The History of Business Loans

The first business loans possibly date back to ancient Greece. One of the most important services offered by Greek bankers was the lending of money to finance the carriage of freight by ships. They also lent money for mining, and construction of public buildings. Later, during the middle ages, the Jews fled for their lives to Italy, where they encountered grain farmers looking for money to help support their businesses. The Christians, who were the current settlers of Italy, were forbidden the sin of usury, or charging a fee for the use of money. Today, the word usury is used to describe placing unreasonable interest rates on borrowed money. Therefore, this opened the door for the newcomers, the Jews (who were merchants), to lend money to farmers. The term merchant bank derives from this origin and was one of the first banks that offered business loans to the grain farmer. Merchants remained the main source of funding for trade and business loans well into the 1700s.
In 1781, the first commercial bank received a charter of incorporation in North America. They gave short-term credits to American merchants, who then extended them to wholesalers of their imports, and the wholesalers passed them on to urban retailers, country stores, and peddlers. By 1789, the nation boasted three commercial banks.
One of the most famous men noted for loaning the little man money for business is A.P. Giannini. Historians have referred to him as Americas banker. Up until this time, most banks would only loan money to those that were wealthy. In 1904, Giannini opened up the Bank of Italy in San Francisco. Hard working immigrants looking to open businesses and buy homes were given the opportunity to finally borrow money. After the earthquake that destroyed much of the city in 1906, Giannini once again came through; giving loans to people to rebuild their lost businesses. By the mid 1920s, he owned the third largest bank in the nation. In 1930, he formed the Bank of America, which withstood the Great Depression, funding large industrial and agricultural interests, as well as building Californias movie industry and even loaning the money to the city for the building of the Golden Gate Bridge.
One of the most important types of business loans available to Americans are backed or guaranteed by the American government. These loans are available to small businesses and ordinary people that may not qualify for other business loans. The Investment Company Act of 1958 established the Small Business Investment Company Program. This program enables the government to regulate and provide funds for privately owned and operated venture capital investment firms. These firms then in turn provide loans to high-risk small businesses. Since 1958, the government by means of the Small Business Administration has put nearly $30 billion dollars into the hands of business owners to finance their growth. Currently, the SBA is working with minorities and women regarding their business ventures (www.sba.gov).
Throughout history, merchants, bankers and government agencies have been keeping the entrepreneurs dreams alive by allowing them to borrow capital based upon an idea, service, or product. These dreams are still alive and well today, and are being realized every day thanks to governments and bankers alike.

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