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Working Paper 642

New Evidence on State Banking Before the Civil War

Warren E. Weber Retired Economist

Revised July 1, 2006

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.


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