History of Credit Unions in the United States

Foundation Credit Union has been a part of the Springfield community since 1933. It’s a tradition we’re proud of, and we’ve seen the area grow up in the 80+ years we’ve been by your side. Today’s blog from Foundation Credit Union dives into the rich history of credit unions, from their humble beginnings to the present day.

Two Germans Started It All

Two German men are credited (pun intended) with starting the first credit unions. Franz Hermann Schulze-Delitzsch organized a cooperative of mills and bakeries in 1848 in Germany, where smaller businesses combined their finances to allow for greater buying power. Fellow countryman Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen founded the first rural credit union for farmers in 1864.

Credit Unions Came to America 45 Years Later

The first credit union in the United States began on April 6, 1909, as St. Mary’s Cooperative Credit Association in Manchester, New Hampshire. That financial institution still exists today, more than 110 years later, as St. Mary’s Bank (and it’s still a member of the NCUA, like we are).

Rapid Growth

Next, credit unions grew in neighboring Massachusetts. Two men, Massachusetts Bank Commissioner Pierre Jay and wealthy Boston merchant Edward A. Filene, helped bring about legislative change. Massachusetts was the first state to enact a law, called the Massachusetts Credit Union Act of 1909.

From 1921 to 1935, 38 states and Washington, D.C. enacted laws for credit unions. Foundation Credit Union was founded in 1933! 

In June of 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Federal Credit Union Act into law, which created an agency in the federal government to regulate credit unions.

World War II

Credit unions did more than secure people’s financial wealth during hard times of the Great Depression. These financial institutions sold 12 million war bonds worth $404 million to help fund the war effort in the 1940s. That’s more than $5.8 billion in 2020 dollars!


The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) formed in March of 1970. This is the federal government agency that insures everyone’s accounts up to $250,000, and it oversees Foundation Credit Union in terms of federal laws.

One-Third of America’s Population!

Did you know that more than one-third of Americans belong to a credit union in 2020? There are 5,164 credit unions in the United States with 122.3 million members managing $1.75 trillion in total assets, according to the NCUA’s second quarterly report for this year.

Foundation Credit Union: Growing With You

These amazing numbers show that credit unions continue to grow and have come a long way since the first one in New Hampshire in 1909! Foundation Credit Union is proud to be a part of this vital movement that helps our members in Southwest Missouri achieve their financial goals. Contact us or call 417.895.2770 for more information on what it’s like to be a member of our financial institution.


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