Look Back to the First Bank, First ATM, First Casino and 20 More
The history of money spans back to the very beginning of human civilization. Livestock, grain and even shells were once used as early currency. Now, in the digital age, money is taking even more new lifeforms.
Click through to see the history of banking through photos.
The First Casino
Step inside Casinò di Venezia — aka the Venice Casino — today and you’ll find players trying their hands at blackjack, Caribbean poker and slots. Quite a bit has changed since the place was established in 1638, but even centuries ago, it enticed people from across the globe to place their bets in its casino as it gained status as the world’s first international gaming facility.
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The First Bank
Monte dei Paschi di Siena is in deep financial trouble. But it took the world’s oldest bank — located in Siena, Italy — nearly 550 years to get that way. Founded in 1472, Monte Dei Paschi di Siena traces its roots back to when the city of Tuscan was still a republic.
The First Credit Card
Today, it’s not the least bit unusual for people to put even the smallest purchases on plastic, but when Diners Club introduced the first universal credit card around 1950, it was a huge change in the history of money. Now, you can use credit cards anywhere from Prada to the local dollar shop.
The First Checkbook
The concept of check writing can be traced to Ancient Rome, but the practice didn’t enter the mainstream until 1681 in the city of Boston, which was the capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony at that time. The first true printed checks and checkbooks, however, emerged in 1762 and are credited to a British banker named Lawrence Childs.
The First NYSE Bell Ringing
When the New York Stock Exchange bell rings in the morning, the world is open for business. When it rings in the evening, it’s time to go home. A series of bells and even a Chinese gong signaled the opening and closing of trading as far back as the 1870s, but in 1903 the NYSE moved to its current location and installed a massive, electronic brass bell. The first guest ever to ring the bell was a 10-year-old boy named Leonard Ross, who earned the honor after winning a contest in 1956.
The First Venmo
You know Venmo as the app that millennials use to make payments to their friends. But to Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magdon-Ismail, who were randomly paired freshman roommates at the University of Pennsylvania in 2001, it’s their baby. The pair came up with the idea of P2P mobile payments after one wrote the other a check, which seemed primitive for both of the computer students. They quickly worked up an SMS prototype through a hacked Google Voice account and Kortina “sent” Magdon-Ismail some food money he owed him with a message that read “Kortina paid you $20 for Chinese food.” The rest is history.
The First Bond
Bonds are the investment vehicle your grandmother uses to turn $500 into $530 over the course of five years. But bonds are even older than Granny. In fact, bonds have been issued since 2400 B.C., when corn was promised as a principal payment for a loan. But the first government-issued bond can be traced to 1693 when the Bank of England issued a blend of annuity and lottery bonds to finance a war with France.
The First Currency
The dollar is the currency of the world — but it wasn’t always that way. Minted by the Spanish Empire at the end of the 16th century, Peso de Ocho, or pieces of eight, were recognized as legal tender across the empire. But the empire was so big — with tentacles reaching from South America to the Philippines — that the globe-trotting currency was soon adopted by other countries and quickly became the first globally accepted world currency.
The First American Currency
In 1775, British martial law put a stranglehold on the economy of soon-to-be America. In response, the Continental Congress issued the first Continental currency, which, unlike British money, intentionally omitted a portrait of the king. It also didn’t include the backing of the king’s treasury, so the currency wound up being virtually useless, backed only by the promise of future tax revenue.
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The First Penny
Although Benjamin Franklin is believed to have designed a penny in 1787, the first Birch cent, named after the British artist who designed it, was issued by the U.S. Mint in 1792. Featuring the flowing locks of Lady Liberty, the coin was short-lived. Its size and weight were reduced by the time it entered formal production, and a new artist was hired to redesign it.
The First Nickel
Originally called “half-dimes,” the earliest nickels were issued as coins to replace five-cent notes. The 1796 half dime was the result of the Founding Fathers’ move to transfer American currency to the decimal system. Before that, American currency was still based on the Spanish silver dollar and its fractional denominations of eight.
The First Dime
In 1792, Congress authorized the construction of the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia and the production of the first “disme” coins, based on the concept of “la disme,” or “the tenth,” which was introduced by a French mathematician in the 17th century. Made of silver, the “s” in “disme” was probably silent and likely pronounced as “deem.” Either way, the “s” was soon dropped altogether and the dime was born.
The First Quarter
In 2015, one of a dozen mint-condition remnants of the first quarters issued in 1822 sold at auction for a record-setting $164,500. Featuring a capped Lady Liberty on the front and the American eagle on the reverse, the coin was issued sporadically at first, with just four deliveries recorded in three months during the original year of production.
The First $1 Bill
Before 1863, Americans used mostly coins, gold and silver, as currency. Then something happened that would change the course of world currency history — the dollar bill was born. The first bill didn’t feature the famous likeness of George Washington that we’ve come to associate with the dollar. That wouldn’t happen until 1869. The first face to appear on the dollar bill was none other than Salmon P. Chase, President Lincoln’s treasury secretary.
The First $5 Bill
The back of the first $5 bill was dyed in a shade of green that is vibrant and bright compared to the Lincolns we know and love today — but Abraham Lincoln’s face was nowhere to be found. The first $5 notes printed in 1861 featured a portrait of Alexander Hamilton on the front right and Thomas Crawford’s Statue of Freedom on the front left.
The First $10 Bill
Although former President Abraham Lincoln did not appear on the first $5 bills, he did briefly make it onto the first $10 notes, which were issued in 1861. The 16th president was featured on the left front of the first tens, with a soaring eagle taking the front-and-center position flanked by a female artist on the right.
The First $20 Bill
The first $20 bills were part of a massive push to paper currency known as the Greenback series. Lady Liberty wields a sword on the front of the bill, which is among the rarest in the world. Fewer than 80 legitimate copies are known to exist in the entire world, according to Antique Banknotes, a currency appraisal company.
The First $50 Bill
The first $50 note was also part of the vaunted Greenback collection — and these bills are even rarer than the first $20 bill. Fewer than 25 are known to still exist, according to Antique Banknotes. The first legal tender $50 bills in history, which were circulated between 1862 and 1863, feature not the familiar bearded face of Ulysses S. Grant, but a portrait of Alexander Hamilton.
The First $100 Bill
The final note to come out of the Greenback wave was the first C-note — the original American $100 bill. Known among collectors as the “Spread Eagle,” the note gets its nickname from the soaring bird that dominates the front. With only around 25 known copies, none of which are in mint condition, it’s among the rarest and most valuable bills on Earth, according to Antique Banknotes.
The First Monopoly
During the Gilded Age, there was essentially no limit on how much power, money and corporate control the “robber barons” of the era were allowed to consolidate. Among them was John D. Rockefeller, whose Standard Oil company controlled virtually all of the production, transportation and processing of oil in the entire United States. In 1906, the massive company was the first of several giants to fall to prosecutions under the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.
The First Bankruptcy
The history of bankruptcy is so long and the laws were so varied that it resulted in debt slavery in Ancient Greece, was punishable by death in Europe and now offers a chance for businesses to restructure. With such an old and convoluted path to follow, it’s simply not possible to know which company went bankrupt first — until the modern era. The original 12 companies that were first listed on the 1896 Dow Jones Industrials all continued on in one form or another after mergers, buyouts and consolidations — except for one. The U.S. Leather Company was delisted in 1928 and liquidated in 1952.
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The First Cryptocurrency Miner
The first cryptocurrency, popularized by the rise of bitcoin, dates back to experimentation in the late 1990s. A shadowy and still-unknown figure called Satoshi Nakamoto launched the idea into reality in 2008 and cryptocurrency “mining” began in earnest in 2009. The first real bitcoin miners produced 50 units per block using standard multicore CPUs. The next year, much more sophisticated GPUs were introduced into the industry.
The First ATM
When the concept of the automated teller machine popped into the head of inventor John Shepherd-Barron while he was taking a bath, people still had to wander into banks to get cash. He changed all that with the concept of a machine — which would forever alter the history of banking — that could dispense cash on demand. The British bank Barclays wasted no time accepting his pitch, according to Time, and in 1967, the world’s first ATM began spitting out cash in London.
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About the Author
Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street’s investment community in New York City.