The latest addition to the permanent exhibition of the Swiss Finance Museum is the security of the "Compagnie des Indes orientales" from 1665. It will be purchased in 2021 in an auction of a private dealer.
The French maritime trading company, in German also called the French East India Company, trades on the one hand with luxury goods from India, as you can read in our blog. On the other hand, she herself is also involved in the slave trade. From 1720 to 1750, the Compagnie des Indes orientales transported 42,467 slaves to the Americas. One of Zurich's most prominent banks, Bank Leu & Co., has been investing in the Compagnie des Indes orientales since its foundation in 1755 until 1798.
Aktiengesellschaft Leu & Co. in Zürich
In 1755, Bank Leu & Co is founded as a state bank of the Zurich city state. Its aim is to lend the citizens’ money out to borrowers abroad. The bank is named after its first president; Zurich’s mayor Johann Jacob Leu.
A share of Bank Leu & Co. from 1937 is exhibited in the current special exhibition "Banks in transition: from counters to apps".
The Bank Leu and the slave trade
In 1755, Bank Leu & Co. still belonged to half of the city of Zurich as an interest commission. The aim is to lend citizens' money abroad. Another of Bank Leu's holdings - beside the Companie des Indes - is its lending to Denmark in the second half of the 19th century. With this financial support, Denmark is able to visit the islands of St. John, St.Croix and St. Thomas. The latter develops into a prominent slave transshipment point. Not only governments, but also private Swiss merchantswith plantations on St. Croix, for example, the Bank & Leu issues loans.