Albert Steinfeld, Tucson's Merchant Prince, Arrived
Here 57 Years Ago, When City Had Only 1200 Population
Was for Many Years President
of the Consolidated National Bank, Which Bears Evidence of His
Great Business Acumen
Albert Steinfeld, founder of the great business establishment that bears his
name, and for many years president of the Consolidated National Bank, has unquestionably
achieved more than any other individual in Tucson's commercial development.
During a greater period of the 57 years that he lived in the Old Pueblo, he
had been an outstanding factor in the establishment of business organizations
of Southern Arizona, both those that have been conducted under Albert Steinfeld
and company, and those that his firm has made possible through the financial
backing given them. His vast concern, which for years has operated both in the
wholesale and retail fields, has been a prominent factor in mining, and has
financed commercial enterprise, as well as numerous livestock and agricultural
Mr. Steinfeld, who is affectionately known as "Uncle Albert" to a
host of his friends and admirers, was the guiding influence of the Consolidated
National Bank until a little more than four years ago, when he sold out his
controlling interest in the institution. He had been affiliated with the bank
as its head for approximately 15 years.
It was in 1910 that Mr. Steinfeld purchased a controlling interest in the bank.
At this time the capital stock was increased from $50,000 to $100,000 and the
number of directors were increased from five to nine, Mr. Steinfeld became one
of the newly elected directors, while Hugo Dinau, brother-in-law of Mr. Steinfeld
and an executive of the Steinfeld company, Charles E. Walker and W. F. Staunton
were the others. Shortly after Mr. Steinfeld succeeded Epes Randolph as vice
president, with the power of president and cashier. Six months later he was
elected president of the bank.
Knew Public's Needs
Having had many years experience in the mercantile business
Mr. Steinfeld was in position to know the financial wants and needs of the public,
a knowledge which well qualified him to head a great banking organization, with
success. He had been a stockholder and director of banks in Los Angeles, San
Fransisco, and El Paso, which had given him an insight into practical banking.
Tucson was a very different place from the present modern city of cosmopolitan
tendencies, enterprising commercial establishments and homes of pretention that
the newcomer encounters today, when Mr. Steinfeld first arrived here in 1872.
He had just finished an overland trip of six days and nights from San Diego
to Tucson, in one of the Concord stages of the old Butterfield Stage company
which did not tend to idealize his first impressions of his future home. This
line gave bi-weekly service between San Diego and Fort Worth, Texas, which was
the terminus of railroad line from St. Louis. Stage travel was so limited in
those days in slack season the company supplanted its six-passenger stages with
two-passenger buck-boards. Young Steinfeld had been working in a mercantile
establishment in Denver and came to Tucson to enter the employ of his uncles,
Louis and William Zeckendorf, who ran a mercantile establishment under the name
of L. Zeckendorf and company.
At that time the only trans-continental railroad had its terminus at San Francisco,
so Mr. Steinfeld arrived at the California City, which was then the chief distributing
point for the west. Los Angeles was available either by railroad or boat, so
the newcomer took the train there to find a village of narrow, crooked streets
that boasted a population of 6000 souls. Later San Diego, a very much more desirable
looking town, was visited, and it was from there that the stage journey to Tucson
Arrived by Stage Coach
During the six-day stage trip horses were changed about every 20 miles, and
as the journey continued at night the only sleep enjoyed by the weary passengers,
was at the moments when cat-naps could be stolen between jolts. The stage passed
through the arid desert -now the famous Imperial Valley- which was so denuded
of vegetation that even a jack rabbit couldn't thrive there.
The Imperial Valley is now the largest shipping point of agricultural products
on the Southern Pacific. When the Colorado River was first reached, Tucson's
future leading merchant was ferried across by the father of Louis Yaeger, who
later built the Santa Rita hotel and was its proprietor for years.
Yuma was then known as Arizona City and was the distributing point from which
a great proportion of Arizona's supplies were shipped through from San Francisco.
10,000 In All Arizona
When Mr. Steinfeld came to Tucson there were less than 10,000
people in the entire Arizona territory. The towns that might be designated as
worthy of the name were Yuma, Prescott, Tucson, and Wickenburg, the rest being
small straggling settlements and mining camps. At Adamsville, a settlement near
where Florence now stands it is recalled that the stage was held over several
hours so that the Picacho creek between Florence and Tucson, might be passed
in the dead of night. Apache Indians never attacked at night.
Tucson, when its future merchant prince arrived, was still under the village
form of government. There were about 1200 inhabitants, and more than 80 per
cent were native born Mexicans. The houses were all 'dobe bricks and as rough
lumber from the Santa Rita mountains, where there was a small sawmill in operation,
cost from $250 to $300 a thousand feet, there were few floors in Tucson's houses.
The usual method of artificial lighting was by means of candles, most of which
were homemade. Kerosene was very expensive and a kerosene burning lamp was almost
Herds of Antelope Here
Herds of antelope on the grazing ranges about Tucson were familiar sights; and
wild game of many species was plentiful. Both bathtubs and plumbing of any sort
were entirely lacking and the rules of sanitation observed here a half century
ago would be considered unendurable today.
Although Mr. Steinfeld announced his retirement from active business when he
severed his connection with the Consolidated National Bank, this veteran merchant
and banker does not find idleness to his liking, and every day when he is not
absent traveling, he may be found at the desk on the mezzanine floor of the
Steinfeld department store.
While he has traveled over practically every civilized country in the world,
he has never encountered a climate, he says, that will compare with that of
Albert Steinfeld is a native of Germany, having been born in Hanover, December
23, 1854. His education and training were obtained chiefly in the United States,
however, as the family removed to New York City when Albert was but eight years
old. He received his education in the public schools and was later employed
for two years by a large dry-goods firm. He then came west and located in Denver,
where he was employed for a time in the store of an uncle.
Being an alert and courteous young business man, who had learned the meaning
of service as a necessary adjunct to a successful business,
Mr. Steinfeld soon became immensely popular in commercial circles.
He served at one time as president of the chamber of commerce
and became a recognized leader of mercantile interests in the
vicinity. He became identified with various large industries
in Southern Arizona and no man has been in closer touch with
the development of the state's resources. Mr. Steinfeld for
years was active in Masonic circles. He was married in 1883,
in Denver, to Miss Bettina V. Donau who for years has been active
in the social charitable circles of Tucson.
READ Two Jacobs Brothers,
Pioneer Merchants, Were First Tucson Bankers
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