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"I have worked without thinking of myself. This is the largest factor in whatever success I have attained." Amadeo Pietro Giannini was born on May 6, 1870, in San Jose, California.

He founded the Bank of Italy in 1904, an institution that later became the Bank of America. By the 1930s, it was the world's largest commercial bank; by the time of Giannini’s death, in 1949, it had more than 500 branch banks with more than $6 billion in deposits.

He created a national system of branch banks to serve ordinary people and he is considered the father of modern international banking.

His father, Luigi Giannini, born on October 20 1840, was a farmer who immigrated to the United States from Favale di Malvaro, near Genova (Italy), during the California Gold Rush. He made some money and returned to Italy in 1869 to marry his sweetheart, Virginia. Maria Virginia De Martini, 18, was also from Favale di Malvaro, born on December 15, 1850.

They came back to the United States and settled in sunny San Jose. With the little money they had collected from relatives, they rented a house with a few extra rooms to sublet. After months of constructions, they transformed it into an inn where Amadeo was born.

With the profits, they bought a farm to grow fruits and vegetables; by now they had two boys, Amadeo and Attilio, and a bright future in front of them. Until an employee shot Luigi over a pay dispute in 1876 killing him when Amadeo was only six and Virginia was pregnant with their third child, George.

Virginia continued selling fruit and vegetables while caring for her three young children but she needed help. A year later she married Lorenzo Scatena, a businessman born in Lucca.

Young Amadeo liked working and when he was 12 he dropped out of school to take a full time job at his stepfather’s firm, L. Scatena & Co. He became an extremely successful produce broker, married Clorinda Cuneo in 1892, sold his interest to his employees and retired at the age of 31 to administer his father-in-law's estate.

When Clorinda's father, Joseph Cuneo, died in June 1902, Amadeo Giannini replaced him as a director of a small bank, Columbus S&L, but he did not like the other directors' ethics because they only dealt with wealthy clients. "They used to say I was undignified. Old fogies! I say if you want something, you may as well go after it" he said, and he founded the Bank of Italy, in San Francisco, on October 17, 1904.

The bank was housed in a converted saloon as an institution for the "little fellow", the hardworking immigrants other banks would not serve. In less than 10 years, Bank of Italy had 24 branches throughout California and was the fourth-largest bank in the state.

In 1928, Giannini established the TransAmerica Corporation to act as a management company for his extensive businesses, which now included industries other than banking. The following year, he combined Bank of Italy with other banks he had acquired under the name Bank of America. We know what happened after that, it became the world's largest commercial bank.

Once he told interviewers, "Shucks, I'm just a roughneck. I left school and went to work when I was 12. Why, I was brought up on the waterfront."