History of the Credit Union Movement

1844: First cooperative


A group of workers in Rochdale, England organize the first cooperative. In Germany, Victor Aime Huber develops some of the early European cooperative theories. The idea of credit societies was a part of this effort.

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1852: First credit union forms in Germany


The first "true" credit unions are created in Germany in response to crop failures and usury. The social climate in the 1840s and '50s is ripe for change, and reformers challenge the system. Credit unions, often called "people's banks," mainly help skilled workers borrow money for business purposes.

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1901: Credit unions spread to Canada


Canadian parliament hears that some small borrowers pay 1200% interest! Alphonse Desjardins organizes "La Caisse Populaire de Levis," Canada's first credit union, or in French, "caisse populaire." First-day deposits total $26.40.

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1909: First U.S. credit union law


Massachusetts passes a credit union law. The first U.S. credit union, St. Mary's Cooperative Credit Association in Manchester, N.H., opens. Early U.S. credit unions form with Edward Filene, a Boston clothing-store owner, as key supporter. He was influenced by the high interest rates paid by common people he saw in India.

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1920: Credit unions form across U.S.


More than 150 credit unions open in the Eastern U.S., and the movement spreads as organizers move through the Midwest. Most credit unions serve employees of one business, parish, or rural community.

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1930: Organizers form 1,000th credit union


A decade of fast growth ends with 1,100 credit unions in 32 states. The organizations lend $60 million per year.

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1934: Leaders create trade association


During the week of Aug. 5th, Credit union leaders meet in Estes Park, Colo., to form the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). Credit unions need CUNA to help the movement grow, to represent it, and to provide staff and volunteer education. Louise Herring represents Ohio credit unions at the meeting. That same year, Congress passes The Federal Credit Union Act, which allows credit unions to form anywhere in the U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt signs the act into law.

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1957: Credit union serves school children

1957 St. Famille Federal Credit Union in Maine, now called Maine Family Federal Credit Union, establishes a credit union for 700 school children. As with all credit unions, this one pays students dividends on deposits and lends the capital to other young credit union members.

Read "Typical Day Working at a Credit Union."

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1969: Largest number of U.S. credit unions


The U.S. movement peaks in the number of credit unions, with 23,876 in operation. In 1969 credit unions serve 21,590,000 members. The number of credit unions will decline, mostly through the mergers of small credit unions into larger, more efficient ones capable of offering more-sophisticated services. During the same time, the total number of members and total amount of assets continue to grow steadily.

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1980: Congress authorizes credit union checking


Congress grants credit unions the authority to provide checking services to members. This tops a period in which credit unions compete directly with banks. Some credit unions have thousands of members.

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1998: President Clinton signs the Credit Union Membership Act


On Aug. 7, 1998, President Bill Clinton signs H.R. 1151, the Credit Union Membership Act. The law gives more Americans access to credit unions by allowing them to serve multiple groups with 3,000 or fewer employees.

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2000: Credit unions grow in assets and technology


More than 10,000 credit unions in the U.S. have 79 million members and $440 billion in deposits. Many credit unions have Web pages and electronic access for members.

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2001: Dot coop is born


Cooperative businesses, like credit unions, receive a unique Internet domain name: .coop.

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2002: America's Credit Union Museum Opens


America's Credit Union Museum opened on International Credit Union Day, 2002, in Manchester, N.H. The museum is located in the original site of St. Mary's Bank, the first credit union in the U.S.

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2012: Credit Unions for Kids Breaks Records


Credit Unions for Kids, a collaborative effort in the credit union community that raises funds for Children's Miracle Network hospitals, raises a record $10.2 million in 2012. Since Credit Union for Kids was launched in 1996. it has raised more than $110 million for Children's Miracle Network hospitals.

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