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Bisbee’s Miners and Merchants Bank

The interior of the Miners and Merchants Bank on Bisbee’s Main Street around 1925.

The Miners and Merchants Bank on Bisbee’s Main Street incorporated on June 12, 1900, with a capitalization of $50,000. Founding directors were Bisbee merchants L.C. Shattuck, Joseph Muheim, L.J. Overlock, Jakob Schmidt and J.T. Hood.

One of the first steps the founders took was to build a vault of concrete and iron with 22-inch thick walls. Next they installed a Mosier patent screw door bank safe, state of the art in preventing burglaries. It weighed several thousand pounds and was built of the finest steel. The round door contained a Yale & Towne three-movement time lock, which locked by means of steel threads that moved from the door to the vault. The design of the door without the usual hinges prevented bank robbers from using explosives to blow off the hinges and force the door open, one of the easiest ways to break into a safe in those days.

The bank was first located in a saloon building on the south side of Main Street. By 1904, however, the owners had purchased the Anheuser Saloon on the north side of Main Street, demolished the building and replaced it with an entirely new building that opened the following year. The address was 7 Main Street.

The bank expanded yearly during the early part of the century, and soon become the largest bank in Cochise County and fifth largest in the Arizona Territory. Besides the usual loans, payroll and savings, the bank added a trust department that managed trusts, life insurance and other fiduciary matters for customers.

By the 1920s, the bank had expanded its quarters again, acquiring the Hoffman Saloon to the west and using that space for its vault. That was about the time the photograph above was taken.

The bank remained an independent Bisbee institution until 1956, when it merged with First National Bank of Arizona. The new bank again expanded, taking over the Bisbee Drug Store next door. But throughout all the additions and moves, one artifact survived: the original Miners and Merchants brass logo above the door. That artifact is still there today.

Throughout all the years as the Miners and Merchants Bank, there was never a robbery or hold-up at the bank. However, as First Interstate (the successor to First National) the bank suffered Bisbee’s first bank robbery. In the mid-1980s, a man brandished a pistol at employees and customers and ran off with an undisclosed amount of cash. He surrendered to the Bisbee police a short time later.

First Interstate closed the Bisbee branch in the early 1990s before the merger with Wells Fargo.

— Tom Vaughan. Photo courtesy of the Bisbee Mining and Historical Society.

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