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Souderton, Pennsylvania Gets Some Banking Competition

For the beginning of a replacement year, I looked in my collection for a stimulating note, combined with then and now views of the bank, to be the inspiration of this text. I still am amazed (and at now somewhat disgusted) that we are still within the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which I, and surely many of you, thought would be controlled or over by now. Even the F.U.N. Show in Orlando, Florida, typically the primary big show to start out off the numismatic year, has been canceled.

In any event, fun with national banks goes on, and this month we’ll visit Souderton, Pennsylvania, a little town within the Philadelphia suburbs with an extended history. Souderton may be a borough in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, about 35 miles NNE from downtown Philadelphia and simply accessed via I-276 or State Route 309. the present population is around 6,800.

The area that’s now Souderton was originally owned by Welsh immigrants and was referred to as Welsh town. Henry O. Souder was born in Welsh town in 1807 and was vital to the expansion of what later became referred to as Souderton. In 1834, he married Hannah Hunsberger and built a stone house. He later founded a lumberyard and sawmill. By 1840, Welsh town was still very sparsely populated, with only about 20 structures. In 1852, Souder convinced the Philadelphia, Easton & col Railroad to get rails through the world. The tracks were completed in 1857 and later the railroad, then referred to as the Philadelphia & Reading, provided quick access to Philadelphia and other nearby towns.

Souderton was originally an agricultural community, but as time and railroad traffic increased, more industry came to the world. In 1863, the railroad officially named the stop Souderton and therefore the borough was officially created in 1887 when 600 residents lived within the town. New industries included textile mills and cigar factories. The railroad actually divided the town into two sections. the first railway station on Front Street was erected in 1865 but was removed in 1928 when a replacement building and freight station were opened.

By 1875, Souderton needed a bank, then the Union commercial bank was founded and received charter #2333 in May of 1876. Isaac Gerhart was the primary president. within the beginning, the bank operated out of a secure and area in Henry Souder’s house. In 1877, a freestanding building was erected at 24 North Main Street by the firm of Hemsing and Souder. The building was enlarged in 1909 with the addition of Ionian columns at the doorway.

The Union commercial bank of Souderton was an outsized bank that survived the top of the National Currency era. It issued a spread of notes including Series 1875, Series 1882 Brown, Date and Value Backs, and Series of 1902 Plain Backs. In 1928, the name was changed to the Union commercial bank & trust corporation, and thereunder title it issued Series of 1902 Plain Back notes and Series of 1929 small size notes in both Type 1 and sort 2. Its total issue between 1876 and 1935 was nearly $2.4 million.

Large notes issued under the first title are available, with around 15 reported within the census. Large notes with the “Trust Company” title are quite rare, with only 4 reported. i used to be fortunate to get the double serial #1 $10 note, “A” position, issued in 1928 when the bank changed its name. A “double serial number” refers to notes issued after September 1928 when Treasury serial numbers were not included on notes, and thus an outsized size note bore two of an equivalent bank serial numbers, one at the upper right and one at the lower left. Small size notes on the Union commercial bank & trust corporation are extremely common, with many available.

Later in 1928, Souderton got some commercial bank competition when the People’s commercial bank of Souderton opened for business under charter #13251. George Nickel was a cashier and George W. Zendt was president. I even have included a photograph of a Serial #1 note that was cut from the primary sheet. During its short note-issuing life, 1928-1935, the bank issued $124,000 of small size notes only, in denominations of $5-$10-$20. These are very plentiful today, mostly in high grade, with over 40 notes now reported.

Souderton today may be a lovely town with a really well-preserved historic district now listed within the National Register of Historic Places. additionally, to the Henry Souder house, there are many other period structures. The Souderton-Telford Historical Society provides walking-tour maps of the historic district. Among the historic structures is that the Union commercial bank building, located at 24 N. Main Street. I even have included a vintage photo of the bank, circa 1915, and a photograph of the structure today. It currently serves at the Univest Bank Museum.

Around 1929, the Union National Bank built a grand Art-Deco style building at 10 West Broad Street. This building now serves as the Univest Financial Corporation headquarters. Univest is headquartered in Souderton and has approximately 850 employees. Its subsidiaries, which include Univest Bank and Trust Co., Univest Insurance, Inc., Univest Investments, Inc., Univest Capital, Inc., and Girard Partners, Ltd., serve customers through a network of 50 offices in Pennsylvania, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia. The name of the original bank, Union National Bank and Trust Company, is engraved on the façade of the building.

Around the corner is the original People’s National Bank, located at 12 N. Main Street. The original building has had several large contiguous additions and is also owned by Univest and serves as a working branch today. I have included a photo of this building as well.

Souderton is easy to reach and well worth a visit. The historic district is easy to navigate and filled with interesting buildings and homes.

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