Do you know who Amadeo P. Giannini was?

Do you know what the Bank of of Italy (pictured here in Santa Paula, CA circa 1925) in called now?

Photo: Codispoti collection

Amadeo Pietro Giannini, Born on June 5,1870 at San Jose, Calif. was the son of Italian immigrants. Though a school dropout in San Francisco, Giannini rose to found the Bank of Italy in 1904, which later became, under a different name, the largest banking institution in the world.

Leaving school at age 13, he worked for 18 years in his step-father's produce business before becoming a partner and retiring in 1901. The next year he succeeded his late father-in-law on the board of a savings and loan, where he failed to interest other directors in lending to the working class. In those days, banks only leant money to large businesses and other assorted rich folks.
Because of his humble beginnings, A. P. could relate to the immigrant poor and their needs. He trusted hard-working poor people and wanted to extend credit to them through liberal loan policies, "To give the little guy a bank that will do business with him."

With the opening of the Bank of Italy in San Francisco, Giannini emphasized lending to those of modest means, the use of advertising and door-to-door solicitation of customers, and the development of branch banks, innovative practices that enabled the bank to expand and weather financial crises.
Many of his customers were traveling over long distances to do business with him. To make it easier for them, three years after surviving the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, he decided to open a branch in San Jose .
He continued to open banks throughout California, consolidating operations in 1927. In 1928, he purchased Bank of America , an old and very respected institution in New York City, and consolidated all of his banks under that name. By the time of Giannini's death the renamed (1930) Bank of America had become California's, the nation's, and the world's largest commercial and savings bank.

Amadeo was very generous with his employees, and instituted profit-sharing and stock ownership plans. He understood that sharing profits with his employees would guarantee their loyalty and his success.
Giannini was a pioneer in offering consumer installment loans on real estate, used cars, and home repairs.
He died in 1949, at the age of 79.

In 1973 a stamp was issued in his honor only to be recalled soon after because his name had been misspelled (Amedeo - a more common Italian spelling - instead of Amadeo). The re-issued stamp is pictured below.


(The above biography, slightly edited, was reprinted from archival records of Allperson, an organization dedicated to the memory of famous people of the world.)

Giuseppe's notes:
During the San Francisco earthquake and the subsequent fire that destroyed much of the city, Giannini and his employees saved the bank’s assets by loading the contents of the vault, including gold, cash, and records onto a vegetable cart, covered the load with vegetables and wheeled it inconspicuously to safety, thus avoiding the attention of potential robbers.

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