Sunday, July 23, 2017


Karaköy. Beyoğlu - Istanbul - Turkey

GPS : 41°01'26.1"N 28°58'24.7"E / 41.023927, 28.973525

Ottoman Bank Museum photo ottoman_museum124.jpg


The Ottoman Bank Museum, located in the former head office of the Ottoman Bank on Voyvoda Street, operates under the aegis of the Garanti Bank sponsored Ottoman Bank Archive and Research Center. The museum, organized in and around the bank's safe room, draws on a wealth of information from the bank's archive to narrate the history of this institution, which operated as the central bank, bank of issue, and treasurer of the Ottoman Empire.

Apart from the history of the institution itself, the objects and documents displayed in the museum aim to provide a series of insights into the fascinating world of the late Ottoman and early Republican period. Based on a combination of chronological and thematic approaches, the museum thus examines the main phases of the evolution of the bank, while at the same time offering glimpses into the social, economic, and political environment of the time through bank branches, customer files, market operations and personnel profiles.

The museum script starts with the establishment of the bank in 1856 and its promotion to a state bank status in 1863. Following the hardships of the 1870s, the narrative analyzes the rapid growth of the institution from the 1880s on, up to its apex on the eve of World War I. From this point on, the exhibit shifts to a thematic approach, concentrating on documents reflecting the social, political, and economic environment in which the bank operated.

Commercial transactions, stock exchange operations, a widening network of branches, various categories of customers, profiles of prominent or atypical clients, staff photographs and files are thus used to revive the 'human' conditions that characterized the troubled world of the end of the nineteenth and first decades of the twentieth centuries. Returning to a chronological flow, the exhibit then moves on to the difficulties experienced during the Great War, the first contacts established with the Kemalist government on Ankara, and to the process of adaptation to the new balance of power emerging with the establishment of the Republic.

The safe rooms located at the center of the main exhibit hall are used to display a number of archival series similar to the documents displayed in the historical narrative. Each of the four intertwined safe rooms constituting a 'steel fort'-as its constructor Samuel Chatwood named it-is thus devoted to a particular type of documents: accounting books and stocks and bonds in one safe room, customer files and deposit cards in another, personnel files and photographs in the third.

As to the fourth and largest two-storied safe room-named the Mecidiye safe room, after the silver coins that were stored here-it is entirely devoted to the role of the Ottoman Bank as a bank of issue, displaying Tahsin İsbiroğlu's unique collection of banknotes issued by this institution, as well as proofs, specimens, numbering books and other documents relating to this aspect of the bank's operations.

The computer screens at the end of the main exhibit hall offer visitors the possibility of making their own interactive visit into the material displayed in the museum. Again based on alternative thematic and chronological flows, this virtual tour of the archives displays the major trends and events in the bank's history, and provides detailed information on the political, economic, and social context of the time, down to individual careers and life stories. Each case is illustrated by a number of photographs and documents, all of them translated both into modern Turkish and English.

Almost all of the documents displayed in the museum originate from the bank's archives, the richest private archival source in Turkey. Additional documents-especially photographs-have been obtained from private collections and other sources in order to provide a livelier illustration of the bank's own documentation. The result is a series of snapshots from a century ago which, beyond the history of the bank itself, can be read as a narrative of the fascinating period of late Ottoman and Republican history. The Ottoman Bank Museum aims to be more than just a museum of banking and to provide awareness of a much wider context of social history.

Founded in March 1997 by the Ottoman Bank, in collaboration with the History Foundation (Tarih Vakfı), the Ottoman Bank Archives and Research Centre has been pursuing its activities in the former head office of the Ottoman Bank in Karaköy, since the end of 1999. Apart from its core endeavor, the classification of the Ottoman Bank archives, the centre has undertaken a number of projects up to now, including research related to oral history, publications, exhibitions, a documentary, a colloquium and a competition.

The Ottoman Bank (Turkish: Osmanlı Bankası) (formerly Imperial Ottoman Bank, Ottoman Turkish: Bank-ı Osmani-i Şahane) was founded in 1856 in the Galata business section of İstanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, as a joint venture between British interests, the Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas of France, and the Ottoman government. It operated as the Imperial Ottoman Bank from 1863 to 1924. Privileged as a state bank, it carried out the functions of a central bank.

In 2001, the Ottoman Bank became part of the Garanti Bank and now, the building is house to SALT Galata and has been organized to enable a challenging, multi-layered program that includes SALT Research, which offers public access to thousands of print and digital resources; a 219-capacity Auditorium; the renovated Ottoman Bank Museum; Workshop spaces; an Open Archive where archival research projects are interpreted and discussed; a temporary exhibition space; as well as a Café, Restaurant and Bookstore.

A monumental building which has lost its original form long ago within the urban texture of Galata, although it has been known as the Ottoman Bank for a time period over a century, perceived to be a single building, actually has been designed as the headquarters of two different institutions. Ottoman Empire Tobacco Regime Company and the Ottoman Bank.

In late 1880s, part of a large lot on Voyvoda Street purchased by Tobacco Regime was transferred to the Bank. The famed Levantine architect of the period, Alexandre Vallaury, was given the task of designing a contemporary grandiose structure. The design dilemma in construction displays radical differences as if two different architects designed two totally different buildings at different times looking at the façades on Voyvoda Street and the Golden Horn.

The Voyvoda Street façade has been designed with dimensions ordered in proportion and construction patterns in line with the classical or neo-classical architectural design rules. The design of Vallaury reflects the uniformity of the 19th century banks which have become a trend at the time.

The broad eave supported by long iron rods on the side façades (non-existent today) is the dominant element of the Golden Horn façade, too. On this façade, the eave turns the corners, is cut off in the middles and is equipped with other elements introducing an exceptional movement to the above floors. Vallaury, with the concern of relatively mitigating the predominance of a giant mass within the urban mosaic of Galata where still large and small wooden buildings were prominent those years, has scattered details reminiscent of traditional homes on the upper floor. There are three small kiosks in the building; one of them in the middle, two at the corners.

These two buildings used by the Ottoman Bank and the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey are the two best-documented buildings located on voyvoda
Street in İstanbul. The Project was entrusted to the architect, Alexandre vallaury, and construction of the twin buildings was completed by 1892. Today, it is the bank's Karaköy branch and hosts the Ottoman Bank Banking and fınancial History Research and Documentation Ccntre.

The neighboring twin building of the Tobacco Regie Administration was the headquarters of the Regie until June of 1925, when all Regie propcrty, including its head Office, was seized by the government of the Republic of Turkey. The building was then transferred to the newly established State Tobacco Monoply, and in 1933, to the State Monopolies. It was purchased from the State Monopolies by the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey in 1934, and has served as the İstanbul branch of the Central Bank ever since.

One of the most striking characteristics of these buildings is that their façade facing Beyoğlu-Pera is in the neoclassical style, while their rear façade, facing the Golden Horrn and old İstanbul shows orientalist elements. Vallaury was us ing architectural language to express the East-West dualism of these two institutions.

The site, conceived for twin buildings functionning with the Turkish Tobacco Monopoly, was bought in 1889 by the last-mentioned company. Two months later, the General Directorate of the Imperial Ottoman Bank, obtaining its share in the site, decided the construction of a new building, intended for its own use, and which would serve as head office. The General Manager of the Bank, Sir Edgar Vincent, writing on 7th February 1890 a letter to Thédore Berger, member of Paris Committee, suggested him to buy the half of the site for the construction of a new branch. On 13th February 1890, the approval of the Paris and London Committees was received.

French Levantine architect Alexandre Vallaury designed the original building to house the Ottoman Bank as inaugurated in 1892. The building is a landmark unique to İstanbul with surprisingly distinct architectural styles - neoclassical and oriental - applied on opposite facades. With this building, Vallaury has proven how important a design issue the diligence is to be exercised on the single building scale and aesthetics in maintaining the urban identity.

The building, constructed by the Architect Alexandre Vallauri, was composed, in the basement by vaults, stock rooms and stables; In the level under the ground floor, by the Mecidiye safe-room, so called because of coins of 20 piasters worth, which they contain at that time and by dining-hall; on the ground floor by the space reserved to the branch; on the first floor, apart from the private and professional offices of the General Manager, by the offices of his secretary and that of the translators; on the second floor, by the accounting department with the offices of the chief accountant, the state commissioner and the inspectors; in the attic, by the victuals department, archives and housekeepers' rooms.

The most interesting characteristic of the building is the difference of architectural style remarkable in its back and front façades. The neo-classical and neo-renaissance features of the front façade, looking out onto the Banks Street, reflect the glory and the dignity of European banks at the time. The back façade, looking out onto the old Istanbul beyond the Golden Horn, is notable for its nearly orientalist characteristics. This difference among the two façades seems to symbolize in fact the status of the Bank between East and West. A similitude is remarkable in the inscriptions located face to face at the entrance of the Bank. The one in Latin emphasizes the importance of the friendship while the other in Arabic exalts the fortune.

At the time of its establishment in 1856, the Ottoman Bank was a modest, private British bank trying to find a niche in the still underdeveloped Ottoman financial market. Unable to open more than a handful of branches in the competitive scene of local bankers and moneychangers, the Ottoman Bank, still managed to expand its activity by engaging in a number of financial operations and loans undertaken by the Ottoman state.

Following a disastrous experiment with paper money, the Ottoman government sought the establishment of a bank of issue, which was finalized in 1862, with the Ottoman Bank outrunning all of its rivals in obtaining this privilege. Strengthened by the addition of French capital, the Ottoman Bank became the Imperial Ottoman Bank, marking the beginning of a durable and successful career as a state bank. However, the effort of issuing banknotes, organizing foreign loans and making advance payments to the government delayed the bank’s plans of developing its commercial functions.

The Foundation of the Ottoman Bank 1856
In 1855, two British entrepreneurs, Stephen Sleigh and Peter Pasquali, conceived a plan to establish an "Ottoman Bank". The following year, the bank received its royal charter from Queen Victoria and started its operations in Istanbul. In a modest way, the new bank partly responded to the wishes expressed by Sultan Abdülmecid in the 1856 Reform Edict - which supported the Tanzimat reform movement - by playing an increasing role in the financing of the state. By 1862, the Ottoman Bank had doubled its capital, and clearly led the race among groups competing for the status of a state bank.

The Withdrawal of Kaimes
One of the main obstacles that stood in the way of financial stability in the empire was the issue of kaimes (non-backed paper currency), adopted by the government to finance budget deficits. Although, this paper money had been issued with the promise of maintaining its parity with gold, it rapidly depreciated, driving gold and silver away from the market, while causing enormous losses to its bearers.

Consequently, a withdrawal of kaimes begun in 1862. They were redeemed in exchange of 40% cash and 60% treasury bonds, thus bringing some stability to the financial market. Behind this success stood the French financial expert, Marquis de Plœuc, but also the Ottoman Bank, which had secured a loan from London, in the amount of £8,000,000, in order to finance the withdrawal operation.

The Foundation of the Imperial Ottoman Bank
After the accession of Sultan Abdülaziz to the throne in 1861, efforts towards the creation of an Ottoman state bank gained momentum. A large number of local and foreign groups and individuals eagerly sought to obtain this concession, but the Ottoman government had a marked preference for the Ottoman Bank, whose services it had appreciated for the past six years. The only concern of the leading statesman of the time, Fuad Pasha, was to avoid surrendering this crucial concession to British capital alone. The government, thus, imposed the accretion of French capital. The result of this compromise was the creation of the Imperial Ottoman Bank, whose operations began in June 1863.

The First Ottoman Bank Banknotes
Immediately after its establishment in 1863, the Ottoman Bank decided to make use of the privilege of issue it had been granted by articles nine and twelve of its act of concession. Contrary to the kaimes, which had a disruptive effect on the monetary system of the Empire, the banknotes issued by the Ottoman Bank were convertible to gold and could be presented at any moment for redemption.

Therefore, the bank was bound to keep a gold reserve equal to at least one-third of its total issue. The first designs for the bank's first 200-piastre banknote were realized in June 1863, and the first banknotes were effectively issued in three days beginning on 16 November. This first issue was very modest and totaled a mere 14,996 banknotes representing the sum of 29,992 liras. Between 1864 and 1869, another 33,000 banknotes (66,000 liras) were issued in Izmir.

Two-and Five-Lira Banknotes
On 7 May 1868, the Ottoman Bank withdrew all 200-piastre banknotes it had issued in Istanbul, and introduced 10,000 new five-lira banknotes amounting to 50,000 liras. This banknote had in fact been designed much earlier and proofs had already been printed in various colors. The new banknote was well received by the public, and encouraged by this success, the bank issued another 30,000 banknotes (150,000 liras) in the following year. Another banknote had also been issued in that same year, with a design identical to that of the five-lira note, but with a value of two liras. The bank's total issue rose to over 300,000 liras with this last issue of 20,000 two-lira notes.


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