The bank traces its history to the Woolworth National Bank in San Francisco. Charles Crocker, who was one of The Big Four of the Central Pacific Railroad and who constructed America's First Transcontinental Railroad, acquired a controlling interest in Woolworth for his son William Henry Crocker. The bank was renamed Crocker Woolworth National Bank, later Crocker-Anglo Bank, Crocker-Citizens National Bank, then Crocker First National Bank and finally Crocker National Bank. It had many branches, mostly in the northern half of California. In 1963, Crocker-Anglo Bank later merged with Los Angeles' Citizens National Bank, to become Crocker-Citizens Bank. and later, Crocker Bank.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, Crocker cultivated a reputation for customer service and convenience, including expanded hours. As a part of its promotional campaign, the bank gave "Crocker" Spaniel plush toys to parents who opened an account in the early 1980s. It was also one of the first California banks to offer automated teller machine service. One early television commercial showed a young businessman confidently using the machine, while speaking to it as if it were a person. He was then followed by an elderly woman approaching it for the first time, and greeting it with a very uncertain "Hello."
Crocker National Bank was purchased by the British financial institution Midland Bank in 1981, but after a series of financial losses it was sold on to Wells Fargo Bank in 1986. Crocker's president and over eighty vice presidents left the bank after the merger.
A Carmichael, California branch of the bank was robbed by several members of the Symbionese Liberation Army on April 21, 1975. A 42-year-old woman named Myrna Opsahl was killed during the robbery when SLA member Emily Harris fired her shotgun.
In the early 1970s Crocker ran a series of television commercials produced by Hal Riney, featuring a commissioned song "We've Only Just Begun," written by Paul Williams and Roger Nichols. This was later re-recorded by The Carpenters and sold as a single: it became the duo's signature song. The ads showed three pivotal moments in a young couple's life: their wedding, a husband's first day at a new job, and the first home move for a family with a small boy. The commercials ended with the tag line "You've got a long way to go. We'd like to help you get there. The Crocker Bank."
As of January 2012 Wells maintains the Crocker name as a current federally registered trademark at its "Crocker Office Branch" at 1 Montgomery St. San Francisco, California in a wall display of the Crocker Bank history.
A Crocker Bank sign appears in the movie Death Wish 2 as Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) is trying to get home from the Mental Hospital murder (1:23:27). Also appears in the Clint Eastwood movie "Sudden Impact" 47:02