The State Bank of North Borneo

Many early letters to North Borneo are addressed to the State Bank of North Borneo either to Sandakan or Jesselton. However, very little is known about this entity and references about it is even scarcer than the surviving letters that do exist.

State bank
A gate written TREASURY AND STATE BANK. Located between the current Standard Chartered Bank and Hong Kong Bank.

Collectors of North Borneo postal history would notice covers addressed to the State Bank of North Borneo either to its headquarter in Sandakan or its branch in Jesselton.

An article about the North Borneo Bank appeared in The Straits Times dated 30th March 1921 (Source: Online archive), the State Bank of North Borneo opened its door on the 15th of March 1921. The report reads:

“On March 15, the State Bank opened its doors for business, which will be conducted on lines similar to those adopted by other bankers, says the B.N.B Herald. Branches have been established in Sandakan (head office) and in Jesselton in temporary premises, the former at the Treasury and the latter in the building recently occupied by the Postal Authorities. The Sandakan Branch will be under the management of Mr. C. M. Stanhope (late of Barclays, the Anglo South American Bank), Mr. S. W. Matthews (late Belfast Banking Co.) will act as cashier. The Jesselton branch will be managed by Mr. W. H. Mann (also late of Barclays Bank) who will also be assisted by an experienced cashier, further additions to the staff are being arranged for and it is hoped these gentlemen will shortly take up their duties in North Borneo. Plans have been approved of new and attractive bank buildings on convenient sites for both Sandakan and Jesselton, and these will be erected as soon as the necessary materials are available.”

The establishment of the bank after 40 years of the company’s rule was considered late, given the fact that it had been administering North Borneo since 1881. Prior to the establishment of the bank, the Treasury Department was responsible in issuing the bank notes and coinage of North Borneo. Similar to the early North Borneo stamps, the bank notes were printed by the Blades, East and Blades, Limited London.

The currency of North Borneo adopted the Straits Settlements Currency of the dollar being fixed at two shillings and four pence. By end of 1925, the Bank’s assets was reported to be around $1.26 million.

Covers addressed to The State Bank of North Borneo

State bank of north borneo 2
Registered cover from the Straits Settlements to the Sandakan headquarter
state bank of north borneo
A letter from Uneme Kubota, owner of the Kubota coconut estate in Tawau (Source: North Borneo Philately)
State bank of north borneo
A cover from the Bank of India, Australia & China Chartered, Singapore.

state bank of north borneo

State bank of north borneo

Further Reading: Sejarah Perbankan Borneo Utara (1921-1941) by Jovinia Omar (Master thesis dissertation available online)

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