New York Credit & Financial Management Association Celebrates Centennial

Article excerpt

In 1995, the New York Credit and Financial Management Association, originally chartered as "The New York Credit Men's Association," will celebrate 100 years of continuing service to the credit and financial community. The records and minutes of the Association's past century chronicle the evolution of an organization that in many ways reflects the plethora of social and economic changes through which we as an organization and a society have traveled over the past century.

We can find references and resolutions in our records dealing with such matters as evolving legislation, war, armistice, deaths, economic crises, expansion and contraction in membership, political change, assassinations, and the passing of the torch of responsibility from one generation to another. In fact, what we see is ourselves as credit and financial professionals and as a people. We see ourselves as what we were, how we've changed, and what we have become. Certainly one cannot indulge in this process without yielding to the irresistible temptation to dream of what our future may be and how we can have a positive influence on that future. What follows is a chronology of the events surrounding the founding of the New York Credit and Financial Management Association.

On March 4, 1893, Grover Cleveland was inaugurated President of the U.S. and moved back into the White House after a four year absence. He had served as President from 1885 to 1889, and lost a close reelection bid to his republican opponent, Benjamin Harrison (grandson of William Henry Harrison, ninth president of the U.S.).

During his first term in office, Cleveland became the only President ever to be married in the White House. In the southwest region of the country, the renegade Apache Indian chief "Geronimo" was captured, and the 225 ton bronze "Statue of Liberty" was unveiled at Bedloe's Island in New York harbor.

Upon returning to the presidency in 1893, Cleveland's major problem was the economy. Shortly after his inauguration in the spring, the nation's gold reserves slipped below $100 million. This set off a national panic and pitted the proponents of "Gold vs. Silver" as the basis for the wealth and creditworthiness of the nation squarely against one another. In the 1890s, the silver in a silver dollar was worthless than 49 cents in gold. The "Silverites," consisting of democrats and populists, found their voice in the personage of William Jennings Bryan, senator from the state of Nebraska, while the "Goldbugs," and most of the gold, was controlled by New York banker J.P. Morgan, one of the wealthiest men in the country. The battle that ensued brought the country to the brink of monetary collapse. In the process, it created an atmosphere of distrust between the largely agrarian west and south for the urban northeast, and at the center of that distrust was the narrow concrete canyon in Manhattan known as Wall Street.

It was against this scenario that in 1893 a luncheon meeting was held at the old Astor House, then located opposite what was to become City Hall Park in New York City. The purpose of the meeting was to form an association that would work together for the safeguarding of commercial credit and promote sound and ethical business practices.

One of the attendees at that meeting was a young man in his mid-20s by the name of Edmund Wright. He found that it was difficult for anyone to agree on any subject brought before the group. According to Wright, "So much animosity, suspicion, self satisfaction, jealousy, and indifference existed in business during those days that no agreement could be reached." The meeting adjourned and no further meetings were scheduled.

The nation's economic crisis worsened through 1894 and it was not isolated just to the U.S. The world was in an economic depression. However, despite the prevailing economic crisis, society moved along and did it's best to cope. In Bologna, Italy an Italian physicist, Guglielmo Marconi, perfected wireless telegraphy. …