Abstract: New Age, People's Finance, and Gateway National: African American Banking in St. Louis, Missouri

Debra F. Greene


At the turn of the twentieth century, St. Louis, Missouri, had a black population of slightly more than 35,000 people. The city ranked second to Baltimore in the percentage of African Americans in the population. A decade later in 1910, St. Louis was the fourth largest U.S. city behind New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. The African American population was 43,960, a 6.4 percent increase from 1900, representing the third largest urban black population increase after Kansas City and Indianapolis at 9.5 and 9.3 percent, respectively. The city was growing and African American businessmen believed that the black business community of St. Louis should be representative of that growth and development. In 1915, the St. Louis Argus newspaper publisher Joseph E. Mitchell editorialized that he was determined "to bend his every effort to lift black St. Louis to the place it should occupy in the nation." A part of that uplift was black business development. Black community leaders such as Mitchell believed that financial backing was an integral part of the uplift process. To that end, three financial institutions were founded and developed in St. Louis by black business leaders—New Age Savings and Loan Association (1915), People's Loan and Finance Company, incorporated as People's Finance Corporation (1922), and Gateway National Bank (1964). This paper attempts to document the challenges encountered by the black community in operating these institutions as banking regulations changed, the economy declined, and retail banking services to the black community expanded.