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First 100 Years




First 100 Years

A Chapter in the History of Central Banking
n 1913, Albert Einstein was working on his


established the second Bank of the United States. It

new theory of gravity, Richard Nixon was

was also given a 20-year charter and operated from

born, and Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn

1816 to 1836; however, its charter was not renewed

in as assistant secretary of the Navy. It was

either. After the charter expired, the United States

also the year Woodrow Wilson took the oath

endured a series of financial crises during the 19th

of office as the 28th President of the United

and early 20th centuries. Several factors contributed

States, intent on advocating progressive reform

to the crises, including a number of bank failures,

and change. One of his biggest reforms occurred

which generated waves of bank panics and

on December 23, 1913, when he signed the Federal

economic instability.2

Reserve Act into law. This landmark legislation

When Jay Cooke and Company, the nation’s

created the Federal Reserve System, the nation’s

largest bank, failed in 1873, a panic erupted, leading

central bank.

to runs on other financial institutions. Within months,


A Need for Stability

the nation’s economic problems deepened as silver
prices dropped after the Coinage Act of 1873 was

Why was a central bank needed? The nation

passed, which dampened the interests of U.S. silver

had tried twice before to establish a central bank

miners and led to a recession that lasted until 1879.

modeled after European central banks to act as a

Although the boom in railroad construction

fiscal agent for the government. The first Bank of

succeeded in uniting the country from coast to coast

the United States was established by Congress in

during the post-Civil War years, the boom eventually

1791, at the request of Alexander Hamilton, the

came to the end of the line. As the last spike was

nation’s first secretary of the Treasury. Although

pounded into western soil, the demise of railroad

the first Bank’s 20-year charter was not renewed, the

construction led to financial difficulties for not only

War of 1812 and the ensuing inflation and economic

the railroads but the iron and steel industries as well.

turmoil convinced Congress to try again, and it

The resulting recession from 1882 to 1885 generated

Federal Reserve System


more bank panics, railroad failures, a withdrawal of

Representative Nelson Aldrich (R-Rhode Island) as

European investments, a stock market crash, and a

chair. But Aldrich’s plan was criticized for giving

run on the U.S. gold supply.

too much power to bankers and too little control

When the Knickerbocker Trust Company in

to the government. Although his plan was never

New York City failed in 1907, it unleashed countless

implemented, it sparked a debate advocating a new

runs on other trust companies.3 In response,

central bank for the United States — the Federal

Congress passed the Aldrich-Vreeland Act in 1908,

Reserve System.4

which issued emergency currency and established
an 18-member National Monetary Commission
to find ways to stabilize the nation’s monetary

Several plans were introduced in Congress,

system. The commission released 30 reports, one of

including proposals by Henry Parker Willis, the

which was submitted to Congress four years later.

expert adviser from the House Committee on

It described U.S. currency as “inelastic,” meaning

Banking and Finance and a professor at Washington

that the quantity of money being supplied could

and Lee University; Senator Robert L. Owen

not adjust quickly to changes in demand. The

(D-Oklahoma); and Representative Carter Glass

report also pointed out that the United States had

(D-Virginia). Glass proposed a plan similar to

no effective national agency to help transfer funds

Aldrich’s in that he wanted little governmental

between different parts of the country or to help

control, but the big difference was that Glass

prevent disruptions in such transfers during times of

advocated a system of regional reserve banks.
The proposal unleashed heated debates about

economic turmoil.
To address the inadequacies outlined in

how much power bankers and government should

its report, the commission proposed a plan to

wield. President Wilson also believed in a more

create the National Reserve Association with

balanced solution: The plan needed some agency

Woodrow Wilson
enters the White
House as the 28th
President of the
United States.

The Federal Reserve Act
is passed by Congress and
signed later the same day by
President Woodrow Wilson.

1913 1913

Getting Started

Federal Reserve System

The 12 Federal Reserve Banks
open for business; Charles
Hamlin becomes the first Chair of
the Federal Reserve and serves
until 1916.


The average
U.S. inflation
rate is 1%.

World War I creates difficult
economic conditions, but the
Federal Reserve System takes an
active role in marketing war debt
to banks and the general public
to raise funds for the war effort.

1914 1914-18

The Knickerbocker Trust Company, the second largest of its kind in New York, failed in October 1907, which led to runs on
other trust companies. Knickerbocker did not have enough cash on hand to meet depositors’ demand for withdrawals.
Since there was no deposit insurance in 1907 and no lender of last resort to turn to, the run triggered a panic that
launched hundreds of bank failures, a significant decrease in the money supply, and a deep recession. Financier J.P.
Morgan formed a syndicate with his fellow bankers to put sufficient liquidity into the economy to quell the panic. Congress
then set up a federal commission to study the economy, which led to the creation of the Federal Reserve System in 1913.
But before the Federal Reserve System was established, the United States faced another crisis in July 1914. European investors, who owned more than 20 percent of American railroad stocks, started to sell these assets to secure a flow of gold
to Europe to help pay for World War I. This selloff put a serious drain on the U.S. gold supply, weakening the gold-backed
dollar and making it hard for the U.S. to maintain the gold standard. Although Treasury Secretary William McAdoo tried
to push for the Federal Reserve Banks to open early, his attempt was thwarted. So he moved to close Wall Street to curb
British sales of American securities. The stock market closed on July 31, 1914, and reopened on December 12.

oversight; he favored a central board. To supervise

intermittently. After many refinements, the bill

the banking industry, a Federal Reserve Board

sponsored by Glass finally won approval from both

would have presidential-appointed members; to give

the House and the Senate on December 23, 1913,

bankers a voice, Wilson’s Federal Advisory Council

and President Woodrow Wilson signed the bill into

proposed that the regional reserve banks would

law that day, creating the Federal Reserve System.5

elect 12 bankers who would meet with the Board

The preamble of the legislation outlined two critical

William Harding
becomes the second
Chair of the Federal
Reserve and serves
until 1922.

The average
U.S. inflation
rate soars to

Warren Harding
enters the White
House as the 29th
President of the
United States.

The average U.S.
inflation rate falls to
negative double digits
at -10.5%, signaling a
period of deflation.

Calvin Coolidge is
sworn in as the 30th
President of the
United States.

Daniel Crissinger
becomes the third
Chair of the Federal
Reserve and serves
until 1927.

1916 1917 1921 1921 1923 1923
Federal Reserve System


functions for the Federal Reserve: to furnish an

and reliable communications and transportation

elastic currency and to establish more effective

network, the financial health of the banks in that

supervision of the nation’s banking industry.

location, and the probability that a Reserve Bank

The Federal Reserve Act, in part, directed
the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of
Agriculture, and the Comptroller of the Currency

at that site could meet the business demands of the
The Federal Reserve Act also created a Federal

to form the Reserve Bank Organization Committee

Reserve Board in Washington, D.C., designed to

and divide the nation into no fewer than eight and

oversee the operations of the 12 Reserve Banks.

no more than 12 Federal Reserve Districts. The

Originally, the Board consisted of seven members,

committee was also charged with deciding which

including the Secretary of the Treasury and the

cities would hold a Federal Reserve Bank, how the

Comptroller of the Currency, both of whom served

geographic boundaries of each Federal Reserve

ex officio, and five members who were appointed by

District would be defined, and how the organization

the President of the United States and confirmed by

of the Reserve Banks would be supervised.

the Senate.9


Between January and mid-February 1914, the

On November 16, 1914, nearly one year after

committee held meetings in 18 U.S. cities. At each of

President Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act, all

these meetings, local businessmen, bankers, farmers,

12 regional Reserve Banks opened for business. Each

and others explained why their city or state was

Reserve Bank was required to have a nine-member

the best spot for a Reserve Bank. The committee

board of directors divided into Class A, Class B, and

submitted its final report to Congress in April 1914,

Class C directors. Federal Reserve member banks

listing the cities it had selected. The committee

were responsible for electing three Class A directors

considered several factors in choosing these

to represent the banking industry and three Class

locations, including the availability of an efficient

B directors to represent the public. The Federal


Roy Young becomes
the fourth Chair of the
Federal Reserve and
serves until 1930.

The McFadden Act is
passed and creates
significant changes
for the Fed.

Herbert Hoover
enters the White
House as the 31st
President of the
United States.

The Black Tuesday
Wall Street Crash
sends the world into
an economic panic.

The Great Depression: U.S.
unemployment reaches 25%,
international trade drops more than
50%, thousands of banks and other
businesses fail, and tax revenue to the
federal government drops dramatically.

1927 1927 1929 1929 1929-39

Federal Reserve System

Reserve Board (now called the
Board of Governors) was charged
with appointing three Class C
directors to represent the public,
including a chairman and deputy
chairman for each Reserve Bank’s
board of directors.10
As with the First and Second
Banks, the Federal Reserve
Banks were given 20-year
charters. However, people saw
positive changes in the nation’s

The Federal Reserve Board (later called the Board of Governors) originally
had no authority to force Reserve Banks to open branches. However, the
Board sponsored an amendment to the Federal Reserve Act that took effect on
June 21, 1917, stating that the “Federal Reserve Board may permit or require
any Federal Reserve Bank to establish branch banks within the Federal
Reserve district in which it is located.” Today, the 12 Districts have 24 branch
offices: Atlanta (Birmingham, AL; Jacksonsville, FL; Miami; Nashville, TN;
New Orleans), Chicago (Detroit), Cleveland (Cincinnati; Pittsburgh), Dallas;
(El Paso, TX; Houston; San Antonio), Kansas City (Denver; Oklahoma City;
Omaha, NE), Minneapolis (Helena, MT), Richmond (Baltimore; Charlotte,
NC), San Francisco (Los Angeles; Portland, OR; Salt Lake City; Seattle), and
St. Louis (Little Rock, AR; Louisville, KY; Memphis, TN).

economy within the first 14
years after the Federal Reserve
was created: The economy was
rebounding, interest rates were
stable, financial institutions were
stronger, recessions had been
short-lived, recoveries were
swift, and gold reserves were on
the upswing. Since politicians,
businessmen, and bankers
advocated an extension of the

Eugene Meyer
becomes the fifth
Chair of the Federal
Reserve and serves
until 1933.

The Grain Stabilization
Corporation and the
Cotton Stabilization
Corporation are created to
keep farm prices steady.

The country enters a period of
deflation as the price level falls
by nearly -10% during the Great

The Reconstruction
Finance Corporation
Act is enacted to
provide loans to banks,
financial institutions,
and railroads.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
enters the White House
as the 32nd President of
the United States.

1930 1930 1931-32 1932 1933
Federal Reserve System


Fed’s original charter, the McFadden Act of 1927

wealthier households were prospering from what

officially removed the 20-year limit on the Reserve

seemed to be a welcomed economic boom. Many

Banks’ charter. In effect, this provision prevented

believed that the economic problems of the past 75

the central bank from getting embroiled in a

years had finally come to an end, but not everyone

political battle over the issue of renewing its charter,

shared in this economic prosperity.12 During the

a fight that had ended badly for both previous

1920s, grain and cotton prices plummeted, causing

central banks.

many farmers to default on their mortgages. In


reaction, the banks holding the mortgages on these

The Early Years

troubled farms started to fail, and the number of

In the late 1910s and early 1920s, several Federal
Reserve Banks began opening Branch offices in their

its accommodative monetary policy throughout

respective Districts. The board of directors at each

1927, maintaining its policy to increase the money

Branch was responsible for supplying information

supply to make credit easier to obtain. Then in 1928,

on the District’s local economic conditions to the

the Fed made a move and started to raise interest

Reserve Bank’s board of directors. These Branches

rates. This policy change proved to be too little too

were also designed to help the Fed handle functions

late and further aggravated the economic situation

related to payment systems, including clearing

by slowing down an already wavering economy.14

checks and distributing cash.

By 1929, the troubled economy took a turn for the

Economic prosperity and a rising stock market

worse: The stock market crashed, deepening the

were two hallmarks of the Roaring Twenties,

crisis and causing economic repercussions that were

despite the decade’s three short-lived recessions.

felt worldwide.

People started to invest in the stock market; some
even invested their life savings. Middle-class and

Congress passes the
Emergency Banking Act to
supply emergency money
to banks that reopened
after a four-day bank
closure nationwide.

The Banking Act of 1933,
or the Glass-Steagall
Act, stems deflation and
separates the activities
of commercial banks and
securities firms.

1933 1933

defaults continued to accelerate.13 The Fed continued

Federal Reserve System

By 1930, the United States was embroiled in the
Great Depression, a profound financial crisis that

The Federal Deposit Insurance
Corporation (FDIC) emerged
as an important provision of
the Banking Act of 1933 to
insure bank deposits via funds
collected from banks.

Eugene Black
becomes the sixth
Chair of the Federal
Reserve and serves
until 1934.

The Securities Act is passed,
ensuring that investors
receive financial information
on securities offered for
public sale and protection
against fraud in security sales.

1933 1933 1933

Inside the Board of Governors
The Board has a wide range of responsibilities and duties: It oversees the 12 Federal Reserve Banks, sets depository reserve requirements and approves requests for discount rate changes made by the Fed Banks, issues regulations on consumer protection and financial safety and soundness, and leads the Fed in supervising and regulating bank holding companies, as well as the domestic and foreign
operations of financial holding companies and state-chartered banks that are members of the Fed System.
The Board’s seven Governors, who represent the public sector, are appointed by the President of the United States; the Senate confirms the appointments. The President also appoints the Chair and the Vice Chair, who are confirmed by the Senate to serve four-year
terms. The Governors serve 14-year terms to insulate them from short-term political pressures and to provide a long-term perspective
on the economy and financial system.

The Security Exchange Act
of 1934 is passed, creating
the Securities and Exchange
Commission to protect investors, regulate markets, and
expedite capital formation.


The Gold Reserve Act passes,
requiring all gold and gold
certificates held by the Federal
Reserve to be surrendered
to and vested in the U.S.
Department of the Treasury.

Marriner Eccles
becomes the
seventh Chair of the
Federal Reserve and
serves until 1948.

President Franklin
D. Roosevelt
signs the Social
Security Act to
protect senior

The Banking Act of 1935 makes
the FDIC a permanent government
agency and calls for changes in
the Federal Reserve’s structure,
including voting rights for the
Federal Reserve Board.

1934 1934 1935 1935
Federal Reserve System


lingered for a decade. Just months


before the stock market crashed

Americans braced themselves for hard times beginning in 1929. But little did

on October 29, 1929, better known

they know, those hard times would last for more than a decade. By 1933,

as Black Tuesday, Herbert Hoover

more than 11 million people (25 percent) were unemployed in the U.S.

had started his term as the 31st

Government-sponsored programs put many to work, eventually generating

President of the United States. One
of his first attempts to stimulate the
economy was by urging Congress
to pass the Reconstruction Finance

such national landmarks as the Empire State Building and the Golden Gate
Bridge. Former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke acknowledged the role the Federal
Reserve played in what he called “the worst economic disaster in American
history.” Fed leaders during the
Depression had disagreed on the

Corporation (RFC) Act of 1932.

best course of action, and many

The RFC was designed to provide

of their ideas were deemed too

loans to banks and other financial

little too late. But these failings

institutions in need, including

helped Congress initiate numer-

insurance companies, as well as to
lend funds to railroads, many of
which could not meet their bond

ous reforms, making the Federal Reserve more responsive to
changing economic conditions.

payments.15 Hoover also set up a
series of other programs to help
the troubled economy, including
plans to help farmers prevent foreclosure, reforms

Stabilization Corporation in 1930 in an effort to keep

for the banking industry, and other measures.

agricultural prices steady.16

The Hoover administration also established the
Grain Stabilization Corporation and the Cotton

World War II spreads throughout
Europe, North Africa, and the South

The average U.S.
inflation rate climbs
to 10.9%.

Although many economic factors contributed
to the Great Depression, the collapse of the banking

Harry S. Truman
enters the White
House as the 33rd
President of the
United States.

Congress passes the
Employment Act of 1946
that created the Council of
Economic Advisers, a board
that counsels the President
on economic policy.

The average U.S.
inflation rate hits

1939-45 1942 1945 1946 1947

Federal Reserve System

system was one of the biggest. By the early 1930s,

was time for a change. Hoover lost the presidential

9,000 banks failed in the United States. These bank

election in November 1932, and Franklin D.

failures caused the money supply to tighten, which,

Roosevelt was elected to the White House.

in turn, spurred a decline in spending on goods and

One of the first measures Roosevelt took in

services. As spending dropped, firms lowered prices

March 1933 was to declare a “bank holiday.” He

and laid off workers. And the downward spiral

closed all banks nationwide for four business days,

continued: Workers’ incomes declined, households

from Monday, March 6, until Thursday, March 9. He

were pressed to repay loans, and many defaulted.

then extended the suspension of banking activity

As a result, the number of bankruptcies increased
Trust in banks vanished. People were scared;
many withdrew their savings and hoarded as much
cash as they could to avoid losing their savings

Raising the Bar

in one of the many failing financial institutions.

The Federal Reserve System doesn’t own any gold; it turned over its

The cycle continued: As people started to hoard

gold to the Department of the Treasury with the passage of the Gold

currency, bank reserves plunged, and the dwindling

Reserve Act of 1934. In return, the Secretary of the Treasury issued

reserves triggered tighter credit. Banks had less

gold certificates to the Fed for the amount of gold that was trans-

money to lend, and the limitations on credit further

ferred at the statutory price for gold at the time. However, the Federal

reduced the money supply.

Reserve Bank of New York acts as a custodian for the gold of

Many people felt that Hoover didn’t roll
out enough measures or implement them fast
enough to slow the rising tide of bank failures and

account holders, including the U.S. government, foreign
governments, other central banks, and
official global organizations.

unemployment. Consequently, voters decided it

Thomas B. McCabe
becomes the eighth
Chair of the Federal
Reserve and serves
until 1951.

The United States is embroiled in
the Korean War.

The Treasury-Federal
Reserve Accord
declares the Fed’s
independence in
conducting monetary

1948 1950-53 1951

William M. Martin
becomes the ninth
Chair of the Federal
Reserve and serves
until 1970.

The average U.S.
inflation rate is 1.9%.

1951 1952
Federal Reserve System


to Monday, March 13. When Congress passed the

permanently closed their doors, and people lost

Emergency Banking Act on March 9, the goal was to

their savings since there was no deposit insurance.

stave off the run on banks in hopes that people would

Fewer banks and fewer loans meant less available

stop panicking. The Federal Reserve also agreed to

credit. So, business activity dropped, inventories

supply an unlimited amount of emergency money to

accumulated on shelves and in warehouses, and

those banks that reopened after the bank holiday.18

unemployment escalated.20

These measures succeeded in restoring the

Congress passed many important pieces of

public’s confidence in banks. By the end of March

legislation related to the economic health of the

1933, two-thirds of the money that had been

country in the 1930s in response to the Great

withdrawn during the various bank runs and panics

Depression, including the Banking Act of 1933 and

had been redeposited in the nation’s banks, and the

the Banking Act of 1935. The Banking Act of 1933

stock market rebounded with the largest uptick in

created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

one day of 15.34 percent.

(FDIC) as a temporary government agency with the


Despite its efforts to work with the Hoover and

authority to provide deposit insurance to banks,

Roosevelt administrations, the Fed was criticized for

originally insuring bank deposits up to $2,500. This

not responding aggressively to the Depression. In

act, known as the Glass-Steagall Act, also separated

fact, many critics contend that the Fed contributed

investment banking activities from commercial

to the economic downturn by acting too slowly in

banking. For the Federal Reserve, this law also

easing monetary policy. Because the Fed continued

gave the Federal Reserve Board the responsibility

its tight monetary policy for too long, prices started

for supervising bank holding companies, as well

to fall, ushering in widespread deflation.

as creating the Federal Open Market Committee

The Fed also failed to protect the stability of
the nation’s financial system. Thousands of banks

Dwight D. Eisenhower
enters the White
House as the 34th
President of the
United States.

The United States
enters the conflict
in Vietnam.

The Bank Holding
Company Act of
1956 gives the Fed
broader regulatory
powers over bank
holding companies.

(FOMC). Although the Federal Reserve had set up
an Open Market Investment Committee in 1923, the

Karl R. Bopp is named
president of the
Philadelphia Fed,
becoming one of the first
professional economists
to lead a Reserve Bank.

The average U.S.
inflation rate is

John F. Kennedy
enters the White
House as the 35th
President of the
United States.

1953 1955 1956 1958 1958 1961

Federal Reserve System

Inside the Federal Open
Market Committee
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is the Federal Reserve
System’s main body for making monetary policy decisions. Congress reaffirmed the decentralized structure of the Federal Reserve in the Banking
Act of 1935 when it restructured the FOMC. Congress gave voting rights
on the FOMC to the seven Governors in Washington, D.C., as well as five
of the 12 presidents of the regional Reserve Banks. The president of the
New York Fed always votes (since the Open Market Trading Desk operates within its District; the Open Market Trading Desk conducts daily
open market operations — buying/selling U.S. government securities
on the open market — as needed to attain the federal funds rate target), along with four presidents from the
other Reserve Banks who vote on a rotating basis; this rotation confirms that voting members always come from different parts of the
country. The seven Governors ensure that the Board retains the majority of votes on the FOMC, but all 12 Reserve Bank presidents
participate in discussions at the FOMC meetings.

Reserve Banks were not obligated to carry out the

Committee its current structure: seven Governors

Committee’s recommendations. One Reserve Bank

at the Board in Washington, D.C., and five of the

could be selling Treasuries while another one was

12 Reserve Bank presidents. One of the voting

buying them.21

members is always the president of the New York

Two years later, the Banking Act of 1935
further defined the role of the FOMC, giving the

After John F. Kennedy
is assassinated,
Lyndon B. Johnson
is sworn in as the
36th President of the
United States.

The Truth in Lending
Act offers consumer
protection by
requiring lenders to
disclose the cost of
borrowing funds.

Richard M. Nixon
becomes the 37th
President of the
United States.

Fed; the other four presidents serve one-year
terms on a rotating basis.22 The Reserve Banks are

Arthur Burns
becomes the 10th
Chair of the Federal
Reserve and serves
until 1978.

The average U.S.
inflation rate is

Gerald R. Ford enters
the White House as
the 38th President of
the United States.

1963 1968 1969 1970 1970 1974
Federal Reserve System


Fed Facts

The Outbreak of War
The advent of World War II finally carried

Funds for the Fed’s operations come from income on

the American economy out of the Depression.

its holdings of U.S. government securities and fees

Manufacturing armaments and other goods needed

from services it provides to financial
institutions. After paying its expenses,

for the war kept the economy buzzing into the early

the Fed typically remits 90 percent

to mid-1940s. During this period, the Federal Reserve

of its earnings to the U.S. Treasury.

acted at the Treasury’s request to keep interest rates
low to help finance the war. But after World War II
ended in 1945, the Treasury still wanted the Fed to
continue to keep interest rates low.25
From the start, the Federal Reserve Act was not

required to carry out the directions of the FOMC,

specifically designated to set goals for monetary

whose open market operations are centralized

policy; instead, the Fed was required to furnish an

at the Open Market Trading Desk at the New

“elastic currency.” So, in essence, the Fed’s early

York Fed.23 The 1935 law also changed the title of

role was to safeguard the economy by preventing

Reserve Bank heads from governor to president

financial panics and bank runs that afflicted the

and removed the Comptroller of the Currency and

economy in the 19th century. It served as a lender

the Secretary of the Treasury from their positions

of last resort to make loans directly to depository

on the Federal Reserve Board. The Banking Act of

institutions through the discount windows of the

1935 also made the FDIC a permanent government

Reserve Banks.26

agency and increased the maximum amount of
insured deposits to $5,000.

The Equal Credit
Opportunity Act extends
protection against
discrimination in consumer
and business lending.

James E. “Jimmy”
Carter Jr. takes the
oath of office as the
39th President of
the United States.

The devastating aftereffects of the Great
Depression, along with the insights of economist


The Federal
Reserve Reform
Act of 1977 is

The Community
Reinvestment Act (CRA)
is passed, encouraging
banks to meet the
credit needs of all
community sectors.

G. William Miller
becomes the
11th Chair of the
Federal Reserve
and serves until

The Electronic
Fund Transfer
Act safeguards
electronic financial
transactions for

1974 1977 1977 1977 1978 1978

Federal Reserve System

John Maynard Keynes, provided incentives for the

which acknowledged the Fed’s independence in

central bank to do more to guard the nation against

setting monetary policy.28

recessions. The Employment Act of 1946 was the first

By 1953, the nation entered another recession,

legislative acknowledgment of such macroeconomic

primarily a result of issues stemming from the

policy goals. Although the act did not single out

Korean War. Once recovery was well underway,

the Federal Reserve, it mandated that the federal

the Fed shifted its policy and raised interest rates

government needed to foster “conditions under

above 3 percent to restrain inflation. But its actions

which there will be afforded useful employment …

were not fast enough, and the inflation rate reached

for those able, willing, and seeking to work, and to

nearly 4 percent. When a second recession took

promote maximum employment, production, and

hold in mid-1957 and unemployment escalated, the

purchasing power.”

Fed responded quickly this time, sharply lowering


Americans were eager to move ahead after
World War II. Pent-up demand for consumer
products spurred a period of rapid economic
growth. The nation’s productive capacity, which

interest rates to spur spending and employment.29

The Age of the Consumer
The 1960s ushered in more changes for the

had been expanded substantially during World War

nation, from miniskirts to Vietnam and from the

II, was converted to peacetime production of goods

assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, civil

and services to satisfy growing consumer demand.

rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and Senator

In 1950, the Treasury urged the Fed to maintain
low rates at the start of the Korean War. But the
central bank was reluctant to do so, starting a debate

Robert F. Kennedy to astronaut Neil Armstrong taking
his first steps on the moon. It was a time of change.
Congress passed several important consumer

that lingered for about a year. Then in 1951, the

protection laws during this decade under the

two parties finally signed the Treasury-Fed Accord,

umbrella of the Consumer Credit Protection Act

The Full Employment and Balanced
Growth Act (commonly known as the
Humphrey-Hawkins Act) passes, requiring
the Federal Reserve to provide Congress
with a semiannual report on the Fed’s
objectives and plans for monetary policy.

Paul Volcker
becomes the 12th
Chair of the Federal
Reserve and serves
until 1987.

The Depository Institutions Deregulation and
Monetary Control Act is enacted to expedite the
implementation of monetary policy, to gradually
eliminate all limitations on interest rates payable
on deposits and accounts, and to authorize
interest-bearing transaction accounts.




The average U.S.
inflation rate
climbs to 13.5%.

Federal Reserve System


(CCPA) of 1969, regulating consumer transactions

Fed tightened monetary policy when inflation

that began with the Truth in Lending Act (TILA)

rebounded after the end of the wage and price

in 1968, which requires lenders to disclose the cost

controls and the jump in oil prices during 1973–1974.

of borrowing to consumers. The CCPA includes

Amid the social and political turbulence of the

the TILA, as well as the Equal Credit Opportunity

1970s, marked by the Watergate break-in, the Arab oil

Act (prohibiting discrimination during credit

embargo, and President Nixon’s resignation, inflation

transactions on the basis of race, religion, sex, age,

soared to 12 percent in 1974. The nation faced another

marital status, or national origin), the Fair Credit

recession during 1974–1975, and inflation rates

Billing Act (requiring a credit card company to

fell during and after the recession. The Fed eased

credit payments and correct billing errors without

monetary policy in 1974, and the federal funds rate

damaging a consumer’s credit score), the Fair Credit

fell below 5 percent in early 1976. The shift in its

and Charge Card Disclosure Act (requiring a credit

monetary policy target changed from an interest rate

card company to disclose the terms of the card, such

target to a target for the growth rate of the M1 money

as the APR, annual fees, and interest-free periods for

supply (coins, paper currency, traveler’s checks, and

payment before interest charges are assessed).

all deposits in banks and savings institutions on


By the 1970s, high inflation and high
unemployment plagued the nation. Inflation

policy goals were unchanged: to pursue price

climbed to about 6 percent at the start of the decade

stability and full employment. But the Fed’s monetary

and declined only slightly during and after the

policy remained expansionary in the 1970s, and the

recession in 1970. With inflation still above 4 percent

Fed’s stated anti-inflation policy lost credibility.31

by mid-1971, President Richard Nixon issued

Congress continued its consumer-protection

wage and price controls that suppressed inflation

initiatives with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act

for a time, but ultimately, they didn’t work. The

(ECOA) in 1974, which combats discrimination in

Ronald W. Reagan
becomes the 40th
President of the
United States.

The Garn-St Germain Depository
Institutions Act is passed to
strengthen the financial stability of
home mortgage lending institutions
and to ensure the availability of
home mortgage loans.

Alan Greenspan becomes
the 13th Chair of the Federal
Reserve and serves until 2006
(the longest term as Chair).




which checks can be written). The Fed’s monetary

Federal Reserve System

The stock market
crashes on Black

George H. W. Bush
enters the White
House as the 41st
President of the
United States.

1987 1989


consumer and business lending, and the Electronic
Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) in 1978, which provides

Of the roughly $1.29 trillion in circulation as of October 2014,

consumer protection during electronic financial

$1.25 trillion was in Federal Reserve Notes. A note’s life span

transactions. Congress further directed the Federal

actually varies by denomination: Smaller bills that are used

Reserve to write regulations to allow for the

frequently, such as the $1 note, are expected to last 5.9 years,

implementation of these laws. In response, the

whereas a $100 note can be circulated for about 15 years. To-

Fed wrote Regulation Z to implement the TILA,

day, the Federal Reserve Board issues $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50,

Regulation B for the ECOA, and Regulation E for

and $100 notes. In 1969, the Federal Reserve and the Depart-

the EFTA, which provided additional guidelines

ment of the Treasury announced that $500, $1,000, $5,000, and

and specifications.32

$10,000 (the largest note ever issued for public circulation) bank
notes would be discontinued because of their lack of use.

In 1977, Congress passed the Community
Reinvestment Act (CRA), which encourages banks
to meet the credit needs of all segments in their
communities. The Fed’s Regulation BB implements
the CRA for state member banks. The Federal
Reserve also established a community affairs

Congress also passed the Full Employment and

function at the Board of Governors and at each of the

Balanced Growth Act of 1978, otherwise known as

Reserve Banks. The aim of these departments was

the Humphrey-Hawkins Act, which expanded the

to support the Federal Reserve System’s economic

goals of the Employment Act of 1946. In addition

growth objectives by promoting community

to setting the Fed’s mission to promote “full

development in low- and moderate-income areas

employment and production” and “reasonable price

and to ensure fair and impartial access to credit in

stability,” the Humphrey-Hawkins Act also required

underserved markets.

the Federal Reserve’s Chairman to testify before


The average
U.S. inflation
rate is 5.4%.


The Federal Deposit Insurance
Corporation Improvement Act
of 1991 is passed, implementing
the safety and soundness of the
banking industry.


William J. Clinton is
sworn in as the 42nd
President of the
United States.

The Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching
Efficiency Act of 1994 is passed, modifying the Bank
Holding Company Act of 1956, the revised statutes of
the United States, and the Federal Deposit Insurance
Act for interstate banking and branching.


Federal Reserve System


Congress twice a year about the Fed’s objectives and

Monetary Control Act (MCA) of 1980 changed the

its plans for monetary policy.34 Today, the Federal

way the Fed provided services. Before this legislation

Reserve Chair still testifies before both the House

was passed, the Fed had provided many services,

and the Senate at least twice a year.

such as check cashing, free of charge to member

Although the economy was expanding during

banks. The law mandated that the Federal Reserve

the rest of the decade, the nation faced more unrest.

should offer payment services not only to member

Oil prices increased several times when oil exports

banks but also to any depository institution that

to the United States dropped amid the revolution in

wanted to use them and to charge all institutions

Iran, and inflation climbed to 14 percent in 1979.

(both member and nonmember banks) for the

That was the year President Jimmy Carter

services an amount sufficient to cover the cost of

appointed Paul Volcker as Chairman of the

providing the service; the law also granted depository

Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Volcker took

institutions subject to reserve requirements equal

decisive actions to reduce inflation rates. Like

access to discount window lending. The MCA

many economists, Volcker believed that inflation is

also changed the legal requirement for banks in

basically a monetary phenomenon that occurs when

regard to maintaining reserves with the Fed. Prior

the money supply grows faster than output over a

to the passage of the law, only member banks were

period of time. So rather than targeting a short-term

required to maintain reserves, which made them less

interest rate, the Federal Reserve under Chairman

competitive with nonmember banks because funds

Volcker focused on controlling the growth of the

held on reserve with the Fed cannot be lent out. The

money supply.35 Although this action led to higher

MCA now required all banks to maintain reserves

interest rates, it succeeded in reducing inflation.

with the Fed.36

Over time, interest rates dropped as well.

The 1980s also began with a rough start as the

Against this fluctuating economic backdrop, the

The Financial Services
Modernization Act of 1999 (aka
the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act) is
passed, repealing the provision
that keeps commercial banking
and investment separate.

The average
U.S. inflation
rate is 3.4%.

U.S. unemployment rate climbed to 10.4 percent in

George W. Bush
becomes the 43rd
President of the
United States.

The World Trade
Center Towers are
destroyed by terrorists
on September 11. The
United States sends
troops to Afghanistan.

1999 2000 2001 2001

Federal Reserve System

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act is passed,
mandating regulatory and
compliance requirements to ensure
accurate corporate disclosures
and to protect consumers from
fraudulent practices in enterprises.


The financial woes of some of the biggest financial institutions made front-page headlines in 2008. The
investment bank Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy; JPMorgan Chase acquired investment bank Bear
Stearns, which was having trouble meeting its obligations; AIG (American International Group), a global
financial services company, was unable to post collateral on its debts; Citigroup faced mounting losses in
its portfolio; and Bank of America was dealing with the mortgage-related assets it assumed after acquiring
Merrill Lynch.
As these institutions faced escalating financial difficulties, each received help from the Federal Reserve. The
Fed wanted to take steps to alleviate additional pressure exerted on the economy after the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007. Though some of these financial institutions were not the commercial banks to which the Federal Reserve usually
provides support, they were firms whose failure would have had a drastic effect on the economy. The Federal Reserve extended credit
and loans, assisted in acquisitions, or brokered financial arrangements to keep these companies afloat.
To help stabilize the economy, the Fed also lowered short- and long-term interest rates and bought long-term Treasury bonds and
mortgage-backed securities that had been used to fund prime mortgages. But some critics viewed the bailouts as a safety net for these
so-called “too-big-to-fail” firms, which, if left to their own devices, could take more risks knowing that they would receive financial
help if needed. Former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan advocated the breakup of such big players: “If they’re too big to fail, they’re too big.”
In 2010, former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke noted that governments provide support to the firms in a crisis “because they recognize
that the consequences for the broader economy of allowing a disorderly failure greatly outweigh the costs of avoiding the failure in
some way.”
Though Section 13(3) of the original Federal Reserve Act allowed the Board of Governors to authorize the Reserve Banks to extend
credit to individuals, partnerships, and corporations in “unusual and exigent circumstances,” the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform
and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 changed the playing field. It stipulated further safeguards and conditions before the Fed could
extend loans or credit to ailing companies, adding “broad-based eligibility” and prior approval of the secretary of the Treasury, among
other criteria.

The United States
sends troops to Iraq.

The Check Clearing for
the 21st Century Act is
passed, streamlining the
electronic check-cashing

Ben Bernanke becomes
the 14th Chair of the
Federal Reserve and
serves until 2014.

The Great Recession
begins amid the subprime
mortgage crisis.

Barack H. Obama enters
the White House as the
44th President of the
United States.

2003 2003 2006 2007 2009
Federal Reserve System


Women of the Fed

1982. But President Ronald Reagan’s
1981 tax cut legislation, the largest in

Janet L. Yellen made history on February 3, 2014, when she started her term

history, was designed to offer some

as the first woman Chair of the Federal Reserve System, following in the footsteps

relief, lowering taxes by $750 billion

of former Chairs Ben Bernanke, Alan Greenspan, Paul Volcker, and others. Her

during the next five years. Volcker

four-year term, which includes being Chair of the Federal Open Market Commit-

remained Fed Chair until 1987 when

tee (FOMC), will continue until February 3, 2018. Yellen had been the Board’s Vice
Chair since 2010, when she also became a Board member; her term will expire in
2024. Before joining the Fed, she taught at the University of California at Berkeley

Alan Greenspan took over. The new
Chairman faced a challenge in his first

and at Harvard University and was on the faculty of the London School of Econom-

months when the New York Stock

ics and Political Science. She was also president and CEO of the Federal Reserve

Exchange recorded the largest drop in

Bank of San Francisco from 2004 to 2010.

a single day of 22.6 percent.37
The banking industry felt the

Alice M. Rivlin was Vice Chair of the Board of Governors from 1996 to 1999.

beginnings of deregulation by the

Prior to joining the Board, she worked in government, academia, and nonprofit or-

1990s. The Riegle-Neal Interstate

ganizations; she was also the founding director of the Congressional Budget Office.

Banking and Branching Efficiency
Act of 1994 allowed banks to set

Karen N. Horn became the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of
Cleveland (1982–1987) and the first woman president of a Reserve Bank in the

up branches in other states. The

history of the Federal Reserve System.

Financial Services Modernization
Act of 1999, also called the Gramm-

Nancy H. Teeters was the first woman to join the Fed’s Board of Governors

Leach-Bliley (GLB) Act, repealed the

(1978–1984). Her work with the Board started in 1957, when she joined the

requirement that investment and

Division of Research and Statistics; she was also a staff economist in the division’s

commercial banking be separate, a

government finance section.

provision that was set forth in the
Glass-Steagall Act of 1933.



The Dodd-Frank Wall Street
Reform and Consumer
Protection Act of 2010 is passed,
mandating financial reform of
practices and in several changes
to Fed functionality.

The Real Estate Settlement
Procedures Act is passed, ensuring
that consumers are provided
with information about the cost
of mortgage settlements and
protection from abusive practices.



Federal Reserve System

The average U.S.
inflation rate is

The Federal
Reserve System
commemorates 100
years as the bankers’
bank for the United

Janet Yellen steps in
as the 15th Chair of
the Federal Reserve.

2013 2013 2014





First Bank
of the United States

Second Bank
of the United States

Federal Reserve System






No, but it was large enough to affect
credit conditions nationwide.

No, but it was large enough to affect
credit conditions nationwide.

Yes, but in the early years, the Fed did
not conduct monetary policy as we
know it today.





20-Year Charter

Yes, but the charter was not renewed.

Yes, but the charter was not renewed.

Yes, the Fed originally had a 20-year
charter, but the McFadden Act of 1927
gave the central bank permanency.

Issues Currency





Yes, 20% was held by government;
80% by the public.

Yes, 20% was held by government;
80% by the public.

Yes, but only member banks hold stock,
not the public.


Shares were publicly traded and held by
foreign and domestic investors.

Shares were publicly traded and held by
foreign and domestic investors.

Federal Reserve System member banks
and state-chartered member banks buy
nontradable stock in their
District Reserve Bank;
stock pays a fixed dividend of 6%.


Yes, it accepted deposits from and
made loans to the public.

Yes, it accepted deposits from and
made loans to the public.

No, the Fed is a “bankers’ bank”; it
makes loans only to banks and holds
their deposits called reserves.

with State




Services to

The bank served as the federal
government’s fiscal agent, received its
revenues, held its deposits, and made
its payments.

The bank served as the federal
government’s fiscal agent, received its
revenues, held its deposits, and made
its payments.

The Fed serves as the federal
government’s fiscal agent, receives its
revenues, holds its deposits, and makes
its payments.

Federal Reserve System


The GLB also allowed the creation of financial

October 2004, fundamentally changed the ways

holding companies, which were allowed to engage

checks are cleared by banks. Prior to the law, checks

in certain financial activities in addition to banking,

had to be physically transported from the bank that

including insurance, securities underwriting, and

received a check to the bank on which the check was

merchant banking. In 1996, Fed Chair Greenspan

written. But with Check 21, an electronic image was

suggested that “irrational exuberance” may be

sent instead of the actual paper check.40

causing the extraordinary upswing of stock prices,
which continued as the Dow Jones Industrial
Average passed the 10,000 mark for the first time.

during this decade, including the financial crisis

Entering a New Era

The new millennium ushered in an era of

and ensuing deep recession that started in 2007.
Many people called this economic downturn the
worst since the Great Depression, even calling
the period the Great Recession. This time, the Fed

terrorism. The attacks of September 11, 2001,

took extraordinary steps in response to the crisis:

stunned the nation. On 9/11 and days afterward, the

It lowered short-term interest rates to near zero,

Fed worked to maintain financial stability and kept

established special lending programs, expanded

the economy moving by pumping liquidity into

traditional overnight loans through the discount

U.S. financial markets. Federal Reserve operations

window to 90 days, and supported credit markets

continued throughout the crisis; the Fed worked to

through open market purchases of long-term

keep the payment systems and banking operations

securities for the Fed’s portfolio.41

as close to normal as possible.
The 9/11 attacks also resulted in the grounding

Washington had its own response to the
financial crisis. In July 2010, Congress passed the

of all air transportation for several days. No flights

Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer

meant that the Fed’s ability to move checks, which

Protection Act. While the main goal of the legislation

were often transported from one part of the country

was financial reform to address the practices that led

to another by air, was severely impaired. One of

to the crisis, the legislation also resulted in several

the ways that the Fed kept the financial system

changes for the Federal Reserve, three of which are

operational was to credit the accounts of the banks

particularly significant.42

receiving check payments while waiting to debit

First, Congress expanded the Fed’s regulatory

the accounts of the paying banks until planes began

role by adding savings and loan holding companies

flying again.

to the Fed’s supervisory activities. Because nonbank


The Fed asked Congress to enact a law that


The Fed also had to face other challenges

companies contributed to the financial crisis,

would allow a substitute check — an image of the

the Fed was also given supervisory authority

check rather than the original paper check — to be

for systemically important nonbank financial

legally acceptable for collection and payment. As

companies. Congress also created the Financial

a result, Congress passed the Check Clearing for

Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) to conduct

the 21st Century Act, commonly called Check 21,

surveillance and monitor risks to the financial

in 2003. This legislation, which went into effect in

system. The Fed is a member of the FSOC.

Federal Reserve System

Second, Congress placed
limits on the Fed’s role under
Section 13(3) of the Federal
Reserve Act as lender of
last resort in unusual and
exigent circumstances.
During the financial crisis
leading up to the Great
Recession, the Fed used
this authority to make $182
billion in loans to American
International Group (AIG)
to prevent AIG from filing
for bankruptcy, which would
have destabilized the global
financial system because
of the institution’s size.
However, the Dodd-Frank
Act allows the Fed to use its
emergency lending power to
make a loan to one company

Living History
On December 16, 2013, more than 80 Federal Reserve Board officials gathered
in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the signing of the Federal Reserve Act.
Four Federal Reserve System Chairs whose service has spanned 35 years were
on hand; from left to right, Janet Yellen (2014–present), the first woman to be
appointed Chair; Alan Greenspan (1987–2006), Ben Bernanke (2006–2014),
and Paul Volcker (1979–1987).

as long as that loan is part of
a larger program available to
an entire sector or industry.
Finally, Congress transferred the Fed’s authority

While rulemaking authority for most consumer

to write regulations for most federal consumer

protection laws was then transferred to the CFPB,

protection laws to the newly created Consumer

authority for writing regulations for certain federal

Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Although

laws, including the CRA, the National Flood

Dodd-Frank funds the CFPB through the Fed every

Insurance Act, and the Expedited Funds Availability

year, the new bureau is independent of the Fed in

Act, remains with the Fed and other existing federal

terms of its decision-making authority. Congress

agencies. And the Fed continues to be the consumer

created the bureau to consolidate most consumer

compliance regulator for state member banks with

protection regulatory authority for financial services

assets of less than $10 billion. It also conducts limited

into one agency. The CFPB ensures that banks with

consumer examinations of state member banks with

assets of more than $10 billion and certain nonbank

assets of more than $10 billion to ensure compliance

financial service providers, such as payday lenders,

with laws that the bureau doesn’t cover in its

comply with consumer protection laws.

examinations, such as the CRA and flood insurance.44


Federal Reserve System


100 Years Later

the prominence to which it has risen. Unlike its

The Federal Reserve has undergone many

predecessors, the Fed has weathered the political

transitions and weathered many economic storms

storms of its day. It insulated itself from partisan

since its founding in 1913. Along with these shifts

politics, but it is clearly accountable to Congress

in central bank operations, the economy evolved

and the American people. Its centralized structure

in many ways, the banking industry changed with

has kept it close to the economy on Main Streets

the times, and the financial services offered today

throughout America. And that has made it ready to

would be all but unrecognizable to our forebears.

tackle the challenges to come as the Fed enters its

But perhaps the most striking change in

second century of service as the nation’s central bank.

American central banking in the past 200 years is


The terms in bold italic are explained in the Glossary on page 25.

See the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, The Second Bank
of the United States: A Chapter in the History of Central Banking, pp.


See Kindleberger and Aliber, pp. 4–5, and Bordo and Haubrich,
pp. 5–8.


See Aldrich, “Suggested Plan for Monetary Legislation,” Revised
Edition, October 1911, FRASER, Federal Reserve Bank of St.
pdf, pp. 5–24.


Brief biographies of key players in the Federal Reserve Act’s
creation are included, beginning on page 26.


See FRASER, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, “Reserve Bank
Organization Committee,”



Federal Reserve System

See Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, “Decision
of the Reserve Bank Organization Committee Determining the
Federal Reserve Districts and the Location of Federal Reserve
Banks Under Federal Reserve Act, Approved December 23, 1913,
April 2, 1914, with Statement of the Committee in Relation Thereto,
April 10, 1914,” Organization Committee, U.S. Government
Printing Office, 1914–Business & Economics, pp. 1–27. See
additional information on page 5 of this booklet for details on the
12 cities chosen as the homes of the Federal Reserve Banks.




See Meltzer, A History of the Federal Reserve, Vol. 1: 1913–1951,
pp. 73–74.


See Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, “The
Structure of the Federal Reserve System: Board of Directors,”



See Meltzer, pp. 216–217.

See Alan Brinkley, Interview, “The First Measured Century,”
The Great Depression (Public Broadcasting Service, 2000), www.

See Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System,
“Consumer’s Guide, Credit Cards, Credit Protection Laws,”



See David C. Wheelock, “Regulation, Market Structure, and the
Bank Failures of the Great Depression,” Federal Reserve Bank of St.
Louis Review, March/April 1995, pp. 27–38.


See Ben S. Bernanke, Speech, “Asset Price ‘Bubbles’ and
Monetary Policy,” New York Chapter of the National Association
for Business Economics, New York, NY, October 15, 2002, www.


See Michael Gou, Gary Richardson, Alejandro Komai, and
Daniel Park, “Banking Acts of 1932,” 100 Years of the Federal
Reserve System,

See Markham, pp. 216–217.


See Wheelock, pp. 27–29.

See Stephen Greene, “Emergency Banking Act of 1933,” Federal
Reserve Bank of St. Louis, 100 Years of the Federal Reserve



See Bernanke, Interview, “The Federal Reserve in the Great
Depression,” The Fed and You (video),

See Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System,
See Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System,
“Community Reinvestment Act (CRA),”
See Aaron Steelman, “Full Employment and Balanced Growth
Act of 1978, Commonly Called Humphrey-Hawkins,” Federal
Reserve Bank of Richmond (October 1978), 100 Years of the
Federal Reserve System,


See Paul Volcker, Interview, “The First Measured Century,”
Stagflation/Deregulation (Public Broadcasting Service, 2000),


See Kenneth J. Robinson, “Depository Institutions Deregulation
and Monetary Control Act of 1980, March 1980,” Federal
Reserve Bank of Dallas,



See Miner, pp. 110–112.


See Shiller, Irrational Exuberance, pp. 1–10.



See Meltzer, pp. 150–152.


See Meltzer, pp. 484–486.

See Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, “What
Is the FOMC and When Does It Meet?”

See Richardson, Komai, and Gou, “Banking Act of 1935,” 100
Years of the Federal Reserve System, www.federalreservehistory.

See Daniel R. Sanches, “The Second World War and Its
Aftermath: 1941 to 1951,” 100 Years of the Federal Reserve

See David C. Wheelock, “The Fed’s Formative Years,” Federal
Reserve Bank of St. Louis, 100 Years of the Federal Reserve

See Aaron Steelman, “Employment Act of 1946,” Federal
Reserve Bank of Richmond, 100 Years of the Federal Reserve
See Allan Sproul, “The ‘Accord’ — A Landmark in the First Fifty
Years of the Federal Reserve System,” Monthly Review, November
1964, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, pp. 227–236.

See Axilrod, pp. 75–76.

See Roger W. Ferguson Jr., Speech, Vanderbilt University,
Nashville, TN, February 5, 2003, Federal Reserve Board, www.


See Federal Reserve Bank Services, “About Check 21 Act,”


See Meltzer, “Federal Reserve Policy in the Great Recession,”


See Keith Goodwin, “Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and
Consumer Protection Act of 2010,” July 21, 2010, Federal Reserve
Bank of Richmond; 100 Years of the Federal Reserve System,


See Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, www.


See Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System,
Consumer Compliance Handbook, Division of Consumer and
Community Affairs,
supmanual/, pp. 1–8.


See Robert L. Hetzel, “The Treasury-Fed Reserve Accord to the
Mid-1960s, 1951–1965,” Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, 100
Years of the Federal Reserve System, www.federalreservehistory.

Federal Reserve System


Axilrod, Stephen H. Inside the Fed: Monetary Policy and
Its Management, Martin Through Greenspan to Bernanke
(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009).
Bernanke, Ben S. Speech, “Asset Price ‘Bubbles’ and
Monetary Policy,” New York Chapter of the National
Association for Business Economics, New York, NY,
October 15, 2002.

Galsner, David, ed. Business Cycles and Depressions: An
Encyclopedia. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1997.
Kindleberger, Charles P., and Robert Aliber. Manias, Panics,
and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises, 5th ed. New York:
John Wiley & Sons, 2005.

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System,
Consumer Compliance Handbook, Division of Consumer and
Community Affairs.

Markham, Jerry W. A Financial History of the United States:
Vol. II, from J.P. Morgan to the Institutional Investor 19001970. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 2002.

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System,
“The Structure of the Federal Reserve System: Board of

Medley, Bill. Highways of Commerce: Central Banking and
the U.S. Payments System. Kansas City, MO: The Federal
Reserve Bank of Kansas City, 2014.

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System,
“Decision of the Reserve Bank Organization Committee
Determining the Federal Reserve Districts and the
Location of Federal Reserve Banks Under Federal Reserve
Act, Approved December 23, 1913, April 2, 1914, with
Statement of the Committee in Relation Thereto, April 10,
1914,” Organization Committee, U.S. Government Printing
Office, 1914–Business & Economics.

Meltzer, Allan H. A History of the Federal Reserve, Vol. 1:
1913–1951. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press,

Bordo, Michael D., and Joseph G. Haubrich. “Credit
Crises, Money, and Contractions: An Historical View,”
Journal of Monetary Economics, 57:1, January 2010.
Federal Reserve System, 100 Years of the Federal Reserve
Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, The First Bank of the
United States: A Chapter in the History of Central Banking
(Philadelphia: Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia,
Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, The Second Bank of
the United States: A Chapter in the History of Central Banking
(Philadelphia: Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia,


FRASER, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Federal Reserve System

Miner, John B. Organizational Behavior One: Essential
Theories of Motivation and Leadership, Vol. 1, Armonk, NY:
M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 2005.
Moen, Jon, and Ellis W. Tallman. “The Bank Panic of 1907:
The Role of Trust Companies,” Journal of Economic History,
52:3, September 1992.
Shiller, Robert J. Irrational Exuberance. Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 2000.
Sproul, Allan. “The ‘Accord’ — A Landmark in the First
Fifty Years of the Federal Reserve System,” Monthly Review,
November 1964, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Wheelock, David C. “Regulation, Market Structure, and
the Bank Failures of the Great Depression,” Federal Reserve
Bank of St. Louis Review, March/April 1995.

Designed to stimulate economic growth by increasing
the money supply, this policy usually features a series
of decreases in the federal funds rate to make it easier
and less expensive for businesses to borrow money.
This is the amount of deposits not loaned out by banks.
Bank reserves can be calculated by subtracting a bank’s
total loans from its total deposits.
This governmental institution is responsible for issuing currency and monetary policy, which involves the
overall growth of money and credit as well as the level
of short-term interest rates. The Federal Reserve is the
central bank of the United States.
This economic state refers to the general downward
movement of prices for goods and services; deflation is
reflected as a negative inflation rate.
Considered to be a very deep recession, this period of
severely declining economic activity across the economy is not confined to specific sectors or regions. For
example the economic contraction of the Great Depression in the 1930s was so extreme that the unemployment rate reached 25 percent.
This is one of the Fed’s lending programs; it refers to
programs under which credit can be provided to eligible depository institutions (savings banks, commercial banks, savings and loan associations, and credit
This is the organization that agrees to accept and
be responsible for another organization’s money. In
this case, the Fed is the fiscal agent for the federal
This economic state is marked by general, sustained
upward movement in the prices of goods and services.

The Fed makes loans against high-quality collateral
(assets pledged as security for the loans). Depository
institutions may turn to the Fed as a lender of last
resort during a financial crisis or a national/regional
All nationally chartered banks are members of the Fed,
but they are supervised by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. State-chartered financial institutions are under the supervisory control of the Fed’s
Board of Governors. These institutions are structured in
much the same way as private corporations are in that
they have stock in the Fed Banks and earn dividends.
Member banks also appoint six of the nine members of
each Bank’s board of directors.
This term refers to a specific measure of the money
supply, which includes coins, paper currency, traveler’s
checks, and all deposits in those banks and savings
institutions on which a check can be written.
This is the total amount of money available in the
economy. Increasing the money supply can generate
economic growth in the short run; however, when the
growth of the money supply exceeds the growth of
output in the economy for too long, inflation will be
The Federal Reserve uses this tool to implement monetary policy; it involves selling or buying government
securities on the open market.
This economic state signals a period of general economic decline, which is typically defined as a contraction in
the GDP for six months (two consecutive quarters) or
Former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke defined the term in
2010 as a firm “whose size, complexity, interconnectedness, and critical functions are such that, should the
firm go unexpectedly into liquidation, the rest of the
financial system and the economy would face severe
adverse consequences.”

Federal Reserve System


Biographical Sketches

Key Players in the Life of the Fed
Carter Glass
Carter Glass, the son of a newspaperman, was born in Lynchburg, VA.
After attending school, he worked
as a printer’s apprentice, reporter,
and editor and eventually owned his
own newspaper. In 1899, he was elected to the state senate and served as a delegate to Virginia’s constitutional
convention. Three years later, he was elected to the U.S.
House of Representatives and was appointed to the Committee on Banking and Currency. It was during the Panic
of 1907 that Glass saw the need to reduce, if not eliminate,
the number of bank panics and financial crises as well as
the need for a more elastic currency. Early on, President
Woodrow Wilson saw the potential in Glass and later appointed him Secretary of the Treasury, a position he held
from 1918 to 1920. Although Glass joined the Senate as an
appointee to fill a vacancy after the death of a senator, he
was subsequently elected to several terms on his own. One
of his biggest accomplishments came while he was in the
House: He helped fashion the bill with Robert L. Owen
that would later pass in both legislative chambers and
become the Federal Reserve Act, which President Wilson
signed on December 23, 1913.

Robert L. Owen
Robert L. Owen, the son of the
president of the Virginia and
Tennessee Railway, was born in
Lynchburg, VA. He graduated from
Washington and Lee University
with a master’s degree in 1877. But after the loss of the
family fortune, he left his home state and moved to Indian
Territory with his mother, who was of Native American
descent. They lived in an area that would eventually
become Oklahoma, where he taught at the Cherokee
Orphan Asylum and later studied law. After he gained
admittance to the Bar, he was selected to head the United
States Union Agency for the Five Civilized Tribes. In the
years that followed, Owen owned and edited a newspaper
in Oklahoma and later founded the First National Bank
of Muskogee, serving as its president until 1900. When
Oklahoma officially became a state in 1907, the state


Federal Reserve System

legislature appointed him as representative. He became
one of the state’s first two senators and one of the nation’s
first senators of Native American descent. During his time
as senator, he worked closely with Carter Glass on creating
and prepping the Federal Reserve Act for President
Woodrow Wilson’s signature in 1913. In 1925, he retired
from the Senate and then practiced law in Washington,
D.C. Although Owen was instrumental in the creation of
the Federal Reserve Act, much of the subsequent glory
and recognition was given to Carter Glass, a situation that
caused a rift in the men’s friendship for years until Owen
wrote to Glass saying that it was time for the ill will to end.

Woodrow Wilson
The 28th President of the United
States was born in Virginia, the son
of a Presbyterian minister. Wilson
graduated from Princeton University
and the University of Virginia Law
School and later received a Ph.D.
from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He taught
at Princeton and became president of the university in
1902 before his election as governor of New Jersey in 1910.
The Democratic party nominated him as its presidential
candidate in 1912, and Wilson won the election with a
large portion of the popular vote and an overwhelming
majority of the electoral college. In 1913, Wilson signed the
Federal Reserve Act, legislation that created the Federal
Reserve System, the nation’s central bank. Though he
was reelected in 1916 on the promise that he would keep
America out of the war in Europe, Wilson nonetheless
asked Congress to declare war on Germany in April 1917.
After the war ended in November 1918, Wilson spent
time urging Congress to sign the Treaty of Versailles and
fought for the provisions of the treaty that would form the
League of Nations.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
The 32nd President of the United
States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt
was born in Hyde Park, NY, to
a prominent, wealthy family. A
graduate of Harvard University and

Columbia Law School, Roosevelt was elected to the New
York Senate in 1910 and was elected governor of New York
in 1928 before winning the presidential election in 1932.
Although stricken with polio in 1921, his courage and
determination to pursue a lifelong career in politics was
unstoppable. During his years as President, he instituted
measures to deal with the Great Depression. Best known
for the quote from his inaugural address, “the only thing
we have to fear is fear itself,” Roosevelt instilled hope into
the American people. His program for reform launched a
strategy to get the nation back on its feet through Social
Security, taxing the wealthy, and new regulations for
banks and public utilities, as well as an extensive work
relief program for the nation’s unemployed. When the
Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt orchestrated the
nation’s manpower and resources to enter World War II.
Roosevelt was elected to an unprecedented four terms in
the White House.

Herbert Hoover
Herbert Hoover, the 31st President
of the United States, was born in
West Branch, IA, moved to Oregon
as a young boy, and eventually
graduated from Stanford University
with a degree in mining engineering. Before World War
I erupted, he had been working in China, and he was
in London when the war started. He worked with the
American consul in London to help get American tourists
home who had been stranded by the war. He also helped
to establish the Commission for Relief in Belgium, which
aided Belgian citizens besieged by the war. His work
on the commission led President Woodrow Wilson to
ask Hoover to become the U.S. Food Administrator to
ration food supplies for American forces and to keep
Americans fed during the war. After the war, he organized
food shipments to Europe to help those who had been
dispossessed by the war. He later served as Secretary
of Commerce in the administrations of both Warren
Harding and Calvin Coolidge. He was nominated as the
Republican candidate for president in 1928, winning by
a landslide. However, the worsening economic crisis and
stock market crash in 1929 spelled doom for Hoover’s
presidency. Although Hoover tried to deal with the initial
stages of the Great Depression, he was not elected to a
second term in 1932; he lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Hoover spent his post-White House years writing books
and articles and serving on two presidential commissions.

Paul Volcker
Born in Cape May, NJ, Paul Volcker
lived in the North Jersey town
of Teaneck. He graduated from
Princeton in 1949 and earned a
master’s degree from Harvard
University in 1951. After Harvard, he held a fellowship
at the London School of Economics before returning to
the United States, where he became an economist in the
Research Department of the New York Fed and later a
special assistant in the Securities Department. In 1957, he
joined Chase Manhattan Bank as a financial economist;
in 1962, he became director of the Office of Financial
Analysis at the U.S. Treasury, and in the following year, he
was named deputy undersecretary for monetary affairs.
Although he left the Treasury to rejoin Chase Manhattan
as a vice president, he later returned to the Treasury in
1969 as undersecretary for affairs, a position he held for
five years. He was a senior fellow at the Woodrow Wilson
School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton
and was named president of the New York Fed in 1975.
Then-President Jimmy Carter appointed him Chair of the
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in 1979,
a post he held until 1987. From 2009 to 2011, he served as
chairman of President Barack Obama’s Economic Recovery
Advisory Board.

Alan Greenspan
Alan Greenspan was Chair of the
Board of Governors of the Federal
Reserve System for five terms, from
August 11, 1987, to January 31, 2006.
Before assuming his duties as Chair,
he held several jobs in the private and public sector. A
native New Yorker, Greenspan received a doctorate and
a master’s and a bachelor’s degree in economics from
New York University. He started his career as an analyst
for the National Industrial Conference Board and was
later appointed chairman and president of TownsendGreenspan & Co., an economic consulting firm. During
Gerald Ford’s presidency, Greenspan was chairman of the
President’s Council on Economic Advisers. Then, during
Ronald Reagan’s presidency, Greenspan served on the
Economic Policy Advisory Board and as a consultant to
the Congressional Budget Office. As Chair of the Board
of Governors, he led the Reserve through turbulent
economic times, starting with the stock market crash
in 1987, followed by two national recessions, the Asian

Federal Reserve System


financial crisis in 1997, and the terrorist attacks in 2001. In
2006, when Greenspan left office, he launched Greenspan
Associates, LLC, a consulting firm in Washington, D.C.

Christopher Dodd
Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut
native, was a U.S. Senator for more
than 30 years. Before entering
politics, Dodd graduated from
Georgetown Preparatory School
in Maryland, Providence College, and the University of
Louisville law school. A Democrat, Dodd entered the U.S.
House of Representatives from Connecticut in 1974 and
was reelected in 1976 and 1978, and then was elected U.S.
Senator in 1980, becoming the longest serving senator
in the history of Connecticut. From 1995 to 1997, he was
general chairman of the Democratic National Committee
and served as the chairman of the Senate Banking
Committee until he retired in 2011. Dodd was also a
candidate for President of the United States in 2007. Before
joining forces with Barney Frank on the Dodd-Frank
Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010,
Dodd provided input on major legislation, authoring the
Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993 and adding the pay
limitations in the American Recovery and Reinvestment
Act of 2009. He was also the author and lead sponsor
of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and
Disclosure Act of 2009.

Barney Frank
Barnett “Barney” Frank, a lifelong
politician, was a member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts for more than
three decades. A Democrat, he was
chairman of the House Financial Services Committee from
2007 to 2011 and was a sponsor of the Dodd-Frank Wall
Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, which
ushered in reforms to the U.S. financial industry. Frank,
who was born and raised in New Jersey, has degrees from
Harvard College and Harvard University Law School. He
started his career as a political aide before he was elected
to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1972


Federal Reserve System

and to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1980. As chair
of the House of Financial Services Committee, Frank took
an active lead in mortgage foreclosure bailout issues,
supporting the American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure
Prevention Act and the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights
Act of 2008.

Ben S. Bernanke
Ben S. Bernanke, born in Augusta,
GA, and raised in Dillon, SC,
succeeded Alan Greenspan as
Chair of the Board of Governors
of the Federal Reserve System in
February 2006. Prior to becoming Chair, Bernanke held
a variety of academic positions at several universities.
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in economics from
Harvard University and a doctorate in economics from
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he became
an assistant professor and later an associate professor of
economics at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford
University, as well as a visiting professor of economics
at New York University and MIT. In 1985, he joined the
faculty of Princeton University as assistant professor of
economics and public affairs. He later became the Class
of 1926 Professor of Economics and Public Affairs and the
Howard Harrison and Gabrielle Snyder Beck Professor
of Economics and Public Affairs, as well as chair of the
Economics Department at Princeton. Beginning in 2002,
Bernanke became a member of the Board of Governors; he
also was chairman of the President’s Council of Economic
Advisers from 2005 to 2006. During his term as Chair
of the Board of Governors, Bernanke faced two major
economic downturns: the financial crisis from 2006 to
2010 and the Great Recession. In the face of these crises,
he led initiatives to implement quantitative easing (the
Fed program of purchasing mortgage-backed securities
and long-term treasuries to stimulate the economy),
adopting the formal inflation target rate of 2 percent,
providing forward guidance on short-term interest rates,
and promoting the transparency of the Federal Reserve
through quarterly press conferences to detail the decisions
of the Federal Open Market Committee.
October 2014