Early Medium No one is sure when the first check was written or chiseled into a piece of wood or stone. Some experts think the Romans may have invented the check about 352 BC. But even if that were true, the idea apparently didnít catch on. Banks or bank-like institutions existed in ancient Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome, and probably transferred deposits from one account to another, but no documentary evidence of such transfers has survived.
Arrival of Cheques
The earliest evidence of deposits subject to "cheque" pertains to medieval Italy and Catalonia. In the primitive banks of deposits in those areas it was necessary for the depositor to appear in person before a banker either to withdraw funds or to transfer them to an account of another customer. The practice of using written instruments for those purposes gradually evolved.
Role of Cashiers
According to most history texts, it probably wasnít until the early 1500s, in Holland, that the first check got widespread usage. Amsterdam in the sixteenth century was a major international shipping and trading center. People who had accumulated cash began depositing it with Dutch "cashiers", for a fee, as a safer alternative to keeping the money at home. Eventually the cashiers agreed to pay their depositorsí debts out of the money in each account, based on the depositorís written order or "note" to do so (the beginning of account-based bill payment). The concept of writing and depositing checks as a method of arranging payments soon spread to England around 1780 and elsewhere, but not without resistance. Many people in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries still had doubts about trusting their hard-earned money to strangers and little pieces of paper that were easily forged or replicated.
In the United States, checks are said to have first been used in 1681 when cash-strapped businessmen in Boston mortgaged their land to a "fund", against which they could write checks. The first printed checks are traced to 1762 and British banker Lawrence Childs. The word "check" also may have originated in England in the 1700s when serial numbers were placed on these pieces of paper as a way to keep trace of, or "check" on, them.
Problems Then and Today
As checks became more widely accepted, bankers discovered they had a big problem, which still exists in todayís society: how to move these pieces of paper to collect the money due from so many other banks. At first, each bank sent messengers to the other banks to present checks for collection, but that meant a lot of travelling and a lot of cash being hauled around in less than secure conditions.
The solution to this problem was found in the 1700s, according to banking lore, at a British pub. The story goes that a London bank messenger stopped for a pint (or two) and noticed another bank messenger. They got to talking, realized that they each had checks drawn on the otherís bank, and decided to exchange them and save each other the extra trip. The practice evolved into a system of check "clearinghouses" Ė paper networks of banks that exchange checks with each other Ė that still is in use.
How beautiful it is to do nothing and rest afterwards...........