Birmingham Michigan National Banks

By: About the Author

CONTENTS: (click on links to jump to section desired, or just keep scrolling down)
1) National Bank History
2) Currency Exhibit
3) Items of Interest
4) National Bank Advertising

5) Savings Banks

A man credited with many of the firsts in  Birmingham, was also the founder of the first bank in Birmingham.  Almeron Whitehead co-founded the Exchange Bank of Whitehead and Mitchell as a result of owning the first safe in town.  Originally located in a corner of their general store, a building was erected right next door to serve as the bank. 

In 1910, a new banking law required private banks to have either a State or National Charter.  The private Exchange Bank of Whitehead and Mitchell selected the National route and became The First National Bank of Birmingham organized on September 7, 1910 under the National Currency Act of 1863.   

The National Currency Act provided for a standardized currency for the Nation which was backed by United States Bonds.  Over a 72 year period (1863-1935), some 12,635 banks across the Nation issued National Bank notes which were fondly referred to as “hometown money”.  The Bureau of Engraving and Printing printed each individual bank’s name on the notes and while there were several variations of National Bank Notes over the years, they can be categorized into five major series of notes; 1) Original Series (1863-1875); 2) Series of 1875; 3) Series of 1882; 4)  Series of 1902; 5) Series of 1929.  The Birmingham banks, first being chartered in 1910, only issued notes from the last two series (see A Pictorial Exhibit of Currency below). 



The First National Bank of Birmingham erected a new building in the early 1920's where the National Hotel once stood at 176 North Woodward.  The Bank met its demise as a result of the Great Depression.  As a protective measure on February 14, 1933, Michigan’s Governor William A. Comstock ordered all Michigan banks to close in an attempt to thwart a run on the banks.  This order was followed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s National “Bank Holiday” on March 5, 1933.  The Bank was not to recover and went into receivership. Depositors lost most of their money.

 

 

 

On June 15, 1933, The Birmingham National Bank was chartered and it prospered over the next 23 years as the Detroit suburbs grew in population.  It was located in the exact same building as its predecessor with a new sign placed over the etched facade of The First National Bank of Birmingham.  On June 11, 1956, the Birmingham National Bank was approved for consolidation into the newly formed Detroit Bank & Trust.  This newly formed bank had over a billion dollars in deposits and made Detroit the third city in the Nation (along with New York and Chicago) to have two or more billion dollar banks.  The four banks that comprised the merger were; the Detroit Bank, Detroit Wabeek Bank and Trust Company, Ferndale National Bank, and the Birmingham National Bank.

 

 

 

 

 

Today (2003), Detroit Bank & Trust has become known as Comerica and has merged with Manufacturers National Bank.   The bank in Birmingham resides in the exact location as it has since the early 1920's.  Gone is the triumphant architecture of yesteryear, but the Birmingham Bank’s legacy still continues.

 










 

The Banks:

1886 -                           Founded, Exchange Bank of Whitehead and Mitchell and survived until 1910.
September 7, 1910 -     Organized from the Exchange Bank, The First National Bank of Birmingham was born. 
December 28, 1931 -    The First National Bank of Birmingham assumed the Birmingham Savings Bank.
June 15, 1933 -             Chartered, The Birmingham National Bank.
October 14, 1933 -        Receivership, The First National Bank of Birmingham (the doors were closed several months earlier).
June 11, 1956 -             Merged, The Birmingham National Bank was approved for consolidation into Detroit Bank & Trust.

The People:

Proprietors, Exchange Bank:               1886-1910         Almeron Whitehead
                                                            1886-1910         George H. Mitchell        
President, FNB of Birmingham:           1910-1926         Almeron Whitehead
                                                            1926-1930         T.R. Donovan
                                                            1930-1933         Elmer C. Huston
President, Birmingham NB:                 1933-1935         Fred Johnson
                                                            1935-19??         Charles E. James
                                                            19??-1956         Herbert Gardner
 

Birmingham’s National Currency:

First National Bank of Birmingham (currency issued 1910-1933)

Series of 1902 “Large Size” Notes dated September 7, 1910
                     “Date Back Type” issued 1910 through 1915
                                  $5         2200 printed
                                  $10       1320 printed
                                  $20       440 printed       
                    “Plain Back Type” issued 1915 through 1929
                                  $5         62804 printed (6 known survivors)
                                  $10       27324 printed (3 known survivors)
                                  $20       9108 printed (2 known survivors)
                                  $50       2226 printed (3 known survivors)
                                  $100     742 printed
            Series of 1929 “Small Size” Notes Type 1 issued July, 1929 through May, 1933
                                  $5         13482 printed (4 known survivors)
                                  $10       6127 printed (5 known survivors)
                                  $20       1896 printed (4 known survivors)
                                  $50       948 printed (3 known survivors)
                                  $100     336 printed (2 known survivors)
1Total surviving notes known for Series of 1902 = 14 (total printed = 106,164) or a 0.000132% survival rate
1Total surviving notes known for Series of 1929 = 18 (total printed = 22,789) or a 0.0007898% survival rate

Birmingham National Bank (currency issued 1933-1935)

             Series of 1929 “Small Size” Notes Type 2 issued May, 1933 through July, 1935
                                  $5         4340 printed (2 known survivors)
                                  $10       2078 printed (3 known survivors)
                                  $20       620 printed (1 known survivor)
                                  $50       108 printed (6 known survivors)
                                  $100     48 printed (1 known survivor)
1Surviving notes known for Series of 1929 = 13 (total printed = 7,194) or a 0.00181% survival rate
 

Notes:
1) Data of surviving notes known is based on collector data compiled as of 8/6/2008 with known additions.

The era of National bank notes officially ceased on August 1, 1935 when the bonds used to back the currency were sold and the proceeds placed into a redemption fund.  National currency was returned to the treasury as the banks received them.  Although, National bank notes are still legal and valid tender today, their collector value exceeds their face value and they no longer circulate in daily commerce.  We currently have notes issued under the Federal Reserve System that utilizes 12 regional districts to distribute currency to large institutional banks instead of the 12,635 hometown National Banks.  The Bureau of Engraving and Printing no longer has to print over 12,000 different bank names on the bills and deliver them to each individual bank.  Also, today’s currency is not backed by bonds or precious metals, but simply by the faith of the people using it.

Bibliography:
History of Oakland County, by Thaddeus D. Seeley, pub: The Lewis Publishing Company © 1912 Vol. 1
Detroit and its Banks, by Arthur M. Woodford, pub: Wayne State University Press © 1974
The Book of Birmingham, by Jervic Bell McMechan, pub: The Birmingham Historical Board © 1976 Second Printing 1989

Paper Money of the United States, by Robert Freidberg, pub: The Coin and Currency Institute © 1992 13th Edition
National Bank Notes, by Don C. Kelley, pub: The Paper Money Institute, Inc. © 1997 3rd Edition
American Bankers Association at www.aba.com 
 

A Pictorial Exhibit of Currency:


 

The 1902 Series were printed from 1902 to 1929 in sheets of four (4) notes per sheet and three different denomination combinations were printed.  All notes on the sheet had the same serial numbers, but different plate positions letters.  Therefore, the $10 example above was printed with two other $10’s and one $20 with the same serial number. In Birmingham, the sheets were printed with the following denomination combinations:

·         $5-$5-$5-$5

·         $10-$10-$10-$20

·         $50-$50-$50-$100

___________________________________________________________

$5 circa 1925-1929, Series of 1902 “Plain Back Type” issued 1915 through 1929
Obverse: 23rd President of the United States 1889-1893, Benjamin Harrison (died 1901)

Reverse: The landing of the Pilgrims

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$10 circa 1915-1925, Series of 1902 “Plain Back Type” issued 1915 through 1929
Obverse: 25th President of the United States 1897-1901, William McKinley (died 1901)
Reverse: Vignette of ships 

___________________________________________________________

$20 circa 1925-1929, Series of 1902 “Plain Back Type” issued 1915 through 1929
Obverse: Comptroller of the Currency 1863-1865, Hugh McColloch
Reverse: Vignette of
the U.S. Capitol

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$50 circa 1925-1926, Series of 1902 “Plain Back Type” issued 1915 through 1929
Obverse: Secretary of the Treasury 1877-1881, Secretary of State 1897-1898, John Sherman
Reverse: Vignette representing industry and transportation

___________________________________________________________

 

The 1929 Type 1 Series were printed from 1929 to 1933 in sheets of six (6) notes per sheet.  Each sheet contained all the same denomination notes with all the same numerical serial numbers, only the prefix letter (plate position letter) was different which identified the position of the note on the sheet.  Therefore, the $50 example above was printed with five other $50’s with the identical serial number with only the prefixes of A,B,C,D,E being different.  The “F” prefix example above was in the sixth position (bottom) on the sheet.  Contrasting the differences between Type 1 and Type 2 Series:

                    Type 1 has an alpha prefix and suffix in the serial number. The suffix is always an “A”.

                      Type 1 has the charter number imprinted twice in black.

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$5 circa 1930-1933, Series of 1929 “Small Size” Type 1

___________________________________________________________

$10 circa 1929-1930, Series of 1929 “Small Size” Type 1

___________________________________________________________

$20 circa 1929-1930, Series of 1929 “Small Size” Type 1

___________________________________________________________

$50 circa 1930-1933, Series of 1929 “Small Size” Type 1

___________________________________________________________

$100 circa 1929-1930, Series of 1929 “Small Size” Type 1

___________________________________________________________

 

The 1929 Type 2 Series were printed from 1933 to 1935 in sheets of six (6) notes per sheet.  Each sheet contained all the same denomination notes, but unlike Type 1 notes, these Type 2 notes all contained unique serial numbers with a constant prefix letter of “A”.  Therefore, the $50 example above was printed with five other $50’s on the sheet, all with different consecutive serial numbers. Since the notes were printed six (6) to a sheet, the note above came from the second sheet printed in the top position (first note on the sheet). Contrasting the differences between Type 1 and Type 2 Series: 

              Type 2 has an alpha prefix (always an “A”) serial number, but no suffix.

             Type 2 has the charter number imprinted four times, twice in black and twice in brown next to the serial number.

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$5 circa 1933-1935, Series of 1929 “Small Size” Type 2

___________________________________________________________

$10 circa 1933-1935, Series of 1929 “Small Size” Type 2

___________________________________________________________

$20 circa 1933-1935, Series of 1929 “Small Size” Type 2

_________________________________________________

$50 circa 1933-1935, Series of 1929 “Small Size” Type 2

_________________________________________________

$100 circa 1933-1935, Series of 1929 “Small Size” Type 2

 

 

Selected Items from the Banks:

 

Circa 1887, the very first check drawn on the Exchange Bank of Whitehead & Mitchell.  The check was framed and
hung on the wall in the office of bank founder Almeron Whitehead.
(Photo courtesy of Gary Burnett, grandson of Percival G. Burnett - bank V.P. and Almeron Whitehead's long time aide)

 

Circa 1900, interest bearing note from the Exchange Bank of Whitehead & Mitchell.
(Photo courtesy of the Birmingham Historical Museum)

 

Circa 1905, promissory note from Exchange Bank of Whitehead & Mitchell.
(Photo courtesy of the Birmingham Historical Museum)

 

Circa 1910, stock certificate from the Calvert Litho Company's (Detroit, Michigan) sample book.
Calvert Litho Company was the printer of The First National Bank of Birmingham's stock certificates. 
The penned writing on the certificate are the type style numbers for the typesetter.

 

Circa 1920, interior construction of the First National Bank of Birmingham. Teller cages were located behind
the 3 or 4 foot high partitions you see on each side of the picture.  The bank manager was located
behind the portion of the left partition which is out of the picture.  Tiny cubicles were installed ahead of the
vault where people could work with the contents of their safe deposit boxes.  Just inside the front door on
the right and not visible in this view was a rest room.

(Photo courtesy of Gary Burnett, grandson of Percival G. Burnett - bank V.P. and Almeron Whitehead's long time aide)

 

Circa 1920, postcard of the First National Bank of Birmingham.

 

Circa 1920-1929, check from the First National Bank of Birmingham.
(Photo courtesy of the Birmingham Historical Museum)

 

Circa 1920-1933, Bank Police Badge from the First National Bank of Birmingham.  
(Photo courtesy of Gary Burnett, grandson of Percival G. Burnett - bank V.P. and Almeron Whitehead's long time aide)

 

Circa 1933, Organization Document from the National Archives for the Birmingham National Bank.  
(Photo courtesy of Peter Huntoon, prolific reseacher and writer of U.S. Currency)

 

Circa 1933-1940's, check book holder from the Birmingham National Bank.

 

Circa 1933-1956, deposit slip for customers of The Birmingham National Bank.
(Photo courtesy of the Birmingham Historical Museum)

 

Circa mid 1940's, postcard of the Birmingham National Bank.

 

                        Circa 1949, letterhead example from The Birmingham National Bank.

 

Circa 1950's, canvas deposit bag for merchants banking at The Birmingham National Bank.
(Photo courtesy of the Birmingham Historical Museum)

 

Selected Advertising:

Circa 1910-1929,  ABA (American Bankers Association) Travelers' Cheques postcard
for
the First National Bank of Birmingham.  Conceived in April 1909 as another means of competing with the
express companies, issuing banks drew travelers' cheques in the form of drafts on the Bankers' Trust
Company of New York.  Within the first five months, 1,300 banks were selling ABA Travelers' Cheques.
 

 

Circa 1915, First National Bank of Birmingham, from George Mitchell's
and Almeron Whitehead's promotional advertising booklet. 

 

Circa 1930, First National Bank of Birmingham, from the City Directory.

 

Circa 1937, The Birmingham National Bank, from R.L.Polk & Co. Directory.

 

Circa 1937, business wall calendar from The Birmingham National Bank.

 

Circa late 1940's / early 1950's, souvenir coin bank from The Birmingham National Bank.

 

Advertising pocket bank envelope  from The Birmingham National Bank.

 

Circa 1956 (last year of the Bank), Local area maps compliments of The Birmingham National Bank.

 

Savings Banks:

Circa early 1920's, the First State Savings Bank was located at the NW corner of (old) Woodward and Maple
 at 101 North Old Woodward Avenue where Levinson's Department Store was originally located. 
Wilson Drugs occupied this space for many years after the Bank, then the GAP
clothing store and currently (2003), COSI (an eatery).

 

Circa 1909, a postcard from the First State Savings Bank.

 

Circa 1926, a cancelled check from the First State Savings Bank.

 

A savings book from the First State Savings Bank, notice the "banker's hours".
(Photo courtesy of the Birmingham Historical Museum)

 

A check book holder from the First State Savings Bank.
(Photo courtesy of the Birmingham Historical Museum)

 

Circa late 1920's, the Birmingham Savings Bank was located in the building that housed the Detroit United Railway's
waiting room built in 1912 and designed by the Detroit architectural firm of Smith, Hinchman & Grylls at
138 South Old Woodward Avenue, where Olga's restaurant resided through 2010.

 

Circa 1927, Newspaper Article, (likely from the Birmingham Eccentric) announcing the hiring of
Walter L. Moreland as assistant cashier at Birmingham Savings Bank.  Over Mr. Moreland's distinguished
banking career in Birmingham, he worked at all four (4) banks in town (in chronological order):


                   1) The First State Savings Bank of Birmingham (1925-)
                   2) Birmingham Savings Bank as an Assistant Cashier (1927 -)
                   3) Birmingham National Bank as Cashier  (1933 -)
                   4) Birmingham Federal Savings and Loan Association achieving positions of President and Chairman of the Board

 

Circa 1928, the Birmingham Savings Bank gift certificate promising $5.00 if the depositor made consistent
deposits for a period of 18 months and accumulated at least $100.00.  At the time of issuance, the
depositor received a "Sessions Eight Day Clock".

(Photo courtesy of the Birmingham Historical Museum)

 

Circa late 1920's / early 1930's, souvenir coin bank from the Birmingham Savings Bank.


 

Circa 1950's, souvenir coin bank from the Birmingham Federal Savings Bank.

 

Circa 1950's, souvenir coin bank from the Birmingham Federal Savings Bank.

 

Circa 1950's, souvenir coin sleeves from the Birmingham Federal Savings Bank.

 

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About the author: The author is a former Birmingham area resident of 35 years and currently collects material from the banks in Birmingham, Michigan.  If you have material related to banks in Birmingham, Michigan available for sale or have comments about the material presented here, please email the author