John W. Pole served as comptroller of the currency from November 21, 1928, to September 20, 1932. Under the provisions of the original Federal Reserve Act, the comptroller was an ex-officio member of the Federal Reserve Board.
Pole was born in Kings Lynn, England. After serving as the assistant engineer for the City of Mansfield, Pole came to the United States in 1893. Upon his arrival, he engaged in the business of exporting lumber. Shortly after, Pole changed careers and focused on opportunities in the banking industry.
In 1915, Pole was appointed to the position of national bank examiner for the Fifth Federal Reserve District, encompassing the states of Virginia, West Virginia (except for the Eastern Panhandle), North Carolina, and South Carolina. In 1919, Pole was promoted to chief national bank examiner of the Fourth Federal Reserve District, where he oversaw banks in the states of Ohio, western Pennsylvania, and eastern Kentucky. He became the chief national bank examiner for the United States in 1923.
In 1928, President Calvin Coolidge nominated Pole to serve as comptroller of the currency. During his first year in the position, Pole witnessed the boom spurred by speculation in financial markets. In September 1929, stock prices began to decline from record-setting levels. On October 18, stock prices began falling drastically, and on October 24, 1929, panic set in. A record 12,894,650 shares were traded that day. Investment companies and banks attempted to stabilize the market by purchasing significant “blocks” of stock, producing a moderate rally the following day. On Monday, however, the markets went into free fall, and on Tuesday, October 29, 1929, the stock market crashed. More than sixteen million shares were traded at the day’s end.
In light of the events he monitored, Pole advocated allowing more liberal “branch making” in order to reduce the number of small, weak banks in the economy. This also served as an alternative to the rapid formulation of holding companies that were being organized at the time.
In 1933, Pole joined the Export Import Bank of Washington. In addition, he continued to serve as a special adviser to the Federal Reserve Board until 1934.
Pole died in 1958.
Written by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. See disclaimer.