There was the occasionally belief on behalf of the public that banks would not be able to, or outright refuse to honor their banknotes. This fear, if held by enough of a community, could lead to a run on the banks. In a single day, demands for exchange of banknotes for gold and silver would be made by a majority of the people if there was doubt concerning the ability of a bank to redeem its notes. This problem would be compounded when this fear spread to other banks. Runs on a single bank would escalate and spread from one bank to another causing financial panic (http://www.dallasfed.org).
Another problem prior to the establishment of the Federal Reserve System was the inelasticity of bank credit and the supply of money. Small banks placed their excess reserves in large central reserve banks. Whenever a bank's depositors wanted their funds, the smaller banks would be covered by the central banks. The system worked well during normal conditions. Some banks would draw down on their reserves as other banks would be building up their reserves. In times of excessive demand, however, the problem became quite serious. When the public wanted large amounts of currency, the
demand for funds quickly became powerful and widespread. During these periods of high demand, banks from across the nation called on the central banks to supply the funds (Federal Reserve System 5th ed pp. 10-11).
At the time, there were not adequate facilities available to meet the demand... [continues]
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