Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Albion Recorder, December 29, 1997, pg. 4
New Year’s Day in Albion history means the anniversary of one of Albion’s most shocking and traumatic events: the 1912 failure of the Albion National Bank. The ANB was located in the northern half of where Fedco is today on S. Superior St. The national bank had originally been started by Samuel V. Irwin back in 1865, and was a well-known local financial institution.
Cashier of the bank was Henry Montgomery Dearing (1839-1927) who served on the Village Council, the school board, was treasurer of the First Baptist Church, and was a respected member of the community.
Because of mismanagement on the part of Dearing, the bank ran up several large debts and was forced to reduce its capital in 1897. Following that Dearing invested bank money into failing ventures, most notably the Cook Manufacturing Company, a manufacturer of windmills and gasoline engines. It was located on the northwest corner of N. Huron and E. Mulberry Streets.
Not wanting the bank directors to know of the further losses, Dearing committed the crime of forging bank loan notes of the Cook Manufacturing Company on the names of bank depositors. Most of the names at first were those who live far away from Albion. Assisting Henry was his son Palmer M. Dearing (1865-1932), manager at the Cook Company, and his secretary Addie Hollon (d. 1925) of Marshall. The trio would take the first name of one person, match it with the last name of someone else and sign loan notes with fictitious names. Cashier Henry would obtain money from bank depositors, then tear out bank deposit ledger sheets, thus hiding and financing his crimes.
The scheme was uncovered by the U.S. bank examiner in a routine inspection the last week of December, 1911, and the bank was closed on New Years Day, 1912. By that time however, over $325,000 had been embezzled, making it one of the greatest banking scandals in U.S. history at the time. People eventually got about 30% of their money back, but many persons lost their life savings. One local merchant committed suicide a year later as a result of his losses. Others went bankrupt.
Because it was a national bank, angry depositors met at the Albion Opera House on December 4, 1912 in order to turn to the U.S. government for help, in the days before FDIC insurance. They signed a petition demanding their money back and with it sent a professional photograph of themselves to Washington, D. C.
This week we present a photograph of that group, all with stern faces. Most are seated, but one man on the left is shown standing in disgust, while another on the right has his arms tightly folded. If you want to know who is in this photograph, consult my book “Albion’s Banks and Bankers” in which I list the names of the petition signers. The book gives a detailed account of the biggest financial scandal that rocked Albion, 86 years ago. Happy New Year, everyone!
Angry Depositors Meeting at Albion Opera House on December 4, 1912
All text copyright, 2015 © all rights reserved Frank Passic