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Make History: An interactive historic timeline of events that shaped the OCC - text version

The OCC's mission is to charter, regulate and supervise national banks and federal savings associations. We ensure that they operate in a safe and sound manner and in compliance with laws requiring fair treatment of their customers and fair access to credit and financial products.

Explore the timeline of people and events that shaped OCC.

This timeline consists of national events of importance and also highlights events relating to the OCC.

Important OCC events are highlighted with slides or short videos. These are indicated in the timeline below with the label "slide" or "video."

The timeline is divided into six time periods:


Time Period 1: Year 1861-1865: Creating the National Banking System 

  • Milestone: Year 1861: Abraham Lincoln becomes 16th President of the United States.
  • Milestone: Year 1861-1865: The Civil War

Slide: Year 1863 
Hugh McCulloch, first Comptroller.

Hugh McCulloch was president of the State Bank of Indiana, among the most successful of the state banks, when President Lincoln nominated him to become the first Comptroller of the Currency. McCulloch organized the new office, evaluated applications for national bank charters, and proposed extensive changes to the National Currency Act, which were enacted in 1864 as the National Bank Act. After leaving the OCC, McCulloch went on to serve two terms as Secretary of the Treasury.

Slide displays a photo of Hugh McCulloch

Video: Year 1863-1864
The National Currency and National Bank Acts are passed.

The National Bank Act, passed by Congress in 1863, created a new class of federally chartered and supervised banks. By law, the banks were required to purchase U.S. bonds to back the bank notes they would then be allowed to issue. If a bank failed, depositors would be reimbursed from the sale of the bonds.

More significantly, the soon to be reunited country would from then on have a uniform paper currency honored everywhere in America.

Video displays several photos to include a uniformed paper currency, the National Bank Act of 1863, US Bonds and Bank notes.

Video: Year 1863
The OCC is created. A new bureau was created within the Department of the Treasury to implement the new laws.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency would serve as the administrative apparatus responsible for controlling the issue of national bank notes and supervising the national banks. Video displays the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency building.

Slide: Year 1863:
First national bank charter is granted.

First National Bank of Philadelphia receives national bank charter number one.

Slide displays a copy of the signed Emancipation Proclamation

  • Milestone: Year 1863: Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation

Slide displays a copy of the signed Emancipation Proclamation.

Slide: Year 1863-1913: 
Currency issued by National banks becomes nation's common paper money.

A ten-percent tax on state-bank notes enacted by Congress makes currency issued by OCC-supervised national banks the nation's common paper money. Slide displays a photo of the nation's common paper money ( a Ten dollar note )

Time Period 2: Year 1865-1900: Economic Modernization and Industrial Growth 

Slide: Year 1865-1900: 
Thrift Institutions Finance Homes for Americans

Commercial banks were largely uninterested in making housing loans for individuals to buy houses. National banks were forbidden by law from making such loans. Thrift institutions (also known as "savings and loans") were formed for that purpose. By 1900, there were more than 5000 such institutions in the United States, holding some $600 million in assets, mostly home mortgages.

Slide displays a photo of a building with the Savings & Loan Sign.

Video: Year 1865-1900: 
Growth and Consolidation of the National Banking System

With the war over, and the continent beckoning, America's westward expansion accelerated. The nation turned toward rebuilding the wartime devastation and expanding settlement and business opportunities from coast to coast.

At the OCC, the leadership of Hugh McCulloch and his successors helped propel America into the front ranks of modern industrial nations. The principles of sound banking that they articulated seem fresh and valid even today.

Video display several photos to include an expanding and rebuilt America.

  • Milestone: Year 1869: The Transcontinental Railroad joins together a national market.

Slide: Year 1872-1884:
John Jay Knox, 4th Comptroller

John Jay Knox, a native of New York, was the second longest serving Comptroller in the office's history – and the first to rise through the OCC ranks to that position. Knox was also a renowned writer on banking and financial history, whose Annual Reports to Congress were important works of scholarship.

Slide displayed a photo of John Jay Knox.

  • Milestone: Year 1873: The Panic of 1873

Slide: Year 1870-1913: 
The Rise of the "dual" banking system.

The national banking laws envisioned the elimination of state-chartered banks. Yet during the 1870s and '80s, their numbers rebounded, encouraged by supportive state laws and restrictions on national bank activities that made the national bank charter less attractive.

  • Milestone: Year 1893: The Chicago Exposition showcases America's rising economic power.

Slide: Year 1898-1901: 
Charles G. Dawes, 10th Comptroller

A native of Chicago, Charles G. Dawes had a distinguished career as a banker, philanthropist, statesman, author, and musician. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to rebuild the European economy after World War I and served as Vice President of the United States between 1925 and 1929. Slide displays photo of Charles G. Dawes.

Time Period 3: Year 1900-1920: The Rise of Central Banking 

Video: Year 1900-1919:
The Economy in a New Century

As the 20th century began, the United States took its place as an economic power to be reckoned with. The uniform national currency and the national banking system created along with it, had helped support the expansion of manufacturing and trade that supplied domestic and foreign markets. Immigration boomed, as people from all over the world came to America in search of opportunity.

In 1913, President Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act, which further strengthened the paper money system. All national banks were required to join the Federal Reserve System. The OCC took its place in the new framework, and continued its role as the supervisor of national banks in an ever-expanding economy.

As America's isolation ended, its economy and banking system grew to meet the demands of war and the peace and prosperity that followed.

Video displays several photos of America and its new expanding economy.

  • Milestone: Year 1900-1920: The Progressive Era in American Politics
  • Milestone: Year 1907: The Panic of 1907

Slide: Year 1908 – 1913:
Lawrence O. Murray, 12th Comptroller

Lawrence O. Murray, a native of upstate New York, was an attorney whose interest in improving the operational effectiveness of government agencies earned him the support of President Theodore Roosevelt. As Comptroller, Murray launched an ambitious program of reforms that improved the OCC's ability to supervise the national banking system.

Slide displays photo of Lawrence O. Murray.

Slide: Year 1913: 
The Federal Reserve Act

The Federal Reserve Act brought a new central bank, a new national currency to replace national bank notes, and major changes to the OCC and bank supervision.

Slide displays photo of first Board of the Federal Reserve Bank.

Slide: Year 1914 – 1921: 
John S. Williams, 13th Comptroller

John Skelton Williams, a Virginian, was appointed Comptroller by President Woodrow Wilson. His tenure coincided with the creation of the Federal Reserve System, which instituted a new regime of paper money to replace national bank notes, extended federal regulation to state-chartered banks, and strengthened the OCC's supervisory capabilities.

Slide displays photo of John Skelton Williams.

  • Milestone: Year 1917-1918: The United States in World War I

Time Period 4: Year 1920-1941: Expansion and Contraction 

Video: Year 1920-1929:
Economic Expansion in the 1920s

They called it The Roaring Twenties – an age of rapid growth and increasing affluence never before seen by most Americans. We danced, we drank – despite Prohibition – we spent, and we borrowed. And much of the credit that financed the boom came from banks.

For only with credit could most Americans afford radios, refrigerators, automobiles and all the new technological marvels that helped transform the nation into a boundless society with unexpected hopes and expectations for the future. The big banks became financial supermarkets, serving the needs of not just business, but of government and consumers.

But the boom quickly became a bust when the stock market crashed.

Video displays several photos of America and its rapid growing economy

Video: Year 1929 - 1930:
The Wall Street Crash triggers the Great Depression.

With now-worthless stocks, speculators could not repay the money borrowed to purchase the stocks in the first place. Thousands of investors, many of them working people, were financially ruined. Overnight, billions of depositors' dollars disappeared. Panic gripped the nation as customers queued up in block-long lines in hopes of withdrawing their savings before the banks ran out of cash.

In the final quarter of 1931 alone, a thousand U.S. banks failed. By 1931, there were 5 million jobless Americans. By 1933, the number had more than doubled. Industrial production tumbled. The few measures taken by government seemed only to make a bad situation worse. The crisis demanded a fresh approach.

Video displays several photos to include Wall Street crash and the troubled America.

  • Milestone: Year 1929: Collapse on Wall Street
  • Milestone: Year 1930-1941: The Great Depression

Slide: Year 1932:
Federal Home Loan Bank Act

The Depression-related collapse of the mortgage industry led Congress to create a new system consisting of twelve Federal Home Loan Banks and a supervisory board whose mission was to funnel funds into member institutions for lending to home buyers.

Video: Year 1933-1934:
National bank examiners help reconstruct the banking system

Two days after taking office, President Roosevelt issued an emergency Executive Order that temporarily closed all of the nation's banks, to stop the massive runs that threatened to destroy the entire banking system.

But for every crisis, there are heroes. And among them in early 1933 were the men and women of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and their counterparts in state banking departments. Within a week after Roosevelt's Bank Holiday, OCC's examiners verified the soundness of many banks, and all across America, they began to reopen. Those deemed unfit were liquidated, sold, or reorganized.

Confidence returned, and Americans began to transfer their money from cookie jars and mattresses back to savings accounts. The banking system survived, and the OCC under Comptroller J.F.T. O'Connor, had played a major part.

Video displays several photos to include shut down banks, banking officials and President Roosevelt.

Video: Year 1933-1935:
Reform of the Banking System

In the thirties, important safeguards were installed with the goal of insuring that another such banking crisis would never occur. The Banking Act of 1933 empowered the government to set interest rate ceilings on bank deposits and narrowly defined the business of banking.

Two years later, in 1935, Congress passed another law that limited the number of banks and retired the national currency first issued under OCC supervision in 1863. Thereafter, Federal Reserve Notes became the nation's circulating currency. With these new measures in place, OCC supervision prevented but a handful of national bank failures into the late 1950s.

Video displays several photos to include bank buildings, the Banking Acts of 1933, Federal Reserve Notes, and the Retired National Currency.

Slide: Year 1933- 1938:
J.F.T. O'Connor, 18th Comptroller

J.F.T. O'Connor, a native of North Dakota, led the OCC at a time of anxiety and uncertainty. He organized the massive effort to liquidate or reorganize the thousands of banks that were left insolvent during the Great Depression; helped coordinate federal bank supervision between the OCC, the Federal Reserve, and the FDIC; and stabilized the national banking system.

Slide displays photo of J.F.T O'Connor.

Time Period 5: Year 1941-1960: Democracy Triumphant 

  • Milestone: Year 1941-1945: The United States in World War II

Slide: Year 1941-1945:
The OCC supports the war against tyranny

A revived and reorganized national banking system helped mobilize the nation's financial resources in support of the war effort. During the war, bank balance sheets shifted heavily in favor of loans to the government rather than to individuals.

Slide displays photo of American Soldiers erecting the American Flag.

  • Milestone: Year 1945-1960: Cold War with the Soviet Union

Slide: Year 1945-1960:
National Banks in Postwar America

Glass-Steagall and related legislation shaped the banking environment in the post–World War II era. Limits on bank powers and activities, and restrictions on entry into the banking business were strictly enforced.

Slide displays photo of a typical American family showing a rejuvenating American economy

Time Period 6: Year 1961-1980: The Challenge of Competition 

  • Milestone: Year 1960-1975: War in Vietnam

Video: Year 1961-1965:
James J. Saxon, 21st Comptroller

(President John F. Kennedy speaking) "Let the word go forth from this time and place to friend and foe alike that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.."

As the world changed, the OCC changed with it. Men of vision, such as Comptroller James J. Saxon sought to modernize the banking business and sought to upgrade the OCC's regulatory capabilities.

(Speaker) "Jim Saxon recognized the world was changing and that the structure of the banking system had to change with it. That's what he did."

Video displays several photos to include President John F. Kennedy speaking, and Comptroller James J. Saxon.

Slide: Year 1961-1966:
Modernization of bank supervision

Under Comptroller Saxon, the OCC accelerated recruitment and training of national bank examiners, revised its supervisory guidance, and encouraged expansion of nation-bank numbers and powers.

Slide displays photo of James J. Saxon

  • Milestone: Year 1971-1980: The "Stagflation" Era of rising prices and slow economic growth

Slide: Year 1975:
The Haskins and Sells report

In the wake of several national bank failures, Comptroller James E. Smith commissioned a study of OCC practices that led to the adoption of new supervisory tools and strategies.

Slide: Year 1977:
The Community Reinvestment Act

The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), which required federally regulated banks to provide financial services to underserved communities, was one of a number of laws enacted during the period to protect consumers and promote the public service responsibilities associated with a banking charter. The OCC was charged with enforcing compliance with CRA and related laws.

Slide: Year 1977- 1981:
John G. Heimann, 24th Comptroller

The former New York state banking commissioner, John G. Heimann became Comptroller at a time when the OCC mission was changing to embrace responsibility for the enforcement of consumer protection laws and the internationalization of American banking. Under his leadership, the OCC developed special programs to more effectively supervise the largest national banks.

Slide displays photo of John G. Heimann

  • Milestone: Year 1980: Depository Institutions Deregulatory and Monetary Control Act (DIDMC)

Time Period 7: Year 1981-Present: Balancing Growth and Stability 

Video: Year 1980-1994:
Instability in Banking

For the U.S. banking system, the years between 1980 and 1994 were the worst since the Great Depression. More than 1,600 U.S. banks failed, at an ultimate cost to the FDIC of thirty-four billion dollars. The impact on communities, regional economies, and the whole nation, was enormous.

The banking crisis was rooted in the volatile economy of the era. Banks that partnered with producers of farm commodities, oil and natural gas, and real estate developers profited on the way up, and suffered when those markets turned down, as they began to do with a vengeance in the early eighties.

First in the Midwestern Farm Belt, then in Oklahoma and Texas, up the coast into the Middle Atlantic states and New England, and finally leapfrogging the continent into California. The crisis spread, leaving shattered and shuttered banks in its wake, and a force of national bank examiners to cope with it.

The banking crisis had a huge impact on the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the supervisor of nationally chartered banks. In some ways, the agency and its people would never be the same.

A bank examiner's job is always demanding; during the crisis of the eighties the stresses were severe. But for the men and women who endured the long hours, the months at a time away from home and family, and the painful duty of closing problem banks, there were compensations. They made endearing personal and professional associations. They acquired invaluable skills and experience, and they brought back war stories – stories about how it was to live through those troubled days when the U.S. banking system was under siege and OCC examiners were on the front lines.

Video displays several photos to include Bank Failures, depressed nation, farms, bank officials.

Slide: Year 1985-1992:
Robert L. Clarke, 26th Comptroller

A Texan, Robert L. Clarke came to OCC from private legal practice. His tenure as Comptroller was overshadowed by an economic and financial crisis that rolled through several parts of the county, particularly the energy-producing states of Texas and Oklahoma. Through difficult times, Clarke distinguished himself by his steady leadership and defense of the agency's independence and reputation.

Slide displays photo of Robert L. Clarke

Slide: Year 1985 – 2000: The OCC refines its approach to bank supervision

The OCC today deploys specialized supervisory resources in accordance with the specific risk posed by national banks of varying sizes, lines of business, and financial condition.

Slide: Year 1986-1989: The Savings and Loan Crisis

Diminishing returns from their traditional portfolio of home mortgage loans led many thrift institutions to take on excessive non-mortgage risk. The ensuing crisis led Congress to create new models for the industry and a new supervisory agency, the Office of Thrift Supervision.

  • Milestone: Year 1989: Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act (FIRREA)

Slide: Year 1993-1998: Eugene A. Ludwig, 27th Comptroller

Eugene A. Ludwig, a native of Pennsylvania, was appointed Comptroller by President Bill Clinton. Ludwig encouraged national banks to revamp their business strategies to reach out to previously underserved Americans and to become partners in the rebuilding of America's cities and municipalities. Ludwig helped reinvigorate the OCC and the national bank charter.

Slide displays photo of Eugene A. Ludwig.

  • Milestone: Year 1999: Gramm-Leach-Biley Act (GLBA)

Slide: Year 1999-2004: John D. Hawke, Jr., 28th Comptroller

Under Secretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance before coming to the OCC, John D. Hawke, Jr. presided over the agency at a time of relative tranquility in the national banking system, enabling him to focus on a number of key legal and administrative issues for the OCC and the national banking system. Hawke's deep understanding of OCC traditions and history enriched his Comptrollership.

Slide displays photo of John D. Hawke

Slide: Year 2005-2010: John C. Dugan, 29th Comptroller

A native of Washington, D.C., John C. Dugan was appointed Comptroller by President George W. Bush. Dugan's OCC tenure was dominated by the financial crisis that began in 2008. Dugan played a major role on the administration team that helped restore confidence and stability in the U.S. financial system.

Slide displays photo of John C. Dugan

  • Milestone: Year 2007-2009: "The Great Recession"
  • Milestone: Year 2010: Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act

Slide: Year 2010: The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act

The Dodd-Frank Act brought significant changes to the regulation of U.S. financial institutions to correct many of the abuses exposed by the financial crisis of 2007 to 2009. Among other things, the law integrated the Office of Thrift Supervision into the OCC.