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Tumultuous History of NYC Banking Charted at Museum of the City of New York

A Marine Bank Two Dollar Note.
A Marine Bank Two Dollar Note.
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Museum of the City of New York

UPPER EAST SIDE — Long before Occupy Wall Street protesters marched in the streets of New York with signs reading "Burn the Banks," New York's financial history was written in the growing control that city banks had over the world's economy.

That's the subject of a new exhibit opening May 22 at the Museum of the City of New York, which explores the city's rise to become the center of global banking, rising and falling with the economy over a period of 200 years.

"Capital of Capital: New York City Banks and the Creation of a Global Economy," looks at the rocky two centuries of the city's economy, from the early days of New York, to the Black Tuesday crash of 1929 that sparked the Great Depression, to the 2008 stock market crash and beyond.

The exhibit is peppered with information about popular protests against the government's role in banking, the precursors to today's OWS protesters.

"The history of New York City’s banks is, unexpectedly, very exciting, filled with twists and turns, booms and busts, and the saga continues to the present day, with newspapers filled with debate over the future of the industry," Susan Henshaw Jones, Ronay Menschel Director of the Museum said in a statement.

The exhibition is presented in four sections that highlight the technological and financial innovations of various time periods ranging from the middle of the 19th century to the end of the 20th century.

The exhibit explains, for example, how bank-issued currency saved mercantile economy of the Pre-Civil War Era, and shows original stocks and bonds that underwrote the city's infrastructure into the 20th century.

Highlighted artifacts include 19th century bank notes from shortly after the American Revolution, pamphlets from the Federal Reserve Act of 1914, a 1922 machine that served as the predecessor to the ATM and early credit cards, including City Bank of New York's "Everything Card," launched in 1967.

"Capital of Capital: New York City Banks and the Creation of a Global Economy" will be at the Museum of the City of New York on 1120 5th Avenue from May 22 to Oct. 21.