Federal Bank of Australia

The Federal Bank of Australia was established in Melbourne in 1881, and opened for business in April, 1882. Initially successful, the company expanded to New South Wales by absorbing the Sydney and Country Bank Limited in 1882. Banknotes were issued at branches in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide.[1] The headquarters was in a modest building on the corner of Elizabeth and Collins Street in Melbourne.[2]

The managing director was the politician James Munro, who was Premier of Victoria in 1890-1892. He was also president on the Federal Building Society, established about the same time as the Federal Bank. Both institutions principally invested in speculative land companies, which boomed in the 1880s as the economy expanded, and property prices climbed to a frenzied peak in about 1890. The boom was followed by a crash, and the precipitous decline in property prices led to the collapse of building societies burdened by unsustainable debts, with the uncertainty soon spreading to banks.[3] A run by depositors in late 1892 forced the Federal to close its doors "temporarily" on 30 January 1893.[4][5]

The doors never reopened, and the Federal became the first bank,[3] as opposed to building society, to fail as part of the Australian banking crisis of 1893. A provisional liquidator was appointed on 3 February 1893.[6] The extent of the bank's debts, especially to English banks, was soon revealed.[7] James Munro, already in debt (much to his own companies), had resigned as Premier in early 1892, and left for the UK, but returned voluntarily, and was declared bankrupt in February 1893. His personal debts amounted to £97,000, and his companies owed over £600,000.


  1. ^ "Private Colonial Banknotes The Federal Bank of Australia Limited". Australian Stamp & Coin Co Pty. Ltd. Archived from the original on 13 August 2011. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  2. ^ "A busy crossing: Elizabeth-Street and Collins-Street Melbourne. Vic". State Library Victoria. 5 September 1889. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  3. ^ a b "6. The 1890s Depression". Reserve Bank of Australia. 2001. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  4. ^ "Federal Bank of Australia". Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931). 30 January 1893. p. 5. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  5. ^ "Suspension of the Federal Bank". The Argus. 30 January 1893. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  6. ^ "Advertising". South Australian Register. Adelaide, S.A.: National Library of Australia. 3 February 1893. p. 2. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  7. ^ "The Federal Bank". Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic. : 1885 - 1939). 24 February 1893. p. 6. Retrieved 11 January 2020.