Skip navigation
Ensuring a Safe and Sound Federal Banking System for All Americans Site Map | Text Size: S M L

History: 150 Years of the OCC

Created as a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury by the National Currency Act of February 25, 1863, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2013.

On this page you’ll find information and resources about the fascinating history of the OCC and the vital role it plays in supervising banks and federal savings associations to ensure that they operate in a safe and sound manner.

Make History: An Interactive Chronology

Begin your tour with an interactive video, audio and narrative chronology of the OCC’s history. This timeline provides an overview of the bureau from its creation in 1863 under the National Currency Act through the 2010 Dodd-Frank legislation.

Alternatively, you may wish to read the text version of the chronology.

Historical Overview of the OCC

OCC history mirrors US history. For more on the history of the OCC, read:

  • "A Short History" for the agency's story, from the disorderly pre-Civil War money supply, up to the present day; and
  • The OCC in Challenging Times. Financial panics, the Great Depression and other crises threatened to ruin the country's financial system. See the part the OCC played in restoring the economy after these events.
Comptroller Hugh McCulloch

Hugh McCulloch, Comptroller of the Currency, 1863-1865.

Hugh McCulloch, the first Comptroller

President of the Bank of Indiana, Hugh McCulloch had come to Washington to fight against the national banking legislation that had been signed by President Lincoln in February 1863. Ironically, he ultimately became its champion and proved to be an industrious, able administrator as the first Comptroller of the Currency. He went on to serve two terms as Secretary of the Treasury.  More on Comptroller McCulloch >

Lincoln's Leadership

From his earliest days, Abraham Lincoln recognized the importance of a strong, stable banking system and a uniform money supply.  Read more on Lincoln's leadership, which led to the creation of the national banking system.

Other Notable Comptrollers

Discover some of the distinguished Americans—bankers, attorneys, and even a Nobel Prize winner—who have led the OCC in fulfilling its mission.

Life and Times of the Bank Examiner

From the agency’s earliest days, national bank examiners have been instrumental in ensuring the safety and soundness of OCC-supervised financial institutions.  Read more about some notable bank examiners, both fictional and real.

National Bank Vignettes

Many national banks and federal thrifts date back to the founding of the system. Read some interesting stories about their history.

Early U.S. Currency - Ten Dollar bill

Building on 150 Years: The Future of National Banking Symposium

In 2013, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Boston University Center for Finance, Law and & Policy hosted a symposium to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the OCC and the national banking system. 

The Freedman's Savings Bank and the OCC

The Freedman's Savings and Trust Company was created in 1865 to help meet the financial services needs of former slaves following the Civil War.  Read more about how the histories of the Freedman's Savings Bank and the OCC intertwine.