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George Smith & Company

City: Chicago

County: Cook

State: Illinois

The private banking and insurance house of George Smith & Company was formed in Chicago about 1839 by Scottish financier George Smith. George Smith & Co. rose to prominence in the financial affairs of the city, with Smith circulating his own paper money and offering much-needed credit to farmers and merchants. Smith also helped to finance the development of industry in Chicago, offering loans to reaper manufacturer Cyrus H. McCormick among others. By 1842, George Smith & Co. had a balance of $130,000 and the firm was one of the two main sources of sound paper money circulating in Chicago. Elisha W. Willard had joined the firm by 1852, when he and Smith chartered the Chicago branch of Bank of America. George Smith & Co. began to close up its business about 1857, with George Smith himself retiring to London in the early 1860s.

Fred Carstensen, “Smith, George,” American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 20:179-80; Alice E. Smith, George Smith’s Money: A Scottish Investor in America (Madison, WI: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1966), esp. 57-60, 71, 120-21, 124, 134, 136-37; J. W. Norris, General Directory and Business Advertiser of the City of Chicago for the Year 1844 (Chicago: Ellis & Ferguson, 1844; repr. T. F. Bohan, 1903), 56, 82; F. Cyril James, The Growth of Chicago Banks: Volume I The Formative Years 1816-1896 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1938), esp. 202-4, 226-27.