• A New Venture (1908 - 1924)

    Henry Ittleson's innovation and experience guided CIT early growth. The company grew with the U.S. economy as it transitioned to a new era of corporate organization, mass production and consumer spending.

    Henry Ittleson had seen two major recessions cripple the U.S. economy. Even as he signed the incorporation papers for his new company in St. Louis in 1908, the nation was in the middle of a banking crisis, the famous Panic of 1907. Nervous customers' withdrawals forced many banks out of business. Credit was scarce, even for healthy businesses. 

    Despite all the turbulence, Henry Ittleson seemed calm and confident. In 37 years as a dry goods retailer, law student, real estate agent and stockbroker, he had learned a crucial fact about the business world: credit was always in demand. If, as was often said, credit was the lifeblood of the economy, then businesses would require it through times of sickness and health. Ittleson''s judgment was sound. Within three months of CIT founding on February 11, the company listed 22 businesses as clients, including the young Monsanto chemical company.

    By 1914 CIT had established its own lines of credit with banks from New York to New Orleans. CIT clients, usually wholesale suppliers, included increasing numbers of firms that produced consumer goods such as pianos, carriages, bicycles and furniture. The following year CIT outgrew its St. Louis location and moved east to New York City. 

    Mass production techniques soon brought products like automobiles and radios within purchasing range of the average consumer. In 1916, CIT teamed with the Studebaker automobile company to provide financing to car buyers, who put one-third down and paid the balance in eight monthly installments. The arrangement with Studebaker''s 4,000 dealerships nationwide was the first of its kind with such a wide reach. 

    World War I briefly interrupted the growth of the consumer market. Ittleson served as a "dollar-a-year man" with the Army Quartermaster Department in Washington, D.C., while CIT financed the manufacture of 150 electronic "U-boat chasers." With an eye toward to post-war economy, the company also arranged with Thomas Edison, Inc., for consumers to purchase radios on a 12-month installment plan.

    The economy surged during the "Roaring 20s" as consumers chose from a wide array of new electrical appliances, home furnishings and automobiles. CIT hired Arthur O. Dietz to head its auto financing operation full-time. Soon Dietz had branched out beyond Studebaker to arrange financing contracts with several car makers, including Nash, Packard and Chrysler.

    In 1924, CIT incorporated in Delaware, offered stock for sale to the public for the first time, and became the first company of its kind to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The following year CIT enjoyed a business volume exceeding $148 million and recorded capital in excess of $26 million. The lifeblood of the economy was healthier than ever, thanks in no small part to timely infusions of credit.