John and Frederick Thompson: The Father-Son Team that Changed Banking

By Phineas Upham

The bank that would become Chase Manhattan Bank all started thanks to two a father-son team with an entrepreneurial spirit. The story begins with John, the father.

John was the son of a Revolutionary War soldier, and began his professional life pursuing teaching. He found himself also working as a lotto ticket dealer for a time before moving to New York City. Once there, he decided to pursue banking as a career. He began dealing bank notes in 1832, founding “Thompson’s Bank Note Reporter.” This important financial newspaper would eventually become the American Banker, a publication related to “sorting out good banks and their notes from bad banks”.

John’s son Frederick shared his father’s passion for banking. Frederick had a fond childhood that was thanks to his father’s wealth gained from the working with banks. He attended Williams College and became a member of the national college literary society: St. Anthony Hall.

He married in 1857 and opened his first bank with his father the same year.

The two partnered with Frederick’s brother Samuel and opened their third bank by 1863. The 1st National Bank of the City of New York today survives in part as the entity known as “Citibank.” Frederick stayed at 1st National while John and Samuel formed another bank called Chase National Bank. Their bank would become one of the most powerful consumer financial institutions in the nation.

Frederick used his wealth to donate to the Williams Alumni Association, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Geographical Society, and the Union League.

Phineas Upham is an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Phineas Upham website or Twitter page.