Helena Branch History
85th Anniversary—1921-2006

Campaign to Establish the Helena Branch

The Federal Reserve System had been in existence for five years when the System's Board of Governors in Washington, D.C., authorized the creation of 18 branch banks. The Ninth District was not authorized to establish a branch at this time, even though it was then the third largest district in total geographic area.

Upon learning of this development, Norman B. Holter, a prominent Helena businessman and an original member of the first Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, immediately started a campaign to establish a branch in Helena.

A formal presentation was made to the Minneapolis Board by Sam Stephenson, president of the First National Bank of Great Falls; T.A. Marlow, Helena capitalist and president of the National Bank of Montana, Helena; and Charles J. Kelly, chairman of the Metals Bank and Trust Company of Butte. Their efforts were supported by a document called the "Presentation of Facts, Figures and Arguments" (see Appendix A) to establish a branch in Helena and presented to the Minneapolis Board of Directors by the Associated Banks of Helena, which consisted of the National Bank of Montana, American National Bank, Union Bank and Trust Company, Conrad Trust and Savings Bank, Montana Trust and Savings Bank, and the Banking Corporation of Montana.

The campaign was successful, and the Board of Directors approved a full-service branch in Helena, Montana, in 1920.

The success of this initiative was quite an achievement, for at the time, the population of Montana was small and dispersed, with Helena itself having only 12,037 people.

When the Branch opened in 1921, it offered a variety of services to Montana's commercial banks, including the handling of currency and coin; collection of checks, drafts, and coupons; transfer of funds; payment of War Savings Certificates and stamps; lending to member banks; fiscal agency responsibilities for the U.S. Treasury; and examination of state member banks. (See Appendix B for a comprehensive list of services originally furnished by the Helena Branch.)

Thus, through the concerted efforts of the Montana banking and business community, Helena became the smallest city in the United States to accommodate a Federal Reserve Bank or branch.


Narayana Kocherlakota