Exchange Bank occupies a prominent place in Sonoma County’s history, continuing a proud tradition of serving its customers and the community at large since its founding in 1890 by Manville Doyle and his son Frank Doyle.
Today this locally owned and managed bank has 17 retail branches throughout Sonoma County; a commercial branch in Roseville and a small museum located on the third floor of the Santa Rosa main branch on Fourth Street.
The museum, established in 1981, houses a collection of artifacts focusing primarily on the history of the main branch, Frank P. Doyle’s role as the “father of the Golden Gate Bridge,” and features an eclectic assortment of early bank memorabilia. The museum houses only a small portion of the bank’s archives, which were stored in file cabinets maintained by the bank’s marketing department and in less than optimal ways from an access and preservation standpoint. That’s no longer the case.
In July 2021, I was hired to complete an inventory of the bank’s archive and rehouse hundreds of photographs and negatives, scrapbooks, ledgers, correspondence, ephemera, ledgers, audiovisual materials, newsletters, and annual newsletters reports, artwork; and more. I completed the project at the end of October. The consolidated collection contains 92 boxes of varying sizes measuring over 80 linear feet and is stored in a secure and environmentally controlled location.
By creating a new physical arrangement and inventory, staff members now have improved access to materials that can be used for marketing and customer relations and provide critical evidence when trying to resolve legal disputes.
The Exchange Bank Archives also has plenty to offer to those researching various topics. For example, one of many interesting discoveries I made while working with the archives was learning about the bank’s appreciation and support for art and artists.
In May 1969, the bank donated $6,000 to Santa Rosa’s Civic Art Commission to pay for a sculpture created by artist Melvin Schuler. The gift was given in memory of Charles W. Reinking, a longtime bank president who died in March of that year. The sculpture remains on display at the City of Santa Rosa Council Chambers.
After original architectural plans of Jack London’s Wolf House were found in the Sonoma County Recorder’s Office in 1979, Exchange Bank commissioned artist William R. Johnston to create a drawing of the house based on the blueprints along with other Sonoma Valley landmarks that were put on display during the grand opening of the bank’s Sonoma branch. Four prints from Johnston’s Sonoma County Sketchbook Tour Map, a historical guide to the county produced in cooperation with the Sonoma County Historical Society, were given away during the opening celebration by the bank.
In 1982, Exchange Bank provided funds to Luther Burbank Museum (known today as the Luther Burbank Home & Gardens) to frame and reproduce artist Charles Bradford Hudson’s original 1909 paintings of fruit developed by Burbank. The restored paintings were hung in the museum, and reprints were sold in its gift shop.
Exchange Bank’s Santa Rosa main branch is home to many pieces of art that are documented in a brochure which also details the bank’s thoughts on its collection as “tangible proof that there is a philanthropic, community-conscious side to bankers.”
For those intrigued by Sonoma County’s mid 20thcentury architecture, photographs of some of the bank’s branches, such as the Roseland branch, renamed the Dutton Branch after Warren G. Dutton in 1987, designed by local architect C.A. Caulkins in 1949, will be of interest. When the branch opened in the summer of 1950, it was the first in the county to offer drive-up service.
Information about individuals, businesses, and organizations is found throughout the archives – some easily identified, some hidden within documents. For example, in an account ledger, I noted that the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union was a customer of Exchange Bank between 1916 and 1919.
No matter the topic, if it pertains to Sonoma County history, there is likely something within the Exchange Bank Archives that relates. If you have questions about the collection, contact Exchange Bank Marketing Services Manager Carolyn Cole-Schweizer at Carolyn.ColeSchweizer@exchangebank.com.
In the meantime, you can expect to see highlights from the collection posted to Exchange Bank’s social media sites.
A version of this article appeared in the Spring edition of the 2022 Sonoma Historian
 Warren G. Dutton celebrated his 50th anniversary with bank in May 1987. He was hired as an assistant to the bank appraiser in 1937. He was named to the board of directors in in 1948 and elected vice chairman in 1974.