Philadelphia Saving Fund Society (PSFS) photographsCreation: 1816-1989
Philadelphia Saving Fund Society (PSFS), the nation's first mutual savings bank, was founded in 1816. In 1927 the Society commissioned Howe and Lescaze, a local architectural firm that had previously designed traditional style banks for the institution, to draw up plans for a new building to be constructed at the corner of 12th and Market Streets. This collection is composed of materials from two Philadelphia mutual savings banks which date from the first half of the nineteenth century. The collection has been divided into two series: Philadelphia Saving Fund Society (PSFS) and Western Savings Fund Society (WSFS) which was merged with PSFS in 1982. A significant part of the collection consists of photographs of bank buildings represented by traditional styles and in later years by contemporary suburban sites. The American banking industry has usually conducted business in formal bank buildings. The styles of these buildings have changed with passing fashions of architectural taste. This collection provides a good visual record of these developments.
- Creation: 1816-1989
31 Linear Feet
General Physical Description
6908 photographic prints : b&w ; 16 x 20 in. or smaller. 24 photographic prints : b&w ; 2.5 x 4 in. 25 negatives ; b&w ; 2.5 x 3 in. 21 negatives ; b&w ; 35 mm. 5 negatives ; b&w ; 2.25 x 3.25 in. 4 negatives ; b&w ; 4 x 5 in. 14 videocasettes (VHS) : 1/2 in. 4 videocasettes (Beta) : 1/2 in. 53 sound cassettes. 15 reels : 16mm.
Philadelphia Saving Fund Society (PSFS), the nation's first mutual savings bank, was founded in 1816. It was then incorporated in 1819. PSFS's first permanent bank was established in 1840, twenty four years after the bank organized. After somewhat frequent changes in location over the early years, a site at 306 Walnut Street opened in 1840. In 1868 the Society relocated to 7th and Walnut Streets where a new building was constructed. Later this structure was expanded.
In 1927 the Society commissioned Howe and Lescaze, a local architectural firm that had previously designed traditional style banks for the institution, to draw up plans for a new building to be constructed at the corner of 12th and Market Streets. This building which is still standing has generated great interest over the years. It is considered by many a landmark skyscraper, an International style building showcasing modern architectural style. The structure was photographed after its completion by Richard T. Dooner (1878-1954) of Philadelphia who documented the new building in 1932. Dooner studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and PMSIA. He had a professional photography studio.
Continuing a philosophy initiated by Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) years earlier, architects Howe and Lescaze assumed their commission as a complete project--not just the construction and design of a building "shell." They designed the furniture, lighting, signage, and all other appointments in the PSFS building. The edifice was also one of the first office towers in the country to be air conditioned.
The school savings bank programs at PSFS began in 1923. The programs which promoted savings skills to area youth were also benevolent public relations vehicles. PSFS's widespread program in 1952, for example, served over one hundred public and private schools and enrolled over 77,000 school age depositors. In addition, school groups were invited to the PSFS main office for tours. An art contest of posters promoting thrift was started in 1950 as an outreach to high school students. The contest continued for over thirty years.
Western Savings Fund Society (WSFS) which later changed its name to Western Savings Bank (WSB) dates its establishment from 1847. After 140 years as an independent institution the bank was taken over by PSFS in 1982.
In 1985 PSFS began using the name Meritor Financial Group, but the company soon began to struggle. By 1992 Meritor was seized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and sold off to Mellon Bank. The PSFS building was purchased by developers and renovated into the Loews Hotel. The conversion began in 1998 and opened in 2000.
Scope and Content
This collection is composed of materials from two Philadelphia mutual savings banks which date from the first half of the nineteenth century. The collection has been divided into two series: Philadelphia Saving Fund Society (PSFS) and Western Savings Fund Society (WSFS). A significant part of the collection consists of photographs of bank buildings represented by traditional styles and in later years by contemporary suburban sites. The American banking industry has usually conducted business in formal bank buildings. The styles of these buildings have changed with passing fashions of architectural taste. This collection provides a good visual record of these developments.
Philadelphia Saving Fund Society (PSFS) is organized into ten subseries: Early buildings; PSFS building; Branches; Advertising and promotion; School Bank Program; Thrift Poster Contests; Employees; Events/social activities; Oral history; and Music.
Early buildings subseries includes images of the first six offices in Philadelphia. The photographs are mostly exteriors and void of people. There are some reproductions of historical paintings and engravings. The 7th and Walnut Streets office includes interiors and is the most well documented. The images date from the early 1800s through the 1960s.
PSFS building subseries consists of images of the area before and during construction in 1931. The construction photographs show the demolition of buildings and excavation. The completed structure is extensively photographed and includes both interior and exterior views. There are a series of photographs taken by Richard T. Dooner in 1932, however, these exist mainly as negatives with prints of select images. The original negatives were badly degraded and received conservation treatment in 2009. Copy negatives were made at this time and the negatives were digitized. These digital copies are online in Hagely’s Digital Archives with some additional images from this subseries. There are oversize matted photographic prints which are signed by Richard T. Dooner. There is also an audio tape tour of the building with architect Norman Rice which was recorded in 1983.
Branches subseries contains photographs of city and suburban branches in the greater Philadelphia area. Most of the images show bank exteriors. The photographs of the city branches primarily date from 1924, the suburban branch photographs date from the 1960s and 1970s.
Advertising and promotion subseries consists of publicity photographs, print advertisements, posters, booklets, and signs. The photographs include community projects such as blood drives and marathons, receptions, school visits, anniversaries, awards, and exhibits. There are bank giveaways such as calendars, cash wrappers, rulers, and coin savers. There are a few radio advertisements and branch informational videos.
School Bank Program subseries is largely made up of a scrapbook of group portraits of school children during their visits to the PSFS building. The photographs are arranged alphabetically by the name of the school and dates from the 1950s.. There are few images of a bank exercise taking place at various schools in 1924 and 1959.
Thrift Poster Contests subseries contains photographs of poster entries from 1950 through 1981 (not a complete run). There are also six posters that won the contest in 1952.
Employees subseries is made up of portraits of founders, officers, presidents, board of managers, and employees. There are photographs of employees at work, including security guards. There is one audio cassette tape of dictation in 1982 by Todd Clark, chairman. A few video cassettes of meetings, announcements, and training videos. The founders, officers, and presidents portraits date from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The employee photographs date from 1920s through 1964.
Events/social activities subseries includes photographs of PSFS Quarter Century Club Dinners from 1954 to 1985, sports team group portraits, and various social events such as picnics and outings. There are audio cassette tapes of the 1984, 1985, and 1986 shareholders meeting. There is a video of the first annual employee meeting and a retirement party.
Oral history subseries consists of audio recordings with fifteen PSFS employees. The interviews were conducted between 1981 and 1983. The interviewees discuss career paths, relationships between tellers and managers, panics of the 1930s, mortgage experience, training employees, savings banking, mechanics of bookkeeping, senior management in 1934, the PSFS building, commercial mortgages during the depression, PSFS mission and structure, the School Bank program, and marketing. Music subseries is phonographic records of classical music owned by PSFS. There is one wax cylinder.
In the Western Savings Fund Society (WSFS) has been organized into eight subseries: WSFS building; City branches; Suburban branches; Presidents and board of managers; Employees; Social activities; Advertising and promotion; and Oral history.
WSFS building subseries depicts the company’s earliest banks on 1000 Walnut Street and Broad and Chestnut. A majority of the images are of the Broad and Chestnut location which includes exteriors and interiors. There are nineteenth century engravings and photographs from 1949 through the 1960s.
City branches subseries contains photographs of over twenty branches in Philadelphia. Primarily exteriors. There are two very short films of branch openings. The images mostly date from the 1950s and 1960s.
Suburban branches subseries contains photographs of exteriors of banks in the greater Philadelphia area. Most images are devoid of people and date from the 1950s and 1960s.
Presidents and board of managers contains portraits of company presidents and members of the board in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Board of Managers' portraits are preserved on cabinet cards which are in excellent condition.
Employees subseries depicts employees at work, as well as employee individual and group portraits. Many individuals are identified in the photographs. There are a small number of images from staff members weddings. The images date from the 1940s through the 1970s.
Social activities subseries includes photographs of the Annual Dinner Dance from 1949 to 1968, the Men’s Dinner and the Ladies Annual Party from 1950 to 1968. There are group portraits of the chess club, bowling team, and baseball team. Snapshots of employees at various events like baseball games, dances, and parties. There are also images from retirements, 25 year Club Dinners, and 50 Year Service Awards. These images date from the 1940s through the 1960s.
Advertising and promotion contains print advertisements, radio spots, and television commercials and public service announcements. There are images of community outreach programs, events, the school bank program, and exhibits. Temporary bank exhibits were also chronicled. Western had an extensive rotating exhibition schedule which was documented frequently. These materials date from the 1940s through the 1970s.
Oral history subseries contains one interview with P. Blair Lee, the president of WSFS. The interview was recorded in 1982.
Existence and Location of Copies
View selected items online in the Hagely Digital Archives.
This collection is open for research.
Negatives, slides, and film material is housed in cold storage and must reacclimate prior to viewing (Boxes 42-46 and Film Cans 1-13). Please contact the Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department at least 48 hours in advance of research visit.
Language of Materials
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Philadelphia Saving Fund Society (PSFS) photographs
- Laurie Sather
- Description rules:
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description:
- Script of description: