The $1.1 Trillion Trove

Savings institutions started out in the early 19th century as the mom-and-pop shops of finance. At the time, the Industrial Revolution was spawning an urban working class that had no place to put its savings. Commercial banks were mostly uninterested in small accounts, preferring to deal with businessmen and property owners. As a result, philanthropists set up savings banks for working people. In his book Savings Banking, Franklin Ornstein, chairman of Central Federal Savings in Long Beach, N.Y., traces the origins of the industry to the formation in 1816 of the Philadelphia Saving Fund Society, which was started by 25 individuals...

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