Edward A. Filene

Edward A. Filene books and biography


Edward Filene

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Edward Albert Filene (b. September 3, 1860, Salem, Massachusetts - d. September 26, 1937, Paris, France) was an American businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist who served as an early president of the Boston firm of William Filene's Sons, later known as Filene's. Filene is credited with developing a number of novel retailing techniques such as complete and honest descriptions of their merchandise, offers of "money back if not satisfied", and the "Bargain Basement" concept.


Concerned with the welfare of his employees and for working people in general, Filene was instrumental in creating programs and organizations to help working people and their families, the most notable of which is the credit union movement. Filene first became interested in the possibility of bringing the concept of credit unions to the United States after seeing one in action in a village outside of Calcutta, India during a trip in 1907. In 1908, Filene and Massachusetts banking commissioner Pierre Jay, helped organize public hearings on creating credit union legislation in Massachusetts. The passage of the Massachusetts Credit Union Act in 1909 provided the first legislation enabling credit unions in the United States, and would serve as a model for the Federal Credit Union Act of 1934. In business, Filene was progressive in his treatment of his employees, instituting a minimum wage for women and Saturday closings in summer months.


A credit union think tank and research organization, the Filene Research Institute, is named in his honor as the father of the credit union movement. A building of the Hillman Housing Corporation, a housing cooperative in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, is named after him. Bronze busts honoring Filene and seven other industry magnates stand outside between the Chicago River and the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago, Illinois.

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