National City Bank of New York | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

National City Bank of New York

A large number of Forman's photos were taken near here, either inside or just outside the bank. [View photos]

The gorup taken inside show a group of American women signing various documents at the bank's counter. The mood among the group is light-hearted, you can see they are enjoying their moment of fame in front of Forman's camera. But there's another, sadder tale unfolding at the same time the photos were taken.

Moddsey relates the story:

I had a feeling I had seen this photo before as there is an interesting tale to it. It was taken on 30 October 1940 at the National City Bank of New York in Central.


The ladies from left to right are: Mrs F. K. Pagett, Mrs L. Cramer, Mrs W. C. Kent, Mrs J. Parrish and Mrs Maxcy Smith Jr.

The lady in the middle is Mrs Walter Campbell Kent. Her husband was a CNAC pilot who perished the same day this photo was taken. His plane enroute to Hong Kong from Chongqing (Chungking) was shot down by Japanese aircraft. A newspaper clipping is attached.

As for the other ladies, the Pagett and Parrish families and 70 other Americans left on the American President Liner President Coolidge on 5 November 1940.

The other photos in this group were taken outside. The event seems to be a western man, his wife and daughter saying farewell to a group of chinese men. Maybe he was an official of the bank, or a well-known customer, saying goodbye to the staff of the bank?

The lady in the black & white shoes also makes an appearance in a couple of the outdoor photos, together with a couple of sailors. It's not clear what the relationship between the lady and the family was, or indeed if there was any relationship at all. We think the sailors were with the American President Line.

As to the bank, it's still in Hong Kong, but easier to recognise if I tell you it's current name: Citibank. Their website tells us they first opened in Hong Kong on December 8, 1902, under the name International Banking Corporation. All branches became National City Bank branches in 1927.

Moddsey again, with the building's location: The National City Bank of New York, forerunner to Citi Bank stood on Queen's Rd Central between Ice House and Duddell Streets. Battery Path can be seen in the background.


The people in the outdoor photos may have been linked to the US consulate, rather than the bank.

The HK Daily Press had an article on 20 Jul 1931 about the opening of the new National City Bank building. It ends: The upper storeys of the new building are occupied by Messrs. Wilkinson & Grist and the American Consulate.

(Wilkinson & Grist is a law firm, that still has its office in Hong Kong today.)

I am a former partner of Wilkinson & Grist and now a consultant. I am preparing a short history of the firm which was established in Hong Kong in 1883. I have checked with our oldest contacts who were with the firm in the 1960s but I am not able to ascertain when we moved from the office at First National City Bank, at the junction of Queen's Road Central and Ice House Street to the old Wheelock House (Jardine House). It must have been in the late 1950s - 60s. Does anyone know? It could be when the old FNCB Building was knocked down. We continue our close relationship with Citibank to this day but I have reviewed Citigroup's book " Citibank - A century in Asia" but it does not give any dates of the redevelopment of the Queen's Road site in the 1950s. Kind regards, John Budge

Unfortunately I'm not sure when the site was re-developed. Can anyone else help?

Any chance you have access to any old files of correspondence that go back that far? They'd show the office address, so you could dip in at say 5-year intervals to see when it changes, than narrow it down from there.

Regards, David

Dear David,

Thank you for your reply.

We have some old files and on speaking to old partners in the past I have narrowed down the move to between 1956 and 1964. I am continuing my research. Sadly the person who would have known, passed away last year.



Hi John,

Not sure if this helps, or just muddies the water, but I searched online and found a couple of mentions in directories.

This one from 1968 has the company at First National:

Then this one from 1969 has it at Jardine House on Pedder Street:

Regards, David