To provide direction and stability to the economy, Congress created the nation's largest lending agency in 1816, the Second Bank of the United States. Branch banks were established around the country, two of them in Ohio-Chillicothe and Cincinnati. The Chillicothe branch was located in a building on this site. The presence of these branches adversely affected the ability of state chartered and independent banks, which had long printed and lent their own money without the backing of species. When the Secretary of Treasury forced the state chartered and independent banks to redeem their notes in specie, at a time when a sharp recession hit the nation in 1819, a wave of protest arose from those connected with those banks. In February 1819, Ohio's General Assembly levied a tax of $50,000 on each of the two branch banks, and bank officers were given until September 1 to comply with the law.
The state's new bank tax was to be collected by state auditor Ralph Osborn. If payment was refused, Osborn was authorized to search the bank under what has been termed the "crowbar law" and to seize sufficient money to pay the tax. Osborn hired John Harper to collect the tax in Chillicothe, and on September 17, 1819, with help from Chillicotheans Thomas Orr and James McCollister, Harper asked bank officials to comply. When they refused, the three men forced their way into the vault and carried off assets of more than $100,000. Ohio's bank tax, which involved the issue of state versus federal government rights was fought over until the Supreme Court, in the case Osborn v. Bank of the United States, decided in favor of the federal government. The 1824 landmark decision, which struck down Ohio's law, was significant as the nation moved further toward recognizing the power of the federal government.