The Imperial Bank of Germany, or Reichsbank, was organized in 1875 on the foundations of the old Bank of Prussia established one hundred years earlier. The Bank of Prussia was originally a state institution though there were private stockholders. The establishment of the Imperial Bank was a part of Bismarck's plan to bring order out of the financial confusion that had existed in the German states before the unification of the empire. In 1873 the gold standard was adopted and a new currency system was established with the mark as the unit of value instead of the thaler. The establishment of the bank and other monetary reforms were made possible by the $1,000,000,000 war indemnity which Germany received from France.

In 1875, the German Government purchased the Prussian government's interest in the old Bank of Prussia, raised the capital from 20,000,000 thalers to 120,000,000 marks and sold the entire stock to private interests. It thus became a private institution in ownership, but it was kept under government control and regulation. The present capital of the Reichsbank is 180,000,000 marks ($45,-000,000), and it has about 100 branches and over 400 agencies scattered throughout the empire. The governing board, called the Curatorium, consists of the Chancellor of the Empire, who is president, and four directors, one of whom is appointed by the Emperor and the rest by the Federal Council or Bundesrath. The stockholders elect annually a commission of fifteen members, known as the Central Ausschuss, whose main duty is to help the managers of the bank with expert advice. They are authorized to attend all meetings of the directorate and to examine the books of the bank. The active administration of the bank's affairs is largely in the hands of the Directorium, consisting of nine persons appointed by the Emperor for life from a list of candidates recommended by the Bundesrath.