Orra E. Monnette

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Orra Eugene Monnette Founder Bank of America Los Angeles

Orra Eugene Monnette (1873–1936) was an attorney, author and banker. Monnette was also the Founder of the Bank of America,[1] L.A., but his contribution to the organization is often overlooked in its corporate history.

Early life[edit]

Orra E. Monnette was born in southern Crawford County, Ohio to Mervin J. Monnette and Olive Hull Monnette. Monnette's father was involved in farming, raising stock, and banking. Mervin J. Monnette, along with his brother's established Monnett, Ohio in southern Crawford County Ohio for the purposes of shipping cattle to the markets north of their farms. His family were staunch members of the Methodist Episcopal Church (aka "M.E. Church") which is now part of the modern United Methodist Church. Monnette's great grandfather was the Reverend Jeremiah Crabb Monnett, an itinerant Methodist Episcopal preacher who lead the settlement of Southern Crawford County by M.E. Church members.

Monnette attended Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, where he joined the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.[2] A first cousin of his grandfather – Mary Monnett Bain – had donated a sizable sum to the college in the 1850s which resulted in the building of Monnett Hall. In his youth, Monnette also helped in the organization of subscriptions for the building of Monnett Memorial M. E. Chapel in Crawford County Ohio.

Monnette was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1896, practicing in Bucyrus, Ohio, and later relocating to Toledo, Ohio. He was admitted to the California bar in 1909.

Banking Business[edit]

While Monnette was trained as an attorney, his father’s foray into mining in 1904-1906 changed his career path. In 1906, the elder Monnette struck a significant gold vein in the previously thought tapped out Mohawk Mine, Tonopah, Nevada (near Goldfield, Nevada). The strike, known as the Monnette-Hayes Lease set records for the value of the ore shipped in 1906. Eventually, Mervin Monnette realized a $5,000,000 profit on the Mohawk, which he assigned to his son for investment.

With his father’s mining proceeds, Orra Monnette began purchased stock in Los Angeles area banks. Eventually this led to a controlling interest in the American National Bank of Los Angeles (ANB). In 1909, ANB was merged into Citizens Trust and Savings Bank of Los Angeles. In 1911, Monnette purchased the Broadway Bank and Trust Company, which when merged with the family’s other holdings formed the Citizens Bank and Trust Company, of which Orra E. Monnette was Chairman of the Board.

In 1923, Citizens Bank and Trust Company was renamed Bank of America, Los Angeles (BoA). Monnette’s intention was to build capital for national expansion; however in 1928 Monnette was approached by Amadeo Giannini, founder of the Bank of Italy, (San Francisco, California) who was interested in pursuing a merger with BoA. Monnette, who was growing concerned about the stock and financial markets, accepted Giannini’s offer of a merger. The resulting Bank of America National Trust and Savings Bank emerged prior to the stock market crash of 1929. Initially, Monnette was named Co-chairman of the new BoA, and made a Director of the bank. During the early 1930s, with his interests elsewhere, Monnette was made a Vice President in the bank, and retained his Board seat.

Monnette also founded the Lincoln Mortgage Company of California, which was not included in the BoA merger. Monnette retained control of the company and continued to serve as its President until his death.

Civic Life[edit]

Bronze plaque, dedicated to Orra E. Monnette, President of the Los Angeles Public Library system from 1915-1936. The plaque is on display in the Los Angeles Central Library rotunda and replaces an earlier bronze bust of Monnette lost in the Central Library fire.

Throughout his life in Los Angeles, California, Orra Monnette served on numerous commissions and boards charged with public projects and the operation of various public organizations. Monnette was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Annexation Commission in 1913, to the Los Angeles City Planning Commission in 1920 and was made a member of the Board of Freeholders which framed Los Angeles’ city charter between 1923 and 1924.

In 1914, Monnette was appointed to the Los Angeles Public Library Board, and reappointed every five years until his death in 1936. Monnette was elected President of the Library Board in 1916,[3] and retained that office until his death as well. During the twenty-three years of his tenure, Monnette championed three major library bond packages which were supported by the citizens of Los Angeles. The bond packages allowed the city to build forty-eight (48) branches throughout the Los Angeles area as well as the landmark art deco Main Library in Downtown Los Angeles.

In 1907, Monnette became a Life Member of the Sons of the Revolution in the State of California. An avid genealogist, he brought experience and leadership to the evolution of the Society's library, founded in 1893, which remains open free to the public as a public service of that organization. Mervin Jeremiah Monnette, Orra's father, joined him as a Life Member in 1908.[4][5]">

Orra E. Monnette died in Los Angeles California in 1936; his death was noted in the Los Angeles City Council minutes following the passage of a resolution in his honor. In addition to the placement of a memorial bronze bust of Monnette honoring him in the lobby of the Main Library, his complete genealogical private papers were given to the Los Angeles Public Library System and are accessible in the manuscript division. In 2006, the remainder of Monnette's personal papers were given to the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.

A street in Koreatown (intersecting Western Avenue at the location of his father's former mansion) "Monnette Place" is named in his honor.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ira Brown Cross, Financing an empire: history of banking in California (The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1927), 318.
  2. ^ Grand Catalogue of the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity: February 1, 1910, page 122
  3. ^ Board of Directors, Los Angeles Public Library, Annual report of the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Public Library (No Printer Name Given, 1916), [1].
  4. ^ http://www.srcalifornia.com/library/library_history.htm
  5. ^ Breithaupt, page 228.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Breithaupt, Jr., Richard Hoag, 1994, Sons of the Revolution in the State of California. Centennial Register 1893-1993, Walika Publishing Company, ISBN 1-886085-00-5

Further reading[edit]

  • Resolution Concerning the Death of Orra E. Monnette, Los Angeles City Council, February 1936.
  • Los Angeles Examiner February 24, 1936 “O.E. Monnette Loses Battle Against Death”