10 Credit Union History Facts

I’ve never been a very big history buff. It was one of my toughest subjects in middle school and high school. I’m not very good at remembering dates, wars or who ruled what area of a foreign country in the early 14th century. However, I'm really good at memorizing quirky historical facts that are only useful in a game of Jeopardy. My brain is a cornucopia of random (and some useless) knowledge.

When I received this book as part of my new employee orientation, I knew there had to be some unique and interesting historical facts about credit unions. These are my favorite historical facts about credit unions, in Maine and around the world. File these away into the Jeopardy section of your brain.

10 Credit Union History Facts

  1. Credit unions see their earliest origins in Europe where Herman Schulze-Delitzsch and Freidrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen saw the need for loans to those without a lot of collateral, like farmers, the working class and the poor.
  2. The first credit union in the United States was Saint Mary’s Cooperative Credit Association in Manchester, New Hampshire. The founder of this credit union was Pierre Hevey, who lived in Lewiston, Maine before transferring to St. Mary’s parish in Manchester. 
  3. The first credit union in Maine was the Telephone Workers Credit Union of Maine. It opened in 1921. Only telephone workers themselves could join. Spouses and children were not allowed membership until 1984.
  4. The amount of the first deposit at a credit union in Maine was $1.
  5. The first loan granted by Maine Family Federal Credit Union was to buy a cow.
  6. Maine’s second oldest credit union, the Railroad Workers Credit Union of Maine, finished its first fiscal year in 1927 with just $570 in assets and $17.75 cash on hand. In one year, assets increased to almost $4500
  7. Many of the early credit unions were located inside churches and even private residences to keep costs low.
  8. Some of the first credit union employees were actually volunteers. They did not receive pay despite the long hours spent serving members.
  9. Well-known Maine credit union figure Jeanette Morin operated St. John’s Federal Credit Union from her home in the 1940s. A member once woke her up at 4 a.m. requesting a loan to visit a sick relative in Canada. She granted the loan immediately. Morin was paid a $25 per year salary after three years of volunteering without pay.
  10. Early loans granted by some credit unions were guaranteed by unusual forms of collateral that didn’t have much market value, but were valuable to the borrower. Things like family photographs and coin collections were among some of the items accepted as collateral for loans. Many loans were given based on character.

It's clear that from the beginning, credit unions have been all about people helping people. How great is that?

Kylie K.