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Private Banking in Antebellum Virginia: Thomas Branch & Sons of Petersburg

Howard Bodenhorn ()

Business History Review, 1997, vol. 71, issue 4, 513-542

Abstract: This article investigates the role of the private banking house of Thomas Branch & Sons of Petersburg, Virginia, in promoting entrepreneurship and economic development in the early United States. It argues that while Branch adopted many of the methods and practices of antebellum commercial banks in that he accepted and created deposits and followed a real-bills philosophy in his lending, he also differed from them by extending his services to a particular market niche. Many of his borrowers were young entrepreneurs who were just embarking upon their own commercial ventures. In addition, many of his customers had accumulated only limited wealth. If Branch's actions, then, can be considered indicative of those of private bankers more generally, this article reveals the importance of small town private bankers in supplying monetary and intermediary services to local communities, and moreover, helps clarify their place in the history of antebellum banking.

Date: 1997
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