Rolla Bigelow
Michigan WolverinesNo. N/A
Halfback, Fullback
Major: {{{major}}}
Date of birth: (1878-06-19)June 19, 1878
Place of birth: Corunna, Shiawassee County, Michigan
Career history
*Michigan Agr. College (1898)
Career highlights and awards

Robert Lavante "Rolla" Bigelow (June 19, 1878 – December 16, 1952) was an American banker and football player. A native of Shiawassee County, Michigan, he played college football for Michigan Agricultural College in 1898 and the University of Michigan from 1902 to 1903. He played for Fielding H. Yost's "Point-a-Minute" teams that compiled a record of 22-0-1 and outscored opponents 1,209 to 18 during the 1902 and 1903 seasons. He later moved to New York where he founded the investment banking firm, Bigelow & Co., in the 1910s. In 1921, he founded Bigelow State Bank, which later became Eastern Exchange Bank.

Early yearsEdit

Bigelow was born in Corunna in Shiawassee County, Michigan in 1878. His parents, Rolla P. Bigelow and Charlotte (Pratt) Bigelow, were both Michigan natives. At the time of the 1880 United States Census, Bigelow's father was employed as a store clerk in Corunna.[1] He was later employed as a "commercial traveler."[2] The family moved to Owosso, Michigan, where Bigelow was raised.

Bigelow initially attended Michigan Agricultural College (M.A.C.), later known as Michigan State University. He played for the M.A.C. football team in 1898.[3][4]

University of MichiganEdit

Bigelow transferred to the University of Michigan where he played college football for Fielding H. Yost's "Point-a-Minute" teams. Bigelow was a reserve tackle on the 1902 Michigan Wolverines football team that finished with an 11–0 record, outscored its opponents by a combined score of 644 to 12, and has been recognized as national champions.[5][6] The following year, he started two games, one at halfback and the other at fullback for the 1903 Michigan team that compiled an 11–0–1 record, outscored opponents 565 to 6, and has been recognized as the 1903 national champions.[7] Bigelow scored five touchdowns (including three in one game) for the 1903 team. He graduated from Michigan with an engineering degree in 1905.[8]

Banking careerEdit

File:Rolla Bigelow.png

After graduating from Michigan, Bigelow became a banker in New York. As of 1911, he was employed as a banker at 49 Wall Street in New York.[9] By 1918, he had formed Bigelow & Co., an investment banking house with offices at 25 Pine Street in New York.[10][11][12]

In January 1921, he formed Bigelow State Bank, a New York state chartered bank based in Manhattan, and served as its president.[11][13] At the time of its opening, The New York Times reported that it "offers banking facilities to individuals who wish to deposit small amounts. 'The bank for the individual' is the motto of the new institution."[14]

In December 1924, Bigelow changed the name of his bank to the Eastern Exchange Bank and continued to serve as its president.[8][15] In November 1926, W. A. Harriman & Co., Inc., purchased "a substantial interest" in the bank, with Bigelow remaining as the president. At the time of the Harriman investment, The New York Times described the business of Bigelow's bank as follows: "This bank is said to be the only institution in New York City confining its activities entirely to individual deposit accounts, and makes a point of extending banking facilities to small accounts. It does no commercial business and discounts no commercial paper, confining its loans only to marketable collateral."[16] In May 1928, the Eastern Exchange Bank moved its headquarters from 10 Broadway to the Harriman Building at 37 Broadway.[17]

Family and later yearsEdit

Bigelow was married to Doris Bissell in 1916.[18] They had a daughter, Betsy Bigelow,[19] and a son, Robert Pratt Bigelow.[8] At the time of the 1930 United States Census, Bigelow was living in Woodsburgh, Nassau County, New York with his wife Doris, their two children Doris E. Bigelow (age 8) and Robert P. Bigelow (age 3), and three servants. Bigelow's occupation was listed as a bank president.[20]

After retiring, Bigelow moved to Winter Haven in central Florida. In December 1952, he died at an Orlando hospital at age 74 after a brief illness.[8][21] He left an estate valued at $517,713.[22]


  1. Census entry for Rolla Bigelow (age 31) and Charlotte Bigelow (age 30). Rolla L. Bigelow was their son, age 2. 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Corunna, Shiawassee, Michigan; Roll: 606; Family History Film: 1254606; Page: 368D; Enumeration District: 350; Image: 0321.
  2. Census entry for Rollo Bigelow (born 1849), Lottie Bigelow (born 1850), Rollo [sic] L. Bigelow (born June 1878), Bessie Bigelow (born 1885), Chester Bigelow (born 1888), and Eugene Bigelow (born 1890). 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Owosso Ward 1, Shiawassee, Michigan; Roll: T623_744; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 88.
  3. "Rolla L. Bigelow". FanBase. Archived from the original on July 11, 2012. Retrieved November 1, 2011.
  4. "2007 Michigan State Football Media Guide". -Michigan State University. 2007. p. 157.
  5. "1902 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library.
  6. Michiganensian. 1903. p. 137.;view=image;q1=bigelow.
  7. "1903 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 "Robert R. L. Bigelow". The New York Times. December 17, 1952.
  9. General Catalogue of Officers and Students, 1837-1911, University of Michigan, p. 263.
  10. Draft registration card for Robert Lavante Bigelow, born June 19, 1878. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Registration Location: New York County, New York; Roll: 1786856; Draft Board: 164.
  11. 11.0 11.1 The Michigan Alumnus, Volume 36, 1929, p. 218.
  12. Investment Bankers and Brokers of America. A. C. Babize. 1922. p. 490.
  13. "Bigelow State Bank". Wall Street Journal. January 28, 1921.
  14. "Financial Notes". The New York Times. January 25, 1921.
  15. Moody's Manual of Investments, American and Foreign Banks. Moody's Investors Services. 1931.
  16. "Harrimans Purchase Interest in Bank". The New York Times. November 18, 1926.
  17. "Eastern Exchange Bank Moves". The New York Times. May 7, 1928.
  18. "R. L. Bigelow Married; Banker Weds Miss Doris W. S. Bissell in Home of Miss Wells". The New York Times. June 20, 1916.
  19. "Ten Years Ago". The Owosso Argus-Press. January 7, 1941.,467384&dq=rolla-bigelow&hl=en.
  20. Census entry for Robert L. Bigelow, age 51, born in Michigan. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Woodsburgh, Nassau, New York; Roll: 1459; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 82; Image: 439.0.
  21. "Mr. Robert Bigelow". The Orlando Sentinel: p. 22. December 17, 1952.
  22. "Bigelow Estate $517,713". The Orlando Sentinel: p. 24. December 19, 1952.
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