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Bank of North America: Our Nation's First Central Bank

The Bank of North America: Our Nation’s First Central Bank, is comprised of three lessons that work as an interdisciplinary unit on economic history, math, and financial literacy. The lessons in this unit take students through the history of the bank, how to use a bank, and the history of our currency. It follows the financial literacy standards for the 4th and 8th grade benchmark, although the history and economics activities can be adapted for all grade levels.

The bank was proposed by Robert Morris and Alexander Hamilton and chartered by the Second Continental Congress in 1781. At this time, our Continental currency was failing and the new government could not pay  soldiers who were serving during the Revolutionary War. Our new country needed a system in place to attract wealthy investors, particularly from other European countries, in order to keep our economy afloat.

These lessons are meant to provide students with an understanding of the role of the bank in our daily lives as well as how our currency has changed over time. It will also offer teachers new resources such as historic paper currency, multiple hands-on activities, and plenty of primary sources from the Bank of North America records here at HSP.






Government and civics



Big Ideas

US History

Essential Questions

How does continuity and change within the United States history influence your community today?


Textual evidence, material artifacts, the built environment, and historic sites are central to understanding United States history.


Analyze a primary source for accuracy and bias and connect it to a time and place in United States history.

Background Material for Teacher

The Bank of North America and Pennsylvania Politics: 1781-1787 by Janet Wilson

The Bank of North America and Robert Morris's Management of the Nation's First Fiscal Crisis by Elizabeth M. Nuxoll

Bank of North America by Robert Smith

End of Unit Assessment

As an end of unit assessment, have students create their own classroom economy including a charter, currency, and exchange rate. This will ensure that students understood how the bank was started as well as the functions of the bank within our economy and their daily lives. Students will keep a ledger and discuss as a class how technology can improve their banking experience.

For further understanding of the historical concepts, ask students in investigate the investors and founding fathers found on our currency. This can be done by giving students clues that will lead them to a particular figure. For example: "This investor was in high demand during the Yellow Fever epidemic and was influential as a founding father. It is easy to imagine this doctor in a rush." The answer would be Benjamin Rush. Once students have figured out the investor, you can talk more about their contributions to history and our community.


Plans in this Unit

The History of Our Nation's First Central Bank

Keeping Track of Your Money Then and Now

History of US Currency

Grade Level

Grade School

Middle School

Standards/Eligible Content






Common Core Standards:



Wells Fargo Bank

About the Author

This Unit Plan was created by Alicia Parks, Wells Fargo Education Manager at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.


Blog Post

Now Available to Researchers: Items in the Bank of North America Collection

Blog Post

Conservation of the Bank of North America records sponsored by Wells Fargo

Blog Post

Notes from the Bank Vault

Attention Teachers!

Let us know how you used this plan and be featured on our site! Submit your story here.

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