How did banks get to be so large? 

That's one of the questions I've sought to answer over the last few days in a series of articles that depict just how big the nation's largest banks are, and how they got to be that way. 

The article here traces the history of too-big-to-fail banks. The chart here reveals that the inflection point for the industry was in 1994 -- that is, the same year Congress removed restrictions on interstate banking. And the infographic here shows how much larger many banks are than most people think. 

The graphic below provides yet another angle on the subject. 


As you can see, the column on the left illustrates the nation's 41 largest banks by deposits in 1994 -- the original list included 50 banks, but nine of those are foreign corporations. And the column on the right shows how that number was whittled down to only 13 over the course of two decades through a series of "mergers among equals."

What's the significance? As I've said before, that's for the reader to decide. Though, if you ask me, one would be excused for being alarmed at the concentration of power effected through these combinations.

John Maxfield owns shares of Bank of America. The Motley Fool recommends Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, Citigroup Inc, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Wells Fargo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.