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Posts Tagged ‘Bank of America

“Results aside, the ability to have complete faith in another human being is one of the finest qualities a person can possess”*…

 

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Downtown San Francisco ablaze after the 1906 earthquake, from the slope of Nob Hill

 

Amadeo Peter Giannini was born in San Jose, California in 1870. The son of Italian immigrants had an outsized personality and unlimited faith in the American dream.

Giannini began by selling fruits and vegetables from a horse-drawn wagon. But he was made for bigger things. At age 34, he launched a small bank in the Italian neighborhood of North Beach, San Francisco. At the time, big banks lent only to large businesses, handled deposits of the wealthy, and frowned on aggressive advertising.

The novice financier knocked on doors and buttonholed people on the street. He persuaded “unbanked” immigrants that gold and silver coins were safer in vaults than under mattresses. Moreover, the money would earn interest at his “Bank of Italy.”

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On the morning of April 18, 1906, a massive earthquake hit San Francisco. The ensuing fires burned down the large banks. Their superheated metal vaults could not be opened for weeks—lest the cash and paper records catch fire when oxygen rushed in.

As flames threatened his one-room bank, Giannini spirited $80,000 in coins out of town. He hid the precious metal under crates of oranges and steered his wagons past gangs of thugs and looters in the streets.

As other banks struggled to recover, Giannini made headlines by setting up a makeshift bank on a North Beach wharf. He extended loans to beleaguered residents “on a handshake” and helped revive the city.

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The innovative bank welcomed small borrowers who might otherwise have to use high-cost loan sharks. Most banks at the time regarded people with modest incomes as credit risks not worth the paperwork. But experience had taught Giannini otherwise: that working class people were no less likely to pay their debts than the wealthy.

Seeking more customers, the former produce salesman returned to his old haunts—the fertile valleys of California. He “walked in rows beside farmers engaged in plowing” to explain how bank branches make credit cheaper and more reliable. Town by town, he built the first statewide branching system in the nation.

On November 1, 1930, the Bank of Italy in San Francisco changed its name to Bank of America. The bank today has the same national bank charter number as Giannini’s old bank— #13044.

When A.P. Giannini died in 1949, the former single-teller office in North Beach claimed more than 500 branches and $6 billion in assets. It was then the largest bank in the world…

How a humane response to a community tragedy launched what became the biggest bank in the world: “Bank of America: The Humble Beginnings of a Large Bank.”

* Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

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As we learn from our elders, we might recall that it was on this date in 2006 that the first news stories based on the Panama Papers were published.  A cache of 11.5 million leaked documents that detailed financial and attorney–client information for more than 214,488 offshore entities, all from Panamanian law firm and corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca, the Panama Papers chronicled tax evasion, money laundering and fraud involving 12 current or former world leaders; 128 other public officials and politicians; and hundreds of celebrities, businessmen, and other wealthy individuals from over 200 countries.

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An online chat between Süddeutsche Zeitung reporter Bastian Obermayer and anonymous source John Doe

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“The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding”*…

 

On the heels of last Sunday’s look at the NYPL Labs’ extraordinary interactive version of the Green Books, another visit to the Library, which has taken advantage of it’s enormous public domain collection to enable one to compare the photos from the 1911 Fifth Avenue from Start to Finish collection with 2015’s Google Street View.   The work of Bert Spaan, it illuminates one of the Big Apple’s most storied thoroughfares:

Fifth Avenue, the street that became the social and cultural spine of New York’s elite, first appeared on the Commissioners’ Map of 1811. At that time, it was merely a country road to Yorkville (then just a tiny self-contained village), but in the proposed grid plan it would be a grand boulevard. As the City grew and prospered Fifth Avenue became synonymous with fashionable life, the site of mansions, cultural and social institutions, and restaurants and shops catering to the elite. In 1907, alarmed at the approach of factories, the leading merchants and residents formed the Fifth Avenue Association. The Save New York Committee became a bulwark against the wrong kind of development. Perhaps inspired by this contemporary movement, photographer Burton Welles used a wide-angled view camera in 1911 to document this most important street from Washington Square, north to East 93rd Street.

Take a stroll at “Street View, Then & Now: New York City’s Fifth Avenue.”

* John Updike

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As we spread the news, we might recall that it was on this date in 1988 that three armed men entered the Bank of America’s World Trade Center location, disarmed two Brink’s guards delivering money to a currency exchange center there, then fled with with $1.6 million.  The heist was the brainchild of former mob boss Ralph Guarino. Given the heightened security on the heels of the 1993 WTC bombings, he needed help from a long-time employee of the facility, who handed over his ID badge and informed Guarino of the next expected delivery of cash to the bank; three hired goons were dispatched to carry out the robbery on that day.  The three entered the bank via passenger elevator early in the morning, tying up employees and stuffing cash into duffel bags as planned.  Luckily for law enforcement, the theives were not very discreet; only one of the the trio bothered to cover his head, so the other two were readily identifiable on security cam footage.  They were apprehended quickly following the robbery, leading to the capture of Guarino, who chose becoming an FBI informant over jail time.

The heist is unpacked in detail in the 2003 book Made Men.

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Written by LW

January 14, 2016 at 1:01 am

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