Question of the Week
Philadelphia business mogul Albert M. Greenfield found great success and great failure in which industry?
Albert M. Greenfield was one of the city’s most successful realtors and a man of great influence, earning him the nickname “Mr. Philadelphia.” Born in Russia in 1887, Greenfield immigrated to the United States at the age of six, and he was largely educated in public schools. He launched a real estate company, Albert M. Greenfield & Co., at the age of seventeen, and quickly built an outsized reputation as a deal-maker. AMG grew into one of the most lucrative businesses in Philadelphia, and is today its oldest real estate company.
In 1925 Greenfield ventured into the world of commercial banking by purchasing a small West Philadelphia bank and renaming it Bankers Trust Company. By the time of the great banking crash in 1929, Bankers Trust had acquired eight other banks and had 21 offices throughout the greater Philadelphia area. When the bank failed to open in 1930, Greenfield’s public prominence helped make him a lightning rod for depositors’ anger and despair. According to one scholar, Greenfield hired a police officer to protect himself and his family for a time. Though Bankers Trusts’ leaders claimed that it would reorganize and be resurrected, the bank never reopened for business.
Although his venture into banking did not have a happy ending, Greenfield persevered. He entered the retail world in the early 1930s and, through City Store Company, purchased numerous stores, including Snellenberg’s and Bonwit Teller. He also became part of the hotel industry and acquired several properties in Philadelphia and Atlantic City. Greenfield maintained a formidable presence in Philadelphia and, at one point in the 1940s, served on more than 43 boards - from parks and hospitals to schools and charities.
The Albert M. Greenfield papers (#1959) at HSP consist of correspondence, office files, appointment books, photographs, audio-visual materials, and scrapbooks spanning almost 50 years of Greenfield's business and personal records.
Learn more about Bankers Trust Company and the Great Depression through a digital history project titled Closed for Business. Visit hsp.org/bankers-trust.
Image: Albert M. Greenfield papers
About the Author
Look for these history stories every Sunday in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The stories, called Memory Stream, are published in the Currents section of the newspaper.