Citibank: Teetering Since 1812

So Citi's in big trouble. Nothing new there. What financial history teaches us about today

Emmanuel Dunand / AFP / Getty

City Bank of New York was founded in 1812 by a group of merchants hoping to fill the void left by the demise of the first Bank of the United States, the sort-of central bank whose charter Congress had allowed to expire the year before. City nearly went under in the Panic of 1837 but was bailed out by the country's richest man, fur magnate John Jacob Astor. Astor's associate Moses Taylor built City into a bulwark of sound finance--big capital reserves, stingy lending standards--that bankrolled the Union during the Civil War and easily withstood the first postwar financial panic, in...

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