Discovery Of Old Ledgers Leads To New Understanding

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In 1923, a Minneapolis postal employee answered an advertisement in a magazine and received a reply that set off a chain of events that resulted in the organization of credit unions in Minnesota.

Two years later, that employee -credit union pioneer Thomas W. Doig-became the first treasurer and the second member of the Minneapolis Postal Employees Credit Union, the state's first state-chartered, member-owned financial institution.

Eighty years later, that same CU-since dubbed US Federal Credit Union-is celebrating Doig's efforts and the history left behind in the original ledger found tucked away in an office closet.

"We had intended to do a nice retrospective with some old photographs when we rediscovered some artifacts a few weeks before the annual meeting," said Marty Kelly, VP of Marketing and Business Development at USFCU. "We found the original ledger that was used to document the organizational minutes and included a listing of our first members...It even has the first minutes of a gathering of Minneapolis postal employees."

Establishing A Birthday

Not only does the ledger finally set the record straight about the exact date the charter was approved-July 22, 1925-it gives a history on how the credit union was formed and how it led to the creation of the Minnesota League of Credit Unions, the first self-sustaining league to be formed in the United States.

Not surprising is that Doig was the league's first official member.

"Some of the minutes are absolutely fantastic," Kelly said of the ledger. Among his favorites were the recordings that established a delinquency fine of five cents, and offered $50 character loans without a wife's signature.

"Remember, this was 1925 and women had just received the right to vote," Kelly said. "The context is not very politically correct by today's standards."

Another interesting tidbit, Kelly said, was that the actual ledger used to record the CU's first minutes was a post office money order register made in 1904.

It also shows that the CU's FOM hasn't changed much since its formation. The only addition has been the Department of Agriculture, which at one time had offices in the post office building.

Admittedly, Kelly's favorite piece of information came from the list of charter members. Entrant number three was "Kelly, M.J."

"Those are my initials," Kelly said, noting that he doubts any relation, but has had a lot of fun with the notion. "I just thought that was pretty neat and let our CEO and board know that now that I'm a legacy, things are going to change around here."

The first book ends with the 2000th member and an entry that states, "Start new register."

Kelly said follow-up ledgers were not among the treasures found among the artifacts, first discovered by employees prior to the CU's 75th anniversary celebration, then tucked away for safe-keeping.

Handwritten Minutes

"We did, however, find some old three-ring binders from the 40s and 50s with all sorts of handwritten minutes, then some from an old typewriter."

He said entries around the 1940s showed an attempt to do a history of the CU that was not reflected in the original ledger.

While the ledger was displayed at the credit union's annual meeting, it was carefully guarded, Kelly said. "The book was 21 years old before these folks started writing in it," he said. "It's very, very fragile and practically crumbles in the fingers."

Still, members got a pretty good idea of how it looked and what was inside via the 2004 Annual Report that used modern technology to recapture the same yellowish, brownish faded look and included some of the old money ledger pages from the original book.

Kelly said that officials from US Federal CU would present the ledger to America's Credit Union Museum in Manchester, New Hampshire, this summer, where it will be displayed among other financial institution cooperative artifacts.

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