Banking on a Dream: Guthrie's Pioneer Bankers
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Small beginnings, big dreams
On April 22, 1889, J. W. McNeal of Medicine Lodge, Kansas, opened the McNeal-Little bank with his partner, A. W. Little.
Along with thousands of others who came to Oklahoma in search of opportunities and a better life, McNeal and Little both wanted to accomplish big things. They decided to open a bank in Guthrie, though they didn't have much money.
On the first night they were in Guthrie, they talked about ways they could make this happen. How could they open a bank without funds to loan? People needed to see signs of a successful start, or they might not have confidence to deposit their own money in the bank.
They'd need a lot of money to look successful. They counted how much money they had. It was only $8.31!
That's not a lot of money, but these guys didn't give up. They got promissory notes (papers that promised they would pay a lot of money later), and each of them signed a paper saying they would pay $10,000. What an ingenius and bold idea!
They traded these papers with each other, which meant they each had a lot of money they could use to start the bank.
The next morning, they opened their bank. They told people that they had $30,000 in the bank! That was a lot more money than they actually had, but they wanted people to trust them and believe in their bank.
The next problem: what to do when you don't have a vault?
People started putting their money in the bank, and business was good right from the start. But there was a problem - they didn't have a safe place to keep all the money! Where could they put the money so it would be 'safe'? Where's the last place you'd look for cash? They had another brilliant idea!
They decided to keep the money in a special kind of stove called a pot-bellied stove until they could get a better vault. Who'd think to look in the stove for money?
J.W and A.W. were risk-takers who gambled big and made a success. Their bank was also the first brick structure built in Oklahoma's Indian Territory.
Hi, I'm Judy! I love bringing a magnifying glass to where psychology and history cross. What makes people do what they do? Why did they make that choice? What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments and share this article on social media and with family and friends, if you'd like.