Albert Steinfeld, Tucson's Merchant Prince, Arrived Here 57 Years Ago, When City Had Only 1200 Population

Albert Steinfeld, Tucson's Merchant Prince

From the Tucson Daily Citizen, Sunday, October 27, 1929, p 9

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 projects.

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 was started.

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 a curiosity.

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 Tucson.

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.

Prominently Identified

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.