Slater National Bank, North Providence
Founded in 1855, the Slater Bank owes its name to Samuel Slater (1768-1835), who was one of the great pioneers of early American industry. President Andrew Jackson called him the “Father of the American Industrial Revolution” for the technology he brought from England and the textile mills he constructed in northern Rhode Island. While this bank had no formal connection to Samuel Slater or his family, the design of its early banknotes often featured portraits of Slater and a view of Slater Mill.
Lewis Fairbrother served as its first president and James Starkweather was cashier. It began with a paid-up capital of $43,000 and deposits of $3,778.60. After six months, deposits had risen to $31,922,40. By 1859, the bank’s capital was $150,000, which was rather large for a town of 3,500 people.
At the start of the national banking era, the institution was reorganized as the Slater National Bank of North Providence and was given charter #856 in 1865. Its officers were: President, William F. Sayles; Vice-President, N. Bates; Cashier, George W. Newell.
In 1874, a large eastern section of North Providence was annexed by the City of Pawtucket and assumed the new name. There were no provisions under the original National Banking Act for banks to change titles on their issued currency, so Slater National had to petition Congress directly. According to an article by Peter Huntoon, an act was granted on March 3, 1875 that allowed the name change to Slater National Bank of Pawtucket. The bank’s directors approved it, as did the Comptroller of the Currency. However, Slater kept its old name for another ten years, until February 7, 1885, when the change was formalized (Huntoon speculates that this was to save money by not having to pay for newly engraved banknote plates.) All currency issued by the bank between 1875 and 1884 (such as the lazy deuce here) bore a title that was not exactly correct. (See: Peter Huntoon, “The Earliest National Bank Title Changes,” p. 142, Paper Money, Vol. XXVII, No. 5, Whole No. 137, September – October 1988.)
The financial landscape of Pawtucket changed dramatically in 1900 when Samuel Colt and the Industrial Trust Company came to town and bought two major businesses: The Pacific National Bank and the First National Bank of Pawtucket. Colt was on a major buying spree and had just begun absorbing smaller banks all across the state. It is believed that this move caused Slater National Bank to consolidate with its sister organization, the Franklin Savings Bank (founded 1857), and reorganize itself as the Slater Trust Company, in an attempt to thwart off any advances by Colt.
At this time, the new trust company also began work on an ambitious structure at 208-210 Main Street at East Avenue (see photo below). Opened four years later on New Year’s Day, 1905, the new banking rooms of the Slater Trust Company were elegant and spacious, and surely meant to rival those of the Industrial Trust Company’s Pawtucket branch. It also contained a, “burglar, mob, bomb, earthquake, water and fire proof vault” built by the Remington and Sherman Company of New York and Philadelphia.
Yet only 16 years later, the Slater Trust Company’s offices were deemed rather inadequate, when the Industrial Trust Company finally succeeded in acquiring the company. In a circular sent out to stockholders at the time, they announced plans for, “extensive alterations in the latter office including the installation of ample safety deposit vaults and enlargement of quarters.”
May 20, 1922 marked the official date that the Slater Trust Company was formally absorbed by its rival from Providence. Its offices then became the Pawtucket branch of the state-wide trust company. As a result, Industrial Trust for the first time surpassed $100,000,000 in resources at its disposal. (Industrial had assets of $86 million, Slater $21 million.)
Unfortunately, I have been unable to track down the fate of the old Slater Trust Building. It was replaced at some point by a rather mundane-looking single storey structure that served as a bank branch for some time.