Morris Plan Bank

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Morris Plan Banks were part of a historic banking system in the United States created to assist the middle class in obtaining loans that were often difficult to obtain at traditional banks. They were established by Arthur J. Morris (1881–1973), a lawyer in Norfolk, Virginia who noticed the difficulty his working clients had in getting loans. The first was started in 1910 in Norfolk, and the second in Atlanta in 1911.

The plans established installment credit for customers. Lending required the borrower to provide references and proof of earnings to establish the borrower's credit worthiness. The banks gave depositors interest to secure funds for the loans. The banks were eventually organized as a New York-based banking organization (holding company) and made small loans to moderate income families through banks in more than 100 U.S. cities.[1] In 1917 credit life insurance plans were offered. Morris Banks made 1,760,000 loans in its first 12 years, amounting to about $320 million.

The banks were affected by the Great Depression and changes to the banking industry in its aftermath.

Origins of the concept[edit]

In 1910, attorney Arthur J. Morris (1881–1973) opened the Fidelity Savings and Trust Company in Norfolk, Virginia, which made small loans to working people under a concept he called "Morris Plan." Under this lending approach, would-be borrowers had to submit references from two people of like character and earnings power to guarantee the borrower's creditworthiness, and agreed to repay the loan through the purchase of Installment Thrift Certificates in weekly installments equal to the face value of the loan, less origination and investigative fees.[dubious ] Morris Plan Banks expanded to more than 100 locations in the United States.

Morris Plans pioneered the use of automotive financing (through arrangements between the Morris Plan Company of America, essentially a holding company for Morris Plan banks, and the Studebaker Corporation) and, through the subsidiary Morris Plan Insurance Society, credit life insurance (as allowed for the loan to be repaid in case the borrower died during the term of the loan, with any residue going to the estate).


H. Ross Ake was secretary-treasurer and manager of the Canton, Ohio Morris Plan Bank from its founding in 1916. He also was on the Board of Governors of the National Association of Morris Plan Bankers (Industrial loan company#Origins of the concept).[2]

In 1929, Waler Head took over as president of State Bank of Chicago and guided it through a merger with Foreman National. When Foreman National was acquired by First National Bank in 1931, Head resigned to become president of Morris Plan Corp. At the time, Morris Plan was the largest industrial banking system in the U.S., with $200 million in annual business and 800,000 customers.[3]

Locations and bank building architecture[edit]

  • The Morris Plan Bank Building at 25 Canal Street in Providence, Rhode Island (1926) was designed by Jackson, Robertson & Adams.[4]
  • The Morris Plan Company Los Angeles office was located at 835 So. Spring Street.
  • The Morris Plan Company Long Beach office was located at 11 Pine Avenue.
  • The Morris Plan Bank Building in Atlanta (1936) was designed by Tucker & Howell. It was demolished.
  • The Hulman Building in downtown Evansville, Indiana was built as Central Union Bank and became a Morris Plan Bank location. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a ten story art deco high rise constructed from 1928 until 1930 with a brick facade of light yellow. It was the first of several Art Deco buildings to grace Evansville's skyline.
  • The Morris Plan Bank of Richmond was the system's 107th.[5]
  • Morris Plan Bank in Syracuse, New York[6]
  • Morris Plan Bank in Indianapolis (1921) at 110 East Washington Street. It merged with Schloss Brothers Savings and Loan in 1936. A third of Marion County families had accounts. It was branchless until 1967 when the legislature allowed it to open branches. It was bought out by Firstmark Corporation in the 1970s. When that bank ran into trouble Morris depositors lost money.[7]


Morris graduated from the University of Virginia and made donations at the end of his life to help fund a law library constructed in 1974 and named for him.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Exit Missouri Life". Time magazine. September 18, 1933. Retrieved 2008-01-18. 
  2. ^ Halley, W E; Maynard, John P. (1920). Manual of Legislative Practice in the General Assembly 1919–1920. Columbus: State Bindery. p. 65. 
  3. ^ "Personnel". Time magazine. November 23, 1931. Retrieved 2008-01-18. 
  4. ^ The Civic and Architectural Development of Providence (1957)
  5. ^ The Bankers Magazine Volume 105 Bradford Rhodes, 1922 pages 542 and 543
  6. ^ "Five Models to be Built Here by Sanford Co.". Syracuse Herald. Syracuse, New York. June 17, 1917. 
  7. ^ Encyclopedia of Indianapolis (article by Connie J. Zeigler) David J. Bodenhamer, Robert G. Barrows Indiana University Press, November 22, 1994 page 1021

Further reading[edit]