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A. P. Giannini: Banker of America by Felice A. Bonadio (175,000 words and 29 illustrations)

“It is rare for a banker to win national acclaim, or even recognition... J. P. Morgan apart, it is hard to think of a banker who achieved this kind of status. A. P. Giannini had it on the West Coast, but even though he remained a regional banker, his influence was national... Felice A. Bonadio... describes him... as the Henry Ford of banking... While recognizing that Giannini was no saint, Mr. Bonadio accepts him at his own valuation as ‘the people’s banker.’ There is no question that in creating the world’s largest bank he greatly benefited California, much of the state’s explosive growth in this century having been financed by Bank of America. And as Mr. Bonadio points out, by extending easy credit more broadly than anyone else, he ‘expanded the boundaries of life for millions.’ To do so was his dream, and the realization of it justifies the effort Mr. Bonadio has put into this book.” — William L. O’Neill, The New York Times

“Giannini, who began his career as a wholesaler of fruit and vegetables, became a financial giant. As early as 1920, his San Francisco bank had 220,000 depositors. Competing bankers joined fundamentalist Protestant groups in charging him with fomenting a Catholic-Italian plot to take over the West’s financial institutions. Giannini’s 410-branch banking octopus did, indeed, engage in such tactics. The author uncovered internal bank memos documenting quite ruthless attempts to capture the bank accounts of immigrant school children and women family members. The investments which the Bank of America backed included the movie business. In addition to becoming Walt Disney’s first financial sponsor, Giannini helped to subsidize the building of the Golden Gate bridge. Bonadio gives one a real sense of what it meant for the warm-hearted but sometimes volatile Giannini to help finance such huge enterprises. Bonadio’s narrative is direct and forceful. The description of Giannini’s personal character moves the story along skillfully.” — Andrew Rolle,
Italian Americana

“By starting a bank and nurturing it into the biggest bank in the world, Amadeo Peter Gianninni became possibly the most spectacular entrepreneur of the early part of the twentieth century. His story is inspiring and of interest to anyone who wants to understand the history of the West or the development of financial institutions in the United States... This book should... be a part of every complete library on the history of the west or financial history.” — Lynne Pierson Doti,
The Journal of Economic History

“Until this biography appeared, we have had to rely on [a] very old and limited account of the Bank of America... Felice A Bonadio has made what appears to be thorough use of the bank’s archives to go far beyond [that old account]. He adds much to our knowledge of Giannini’s enterprises, which included not only his early ventures as a produce merchant, but also his major involvement with the film industry throughout the 1920s and ‘30s. Bonadio writes well, and knows how to tell a story.” — Richard M. Abrams,
Pacific Historical Review

“[Bonadio’s] accomplishment rests on the careful presentation of archival resources and of a large secondary literature. The clarity of the story is reinforced through the use of extensive quotes... a well-documented business biography.” — Gunther Barth,
Montana Magazine of Western History

“[T]hose interested in the reconstruction of one financier’s view of his world will find in Bonadio’s book much to think about.” — Kerry Odell,
The American Historical Review