All 12 Federal Reserve Banks first opened for business on the same day: November 16, 1914. The Reserve Bank Operating Committee, established by the Federal Reserve Act, was the group responsible for initially shaping the Federal Reserve Banks. They took the law and formed the Federal Reserve into a functioning institution. Its members included three government officials: Treasury Secretary William G. McAdoo (Off-site), Secretary of Agriculture David F. Houston (Off-site) and Comptroller of the Currency John Skelton Williams (Off-site).
The Reserve Banks’ opening occurred just seven months after the committee selected locations for the banks in April 1914. At the time, commerce and banking were feeling the effects of World War I, creating a sense of urgency to open. Therefore, a large amount of organization and planning had to be done swiftly.
After selecting cities and district boundaries, one of the next items on the committee’s list was the selection of board members. The group chose members to serve on the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, D.C. as well as the boards of directors for all 12 Reserve Banks. Once the Federal Reserve Board was established, its members took over the job of commissioning the Reserve Banks.
Staff sizes on opening day varied by Bank, but they averaged around 20 people. The smallest initial staff was Minneapolis with nine employees, and the two largest were Chicago and New York with 41 and 85 employees, respectively. The act specified that each Reserve Bank be led by a governor, a position later retitled to president. Initial staff roles included titles such as bankers, clerks, currency handlers, stenographers and messengers.
In order to meet the November 16 date, Reserve Banks had to staff, furnish and find operating spaces quickly. Atlanta’s first bank location was chosen just 16 days before opening, while other Reserve Banks opened in temporary office spaces, such as Minneapolis, initially operating out of the board room and teller cages of the Minnesota Loan & Trust Company.
With the Banks up and running, the Federal Reserve System was on its way to help foster financial and economic stability. For more information on the early days of the Fed, read the Fed Facts articles “Selecting the 12 Reserve Bank cities” and “Travel back in time with these historical photos.”