Edward Filene, born September 3, 1860, was an entrepreneur, businessman, and philanthropist. Not only was Filene instrumental in pioneering credit unions, but he also developed the world’s first large specialty store. His “megastore” opened in 1912 in Boston, amassing over 700,000 customers in the first week alone.
Revenue from this megastore skyrocketed to almost $9 million. In addition to his successful business prototypes, Filene was a highly touted philanthropist, creating a minimum-wage salary for women and recognizing winter vacations, much like the existing summer holidays.
In the fall of 1937, Filene made a trip to Europe to attend the International Chamber of Commerce meeting. The trip, however, would prove fatal, as Filene contracted pneumonia for a second time. Edward Filene died on September 26, 1937, in the American Hospital in Paris.
After Filene’s death, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said this about him:
“It is not individual persons but the people as a whole who were closest to the heart of this unique personality. Mr. Filene was, however, more than a champion of popular rights. He was a prophet who perceived the true meaning of these changing times. He was an analyst who was able, by mathematical calculations, to make plain to us that our modern mechanism of abundance cannot be kept in operation unless the masses of our people are enabled to live abundantly. His democracy was, therefore, more than a tradition. His liberalism was more than a formula. His faith was more than a mere assent to principles, which have proved to be tried and true. He did not repudiate the past, after the fashion of some reformers, nor did he repudiate the future after the fashion of those who fear reform. He believed in learning and searching out the ways of human progress.”