The Bank of the Metropolis was a commercial bank, taking deposits and using those funds to make loans to various individuals and enterprises. It opened for business on June 1, 1871, at 31 Union Square in New York City.(9) William Steinway was one of the founders of the bank. He was a member of the original Board of Directors and continued to serve as a director for the remainder of his life.(4) He attended regular meetings at the bank and frequently commented in the diary on the conditions of the bank and on events happening there. Steinway & Sons did business with the Bank of the Metropolis, having an account and borrowing from the bank from time to time.
Early in 1871, William noted in the diary that he was busy doing some of the legal paper work to establish the Bank of the Metropolis. (Diary, 1871-1-07) He took $5000 in stock, one percent of the stated capital of $500,000. William made frequent entries into the diary about attending meetings at the bank, which appear to have been held every month. The bank was examined for soundness twice a year, once approximately midyear and once toward the end of the calendar year. William often remarked on these meetings and added that the bank was in solid condition. According to an ad placed by the bank in The New York Times, as of September 26, 1874, the Bank of the Metropolis had capital of $500,000 and deposits of $1,226,959.(8) By May 1893, deposits had grown to $5,970,200, and in May 1896, near the end of William's life, deposits were reported at $6,032,500, although capital had been reduced to $300,000.(2)(3)
On November 13, 1884, William noted in the diary that the Bank of the Metropolis had been examined for admission to the New York Clearing House. The Clearing House enabled participating New York banks to settle the credit and debits that arose among them as a result of their customers doing normal business and making payments to each other. A later listing in press reports of member banks documented that the Bank of the Metropolis was admitted to the Clearing House.(6) A report from June 1892 noted that the Bank of the Metropolis was designated a reserve bank by the banking officials of New York State.(13) Such a bank was eligible to hold the deposits of other, presumably smaller, banks; these deposits would count as reserves for the smaller banks, meeting a legal requirement imposed on them by state law. Both of these actions indicate an endorsement of the soundness of the Bank of the Metropolis.
The press reported three instances of brushes with the law by persons on the premises of the bank. In July of 1879, the night watchman failed his duties badly and went off to drink at a saloon, leaving the bank unguarded; the problem was detected and bank officers summoned.(1) In 1880, William noted in the diary that forgeries had been discovered at the Bank of the Metropolis and that the forger, a man named Carll, was to be kept in jail. (Diary, 1880-05-03) Reports in The New York Times in October 1882 and January 1883 gave details of how Selah C. Carll forged his name on some U.S. registered bonds, deposited them with the Bank of the Metropolis, and borrowed against them.(7)(15) In 1889, a thief robbed a depositor of cash he received while making a withdrawal from the Bank of the Metropolis.(14)
The New York Times reported in October of 1892 that numerous bank presidents, vice presidents, and directors had publicly endorsed Grover Cleveland for President and stated they would vote for him rather than other candidates with support from the Democratic Party. The list contained the names of R. Schell, President of the Bank of the Metropolis and William Steinway, as a director.(11) In 1896, gold outflow from the United States had depleted the gold reserves of the U.S. Treasury and put into question its ability to maintain the value of the U.S. dollar on the gold standard as then stated. Banks from across the country responded by depositing gold with the Sub-Treasury, increasing its stock of gold holdings and providing it with the capacity to meet any additional withdrawals of gold, such as by foreign claimants. The Bank of the Metropolis contributed $200,000 worth of gold deposits as part of a total of $17,245,000 of such deposits made by New York banks as of July 25, 1896.(10) (Diary, 1896-07-26)
William last wrote in his diary of going to the Bank of the Metropolis on October 29, 1896.
The Bank of the Metropolis merged with the Bank of the Manhattan Company on February 1, 1918, becoming a branch of the larger Bank of the Manhattan.(5) The name of the bank was subsequently changed to Chase Manhattan Bank and is in business today as JPMorgan Chase Bank.(12)