Current Exhibit: Bank on Tacoma

March - August 2020

WHAT: New Exhibit Opening and Book Launch, "Bank on Tacoma: 1873-1993"

WHEN: Thursday, March 5, 2020, 5 pm to 7 pm, free admission

WHERE: Tacoma Historical Society Museum, 919 Pacific Avenue

DURATION: The exhibit continues through August 29, 2020  

VIRTUAL TOUR: Because of our temporary museum closure due to COVID-19, we are pleased to share this virtual tour of the exhibit. [Note: best viewed with Microsoft Edge, Chrome or Firefox browsers, and not viewable with Internet Explorer.]

Be sure to click on the gear symbol at the top right of the window below and turn on the audio narration, to hear Deb Freedman describe the content in each portion of the exhibit.

If you would prefer to view the virtual tour on a separate page, please click here:


We are also pleased to share two virtual presentations by Deb Freedman, making the content of the exhibit accessible even as we remain closed:


Let's Play!

Ready to test your knowledge after viewing the virtual exhibit and presentations? Click here to download a Jeopardy-style game! Once you download the PowerPoint file, play it as a slide show to play the game. Click on the faint box in the bottom left corner of each "question" slide, to get back to the main board.

Exhibit Background

Tacoma Historical Society is pleased to announce a new exhibit at the Tacoma Historical Society Museum, 919 Pacific Avenue. Titled "Bank on Tacoma, 1873-1993," the exhibit celebrates Tacoma’s rich history of hometown banking, while chronicling Tacoma’s unique financial ups and downs. The exhibit will open on March 5, 2020, and continue through August 29. Museum admission is always free. We are thankful to Columbia Bank for their leadership as a presenting sponsor of this exhibit, and appreciate the additional support of Heritage Bank.

The exhibit is based on extensive original research by former board member and volunteer, Deb Freedman, utilizing primary resources of city directories and historical newspapers. Her chronology of nearly 300 Tacoma banks and credit unions will be available online at, along with a “virtual vault” of over 400 supporting documents and newspaper clippings. Mrs. Freedman has also written a detailed companion book that includes selected biographies of 175 Tacoma men in banking (and four women.)

During the twenty-year period from 1873 to 1893, at least forty-five banks were organized in Tacoma. In 1890 new banks were opening on Tacoma’s street corners every other month. Then came the 1893 banking panic, and due to its extreme municipal debt, Tacoma was the hardest-hit in the nation. By 1933, Tacoma citizens had seen nearly one hundred bank names come and go. 

In contrast, not a single new bank charter was issued in Tacoma between 1933 and 1963. Credit unions grew exponentially during that period, mirroring Tacoma’s municipal, military, and manufacturing employers. Three more decades of fresh starts, mergers and failures followed, mostly in "thrifts" and savings and loans.

The only independent bank in Tacoma that celebrated a centennial was the Puget Sound National Bank, formed in 1890 as the Puget Sound Savings Bank. After shareholders voted to sell in 1992, the entrepreneurial cycle was repeated with the founding of Columbia Bank in 1993.

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