Orra Monnette

A New Investment

In 1906, Mervin Monnette struck a significant gold vein in the previously thought tapped out Mohawk Mine, Tonopah, Nevada (near Goldfield, Nevada).

The strike, known as the Monnette-Hayes Lease, with mining expert G. H. Hayes, set records for the value of the ore shipped in 1906.

Eventually, Mervin Monnette realized a $5,000,000 profit on the Mohawk lease. This would be almost $145,000,000 in 2021 dollar values. 

Mervin then he assigned his son, Orra, this money for investment. 

That is when Orra Monnette reverted back to the banking business.

Mervin Jeremiah Monnette
Mervin Jeremiah Monnette
Los Angeles 1905
Panoramic view of Los Angeles from the Lankershim Hotel, showing, 7th Street, Broadway, and Spring Street, ca.1905-1907

After his father’s five-million dollar windfall from the Goldfield, Nevada mine, Orra decided to live closer to the scene of active mining operations.

So, Orra again changed locations in April 1907 moving from Toledo, Ohio, and relocated to Los Angeles, California.

April, 1907

Toledo, OH

April, 1907

Los Angeles, CA

Initially moving to Los Angeles, Orra Monnette was a large stockholder and director in the Citizens National Bank of the City of Los Angeles.  He was also connected with various business enterprises. He was also member of the Union League, Los Angeles Country, and Johnathan Clubs, of that city and a thirty-second degree Scottish Rite Mason and a Shriner.

By 1912 Orra’s mother, Olive, died.  His father, Mervin, remarried two more times before his death.

With his father’s mining proceeds, Orra Monnette began purchasing stock in Los Angeles area banks.

Eventually, this led to a controlling interest in the American National Bank of Los Angeles (ANB). In 1909, ANB was merged into Citizens Trust and Savings Bank of Los Angeles.

In 1911, Monnette purchased the Broadway Bank and Trust Company, which when merged with the family’s other holdings formed the Citizens Bank and Trust Company, of which Orra E. Monnette was Chairman of the Board. Monnette left Citizens in 1922.

Residence of Mervin’ Jeremiah Monnette, 911 Western Avenue, Los Angeles, California

Mervin’s third wife,  Ethel was 20 year his junior. 

Despite her much younger age, Ethel preceded Mervin in death.  Due to a glitch in the will, there was bizarre legal case that went all all the way to the California Supreme Court.  In essence Mervin had to sue for the right to retain his Los Angeles residence from his brother-in-law who was named in the will to receive the Los Angeles mansion upon his sister death.

Bank of America

Orra’s next venture, in 1923, was christened Bank of America, Los Angeles (BoA).  It opened at the corner of Wilshire and Western Avenues in Los Angeles, with the bank posting an operating capital of one million dollars. Monnette’s intention was to build capital for national expansion.

Amadeo Giannini
Amadeo Giannini

However, over the course of the 1920s, Bank of Italy’s Amadeo Giannini began buying stock in BoA, L.A. In 1928, Monnette and Giannini, agreed that a merger of both entities under the Bank of America name promised the best opportunity for all concerned.

As part of the deal, Orra Monnette sold his rights to the “Foundation Story” of the combined entity.

Monnette was growing concerned about the stock and financial markets. The formal name was changed to Bank of America National Trust and Savings Bank.

Upon finalizing the merger, Giannini and Monnette both agreed that the name, Bank of America, idealized the broader mission of the new bank.

By 1929, the bank had over 400 banking offices in California. The new institution continued under Giannini’s chairmanship until his retirement in 1945.  Monnette retained his Board seat and officer’s position.

Furthermore, as a condition of the merger, Monnette was paid for handing Giannini the "Foundation Story" rights to the bank, a decision that Monnette later came to regret.

Prior to Monnette’s creation of the Bank of America Los Angeles network, most banks were limited to a single city or region. Monnette was the first to create a system of centralized processing, bookkeeping and cash delivery. By diversifying the scope of community that the Bank of America served following its merger, the institution was better prepared to ride out minor, local economic issues.

Initially, Monnette was named Co-chairman of the new BoA and made a Director of the bank. During the early 1930s, with his interests elsewhere, Monnette was then made a Vice President in the bank and retained his Board seat.

Monnette also founded the Lincoln Mortgage Company of California, which was not included in the BoA merger. Monnette retained control of this company and continued to serve as its President until his death.

Los Angeles Public Library

Orra became the chairman of the Los Angeles Public Library and founder of its public library branch system.

In 1914, Monnette was appointed to the Los Angeles Public Library Board, and reappointed every five years until his death in 1936. Monnette was elected President of the Library Board in 1916, [3] and retained that office until his death as well.

During the twenty-three years of his tenure, Monnette championed three major library bond packages which were supported by the citizens of Los Angeles. The bond packages allowed the city to build forty-eight (48) branches throughout the Los Angeles area as well as the landmark art deco Central Library in Downtown Los Angeles.

Bronze plaque, dedicated to Orra E. Monnette, President of the Los Angeles Public Library system from 1915 to 1936. The plaque is on display in the Los Angeles Central Library rotunda and replaces an earlier bronze bust of Monnette lost in the Central Library fire.

Throughout Bank of America’ early history, Giannini helped nurture the motion picture and wine industries in California. He loaned Walt Disney the funds to produce Snow White, the first full-length, animated motion picture to be made in the US. During the Great Depression, he bought the bonds that financed the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge. During World War II, he bankrolled industrialist Henry Kaiser and his enterprises supporting the war effort. After the war, he visited Italy and arranged for loans to help rebuild the war-torn Fiat factories. Giannini also provided capital to William Hewlett and David Packard to help form Hewlett-Packard.

Monnette family crest
Monnette family crest

You will notice all kinds of spellings of the Monnette name throughout  this site.  That’ because various members of Orra’s extended family, spelled the name, in a variety of ways.

Orra Monnette was always an avid reader and student of history and genealogy.  His family crest is to the right.

Until his death, he served as a member of the New England Historic, the California Genealogical Societies, Maryland and New Jersey Historical Societies, Old Northwest Genealogical Society, and the Huguenot Society of America.

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