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Harland Clarke:
Combining the Best of the Best

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Expanded Timeline


The concept of check payments takes hold in Holland and eventually spreads to England and beyond.


First printed checks traced to a British banker.


First U.S. bank, the Bank of North America, is chartered in Philadelphia.


Poor regulation of state-chartered bank notes leads to widespread counterfeiting and bank failures. Demand grows for risk-free national currency.


President Lincoln signs the National Bank Act, forming a system of national banks and a government agency run by the Comptroller of the Currency.


Robert Clarke and Samuel Maverick form the Maverick-Clarke Lithograph Company in San Antonio, and eventually expand to sell office supplies and stationery in retail locations.


The Federal Reserve System (the Fed) is created as the nation’s central bank, to provide a more stable monetary system.


Checks Express established to print direct-to-consumer checks. In 1989 it becomes Checks in the Mail, acquired by Clarke American soon after.


John Harland, an Irish immigrant, founds the John H. Harland Company, a general printer and office supplier in Atlanta.

The 30s

The 1929 Stock Market Crash sets the stage for the Great Depression, leading to thousands of bank failures. The Glass-Steagall Act and the Banking Act, which includes creating the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), help quell the banking crisis. President Franklin D. Roosevelt declares bank holiday, limiting the money supply, which launches Harland into check printing.


Harland is commissioned to print 3 million pieces of emergency script in one week by Atlanta Clearing House Banks.


Harland begins its check printing operations.
Maverick-Clarke opens its first branch store in Corpus Christi.

The ‘40s

The end of World War II brings on a long period of postwar business growth and prosperity.


Harland opens its first branch production facility in Orlando. Sales top $1 million.


Clarke Printing Company is formed to handle printing and litho operations.

The ‘50s

Harland opens 3 additional production facilities. Maverick-Clarke opens a store in Austin and expands Clarke Printing into a new building. Both are pioneers in cutting edge MICR (magnetic ink character recognition) technology, created at Stanford to enable computerized tracking of checking transactions. Cash and checks are the most popular forms of payment.


The first charge card, Diners Club, is introduced.


Bank of America issues BankAmericard (now VISA), the first bank credit card. American Express issues its first charge card.


Harland opens 5 additional production facilities.


Clarke Printing separates its operations from Maverick-Clarke.


Barclay’s in London is the first bank to install an ATM.


Harland becomes first check printer to offer scenic checks and becomes a publicly traded company.


First ATM installed in the U.S. in Rockville Center, NY

The ‘70s

Harland and Clarke Printing ramp up check printing capacity, allowing them to better serve the increasingly consolidated financial industry. The check is now the primary payment tool, and credit card use grows. Concerns over a projected increase in check payments leads to the development of the Automated Clearing House (ACH), an electronic network for fund transfers.


Harland’s printing capacity reaches 40 million checks per week.
Clarke Printing emerges as a successful check printer and begins a series of six acquisitions, tripling its revenue by 1988.


Clarke Printing renames its check printing division Clarke Checks.


Checks represent more than 85% of all noncash payments.

The ‘80s

Sales for both Harland and Clarke Checks increase exponentially. Both companies are well positioned to serve the deregulated banking industry. Diminishing distinctions among various financial institutions lead to the savings & loan crisis. ATMs gain wide acceptance.


Harland sales approach $100 million. Harland’s printing capacity reaches 180 million checks per week, more than four times the capacity of a decade earlier.


Caradon plc acquires Clarke Checks, providing significant capital for growth.


Clarke Checks introduces a total quality management program, First In Service (now known as Performance Excellence), which eventually leads to its receipt of the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 2001.


Harland’s sales more than triple in the ‘80s, reaching $344.7 million.
Clarke Checks merges with American Bank Stationery and changes its name to Clarke American, at the time the largest acquisition in the company’s history, with revenue doubling in just one year.

The ‘90s

Harland and Clarke American continue making acquisitions that enable each company to expand the range of products and services available to banks. Debit and credit cards, and direct electronic payments jump in popularity, doubling from 25% of consumer payments in 1995 to more than 50% in 2002. Debit card point-of-sale terminals, almost unheard of before 1989, increase from about 500,000 to over 3.6 million.


Harland acquires Interchecks and Rocky Mountain Bank Note Co., check printers offering broader capabilities for financial institutions, including direct mail and MICR operational forms.


Clark American’s parent company, Caradon plc, acquires Checks in the Mail, providing checks directly to consumers thus helping banks to focus on core functions. (Caradon plc renamed Novar in 2001.)


Harland begins acquiring a series of companies, including Marketing Profiles, Inc., with database software enabling banks to track customer data for marketing purposes, and FormAtion Technologies, with regulation compliant loan origination software.


All technology service functions operate under the name Harland Financial Solutions, offering banks a one-stop shop for technology products and services.


Glass-Steagall Act repealed, allowing banks to enter the insurance and securities industries. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act protects personal financial information.

The ‘00s

Harland and Clarke American continue their strategy of combining the “best of the best,” in order to better serve financial institutions. VISA reports that debit card use surpasses credit card use, a trend that continues today. More than half of noncash payments are initiated electronically, via debit card, credit card or ACH.


Harland makes 15 acquisitions that expand its technology capabilities. It also acquires Liberty, greatly increasing personalized customer service to credit unions. Revenue jumps to more than $1 billion.


Clarke American acquires Alcott Routon, a direct marketing firm offering customer-centric relationship marketing, providing banks a richer array of marketing services. Honeywell purchases Novar, including Clarke American.


M&F Worldwide acquires Clarke American from Honeywell, which includes Clarke American Checks, Alcott Routon, Checks in the Mail, and B2Direct (a direct-to-business division offering check programs and deposit management products).


M&F Worldwide and Clarke American acquire the John H. Harland Company, thus joining two companies—Harland and Clarke American—each with a long history of successful mergers and two centuries of combined industry leadership. The new Harland Clarke is committed to enabling financial institutions to meet the challenges of the coming decades.

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