Rare Book & Manuscript Library Acquires Archive of The Clearing House Association

Founded in 1853, as The New York Clearing House Association, The Clearing House originally functioned as the central bank for banks in the U.S. before the Federal Reserve was formed, facilitating exchanges, setting monetary policy, issuing a form of currency, and storing vaults of gold to back settlements.  

“In 1853, 38 prominent New York banks established The New York Clearing House Association to simplify (and economize on) their local check clearing and settlement business,” said David Weiman, Alena Wels Hirschorn '58 Professor of Economics at Barnard College.  “Only four years later the institution assumed central bank-like functions in responding to a panic that swept across the New York banking sector.”

“Both The Clearing House and Columbia University have storied histories in New York and the U.S., so this partnership makes perfect sense,” said Jim Aramanda, Chief Executive Officer of The Clearing House.  “The Clearing House’s rich history has played an important role as it has evolved and innovated to meet the ever-changing challenges of the banking and payments industry.  Having this new home for our records at Columbia will help ensure we continue to learn from our past experiences as we work to foster safety, security, and efficiency in the industry.”

“For over 160 years, The Clearing House has been at the center of banking in the U.S.,” said Paul Saltzman, President of The Clearing House Association.  “We are proud to be working with one of the nation's finest research institutions to ensure our historical records continue to live on.  This collection will inform and enhance public understanding of our nation's financial history, and we appreciate the opportunity to partner with Columbia to ensure these important records are available to scholars and the public for generations to come.”

The Clearing House currently represents 23 of the largest U.S. commercial banks.  During its history The Clearing House has helped the commercial banking industry evolve from exchanges of gold, to paper, to electronic clearing.  

“By the turn of the 20th century, The Clearing House Association had effectively become a ‘national’ clearing house and the functional precursor to the Federal Reserve System,” added Weiman.  “Indeed the formation of the Fed nationalized many of the vital central-bank functions of the Clearing House Association.  The rich information in these archives provides a unique lens into the world of ‘private’ central banking.”

The New York Clearing House Association records cover the years 1853 to 1984. “The New York Clearing House Association records can provide researchers with an insider's view of American business during some of its most hectic years,” said Thai Jones, Herbert H. Lehman Curator for American History at RBML. “At the RBML these materials are a valuable complement to holdings that are already strong in collections related to commerce and finance, the history of capitalism, and New York City mercantile institutions.”

The Clearing House.  Established in 1853, The Clearing House is the oldest banking association and payments company in the United States. It is owned by the world’s largest commercial banks, which hold more than half of all U.S. deposits. The Clearing House Association L.L.C. is a nonpartisan advocacy organization representing—through regulatory comment letters, amicus briefs and white papers—the interests of its owner banks on a variety of important banking issues. Its affiliate, The Clearing House Payments Company L.L.C., provides payment, clearing and settlement services to its member banks and other financial institutions, clearing almost $2 trillion daily, which represents nearly half of the automated clearing-house, funds transfer, and check-image payments made in the United States. See The Clearing House’s web page at www.theclearinghouse.org

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 13 million volumes, over 160,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff and hosts over 4.7 million visitors each year.  The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources: library.columbia.edu.