The Journal of San Diego History
Winter 1984, Volume 30, Number 1
Thomas L. Scharf, Managing Editor

by Theodore Davie

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Situated on a fine harbor and served by a railroad, San Diego was a small city of promise in 1889 when Joseph W. Sefton, Sr., established the San Diego Savings Bank, as it was then named. There was a pervading sense of optimism in the community which was reflected in the widespread desire for metropolitan status. Sefton felt it, too. A successful businessman from the midwest, this would be his first venture into banking. He wanted the bank to attract all classes of customers, but he particularly desired it to be a secure depository for those of limited means, who at the time were not inclined to use banks. A dollar deposit would open a savings account for an adult, ten cents for a child. He is reported to have said that his enterprise was not opened for short-term gain, rather it was a long-term commitment to its city’s progress. The success of these concepts is now evident. They were the source of what has grown into a notable financial institution whose progress continues to parallel that of its community. Its roots are deep and widely spread in the original territory. The expansion came about without resort to acquisition and merger. Remarkable, too, is the single family vein that runs through its history. The founder’s son and grandson have each served as presidents. The history of both bank and city remain intertwined to the benefit of both.