Memory stream Dipping into Philadelphia's illustrated past

Bankers Trust's Germantown office, at 16 W. Chelten Ave., also known as the Barker Building.
Bankers Trust's Germantown office, at 16 W. Chelten Ave., also known as the Barker Building.
Posted: May 05, 2013

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 6, and he was largely educated in public schools. He launched a real estate firm, Albert M. Greenfield & Co., at the age of 17, and quickly built an outsize 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, purchasing a small West Philadelphia bank and renaming it Bankers Trust Co. By the time of the great banking crash in 1929, Bankers Trust had acquired eight other banks and had 21 offices throughout the 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 Trust's leaders claimed that it would reorganize and be resurrected, the bank never reopened.

Despite his banking setback, Greenfield persevered. He entered the retail world in the early 1930s, and, through City Stores Co., purchased numerous stores, including N. Snellenburg & Co., Lit Bros., and Bonwit Teller & Co. in Philadelphia. He also became part of the hotel industry, acquiring 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.

Learn more about Bankers Trust and the Depression through a digital history project titled "Closed for Business" at www.hsp.org/bankers-trust.


Content and images provided by

the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

For more stories, visit www.hsp.org.

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