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Abstract: We use information from examination reports to enrich our understanding of both the examination process and bank operations for National Banks in the early 1890s, the height of the National Banking Era. We describe the examination process and its frequency, as well as the information contained in the examinations relating to bank ownership and corporate governance, the composition and quality of the loan book, dividend payments made by the banks, and the use of different types of liabilities. Our sample of banks is from the larger cities, including several reserve cities, which allows us to compare similar banks in different regions of the country. There are clear regional differences in banks' examination experiences, structure, and behavior. On average, banks further West tended to be examined less frequently, displayed higher percentages of manager ownership, employed less formal corporate governance arrangements, made riskier loans, paid higher rates on certificates of deposit, and paid higher dividends less often.

Keywords: National Banking Era, bank examinations, bank operations, corporate goverance, regional variation

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