national bank, in the United States, financial institution of a class authorized by Congress in acts of 1863 and 1864. The acts were intended to provide a way of marketing the large bond issues made necessary by the Civil War and to give circulation to a paper currency more trustworthy than the notes of state banks had proved to be. The act of 1864 authorized the formation of private banking corporations that were to invest a large part of their capital in bonds of the United States and that might then issue their notes as currency. The amount of the notes was not to exceed 90% of either the face value or the par value of the bonds, depending on which of the two was smaller. Subsequent acts modified the act of 1864 in various details, and the plan was changed fundamentally by the Federal Reserve Act of Dec. 23, 1913, which provided for the gradual substitution of Federal Reserve notes and Federal Reserve bank notes for national bank notes. The Federal Reserve Act also required all national banks to become members of the Federal Reserve System.
See bibliography under banking.