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First National Bank of Providence

On November 28, 1863, the Mercantile Bank of Providence (incorporated May, 1854) was reorganized as the First National Bank of Providence.

This institution was indeed the first national bank in both Providence and Rhode Island, as evidenced by its low charter number, 134. Another significant element of the bank’s 60-year history is that Nelson W. Aldrich served as its president for a time. Aldrich is better known as a towering figure in the U.S. Senate. From 1881 until his death in 1911, Senator Aldrich was involved in many formidable pieces of fiscal legislation, including the creation of the Federal Reserve System in 1913. Aldrich’s daughter, Abby, married John D. Rockefeller’s only son, John Jr. Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller, the senator’s grandson, became the Governor of New York and Vice-President of the United States under Gerald Ford. (The second ace below is signed by Aldrich.)

First National was affiliated with the Cranston Savings Bank. Both institutions shared a president in Amasa Sprague and offices at 45 Westminster Street (see photo below). Sprague was one of the principals of A&W Sprague, the largest calico printing company in the world. After his death, the company fell into financial problems that ultimately caused the failure of the Cranston Savings Bank, as well as the Franklin Institution for Savings (another bank associated with the Sprague family). For more about the company’s bankruptcy, see the history of Zechariah Chafee. Cranston Savings Bank should not be confused with the Cranston Bank.

First National was absorbed by the Hospital Trust Company on June 24, 1904,



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The Exchange Bank, Providence Public Library, Providence, R.I.

The First National originally occupied 41 Westminster Street, the building at the far right of this photograph (signage is visible on the second floor).
Corner Westminster and Exchange Streets, Providence, WC 1444. Rhode Island Collection, Providence Public Library, Providence, R.I. Reprinted with permission.


The Atlantic Building at 47 Westminster Street. Providence office of the First National Bank, also shared with the Cranston Savings Bank (this address is also listed as #45). This structure replaced the Hamilton Building (on the corner with the “Gaspee Fire & Marine” sign), which had been built in 1816 and demolished in 1869. The bank’s former home can be seen adjacent on the right. (Source: Library of Congress.)

The intersection of Westminster and Exchange today.

The intersection of Westminster and Exchange today.

A letter connected to the bank from February 26, 1874.

A letter connected to the bank from February 26, 1874.

Bank check

Bank check from April 1, 1875.

© 2015, Old Banknotes From Rhode Island. Please do not republish the images on this website without permission.