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New Evidence on State Banking Before the Civil War

Working Paper 642 | Revised July 1, 2006

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New Evidence on State Banking Before the Civil War

Abstract

Prior to the Civil War there were three major differences among states in how U.S. banks were regulated: (1) Whether they were established by charter or under free-banking laws. (2) Whether they were permitted to branch. (3) Whether the state established a state-owned bank. I use a census of the state banks that existed in the United States prior to the Civil War that I recently constructed to determine how these differences in state regulation affected the banking outcomes in these states. Specifically, I determine differences in banks per capita by state over time; bank longevities (survival rates) by state, size, and type of organization; and bank failure probabilities also by state, size, and type of organization. In addition, I estimate the losses experienced by note holders and determine whether there were systematic differences in these depending on whether or not a bank was organized under a free banking law.