Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Continental Illinois National Bank & Trust Co.
Continental Illinois National Bank & Trust Co.

Continental Illinois National Bank & Trust Co.

One of the city's two largest banks for most of the twentieth century, Continental was the product of a 1910 merger of two Chicago enterprises, the Commercial National Bank and the Continental National Bank. The older of the two was the Commercial National Bank, formed during the Civil War and led by Henry F. Eames. Commercial National Bank had become one of the city's leading banks by the early 1870s. The Continental National Bank, chartered in 1883, was led during its early years by John C. Black. By the turn of the century, both banks had grown by absorbing several competitors. In 1910, the merger of Commercial and Continental created a new entity, the Continental & Commercial National Bank of Chicago, which had $175 million in deposits, making it one of the largest banks in the United States. It continued to grow during the 1920s. In 1929 it merged with Illinois Merchants Trust Co.; three years later, the bank's name became Continental Illinois National Bank & Trust Co. During the Great Depression, the bank required a $50 million loan from Reconstruction Finance Corp. (a federal government agency) to stay afloat. After World War II, the bank grew: by the beginning of the 1960s, Continental had over $3 billion in deposits and employed 5,000 people. By the early 1970s, when it had 60 branches and affiliates around the world, the bank employed about 8,200 Chicago-area residents, many of whom worked at Continental's main offices on LaSalle Street in Chicago's loop. During the early 1980s, after many of its large loans to companies in the oil and gas industries went bad, the bank experienced a sudden and unexpected crisis. Continental's Great Depression–era experience was repeated as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. came to the rescue. In 1994, a diminished Continental was acquired by BankAmerica Corp. of San Francisco.