The History of Credit Unions – A Complete History

There’s a high likelihood that you’ve seen a credit union, even if you didn’t know it. Perhaps you’ve wondered what it is or how they started. A credit union is a member-owned financial cooperative that is created and operated by members and shares profits with owners. They are an integral part of our economic system. There are over 5,000 credit unions in the United States and they serve millions of people daily. The number of credit unions has been steadily increasing in recent years, as well. Since their creation in the 1900s, credit unions have evolved and become an important part of our financial system. The history of credit unions is interesting and imperative to the understanding of our economy today. True Sky Credit Union is here to give you a run down of the history of credit unions, including our own!

The First Credit Unions

The first documented credit union in North America was La Caisse Populaire de Levis, also known as The People’s Bank of Levis, in Levis, Quebec. It was started by Canadian journalist, Alphonse Desjardins. In 1909, The first credit union in the United States was opened in Manchester, New Hampshire and was called St. Mary’s Cooperative Credit Association. Alphonse Desjardins helped establish this union. After the successful opening of this credit union, the Massachusetts Bank Commissioner, Pierre Jay, and wealthy Boston merchant Edward A. Filene collaborated and came up with the Massachusetts Credit Union Act. This bill was the first general statute for establishing credit unions in the United States. Under the act, credit unions were defined as “cooperative associations formed for the purpose of promoting thrift among its members.” After the enactment of the Massachusetts Credit Union Act, Edward Filene hired Attorney Roy F. Bergengren to endorse and expand the credit union movement. He is credited with creating the credit union system that we know today.

The Development Of Credit Unions

In 1921, Edward Filene and Roy Bergengren created the Credit Union National Extension Bureau, an organization dedicated to establishing new credit unions, enacting state laws to charter credit unions, and promoting the philosophy of credit unions. The growth of credit unions began to skyrocket. Between 1921 and 1935, 38 states including Washington D.C. enacted credit union laws. President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Federal Credit Union Act into law. This law allowed credit unions to be organized in the United States under charters approved by the federal government. Shortly after the passage of this law, Morris Sheppard Federal Credit Union in Texarkana, Texas became the first federally chartered credit union. The Revenue Act of 1951 made it to where both federal and state- chartered credit unions are exempt from the federal income tax. A year after this act was passed, the growth of federal credit unions continued, with 2.8 million members spread across the 6,000 unions in the United States. In 1966, the Bureau of Federal Credit Unions launched Project Moneywise. This was a campaign to expand credit union services to low income areas around the United States, in hopes of improving the financial well-being of these areas. This initiative also taught financial literacy and personal finance education. The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) was created in 1970. This would serve as an independent agency to charter and supervise federal credit unions. There is also an administrator that is the head of the organization.  A three-member Board took the place of the NCUA Administrator in 1979. This is due to an update Congress put in the Federal Credit Union Act. Members of the Board are nominated by the President of the United States and have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Going forward, the NCUA would be involved in all of the affairs of credit unions in the United States.

Become a Member At True Sky Credit Union

True Sky CU was founded in Oklahoma City in 1946 when eight co-workers at the Civil Aeronautics Administration organized the CAA Employees Credit Union. They adopted a community charter in 2001 as FAA Credit Union. 15 years later, they became True Sky Credit Union, serving the metro as a top credit union. The rise of credit unions hasn’t been an easy one, but here at True Sky Credit Union we aim to keep the original CU mantra of “people helping people” alive. We are committed to providing our members with the best service possible and we also aim to strengthen the communities we serve. If you have any questions or concerns about your finances, we would love to assist you. From financial literacy to home loans, we’ve got you covered! If you’re looking to get more information about True Sky or want to become a member with us, visit our website, give us a call, or stop by one of our multiple locations today! Make sure to check out the full history of credit unions too!



Return to Blog