Business had been essentially normal at Oneonta’s three major banking institutions during February 1933. Light to moderate withdrawals had been made at the Wilber National Bank, Citizen’s National Bank and Trust, and Oneonta Building and Loan Association. This wasn’t the case at most banks across the U.S., as currency and gold were being hoarded, because depositors had mounting concerns about the steady news of banks closing in the early years of the Great Depression.
What resulted, beginning on Saturday, March 4, 1933, was the start of national banking holidays. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn into office that same day, and 32 of 48 states had ordered their banks closed, due to the excessive withdrawals.
“The word of the banking holiday came as a surprise to Oneonta’s three banking institutions … and to other banks throughout this vicinity,” it was reported by The Oneonta Star on Monday, March 6. “Bank employes (sic) were at their places of business Saturday morning ready to open as usual when telegrams were received announcing the holidays and ordering all banks to close.”
New York’s closures were ordered by Gov. Herbert H. Lehman.
Initially the banks were set to close only for that Saturday and Monday, but President Roosevelt then extended the closures until Monday, March 13.
“Officials of the three Oneonta banking institutions … reaffirmed their confidence that the banks of this vicinity are in exceptionally good condition and said that although the holiday might have been necessary for some of the largest New York banks, they regretted that even temporary inconvenience had been caused to their depositors.”
Some local businesses found difficulty in securing sufficient change to carry out business as usual on the weekend, but there were no major hardships. Two of Oneonta’s theaters, The Palace and The Oneonta, advertised that a check would be acceptable as a means of admission to shows.