlements to the Present Time contain scattered references to Beatty and the Hagerstown Bank. Researchers should also consult Hagerstown newspapers, as the Hagerstown Bank's Board of Directors published minutes from their meetings and reports of the institution's financial status. Photocopies of material from Scharf's and Williams's work, along with Elie Beatty's obituary from the Hagerstown Herald and Torch-Light have been placed in the control file.

The Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore, Maryland owns several letters to Elie Beatty. Relevant materials include: the Hagerstown Bank Correspondence, 1818-50 (MS 2588), which consists of ten letters written to Beatty; a letter from F. C. Clopper dated June 10, 1817, asking Beatty to collect various notes and transmit funds to William Schlatter of Pennsylvania (vertical file); and a note dated October 31, 1827, from I. W. L. Hawkins to Beatty concerning a debt (vertical file).

Processing Information

The Hagerstown Bank collection originally consisted of two separate collections, the Hagerstown Banking Collection and the Papers of Elie Beatty. After an initial review of the collection, it was decided to merge these papers into a single grouping. The correspondence was arranged in chronological order and placed in acid-free folders. The folders were subsequently labeled and stored in an acid-free box. Additional documents from the Maryland Manuscripts Collection were added in December 2001. Addenda to the collection were inserted as additional purchases or donations were made (see Custodial History and Acquisition Information.)
Title
Guide to the Hagerstown Bank collection
Status
Completed
Author
Processed by Max Grivno and Jennie A. Levine, July 2001. Revised in December 2001 by Jennie A. Levine, in November 2008 by Elizabeth A. Novara, in December 2012 by Terry Ann Sayler, and in January 2016 by Maya Riser-Kositsky.
Date
2016-01-05
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

Contact:
University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742
301-405-9212