What the hell does fifth third mean? What's that bank name mean?

Just that - what could that name refer to? It’s not like the first national or second national bank. 5/3? Is the fraction sign ificant? It’s like a corporate logo for the financial industry. WTF?

Oddly enough Cecil has covered this.

I’m guessing it’s the merger of two different banks.

From Wikipedia:

Huh. And all this time I thought it was the fifth bank that wanted to call itself Third Bank. Go figure.

So why did they name banks that way? “fifth national bank of <wherever>”? Were they federally regulated? Were there also banks regulated by the states? Was there a requirement that they be numbered?

Long story short, banks could be chartered by states or by the feds. State banking regulations tended to be rather lax and those banks could easily fail. Since federal regs were stricter, they were seen as sounder and more reliable. Calling yourself a National Bank (or sometimes Federal Bank: there was a local First Federal Savings and Loan in the past) was public advertising that you were under a federal charter.

If you were the fifth bank in Cincinnati to obtain a federal charter, you might call yourself the Fifth National Bank. Why not the Cincinnati National Bank? That I don’t know. I’m pretty sure that individually named banks existed: Citizens National was a common name. But the time period might have been later. In the beginning, it might have been required to just give a number or it may just have been the custom of the time. The lowness of the numbers indicated that not too many banks went through the hoops to get a federal charter. It may also indicate that others did give themselves individual names.

Custom of the time, as far as I can tell. Fifth is the highest bank ordinal I’ve ever seen. For churches other than Christian Science I never seen anything higher than Tenth Presbyterian (Philadelphia).

Here’s a page showing the history of New York bank name changes. They had a Sixth and Seventh National Bank, no Eighth, or Ninth. Perhaps the obsession with ‘number one-ness’ hadn’t taken the nation the way it has now. You can see in the history that some of these names didn’t last long, maybe a catchy name wasn’t the only thing they were lacking.

Back in the olden days when I was a teller and “Savings and Loans” and “Banks” were different entities, there were laws in place to keep them from stepping on each others turf. If a “Bank” was federally insured (FDIC) they had to have “National” in their name, if a “Savings and Loan” was federally insured (FSLIC) they had to have “Federal” in their name.

At that time your savings was insured up to a whopping $40,000. Customers who reached the max would spread their money across multiple Savings and Loans.

So that’s the distinction. Cool. Thanks for mentioning it.