The Century Chest Collection

To the President of the American National Bank in 2013, April 22, 2013

(Transcribed from the original)

April 22, 1913.
To the President of the
American National Bank in 2013.

Dear Sir: -

I am inditing this letter to you in the hope that it will reach your desk on the 124th anniversary of the opening of Oklahoma to settlement. I am asked to foretell for your delectation what conditions will surround the banking business one hundred years from today, and I desire to say in the outset that the changes from my time to yours can hardly be greater than have occurred here in the 24 years since T. M. Richardsen opened the first bank in Oklahoma City, his early banking house having been the rear end of a covered wagon.

Now for my prophesies! Where I am wrong indulge in a friendly laugh, and where I am right tell the cashier that your predecessor was some guesser. You know all bank presidents even in your time are guessers and he who guesses best holds his job the longest.

This letter will not interrupt the opening of your morning mail for the very good reason that you will have no morning mail, or not much. Your distant correspondence will be conducted instantaneously by electrical means all through business hours and only letters with document enclosures will come to you by the slower-moving mails.
Your deposits will be larger than ours in proportion to the number of depositors, not only because depositors will have become richer, but because more and more the banks of this country will have become the depositories of credits rather than money. The deposit figures in your books will be vastly larger than now but the proportion of actual money used will be much smaller.

You will be more of a clerk than I am. The government of the United States will be a much stronger factor in the banking business than it is today and you will exercise authority within narrow limits of official control. All the banks of your section will be tied together in one business group with governmental recognition, and your duties and powers will be laid out along the lines of strict business principles as understood by the ablest bankers in your group, and these in turn will be controlled by a great central government bank that will be as strong as the nation itself.

The handling of country checks will not bother you as it does me. All checks will pass at par in their own zones and transfers of money will be made between the zone centers by the government bank at a nominal cost.

Interest rates will probably be higher than the average rate in New York now. The best bonds will probably bear six per cent and bank borrowers will bid up money above this rate. Rates will be more uniform over the United States and not liable to much fluctuation except such as may be caused by national calamities or international complications.

You will have less competitors in proportion to population than I have. Banks will be fewer and better. You will not hold in your vaults any government money except subsidiary coins. Your reserve will consist of bars of gold of a certain weight and fineness, and these may not rest in your vault at all, but lodged in a subtreasury (sic) designated for all the banks in the group to which you belong. Your paper money will all be issued by the great central government bank, based on the exchange of agricultural and mining commodities, and manufactured products, and delivered to your group and in turn to you as your necessities demand.

The scope of your business will be much broader than mine. Tariff barriers having been removed and transportation much improved, your customers will buy and sell in all the free markets of the world and the assistance of your credit will have to be with them everywhere. Your occupation will have to be more specialized than it is now. There will be fewer controlling minds in the business and these minds will have to be able to cope with all the problems of trade and industry the world over.

Now, my dear sir, I will bring this letter to a conclusion. I wish I could hand it to you in person and learn for myself whether I am a prophet or a fool. But whatever my short-comings, please do not look upon me with ridicule because you have the advantage in our judgment of each other. You can tell what bankers did in our time by the sure facts of history but we can form an opinion of you only by hazy conjecture.

Hoping that you are not worrying more over whether John Doe's shipment of cotton will reach Hong Kong safely than I am over whether his great, great grandfather's unsecured note is good when the rents from his property will not pay the taxes and interest on his mortgage.

I am, sir, with great respect and fellow feeling,
Yours very truly,
H. R. Johnson

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