Stock Certificate, specimenLate 1900'sAmerican Bank Note CompanyThe item shown is representative of the one you will receive
Union and Planters Bank was founded by William Farrington, a Memphis businessman who had prospered during the American Civil War and emerged the wealthy head of an insurance company. In 1868, Farrington and the Board of Directors of Desoto Insurance Company applied to convert the company to a bank and they received government approval on February 12, 1869. Prior to the Civil War, the two most prominent banks in Memphis were Union Bank and the Branch Planters Bank. The assets of both, however, were seized during the war and the two banks had ceased to exist. Hoping to capitalize on the defunct antebellum banks' names, Farrington and the Board named their new bank Union and Planters. The board sold $671,300 in stock and established offices in a three-story brownstone in the Memphis financial district. On September 1, 1869, Union and Planters officially opened for business.
Union and Planters early years were plagued with overdrafts. Farrington became increasingly at odds with the members of the Board of Directors, largely due to his interest in the Memphis & Little Rock Railroad. The struggling railroad company was indebted to Union and Planters, who held loans for the railroad totaling $200,000. In 1874, the bank's directors voted to remove Farrington from office. Outraged, Farrington remained one of the bank's largest stockholders and for the next two years, became a thorn in the bank's side. He refused to pay off the railroad company's loans and he attended board meetings during which he read lengthy protests into the minutes, demanded detailed information on bank operations and voted in opposition to even the most routine measures.
At a time of extreme financial hardship throughout the American South, Union and Planters nevertheless posted profits thanks to the sound advice the bank received from several Wall Street contacts. Napoleon Hill's assumption of the presidency in 1885, ushered in a period of growth for the bank. With little formal education, Hill had established himself in the business world as owner of a combination grocery store and saloon in Sacramento, California which he had founded amidst the 1849 gold rush. In 1857, he traveled to Memphis where he established a cotton and supply business. He suffered a stroke in 1894 but continued running the bank until a second stroke in 1897 forced him to transfer power to his "right-hand man," Samuel Read.
Samuel Read began as a clerk in a West Tennessee country store before moving to Memphis in 1857 to work in the cotton supply business. During the Civil War, he made a fortune in the dry goods trade. His reputation as an extremely conservative banker was well earned. During his leadership, new customers wishing to open an account with Union and Planters were required to have an endorsement from an established customer who, by endorsing the new account holder, assumed personal responsibility for any default. The bank's problem with overdrafts ceased—and so did the bank's growth. From 1896 to 1900, Union and Planters reported no new account holders, no increases in deposits, and few loans were extended. As a result, Union and Planters was surpassed in size by several other Memphis banks.
The end of the nineteenth century saw the popularity of trust companies surge at the expense of banks. To stimulate growth, in 1906, Union and Planters merged with Tennessee Trust Company, formerly the Security Bank of Memphis to form the Union and Planters Bank and Trust Company. By offering a wide range of services—including mortgages, trusts, savings accounts, and a brokerage for stocks and bonds. It was the first Memphis institution to take a department approach to banking. Union and Planters relocated its offices to the Tennessee Trust Building. Read stayed on as the bank's president, an office he held until his death in 1915.
The bank's directors chose young 41-year-old Frank Hill, Napoleon Hill's son, as Read's replacement. Hill vowed to reinvigorate Union and Planters with "young blood, enterprise, aggressiveness and modern ideas." The days of his predecessor's safe and conservative stewardship of the bank was over. Hill encouraged new business and embraced innovation. In 1918 he established Union and Planters first branch location at a time when most banks operated out of a single location. This expansion was achieved by purchasing Mercantile National, a small and troubled institution renamed the Franklin Savings Bank and soon experienced strong growth. The bank celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 1919, and Hill's leadership gave the bank every reason to celebrate. Union and Planters was now the largest bank in Memphis and one of the ten largest banks in the South, holding deposits of nearly twenty million dollars and having assets of nearly thirty million dollars. Three years after the first branch opened, a second branch was opened on Memphis' famous Beale Street. Union and Planters acquired the North Memphis Savings Bank the following year and converted its offices into a third branch.
In 1924 Union and Planters experienced a major scandal involving an officer, Robert S. Polk. During the bank's decade of expansion, Polk stood out as a driving force. An orphan since he was 16, he came to the bank as a messenger in 1900 then rose through the ranks, his aggressive nature eventually catching the eye of Frank Hill. Polk became a vice president and oversaw bank operations during Hill's summer vacations in Cape Cod. Hill and Polk became business partners in a number of outside ventures financed by Union and Planters and seemed an unstoppable team. Then, Polk vanished in March 1924 with nearly $42,000 taken from a teller cage, replaced by Hill's endorsed markers. A teller reported to Hill that this was not the first time this had been done, and additional inquiries revealed that Polk had also diverted nearly $20,000 in Liberty Bond accounts for his own use. Several businessmen came forward with allegations that Polk had offered them loans from Union and Planters they would not have to repay, provided they turn over the loan proceeds to Polk. A day after his disappearance was reported in the local press, Polk wired Hill from El Paso, Texas that he would be returning soon and that there was no reason for concern. A grand jury was convened in the matter and planned to hear Polk's explanation upon his return. When he did arrive in Memphis, he was scheduled to appear the following morning to offer insight into what had happened the next morning. When he failed to appear as scheduled, authorities went to his residence. There they found Polk's body, his hand gripping the .38 revolver he used to kill himself.
Polk's suicide ruined Hill's credibility and forced him to retire from the bank. Frank Hayden took over as bank president after Union and Planters acquired Guaranty Bank and Trust Company, the company he formerly headed. Hayden inherited a bank in the midst of some serious problems. Polk had embezzled over $500,000 from the bank, not including the questionable loans for which he and Hill were responsible totaling about $8.1 million. Numerous customers claiming to have been defrauded by Polk demanded restitution. Hayden immediately wrote off more than $450,000 in loans, but more drastic action was required. In September 1924 Union and Planters engineered a reverse split, reducing its capital stock from $3.75 million to $1.87 million, and as a result cut shareholder equity in half. New shares were then issued and sold to boost the bank's capital to $2.5 million. Over the next four years Hayden was able to further shore up finances by collecting on bonds that covered some of Polk's theft, as well as successfully fending off lawsuits alleging the bank's responsibility for Polk's fraudulent actions. In the summer of 1928, however, Union and Planters again faced difficult circumstances when its account holders panicked and a bank run occurred. In order to shore up its finances, the bank sought a merger partner, resulting in an association with Rogers Caldwell, a Nashville investment banker. In 1917 at the age of 27, he began building an empire, as well as a reputation as a financial genius. Within ten years, riding the bull market of the 1920s, he controlled a network of fifty companies valued at over five hundred million dollars. In 1928 he and his associate, former U.S. Senator Luke Lea, bought a fifty-one percent stake in Manhattan Savings Bank and Trust Company in Memphis and agreed to merge with Union and Planters. The parties developed a massive reorganization plan, raising new funds to transform Union and Planters into a national bank. Upon completion of the conversion in the spring of 1929 the bank changed its name to Union Planters National Bank and Trust Company.
Although the bank survived the 1930s, it struggled until the economy was spurred by military spending during World War II. It opened several new branches, and Union Planters had eight total locations at the end of the 1940s.
In 1971, Union Planters Corporation was formed as a holding company for the bank's operations. In 1974, several officers of the bank, including Executive Vice-President Jesse Barr, were accused of defrauding the bank. Barr and several officers were convicted of criminal charges and sent to prison.TN-Tennessee Finance and Related Banks and Credit Unions Specimen Pieces Female Subject Safe Featured