Burroughs Adding Machine
Black business woman creates economic opportunity
Maggie Walker (1864–1934) was the first Black woman in the United States to charter a bank and serve as a bank president. This Burroughs adding machine was used at her St. Luke’s Penny Savings Bank in Richmond, Virginia, which she opened in 1903.
A gifted entrepreneur, Walker created businesses to help Richmond’s Black community advance economically during the Jim Crow era. Jim Crow, named for a blackface minstrel character, was a repressive racial system of laws and state constitutional provisions that mandated racial segregation in Southern states. From the start, African Americans resisted Jim Crow, looking for ways to survive and advance in the face of white supremacy. Their actions took many forms. Some, like Maggie Walker, started businesses to serve unmet needs in Black communities.
Walker joined the Independent Order of St. Luke, a national association of African Americans based in Richmond, Virginia, when she was a teenager. She was named its leader when she was in her early 30s and dramatically expanded the group’s membership. In addition to the St. Luke’s Penny Savings Bank, other St. Luke’s enterprises included a newspaper, an insurance company, a clothing factory, and a store. All hired Black workers, especially young women who otherwise had few job opportunities. Black consumers could now shop and conduct daily tasks safe from the abuses of Jim Crow.
Through a few name changes and mergers, St. Luke’s Penny Savings Bank remained in business as the oldest continuously Black-owned bank in the country until it was purchased by a national chain in 2005. A statue of Maggie Walker was erected in Richmond in 2017, just a few blocks from the city’s Confederate monuments.
New-York Historical Society
Time Period: 1866 - 1936
Exhibit: Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow
This artifact is not on view.