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First of all, this is not the complete history of credit unions. But, if you’re ever on a quiz show, what you learn here should help you answer correctly almost any question that falls in the category of “credit unions.”


1850 – Herman Schultz-Delitzsch organizes the first farmers’ cooperatives and “people’s bank” in Germany for people who had been forced to pay usurious rates. (The citizens were also enduring crop failures and famine.)

1859 – 183 credit societies with 18,000 members have formed in Germany.

1864 – Fredrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen starts the first credit union in Germany.

1870 – Credit unions’ Guiding Principles were established:

  • Only people who were credit union members should borrow there.
  • Loans would be made for “prudent and productive” purposes.
  • A person’s desire to repay (character) would be considered as important as the ability (income) to repay.


1901 – Alphonse Desjardins starts the first credit unions (La Caisse Populaire de Levis) in North America and Canada.

1907 – Edward A. Filene, a Boston merchant, discovers credit unions in a village in India and brings the concept to North America.

1909 – First credit union chartered in the U.S., named the La Caisse Populaire Saint Marie, known as the St. Mary’s Bank in Manchester, New Hampshire.

1934 – Federal Credit Union Act was signed into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 26 for the purpose of providing credit for “provident and productive purposes.”

1935 – The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) was formed.

1937 – CUNA Mutual Insurance Society is formed (now known as CUNA Mutual Group).

1938 – Congress passes federal tax exemption for credit unions.

1968 – Federal and state chartered credit unions’ policy of “Once a member, always a member” goes into effect.

1969 – The number of U.S. credit unions peaks at 23,876.

1970 – World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) is established.
Congress creates the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and the National Share Insurance Fund to insure deposits.

1975 – Share drafts (checks) were made available to the nation (when legislation gave credit unions the authority to expand services.)

1991 – Operation Grassroots rally takes place in Washington, D.C.

1997 – “Credit Union Membership Access Act,” HR 1151, is introduced to Congress.

1999 – Congress and House pass the “Credit Union Membership Access Act,” HR 1151.


2002 – 100 million members is 85 countries are being served by 38,000 credit unions.

For current statistics regarding federally insured credit unions, visit the NCUA Web site.

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