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Created as a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury by the National Currency Act of February 25, 1863, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2013.
Learn about pivotal moments in the history of the federal banking system and their impact on the nation from an economic point of view.
The story of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the national banking system begins in 1863, when the National Currency Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln.
Of the 1,600 state banks that existed in 1860, only 300 remained by 1866, while the national banking system shot ahead in numbers and influence.
The passage of the Federal Reserve Act in 1913 was a watershed in U.S. banking history. It created the Federal Reserve System, with a network of branches in large American cities, tied together by a Board of Governors.
World War II, signaled the end of the Great Depression. National service pulled many bank examiners off the front lines of supervision and moved them to the front lines of combat. Fortunately, with the emphasis on lending to government rather than individuals, bank safety and soundness was never compromised.
The closer integration of America and the world brought changes to the OCC as well as to the industry it supervised. Communication improvements meant faster and more consistent decision making across the OCC.
Despite the warning signs, no one expected the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The year 2008 saw the first ever annual decline in housing prices, along with record foreclosure levels and heavy losses on subprime loans.
Since Hugh McCulloch, the first Comptroller of the Currency, took office in 1863, distinguished Americans—including bankers, attorneys, and a Nobel Prize winner—have led the OCC and made significant contributions to U.S. history.