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  

Tacoma Historical Society is pleased to announce an upcoming exhibit at the Tacoma Historical Society Museum, 919 Pacific Avenue. Titled "Bank on Tacoma, 1873-1993," the exhibit will celebrate 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.

— back to top —