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Classroom Economist


History of Central Banking

Historical Overviews
Historical Beginnings... The Federal Reserve
This publication details the Fed's history from its beginnings in 1789 through the banking problems of the 19th century and the legislation that led to the creation of the Federal Reserve System.

History of Central Banking from 1791 to the 21st Century
This publication describes the history of central banking in the United States from its origins.

History of the Federal Reserve
This brief online history of the Federal Reserve from its origins to modern day also includes a quiz and a word search that can be played online or printed.

Chairman Ben Bernanke's Lecture Series at George Washington University: "Origins and Mission of the Federal Reserve"
In this first in a series of four lectures that he gave at George Washington University, the Fed Chairman explains the function of central banking, its origin and missions, and the experience of the Federal Reserve during the Great Depression. Accompanying the lectures is also a series of related readings.

The Fed Today
The history and creation of the Fed are among the topics of this video, which has an accompanying lesson plan.

A History of Central Banking in the United States
This web page offers an online timeline of the history of central banking in the United States, with links to other related history resources.

Balance of Power Teaching Guide
The Federal Reserve Bank's role throughout history is the theme of this publication. The narrative focuses on the central bank's independence, functions, and responsibilities, as well as how its role has changed over time.

Early Banking History
The First Bank of the United States
The origins and operations of the nation's first central bank are outlined in this publication. The accompanying lesson plan teaches about the economics of the early United States through a reader's theater, activities using primary source documents, and the examination of simple banking scenarios.

Constitutionality of a Central Bank
Using primary source materials from the Constitution and the decision in the landmark 1819 case McCulloch v. Maryland, students explore the constitutionality of a central bank and the meaning of the necessary and proper clause as it relates to central banking.

The Bank That Hamilton Built
This article gives an account of how the ideas of Alexander Hamilton led to the creation of the First Bank of the United States and had an influence on the financial practices and monetary policy of the United States for centuries to come.

The Second Bank of the United States
This publication outlines the origins and operations of the Second Bank of the United States are outlined in this publication.

The State and National Banking Eras
The period between the end of the second Bank of the United States (1836) and the founding of the Federal Reserve (1913), known as the state and national banking eras, is the topic of this publication.

The Free Silver Movement and Inflation
This lesson uses an interactive classroom activity and historical data, speeches, and political cartoons to teach about the Free Silver movement.

The Establishment of the Federal Reserve System
Panic of 1907
How did the failure of one commodity speculator in October 1907 trigger a nationwide financial crisis? This publication chronicles the story of the Panic of 1907, a key factor in the calls for a new central bank that ultimately led to the creation of the Federal Reserve System.

A Christmas Present for the President
The story of the political events of 1913 that culminated in President Woodrow Wilson's signing of the Federal Reserve Act on December 23, 1913. The publication includes excerpts from letters, newspapers and personal reminiscences to give an insider's look at the founding of our central bank.

"Financial Crises, Reform, and Central Banking: Establishing the Federal Reserve"
This article explains how financial crises served as the impetus for the establishment of a central banking system.

The Fed: A Central Bank with a Regional Structure
This message from St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard gives a brief history behind the Federal Reserve's regional structure.

The Balance of Power: The Political Fight for an Independent Central Bank, 1790–Present
This publication gives an in-depth look at the congressional actions and political debates that led to the creation of the Federal Reserve System, as well as the background behind the changes in its role after its creation.

The Federal Reserve Act
This link provides the ultimate primary source document on the Federal Reserve: the Federal Reserve Act of 1913.

The Great Depression
The Great Depression curriculum
This era offers an excellent opportunity for teaching about economics, whether it's by looking at the economic reasons that the Depression took place, the factors that helped it come to an end, or the impact on Americans who lived through it. The Great Depression curriculum includes economic lessons that teachers can use in the classroom. Download the paper version of the lessons or use the online learning modules.

Chairman Bernanke's Speech: "Money, Gold, and the Great Depression"
This lecture by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke describes the role of the Federal Reserve and monetary factors involved in the onset and spread of the Great Depression. He also discusses the causes of the Great Depression, the operation of the gold standard during this era, and lessons learned.

Additional Resources for Common Core Standards in Social Studies
FRASER
The archives of the Federal Reserve System provide online access to the nation's economic history, with a focus on the history of our nation's central bank. Primary source documents housed here include contributions from Alexander Hamilton, John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, and documents from the collections of previous Federal Reserve chairmen.