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Bank of Commerce, Providence

This institution was incorporated in May of 1851. Amos D. Smith was the first president and Joseph Bourne the first cashier. The board of directors was comprised of the following men: Amos D. Smith, William Foster, William Comstock, Byron Spragye, Robert L. Lippitt, Walter Manton, Robert W. Watson, Edward A. Greene, Jabez C. Knight.

The bank initially took quarters in the What Cheer building on Market Square, then the hub of Providence’s financial scene. In 1852, it entered into an agreement with the People’s Savings Bank to lease a lot of land on the north side of Market Square known as the “Coffee House estate” from Francis W. Upham and Elizabeth B. Upham. The term was 95 years, and the two banks moved into a newly constructed building there in 1854 (see photo below).

The Bank of Commerce was reorganized as the National Bank of Commerce (charter #1366) in 1865. As the focus of downtown business shifted, so did this institution’s location. In 1915, it announced it had taken up banking rooms in the newly constructed Turk’s Head Building on Westminster Street. It was renamed the National Bank of Commerce and Trust Company on January 21, 1931 (this change is reflected in the small bank notes below).

The organization seems to have had its share of problems over the years. In the 1870s, it was forced to initiate bankruptcy proceedings against the A&W Sprague manufacturing company over unpaid debts. The legal wrangle made newspaper headlines for the next ten years. Later, it encountered a similar problem with Amis D. Smith & Co. At the end of the century, the National Bank of Commerce decreased its capital from $1,709,200 to $850,000, halving the number of shares in stockholder’s hands, in an attempt to return to profitability. And finally, on July 16, 1930, the New York Times reported that the bank’s bookkeeper, Peter L. Simonini, had embezzled $246,000 from the bank as part of an extortion scheme.

From 1865 to 1935, this bank issued close to $10 million in national currency, in denominations ranging from $1 to $1,000. 144 of these notes are recorded today in the National Bank Note Census.

The National Bank of Commerce and Trust Company was absorbed by Hospital Trust on January 31, 1949.

 

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National Bank of Commerce

National Bank of Commerce

Providence Commerce Bank

Providence Commerce Bank

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BANK OF COMMERCE

 

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A view of Market Square and the Italianate structure where the bank was once located.

Detail showing the office of the Commerce Bank, beside the Peoples Savings Bank.

Detail showing the office of the Bank of Commerce, beside the Peoples Savings Bank.

Interior of the National Bank of Commerce, showing the cashier's window.

Interior showing the cashier’s window. Courtesy of the City Archives, City of Providence. Reprinted with permission.

Another view of the building. Granite Block, 6-18 Market Square. (Source: Library of Congress.)

Another view of the building. Granite Block, 6-18 Market Square. (Source: Library of Congress.)

Bank of Commerce check.

Bank of Commerce check.

Detail from a check showing the Bank of Commerce's building.

Detail from an 1871 check showing the Bank of Commerce’s building.

Back of check.

Back of check.

The Turks Head building, home of the National Bank of Commerce.

The Turk’s Head building, home of the National Bank of Commerce.

Detail showing the "Turk's Head" on the structure.

Detail showing the “Turk’s Head” on the structure.

Bank of Commerce key fob.

Bank of Commerce key fob.

Reverse of Bank of Commerce key fob, showing the Turks Head location.

Reverse of Bank of Commerce key fob, showing the Turks Head location.

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