The Inventory of the Temple and Workman Bank, February 1876, Part One

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Posts about a month ago detailed the failure of the Temple and Workman bank after it closed its doors on the morning of 13 January 1876.  The institution immediately went into assignment with Edward F. Spence and Daniel Freeman given the unenviable task of sorting out the affairs of the stricken firm and preparing a detailed inventory.

While Los Angeles newspapers generally expressed the idea that the ample assets of F.P.F. Temple and William Workman was sufficient to make sure depositors and creditors would receive most, if not all, of their money, there was almost certainly considerable concern as Freeman and Spence did their work at the end of the month.

Los Angeles Herald, 1 February 1876

The results were due by law to be submitted on 2 February and, on that morning, the original document was signed by William Workman at his home and then returned to Los Angeles for filing.

The day prior, the Los Angeles Herald offered an editorial titled “Must Not Condemn” that stated, as the inventory was wrapping up, that, “though there are many rumors floating about the streets, nothing definite is known beyond the fact that affairs are in a tangled condition.”  The paper did repeat that, with one of the assignees as a source, it earlier noted “that at least two of the employees of the bank had overdrawn their account by a large sum, and that of the $750,000 securities, probably not over $300,000 were collectable.”

Los Angeles Star, 2 February 1876

Because of this, the Herald continued, it had been “soundly rated” by those “who while ever ready to condemn others are highly indignant if their short comings are held up to public gaze.”  This view is exceptional, given that just two years earlier, bank president Temple was a part-owner of the paper, though he and his colleagues sold the paper by 1875.

Yet, the Los Angeles Star took a different view (and may have been one of those who criticized its rival), opining on the 2nd that “so far as we can judge the statement of the condition [of the bank] is far from being an unsatisfactory one,” continuing that the perception of creditors receiving dollar for dollar “seems to us to be an intelligent one.” It hedged its statements by averring that the inventory figures it was given in advance was “not complete enough for us to present an opinion satisfactory to ourselves, even.”

Los Angeles Express, 1 February 1876

The Los Angeles Express, in its edition of the 1st, largely said the same as the Star, claiming that “from our observation of the temper of the majority of persons interested as creditors of the Bank, they nearly all entertain no doubt whatever of realizing dollar for dollar of their claims, if ordinary judgment is used in handling the affairs of the Bank.”

As to those creditors, they were chomping at the bit to read and digest the inventory and then decide what courses of action to take in response.  The chairman of the committee of creditors, George E. Long, took out an advertisement in the papers notifying his fellow creditors that a meeting would be held on the mid-afternoon of the 4th at the Court House, located just a short walk south of the Temple and Workman bank quarters.

Los Angeles Star, 3 February 1876

First, though, the inventory had to be filed and then made public, which will form the basis of the next post!

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