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April 28, 2012

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The need to regulate Financial transactions was seen early on in history and one of the earliest codes of law compiled by Hammurabi (King of Babylon from 1792-1750 B.C.) devoted several paragraphs to banking. Banking accompanied the development of commerce in British North America.

Building on the corner of Water & MainThe first banking establishment to reach Cambridge was the Gore Bank which had been established in Hamilton in 1835. The bank opened an agency, managed by John Davidson, in Galt in about 1840. The period of 1850-1857 was one of particular prosperity in the province and saw the development of a number of mercantile interests and saw the arrival of the Great Western Railway. In that same period a number of branches of the Gore Bank opened and the local agency was expanded to full "branch" status. By 1857 the Gore Bank had moved into the then recently completed Commercial Block at the southwest corner of the intersection of Water and Main. The picture, above, of that very same corner was taken in July of 1997.

In February of 1869 Mr. Davidson resigned citing "other pressing business matters." On March 12, 1869 the directors of the Gore Bank announced that they would close all the branch offices and consolidate the bank's capital at the head office in Hamilton (in an attempt to stave off a possible closure). Before the closure of the Galt branch was finalized, shareholders of the Canadian Bank of Commerce, in October 1869, ratified an arrangement taking over the assets of the Gore Bank including the Galt Branch.

The Bank of Commerce, founded only two years previously, already had 8 branches when it took over the Gore Bank in Galt. In that year the Bank of Commerce moved into the offices of the Gore Bank and have been there ever since.

In 1923, Toronto architect V.D. Horsburgh, was contracted to renovate the branch. The second floor was removed to allow for a more spacious interior and the main entrance was moved from the north wall to the northeast corner of the building where it remains to this day.

In 1961 the Canadian Bank of Commerce merged with the Imperial Bank of Canada, which had operated a branch at 13 Main Street in Galt since 1886, to form the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. The branch at 13 Main Street closed that year and all its business moved across the street to the present Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

The most recent major change to the bank occurred in 1981 when the branch spent $750,000 on a further renovation intended "to preserve the interior of this simple but dignified stone building along the lines of the period architecture while adapting it to modern banking needs and business expansion".

The Bank of Montreal The Merchants Bank, founded in 1861, opened its Galt branch on March 1, 1868 on the site of the Commercial Bank. The first office was at the southeast corner of Water Street and Dickson at the site now occupied by the Montreal Trust building. The first manager of the Merchants Bank was William Cooke who managed the branch until 1875. In 1887 the Merchants Bank moved into the northern most end of the newly complete Imperial Block at 14 Water Street South and remained there until 1919 when a new bank building was erected on the northeast corner of the intersection of Main and Water Street. At the time this building, housing the Bank of Montreal, was considered one of the finest banking buildings west of Toronto. The Merchants Bank ceased operation between 1921 and 1922 when it was absorbed by the Bank of Montreal. The picture of the Bank of Montreal (on the right) was taken in July 1997.

Picture of the Bank of Nova Scotia Another major bank which expanded, in part, by taking over other banks, was the Bank of Nova Scotia, founded in 1832. The Bank of Nova Scotia first attempted to establish in Galt sometime between 1918 and 1920 with a branch at 14 Water Street South. It stayed at that location until about 1925 when it moved to 9-11 Ainslie Street North where it remained until 1943 when the Galt branch closed. From that time on, Galt was without a branch of the Bank of Nova Scotia until the new Main Street branch was opened in 1956. In 1971 the bank began construction of a new $500,000 building at a new site across the street to replace the recently demolished Gore Mutual Insurance. The modern concrete, steel and glass building was designed by Fred Valentine of Parkin, Searle, Wilbee and Rowland, Architects from Don Mills and was opened officially on July 27, 1972. The picture of the Bank of Nova Scotia, to the left, was taken in July, 1997.

While the Bank of Nova Scotia was a relatively recent arrival to our community, the Dominion Bank was a fairly early arrival opening a branch office at Queen and Tannery in Hespeler in 1878. Rules for its employees reflected the working conditions prevelant in most Canadian Banks in the late 19th century. Under one rule, the management, referring to new labour legislation then in effect, noted that "we expect a great rise in output of work to compensate for the near Utopian conditions."

Another rule required that "sober clothing must be worn to work and no light colors will be acceptable." Some concessions were made to the winter's cold so "scarves and hats could be worn on the job." Working hours were set from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm and workers could not leave the room without permission. Tobacco and spirits were not permitted since they were a sign of "human weaknesses" which could reflect badly on the bank's image. As compensation for submitting to the rules and for putting in the long hours, a bank clerk could expect to earn $200. per year with an additional $1.00 per week for lunch money.

Bank of Toronto The Bank of Toronto, founded one hundred years earlier, opened a branch in Galt on March 17, 1905 in an old stone building on the northwest corner of the intersection of Main and Water. This building was replaced in 1912-1913. The Toronto-Dominion Bank, born out of the 1955 merger between the Dominion Bank and the Bank of Toronto in 1955, remained at this location until 1972 when a new branch office was erected at the southeast corner of the intersection of Main and Mill. This building cost $200,000 and was opened by mayor Gordon Rouse who had previously run a music store with his brother at that site. The Old Bank of Toronto building was purchased in 1972 by Don Thompson, David Grant and Gord Renwick who renovated the exterior of the building and converted the interior to law offices, a role it continues to service to this day. The picture of this building (above) was taken in July 1997.

As well as the major banks, Cambridge was served in earlier days by some smaller banks. Among these was the Union Bank founded in 1865. It is not clear when this bank came to our community but in 1919 there was a branch at 54-56 Main Street. It is believed that this branch closed in 1925 when the Union Bank was absorbed by another banking institution.

Another of the smaller banks was the United Empire Bank of Canada which was founded in 1903 as the Pacific Bank of Canada. The "United Empire" name was adopted in 1906. The Galt branch of the bank opened on Main Street on January 30, 1907. The bank was described in contemporary reports as "essentially a businessman's bank" with its head office in Toronto and George A. Clare M.P. (Preston) as one of its directors. The first manager of the Galt branch was Mr. A. Stevens Browne who had been an accountant for a number of years and was "connected with the London and Lancashire Insurance Co. for 15 years." Mr. Browne was also alderman, for Ward 4, on the Galt Town Council. The bank ceased operations in 1911 when it too was absorbed by another bank. The Royal Bank

On November 1, 1867 the Galt Reporter announced that the Royal Canadian Bank had leased the post office building and was to open an agency in Galt. By 1875, while the bank did have an office here, it is not entirely certain where it was. Also uncertain is the Royal Canadian Bank's relationship, if any, to the Royal Bank of Canada which received its charter in 1869, two years after the Royal Canadian Bank came to Galt. Whatever the connection, a branch of the Royal Bank was opened in the Warnock Block at 26-28 Main Street on January 22, 1909. Although the official opening was held on that day, accounts suggests that "some time will elapse before the permanent fixtures and furnishings are installed and business can be carried out in the desired way." As it turned out, the "permanent" fixtures at this site weren't to last very long and a new building was erected for the Royal Bank on the site of the old Central Hotel at Main and Ainslie Street. The Royal Bank continues to operate at that site today. The picture, above, depicts The Royal Bank building on the corner of Main and Ainslie Street on July 15, 1997.

We gratefully acknowledge Jim Quantrell, Archivest for the City of Cambridge and the Corporation of the City of Cambridge's Archives Department for their gracious provisioning of the material upon which this page is based (published articles and more) and for allowing us to draw, liberally, on that published material!

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