The Maryland Bankers Association was founded on April 10, 1896 in Baltimore, Maryland. Philanthropist and banker Enoch Pratt, President of National Farmers and Planters Bank in Baltimore was elected as MBA’s first president.* Gathering together at Sutro Hall and the Hotel Rennert in Baltimore were the leaders of the banks comprising the Baltimore Clearing House, which had been formed.
The first clearinghouse bank was formed in New York City in 1853. The New York Clearing House Association initially simplified the chaotic settlement process among the banks in New York City. Similar clearinghouse banks were formed in other cities after 1853, including Baltimore. Clearing house banks brought order to what had been a tangled web of exchanges. Clearing house loan certificates were created and replaced gold as the means of settling balances at member banks.
Banking leaders who comprised the Baltimore Clearing House convened to form the Maryland Bankers Association. A letter dated January 15, 1896 from the cashiers of the Baltimore clearing house banks was addressed to the presidents of banks across Maryland, summarizing the outcome of a recent dinner where the formation of a Maryland Bankers Association was discussed at length, and a committee formed to “ascertain the feeling of bankers of the state with reference to this subject.” Upon receiving responses from 92 banks and trust companies throughout the state, a meeting to authorize the formation of the Maryland Bankers Association was set for April 18 – 19, 1896.
Enoch Pratt, as a representative of the Bankers Clearing House Association of Baltimore, welcomed bankers from across Maryland to Baltimore. In doing so, he said “Our Clearing House Association has taken great interest in this silver question that is raging over the country with a rush which I cannot comprehend. If we should get down to a silver basis, any man who had $200 to pay would have to have a wheelbarrow to carry it, and there would be so many of them that it would be worse than the electric cars. (laughter)”
Since the silver question debate at the Association’s first meeting, and every other major or minor issue or challenge nationally and in our state, including the creation of the Federal Reserve System and every major war, recession, the Great Depression and invention, the Maryland Bankers Association has held steadfast in leading Maryland’s banking industry with a vision and unifying value to promote and protect the competitiveness of banks and bankers in Maryland.
Enoch Pratt’s first address 125 years ago still captures MBA’s core values of today: “And I hope and trust that the organization that we have formed today will prove a very great benefit to our state and City, as we are now consolidated for purposes of protection and for purposes of aiding and sustaining each other. It is of great importance to us that we should have unity. There are banks scattered all of the City and state. We have one hundred and forty-eight of them, I believe, in this state, and it is of great consequence that we should sustain each other and act in common.”
The Maryland Bankers Association office was located in Baltimore, Maryland, until 1972 when it was relocated to Annapolis, Maryland, where it continues today, in sight of the dome of the Maryland Statehouse.