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[D1] "Run on the Girard Bank," Spirit of the Times, Jan. 27, 1842

Run on the Girard Bank—Terrible Excitement—Threatened Mob—A Graphic Picture of the Thrilling Scene.

For several weeks we have ever and anon cautioned the public against placing too much faith in the stability of the Girard Bank.  We had reasons for believing that it was very far from being a solvent institution; and although we were unable to publish those reasons, from the fact that in our State "the greater the truth, the greater the libel," is the prevailing maxim of the law, a sense of duty compelled us to warn every reader of the presence of danger, and bid every man, woman, and child, to "touch not—handle not" its faithless promises.

On Monday, Tuesday, and yesterday, apprehensive of the close proximity of a crisis, we continued to "cry aloud and spare not" in the premises.  We thought our immense circulation would have the requisite effect, and sure enough! yesterday the public became alarmed in reality.  Early in the morning, a tremendous run was made upon the Girard Bank, as well as a slight one upon the others; and before noon, the former had well nigh closed its doors, while the latter were filled with fear and agitation.

The Girard Bank was soon compelled to stop exchanging any of its notes except fives.  The street in front, and the pavement opposite, as well as the Bank itself was filled with a dense crowd of excited persons all speaking in the most energetic terms of the insolvency of the institution—cursing their own stupidity in not following the advice of the "Times" and eschewing its notes—and anathematising the corruption and conduct of banks in general.  Pickpockets had their hands full in the crowd, and many an individual had his pocket lightened of notes that but a few minutes before he had tried in vain to get the Bank to exchange.  No great loss, that!

All the other Banks refused about 11 o'clock to receive Girard notes on deposit.  The Bank of North America refused to pay a check for $900 unless the holder would take it in Girard notes!  The Mechanics Bank refused even to receive back the notes on the Girard which it had paid out only an hour before!  Most of the other Banks acted with similar precaution.  A meeting was held in the morning and one in the afternoon at the Girard, of a Committee from the other Banks, but we did not learn the result.  It was admitted on all sides that the Girard was "a gone case."  Its stock sold at the Board yesterday for five dollars and a half per share for fifty dollars paid, while stock of the defunct Schuylkill Bank sold for seven dollars per share.  Comment is unnecessary.

It is impossible to picture the consternation which this "blow up" has occasioned among our citizens.  To many, the loss is irreparable.  To all, the loss is great, for immense pains were taken to force its paper into general circulation.  The brokers are in for it this time, since we are told they had large amounts of Girard Bank notes on hand, purchased under the impression that it would stand up a few days more!  One poor woman whom we saw in front of the bank crying bitterly, said that on Saturday last she had sold one hundred dollars in gold to a broker for $106 50 in paper; that she had received Girard paper, and now that the bank was broken, she was ruined.

"Why didn't you read the Times?" said a bystander, "then you would not have taken such worthless notes."

"Oh," she rejoined weeping, "I was told the Times was a wicked paper, and told lies; but I wish to goodness I had taken its advice."

This was only one of an hundred similar scenes.  Some of them defied description.  On two or three occasions, there was manifested on the part of the crowd a disposition to rush in and "gut" the bank, as they termed it.

"Let us tear it down, and strew salt on its ruins!" cried a voice.

"Let us break into its vaults!" echoed another.

"Pshaw! you'll find them like your head," sneered a Director.

"How is that?" inquired a dozen directly.

"Empty!" was the response.

The arrival of the Mayor of the city on the spot, dissipated for the time the idea of any outrage on the institution.

About half past two o'clock we wended our way into the bank, and found the place occupied by a crowd of people of all ranks and classes.  Some were scattered in groups of two or three, along the floor; here and there a hard working mechanic stood silent and alone, fingering the valueless notes which he held in his hand; and the paying teller's counter was blocked up by a dense mass of applicants for their rights.  Taking the arm of a friend whose pocket was filled with the worthless notes, we strolled around the room, and listened to the conversation of the various groups.

"Yonder stands Mayor Scott, looking through the spaces between those two pillars, and listening to the gallant Col. Lee, who is standing by those scales.  Observe how earnestly he is talking to that mechanic dressed in a coarse blue overcoat, and with a bundle of greasy notes in his hand.  Let us hear what the parties have to say."

"Now, sir," said Col. Lee, speaking to the mechanic, "it would be better for you to leave this matter rest till to-morrow morning.  Tumult will not better this calamity."

"Tumult, sir—tumult—who wants to make any tumult?  Here I have in my hands four hundred dollars which I received last night in payment of a debt, and now I cannot get rid of it on any consideration.  I'm a poor, hard-working man;—every cent I get is earned by the labor of my hands.—Would it be strange, sir, if there was a little tumult about this matter?  I've a queer word in my mind.  Colonel—a very queer word—a word of four syllables—"

"What is it?"


Yonder is a group of mechanics.  Observe that honest, although rough-visaged fellow, who is dressed in a rusty blue coat.  He is looking at the golden eagle which surmounts the door of the banking room.  Let's hear what he has to say.

"I say Bill," said the man in the blue coat, to his companion—"I say Bill wouldn't this here place make a capital ball room, hey?  Do nice for a dance house or some other kind of a house—wouldn't it?"

"Why Jake I wouldn't like to see that American Eagle in the kind of house you speak of—"

"Why if the place was converted into a hogsty, insane hospital, penitentiary, or sich-a-kind-of-a-house that American Eagle wouldn't, or couldn't be more disgraced than he is now, when his wings are sheltering a pack of thieves, pirates and swindlers.  This is Pirates Hall Bill—"

"And this 'ere thundering crowd might be called the Bank Directors Swiree-eh?  Jake?"

We resumed our stroll.  The scene was now highly exciting.  The crowd at the paying teller's desk became more importunate in its demands, and we could see the whole line of clerks, dressed in their white jackets—almost as pale and white as their faces—bowing with folded arms to the applicants for their money.

Wondering what this bowing might mean, we approached.

"Here sir—" cried a respectable looking man, leaning over the counter and addressing one of the clerks—"Here, sir, is a ten dollar note of your money—I want change for it."

"We don't take them notes here."  The clerk bowed very politely.

"Isn't this your note?"

"We don't take them notes here."

"Look at this note, and see if it ain't on the Girard Bank—see if it ain't good."

"We don't take them notes here."

"Well, by G-d but this is too much!" exclaimed the man, excited beyond all power of endurance.  "What am I to do?  How am I to pay my debts—unless you give me something for your notes I am a ruined and a broken man—"

"We don't take them notes here."

"Well," exclaimed an elderly gentleman, who was standing near, "well, if this is not a little beyond the power of endurance.  I am an old man, and I have ever stood against mob law; but—but—my friends, we are not stones—we are not like these pillars—we have blood in our veins.  My friends, there is a point at which sufferance ceases to be a virtue."

"There is indeed!" shouted twenty voices.  This was rather a curious unanimity of feeling.

Our attention was now attracted by another scene.  An old man, with long gray hair, white eyebrows, and venerable appearance, was standing near one of the pillars, with his hands dropped listlessly by his side, while his eyes wandered vacantly around the place.  He was surrounded by a throng who seemed listening to the words that issued from his lips.  We drew nigh, and discovered that he also held a roll of bank notes in his hand.

"What are you murmuring at, old buster?" exclaimed an unthinking boy, who stood near.

"Stand aside," said the old man, with a wildness in his tone that showed signs of a disordered mind.  "Stand aside, boys—I see him—I see him—"

"See who?  See who?"

"Don't you see him sitting up yonder behind the gold eagle, and looking down on the crowd.  See how black he looks—he's a-winking his eye at this Board of Directors, as much as to say—O, if I could get hold of you, wouldn't I lay it into you-wouldn't I?—"

"Is the man crazy?  Who do you mean?  Who is it that you see?"

"Who?  Why there stands old Stephen Girard—don't you see him behind the gold eagle there—ha! ha!—how old Stephy would lay it into the rascals—wouldn't he?"

The crowd shrank back with instinctive respect to the sorrows of the crazed old man.  What was the cause of his madness?  Let those concerned in the Bank answer.

The excitement and bustle continued until the clock struck three, when a mild, corpulent gentleman, with exceedingly sparkling eyes and affable look, was observed walking about the room.

"Gentlemen"—said he—"Gentlemen, you will please retire-it's after banking hours, and, in fact, gentlemen, we would like to close—"

"Will you ever open again?" cried a hundred voices.

"Gentlemen," exclaimed Col. Lee, at the top of his voice, "it is the duty of every good citizen to retire before he is forced out."

"We wont go till we've got our money," shouted the throng.

"You ought to go," cried the little, short, thickset watchman, with a very big, stiff, black beard, and exceedingly large spectacles—"you ought to go—you really ought to go—why gentlemen, gentlemen, it's after banking hours, and you really ought to go."

"We're waiting for tea," cried one.

"Is the ball over," inquired another.

"How skeered they all look," added a third.

The crowd were finally "leaked" out, and in the course of a half hour the banking room was entirely clear, with the exception of the clerks, directors, our worthy mayor, and a few other gentlemen.  Much curiosity being manifested outside to know what was going on within, our Flib, who happened to be near the bank, consented to use his ring and enter.  In a moment he returned.

"O dear, O dear," he cried, "sich an affectin sight—there was our popular mayor, having four directors on their knees before him, and they were all a-cryin to the Lord for mercy on their souls—and the whole four bank directors, raised three tears among the four, a very affectin sight—truly."

For an hour or more after the bank was closed, the street in the immediate neighborhood was blocked up by a dense crowd, who occupied the pavement in front of the bank, as well as the steps and space in front of the door of the bank.  So ends the first day.

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[D2] "Opening of the Second Seal," Spirit of the Times, Jan. 28, 1842

Opening of the Second Seal—The Girard Bank Yesterday—The Excitement, the Mob, the Threats, the Popular Tumult, &c. &c.

The excitement which yesterday continued to exist in the public mind in relation to the Girard Bank, was mirrored in the elements.  The day was clear and intensely cold.  The wind whistled along the streets, raising the dust, sending awning covers, sign posts and signs adrift, and on all sides you heard it remarked that it was rather extraordinary that the day fixed for the interment of the deceased bank should be one of the very coldest of the present winter.

At an early hour a dense crowd gathered in Third street, in front of the bank; the steps and space before the doorway were soon filled up, and the mass extended from Chestnut street on the north, to the Exchange on the south.  The crowd was scattered in groups, composed of all classes of our fellow citizens, from the sturdy laborer and intelligent mechanic, up to the classic cloaked lawyer, and the bang-up covered merchant.


We arrived on the ground before 10 o'clock.  It was a singular scene.  Every eye was centered on the building with its Corinthian pillars, and the beautiful embellishments at the top, consisting of an eagle, with a number of scrolls in his neighborhood, seemed to call forth a new and peculiar admiration.

We ascended the steps of the institution, and edging our way through the crowd, we discovered the door of the bank closed, and shut as fast as the gates of heaven are reported to be to the access of certain bank directors.

The space immediately in front of the spacious door, was blocked up by some dozen big, stout lusty fellows, one of them with a face as red as the ancient Bardolph, while the others were marked by a peculiar expression of countenance.

"Who are these individuals?" we asked.

"Why," replied a stout, broad shouldered mechanic, dressed in a white round jacket, and with his hands in his pocket, "Why them's the police—some are extemporary ones—and some is old—not offenders—but old hands at the business.  Don't you see the maces a-sticking out of their coat pockets?"

"And there," cried another mechanic—" And there is Levin H. Smith.  Vot a remarkably healthy visage he's got—hey?  And that gentlemanly looking man in the snuff colored bangup—that's Mayor Scott; he's the very man for such a time as this—"

"How so?" cried a tall, strapping fellow, in a white bangup, with a sort of don't-meddle-with-me expression to his countenance—"How so?  Mayor Scott is a good enough sort of man, but does it comport with his dignity to be keeping guard over a parcel of thieves and robbers?"

"Better be a-guardin' the thieves and robbers at Moyamensing."

"Hell, there; that ain't fair.  The comparison is unjust to the thieves and convicts.  They have been driven to do wrong from want.  These fellers have been robbin' and plunderin' the people, and rioting in all sorts of high livin' all the while—"

"Why, friends," quietly observed a sober looking Quaker, "I do indeed believe, and it is my impression, that there isn't any money in the Bank—"

"So they said when the United States Bank failed"—cried the stout little fellow in the red jacket—"So they said when that concern busted up; and yet there's a considerable lot of people who are drawin' big, fat salaries, out o' that same institution to this day.  What does that mean?"

"What does it mean?" cried a hundred voices.

"Where's Col. Lee?" asked a tall person, dressed in a much worn blue bangup—"Where's Colonel Lee?"

"Where's his promise of the Bank openin' at nine this mornin'?" cried another individual. 

"Where is he?" shouted the crowd.

We approached Mayor Scott at the same moment that our friend, Wm. D. Kelley, "the Tribune of the people," came edging through the crowd from an opposite side.

"For my part, Mr. Kelley, I am as deep a sufferer by this explosion as any one.  I have no feeling—no commiseration for these people within the Bank.  Yet what is the use of our fellow citizens venting their indignation against the senseless walls?"

"True, Mr. Mayor—I think you take correct ground in this matter.  Still, when one looks around upon this excited crowd, and takes into consideration the cause they have for their excitement, we must confess that things look rather squally."

"It needs but a spark—" cried a voice in the crowd—"it needs but a spark to blow this gunpowder magazine to the d—l."

Another group arrested our attention.  Quite a throng were gathered around a stout, hearty looking man dressed in a coarse blue bang-up, with an enormous foot-rule projecting from his pocket.

"What are you goin' to do with that thunderin' rule?"

"Why heerin' that there was a bank dead about these parts, I come to measure the coffin.  The funeral I believe starts at twelve.  Don't it?"

"Look there at that old man leanin' against that pillar—I wonder if he ain't the crazy old feller that the Spirit o' th' Times mentions this mornin'?"

"That was all blarney!"

"Was it? I tell you my dear feller, I seen the old individual in the banking room yesterday."

"Who's got the Spirit of the Times?  Where can one get the paper?"

"I was up to the office just now.  They've sold out three hours ago.  The boys are sellin' them for a fip-a-piece."

"Well, if the folks had minded that paper three months ago, I tell you they wouldn't suffer so much now."

"Hello!  Look at that big Irishman pushing through the crowd.  I wonder what he's after."—

"What's the manin' ov all this?" exclaimed the Irishman pushing into the lot of constables-"Is the bank closed? hey?  Here's a $10 ov the d—d rotten money which I got last night.  Praps the gentleman in the snuff colored coat can tell me where I'll get change for it?"

"I'm very sorry, my friend, but I can't tell you where to get change for your money."

"Money? money?  Is it money ye are after callin' the rag?  It's a nice pickle I'm in.  My children at home without food to eat or fire to warm 'em."

"Be J—s Mr. Mayor, but I've a great notion to take one of these watch-boxes home wid me, and split it up for fire wood, and leave the $10 wd your Honor—Mr. Mayor?"


"The officers are stealin' specie out of the back way," cried a voice in the crowd, and directly there was a rush made for the alley in the rear of the bank.

The alley was presently crowded and jammed by an immense collection of people, hurrying from all quarters.  A pile of logs at the south west corner of the yard in the rear of the bank, was presently covered by a portion of the mass, and a posse of extempore police officers were observed walking up and down the garden walks.

"Some of the individuals belonging to the bank—(the speaker was among the crowd on the wood pile)—were seen going out of the yard not five minutes since, with their pockets crammed with specie."

"That looks like no specie in the bank, don't it?"

"They say that Lewis, the cashier, has just now sent for Alderman Mitchell, with the intention of making an assignment."

"Hello! git down there," cried a police officer in the yard, approaching the wall, "git down there-you really ought to be ashamed of yourselves."

"Ha!  ha!  ha!  I wonder how much it costs the corporation to color that police officer's nose!"

"It would be a very interesting calculation, indeed, to count up the cost.  I say, Mr. Policeman, what's the use of watching outside of the bank, when the thieves are all inside?"

The excitement in the alley continued for nearly an hour.

The Mayor and his posse were on the ground, and an outbreak was momentarily expected.

From twelve until three o'clock, the crowd still continued to hold their ground, and spectacles of heart rending distress were momentarily exhibited.  Various rumors continued to be current concerning the fate of the other banks, and the general opinion seemed to be, that they would all follow the fate of the Girard Bank.

"I wish," cried a mechanic to the crowd in front of the institution to a group who stood round us, "I wish all the other banks would follow suit!"

"Cause why?"

"It would save the expense of separate funerals."

A respectable looking man, dressed in a fashionable bangup, was standing on the steps, with his face drawn out to a length that would have created great suspicion of his having to pay the barber double price the next time he was shaved.

"I wish to heaven," he observed, turning to a friend who stood near, "I wish to heaven I knew what to do with these Girard notes which I have in my pocket.  Can nobody tell me what to do with them?"

"I can tell you," exclaimed a bluff, rough voice, proceeding, in fact, from a stout six-footer, who was also standing on the steps—"I can tell you what to do with these notes."

"What can I do with them?" asked the other eagerly.

 "Invest 'em in crow bars."

Here a person was observed pushing his way through the crowd, and presently he affixed a large paper to the door of the Bank.  The crowd gathered round the door, and read the following paper:—


The Notes of this Bank will be redeemed on Friday and Saturday mornings, at the counter of the U. S. Bank.

"Well, I'm blow'd if that ain't rich!"

"Rich—Excellent—Beautiful—Ha!  ha!  ha!"

"At the counter of the U. S. Bank—that's too good-ha!  ha!  ha!"

"I'll go and stick it on our board"—exclaimed the clerk of the Chronicle—"I'll go immediately—I will."

As he departed, a hand was thrust forward, and the paper was torn into fragments.

"It's a hoax, gentlemen, a deplorable hoax-"

"Wonder who that is that tore down the paper."

"Why that's Mr. Kenney, the Mayor's Clerk."

"Look here, Bill—I wonder whether this report's true, about a certain Cashier buying chairs at $100 a-piece?"

"True as gospel.  I've got a wonder too, Jake.-Where does this 'ere Cashier live?"

"Oh, my friends, my friends," exclaimed a member of the society of Friends.  "You certainly don't want to mob the Cashier?  It would be doing very wrong.  It would indeed.  What though he did buy chairs for $100 a piece?  It was all done out of his private fortune—and then you have the law by which you can remedy your wrong."

"Oh, yes—we have the law, so has Nick Biddle!"

The Quaker walked away.

During the hours of three, four, five and six o'clock, the crowd thinned away, yet still there was an extensive assemblage remaining in front of the Bank.  A great number of farmers arrived from the country with their pockets full of the notes of the broken Bank.

We select the following from among the innumerable instances of distress that met our eyes at every turn.

A tall, raw-boned countryman, dressed in linsey-woolsey, was standing amid the circle of listeners that gathered round him, while he displayed in one hand a roll of notes bearing the words "Girard Bank" in very legible characters upon their faces.

"Dis ish a purty piece of bisness—here am I—I come to town to buy dings for my family,—dings for de winter, and I findsz dat dis money is jist as good as nothing."

"How did you get so much of it?  Why did you keep the worthless trash on hand?"

"Well, I sold all my crops,—my wheat flour and my rye flour, as well as my corn:—It was last fall when I sold it—and I puts it all in Gee-rard bank notes—why?  Because a nice, big-bellied old gentleman in de bank told me it was te very best—and I heard every body say-'O! de notes is goot—nothing can be better—"

"Why if you had looked in the "Times" you would have been taught better."

"De Times!  O, I remember.  One day last fall I was settin' in de market, and I was readin' dis paper, when a sleek looking old feller, who was buyin' a turkey of me told me not to read the Times.  It lies—says he—like anoter Judas Iskariot—it does—it's a damndt low radical—tat was te word—radical paper.  Well, I didn't so much keer for dis feller, but every body says dat de Gee-rard paper was goot—and so I puts all my money in its notes—and here I am without a cent in Got's world—and wid nothin' to take home to my folks.  It's too hard for a poor man-four hundred dollars gone at a slap!  A tear quivered in the eye of the sunburnt countryman as he spoke, and sickened and disgusted at the trickery and fraud of those concerned in the bank, we turned away from the scene.

The excitement prevailing upon the subject of this explosion in our city yesterday, brought fearfully to mind the premonitory scenes that are wont to herald works of destruction and blood.  It is a matter of sincere satisfaction to us, as it must be to all well disposed citizens, that the bank excitement has resulted in nothing like riot, outbreak or popular violence.  This is the third day of the excitement.  Where will it end?

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[D3] "Girard Bank-Grand Hoax," Spirit of the Times, Jan. 28, 1842

GIRARD BANK—GRAND HOAX.—Passing down Chestnut street yesterday morning a few minutes previous to nine o'clock, we observed quite a crowd standing on the steps of the United States Bank, while a group were clustered in the neighborhood of the door.

We ascended the steps of marble and took a peep of what was going on.

"This is certainly very creditable," observed a sober looking Quaker, to those who stood round him.  "This is certainly very creditable—the United States Bank will redeem the notes of the Girard Bank, on Friday morning next—that is the manner in which Friend Alexander, of the Chronicle, had it posted on his board yesterday.  Verily it is a very creditable thing on the part of the Bank—it is."

"I keep a grocery," said a person by the side of the Quaker—"I keep a grocery, and I find that Girard Bank notes don't go down at all.  Now what I want to know is this—how much better will U. S. Bank notes pass?"

"Verily, friend, I never thought of that.  But I understand friend Nicholas Biddle, with the intention of relieving friend Lewis, has with praiseworthy generosity made over all the plate which he received from the bank some time since.  That is very creditable."


"Look here, the doors open.  Now for it."

With exclamations of eagerness and haste, the crowd rushed in the doorway, passed through the entry, and in a moment the door leading into the hall was opened, and the folks rushed to the counter, with the intention of getting their notes changed for U. S. coins.

"There ain't no one here!  Well this is a ge—"

"Hello you clerks—somebody in shop—H-e-l-l-o!"

"Knock at the counter my friend—inform the good folks in a tone of voice somewhat vociferous that we are all waiting for our money—"

"Hurrah, hee you fellers—hello—somebody—ain't there nobody at home—nobody—well this is rich!"

Rich it was indeed.  The folks stamped, hallooed, and knocked, but still nobody came, neither clerk nor cashier appeared, and the people flocked out of the bank with the opinion that they had all been pretty considerably humbugged.

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[D4] "Asmodeus Among the Banks,"Spirit of the Times, March 18, 1842

Asmodeus Among the Banks—The Broken and the Breaking Ones—Graphic Pictures of the Fun, Fury and Fancy, exhibited yesterday.

Nothing was talked of yesterday by every body but the Banks.  Every body was anxious to get rid of his city notes, and one half of course were disappointed.  About 10 o'clock in the morning we took a stroll up toward the


Arrived in front of it, we beheld quite a crowd of excited people.  Some were collected in groups, and we endeavored to catch their conversation.

"Well, how curious"—exclaimed a tall young man in a white bangup, fur cap, and flashy neckerchief, to the throng that stood around him—"well, how curious!  Who'd a 'thunk' it?  The Manufacturers' and Mechanics' Bank in danger of breaking up!—m  Wouldn't there be a fuss if it should?  And Tommy Hunt President, too!  Why I used to go to Sunday school to him!"

"So did I," replied a little fellow in a buff coat, "and he used to be pertikler in readin the ten commandments to us every Sunday—the one which says, "Thou shalt not steal"—or "You shan't pray" in special.  They say a portrait—painter entirely forgets the features of any particular person, when he looks at him too much—the same may be said of individuals who peruse the ten commandments too attentively—I see nothing."

"Well," exclaimed an aged man, with a short thin figure, and head, with strongly marked features, bent over his receding chest, while his long grey hairs fell warningly upon his dark brown coat—"Well, you may all talk—talk—talk—and want does it amount to?  Nothing but talk—talk—talk.  Where's your remedy?  umph!  You have none—he! he! he! you have none.  If a cut-throat assails you with the knife—why—umph—you can pistol him.  If a corporation robs you, beggars your wives, and takes the bread from the mouths of your children, what can you do?  Who are you to pistol?  You'll take the law, perhaps?  Where'll you find it?  In our courts—he-he-he—umph!  If there's neither law nor right nor justice for you, what are you to do?  Sit down and grit your teeth, and clench your hands—grin and bear it—he-he-he—umph."

"I'll tell you a remedy," said a tall robust mechanic, whose dress was soiled by the 'wear and tear' of honest industry—"Look at these two fists!  Are not the bones as strong, and the sinews as tough as those of our grandfathers in the days of the Revolution?  I don't mean any thing—I don't mean to threaten any body—but I've got fists, and so has a few thousand other workin' men.  Do you see any remedy in them fists, old man?"  We did not wait the reply, but strolled along Vine street to Sixth, when we approached the

BANK OF PENN TOWNSHIP—As we neared it we became aware of the fact, that there was some considerable excitement on foot.  The streets were spotted over with people, of all classes and kinds; some were dispersed singly, with their eyes fixed on the closed banking house, others were collected in groups, and here and there we saw a throng of persons occupied in loud and vehement discussion.

"I say,"—observed a stout little man, in his working coat, with a shoemaker's apron in front, and a three day's beard on his face—"I say, did you ever see anything so utterly ridiculous as the whole affair of this same Penn Township Bank!  Look what an absurd notice on the door in big and little letters—




P R E S E N T .

"It seems to me"—exclaimed a sober Quaker in drab coat and broad brimmed hat—"It seems to me that this same "present" has the same meaning which our Presbyterian friends affix to the word in a Theological sense—"the word present when applied to deity means—the past, present, and the future."—

"Or just as you may take it—eh?—a sort of a forever and forever, back'ards and for'ards?  Then this bank'll be shut up forever and a couple of days after.  "How rich it is to see that big white dog on four legs, with spots, keepin' watch inside of the iron pailin' alongside of them fourteen other dogs-sheriff's officers I mean, with two legs—Ha-ha-ha!"

"I understand that yesterday when a $20 on this Bank was presented at the counter for payment, the Teller very coolly took the $20, and handed out some twenty $1's on the 'Penn Township Bank'—thus making the note holder feel considerable easier, as you may perceive."

"That was a bright idea!"

"Yes"—replied the shoemaker shaking his apron—"That reminds me of a fellow who used to live up town named Corney Smith.  Corney was a cute fellow, with a cute wife, and he had a thunderin' cute Newfoundland dog.  But the cute wife didn't like the cute dog, and she was continually a broomstickin' him, and beatin' him, so that he had no pleasure of his life, nayther had the husband.  One day Corney comes home—"my dear," says he, "I've sold Ponte, my big Newfoundland."  "O Lord!" exclaimed Mrs. Smith," how glad I am—now we'll live so nice!"  "But I got a hundred dollars for him," continued Mr. Smith.  "O! dear that's better nor ever," cried Mrs. Smith.  "Dear me, Corney where did you get the $100—let's see it!"  "Where did I put the $100?" asked Corney, drawing something large from one pocket and laying it on the floor.  "Oh an where did I put the $100?"  (Drawing something big from the other pocket and laying it on the floor.)  "Why Mrs. Smith I got it in two puppies at $50 a piece!  And there they are my dove!"

We took our departure.  In a short time we stood in front of the


but it had been regularly "used up" before we got there.  It was a little after one o'clock, noon.  The Bank evidently was the object of the earnest gaze of some two or three thousand pairs of eyes, owned by a large crowd who occupied the street.  A number of Sheriff's officers (some regular and some ex tempore) were seen poking their faces through the windows of the railroad depot opposite.  The cry had been spread—"The Mechanics' Bank is bursted"—and from every quarter of the city, all classes of citizens flocked to see the closed doors and cheerless quietude that seemed to reign within the building.


A crowd gathered round this Bank, and blocked up their small banking room, presenting their notes and receiving other notes in exchange, from 10, A.M. till 4, P.M.  One individual objected to receive country relief notes in exchange for his money.  "I tell you"—observed Mr. Solms—"De Shtate is goot for dat."  This assertion, however forcibly expressed, didn't satisfy the 'stranger.'  He collared Mr. Solms, and either Mr. Solms or the 'stranger'  would have received a 'licking,' had not the bystanders interfered. 

And here endeth the first day of the "D—l among the Banks, or Philadelphia in an uproar."

Heaven only knows what to-day will bring forth.

Printable view

[D5] "Asmodeus Among the Banks, or Philadelphia in an Uproar," Spirit of the Times, March 19, 1842

Asmodeus Among the Banks, or Philadelphia in an Uproar—Two More Banks Broken.

The race on the banks was renewed yesterday with creditable energy and vigor.  Any one who has seen a scrub fox chase within a few miles of Philadelphia, cannot fail to perceive the beautiful similarity between a scrub fox chase and a Philadelphia run on the Banks.  Preparatory to the chase the temper of the dogs is excited by the smell of a half-decomposed mackerel, (called the "drag", which is dragged over the country for a mile or so, and is followed by the whole pack of hounds in full cry.  The first day of the resumption of specie payments was the "drag" that whetted the appetite of the specie-starved Philadelphians for the "real-no-mistake" coin.  After the "drag," the regular fox is brought out, and the chase commences in earnest.  On Tuesday last the specie was reported to be "about," and the specie chase began with a "perfect looseness."

The banks broke cover gloriously in the morning, but towards the fated 3 P.M. many of the creatures showed signs of distress.  On Wednesday morning, there was a general whoop, and half the town were "in at the death" of the Penn Township.  Again the race was renewed with terrific vigor and serious ferocity.  On Thursday the Manufacturers and Mechanics Bank showed signs of failing but did not give in.  The Mechanics Bank made a terrible effort to escape, but failed.  It died the death.  Yesterday morning the hunt was at its highest point of interest.


The crowd who gathered around this institution at 10 A. M., with the expectation of seeing Mr. Solms as active as usual, in paying the notes of the bank, were somewhat disappointed by the perusal of a document, which was pasted on the doors of the banking house.  The document was headed "To the Public," and detailed the usual excuse for "closing the bank" for "the present."  It gave also one of the ordinary "statements," by which broken banks always prove that they can pay their debts and have millions left for cigar-money.

"O! be jabers, but that's rich!" exclaimed a true born son of old Erin, as he read this singular document.  "Isn't it very singular, to be sure, that them two columns so nicely added up, should be exactly similar and aqual in amount!  Och, smithereens and chicken fixins!  but it's rich!  I wish I understood 'rithmetic, I do!"

"Here," cried a mechanic, showing something in his hands, "here is all that's left of the money I got from my employer last night.  He gave me three dollars in Moyamensing notes, and I had to go and trade 'em off for two in specie."

"Arrah, but was that same employer a bank director, my darlint?"

"No, but I heerd he used to git fat discounts in this neighborhood of Second and Chestnut.  Howsomever, they made out to diddle me out of a dollar d—n 'em."

"How very extraordinary!" observed a respectable person in a grey coat and white cravat, looking very much like a Methodist preacher, "how very extraordinary!  There are $2,989 29 set down in that statement for 'expenses.'  I wonder what 'expenses' means in the Banking Dictionary?"

"I don't know what it manes," shouted the Irishman, "and the Lord knows!  I don't keer and be d—n'd to 'em; but if I had my will, I'd tumble the whole lot of banks about the ears of the rascally swindlers.  Faix!  I'd make 'em think the day of judgement was comin'.  Ugh! the blackguards!"

"What a blessing it is," observed the Methodist preacher-like individual, "that our citizens are actuated by the true christian spirit.  See, how patiently they submit to injuries; and the injuries and results are somewhat aggravated too.  I wonder," he continued, looking upward as if arguing the point with himself, "I wonder what they would do if saddles were placed on their backs, and bridles in their mouths, while the whip was laid across their shoulders?  I wonder whether they wouldn't kiss the hand that inflicted the blow?  That's true christian forbearance.  It is indeed."

We then turned our steps upwards towards the


There was a crowd at hand, and inside of the bank gold and silver piled up picturesquely on the counter met our eyes.  The "real grit" was being paid out pretty rapidly, and altogether appearances in the bank were decidedly favorable.  The genuine business seemed to be going on.  We stepped out again.  A knot of individuals was standing near the steps.

"Look here," said a slimly formed individual to the others, "Look here—see what I hold in my fist; there's six hundred dollars in Northern Liberties notes; now I intend to get every cent of that in specie—If I don't damme."

"Do you want the specie?" inquired a voice in the crowd.

"Devil the bit of it.  But have it I will, so here goes—hurrah!"

He rushed up the steps, disappeared, and in an instant his head was again seen bobbing out of the door.

"Who stole the pocket book!" he shouted—very red in the face.

"Who did it?  Who's got my six hundred dollars?  Hey.  Hello! there!  Where's the poleese?"

"That serves him right," said an apple woman standing near—"Folks what is greedy, is always sure not to get what they want, and to lose what they've got already.  That's a fret!"—she added in an undertone to herself, as we walked away.

Strolling along Vine to Third street, we soon reached the


The sound of a soft female voice struck our ear.—We turned and beheld a respectable woman, dressed in deep black, with the furrows of premature care and age visible in her cheek and brow.  "Sir, can you tell me what to do with these notes," she exclaimed addressing an elderly gentleman with a brown coat, light vest, and rather benevolent countenance.  "Can you tell me what to do with these notes."

"On what bank are they?  Let me see 'em.  Ah!  Exchange Bank—West Branch Bank—Mechanics' Bank."  They're all good, madam; all good; all good."

"O, I'm so glad!" exclaimed the lady in black, "Thankee, sir, thankee;" and a tear trembled in her eye.  "I'm so glad; I had to pay my rent, to-day—Mr. —, my landlord is a Bank Director, and wont take anything but good notes."

"That is to say, ma'am," resumed the elderly gentleman, "They will be good in the course of a year or so.  Umph!  The faith of the state is pledged for their redemption—it is indeed, ma'am."

The poor woman's countenance fell.

"Where did you get the notes?"

"Why I've been saving up all my money to pay my quarter's rent.  I'm a poor widow, depending upon the labor of my hands for the bread that shall feed me and my children.  A few weeks since I changed all my money for a $20 note of the Manufacturers' and Mechanics' Bank.  I heard a good deal about the banks being bad, but I thought this bank couldn't but be good, for Mr. Hunt, the President, belongs to our church, and sings and prays with us every Sunday, and"—

We took our departure.  God help the poor widow when she gets into the hands of the bank directors!

The Manufacturers' and Mechanics' Bank was broken.

So endeth the second day.