The Canadian Bank of Commerce
Halifax Banking Company, 1825-1903
The Halifax Banking Company, the first bank in Nova Scotia, was established in 1825. Denied a bank charter by the Legislative Assembly, Enos Collins and seven other prominent Haligonians organized the Halifax Banking Company as a private company. The venture succeeded on the strength of their reputations and available capital. The bank was not formally incorporated as a chartered bank until 1872, by which time all the original partners had died. After incorporation, the bank expanded and eventually included 16 offices outside Halifax. Seeking to expand into the Maritimes, The Commerce proposed a merger of the two banks, which took place on June 1, 1903.
Gore Bank, 1836-1870
The Gore Bank, one of the earliest banks in Upper Canada, was founded by a group of well-known Hamiltonians in 1836. While it faced economic depression soon after opening, the bank prospered in the 1850s during a period of railway expansion and rampant land speculation. Yet, it had gambled on continued growth and, with the crop failure of 1857, was hit hard by imprudent lending practices. Its competitors were similarly affected and suspended operations in the late 1860s. These banks were in debt to The Gore and their closure made its recovery impossible. A merger proposal from The Commerce was accepted over a competing bid because the directors felt The Commerce would offer better banking services to western Ontario. The Gore Bank officially amalgamated with The Canadian Bank of Commerce on May 12, 1870.
Eastern Townships Bank, 1859-1912
The Eastern Townships Bank was founded in 1859 under the leadership of Colonel Benjamin Pomroy. It was the first locally organized financial institution in southeastern Quebec. Expansionism was an important aspect of the bank's character and within the first year, it had 3 branches in the Townships. It solidified its position there and went on into new areas of Quebec and western Canada, increasing its network to over 100 offices by 1911. To establish a national branch system and secure a strong position in Quebec, The Commerce proposed a merger. The directors of the Eastern Townships Bank accepted the proposal because they felt the shareholders would benefit from participation in the operations of a large national bank. The bank merged with The Commerce on March 1, 1912.
Bank of British Columbia, 1862-1901
The Bank of British Columbia was established in 1862 by a group of British businessmen, attracted by gold discoveries in the colony. The bank was headquartered in London, England, where capital for the venture was readily available. Initially opening a branch in Victoria, the bank soon extended its business to include the entire Pacific Coast, opening branches in San Francisco, Seattle and Portland. In 1900, increasing competition from other banks led the bank to accept the merger proposed by The Commerce. When the merger took effect on January 2, 1901, The Commerce acquired a network of 11 branches in British Columbia and the United States as well as an office in London, England.
Merchants Bank of Prince Edward Island, 1871-1906
The Merchants Bank of Prince Edward Island was founded in 1871 by a group of prominent merchants and importers. Increasing trade and wealth on the Island had necessitated the establishment of an additional bank in Charlottetown. In its first years, the bank prospered. Depression, however, came quickly on the heels of this prosperity. In 1878, the bank faced a serious crisis when its principal customer, a long-standing shipping firm, failed. The bank recovered and, with the closure of its competitors, became the only local bank in the province. For the next two decades, it adopted an aggressive policy and expanded to 5 branches throughout the Island and one in Sydney, Nova Scotia. Increased competition, as well as the deaths of both the president and the vice-president, led to a merger with The Commerce on June 1, 1906.
Bank of Hamilton, 1872-1924
The Bank of Hamilton was established in 1872 by local businessmen under the leadership of Donald McInnes. As Hamilton was becoming an important manufacturing and trading centre, the business community felt they needed a local bank. While it faced hard economic times soon after its founding, the bank ultimately thrived and its subsequent growth followed the westward expansion of the nation. Between 1898 and 1910, the Bank of Hamilton opened 128 branches in Ontario and western Canada; it did not, however, have representation east of Toronto. When the bank merged with The Commerce on January 2, 1924, it was one of the last surviving banks not headquartered in Toronto or Montreal.
The Standard Bank of Canada, 1873-1928
Founded in 1873, the St. Lawrence Bank was organized by Toronto businessmen led by John Charles Fitch. Financial troubles plagued the bank in its early years and in 1876, it was reorganized under the name The Standard Bank of Canada. With new management, business improved and the bank began to grow. By 1907, it had nearly 50 branches and soon added another 27 with the acquisition of The Western Bank of Canada (1882-1909), a regional bank headquartered in Oshawa. The enlarged institution soon expanded into the western provinces and later combined with The Sterling Bank of Canada (1905-1924), a mostly regional bank with its headquarters in Toronto. After this merger, The Standard had 243 branches, 176 of them in Ontario. Increased competition and a desire to expand more extensively in western Canada led The Standard to merge with The Commerce on November 5, 1928.