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Minority Banking Timeline


Canton Bank

United Commercial Bank

The Canton Bank of San Francisco was incorporated in 1907 to assist the Chinese community with financial resources to help rebuild the area following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the devastating fire that followed.

Look Tin Eli, a wealthy businessman and the major force behind the idea and organization of the bank, partnered with Lew Hing. A year later, Canton Bank of San Francisco was the principal bank for more than 100,000 Chinese in the United States and Mexico. However, in 1923, the Canton Bank was in financial trouble, and it was closed by the superintendent of banks in July 1926.

Although the original Canton Bank closed, several others were formed to assist and provide financial services to the Chinese community in California. According to the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, the Bank of Canton, Ltd., operated by an agency of the foreign bank, opened in 1924 and surrendered its license in 1935. The Bank of Canton of California, which opened in 1937, was initially established to meet the needs of San Francisco's Chinese community, which could not get credit through mainstream banks. The bank, recognizing the special relationship between Chinatown and the city, committed itself to being an active and involved member of both communities. The holding company of United Commercial Bank acquired Bank of Canton of California in 2002.


  • "Ties That Bind: The San Francisco Bay Area's Economic Links to Greater China," November 2006.
  • Ira B. Cross, "Financing an Empire: History of Banking in California," San Francisco: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1927 p. 699.
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