Friday, May 12, 2023

Frank A. Vanderlip and American Banking


Frank A. Vanderlip was pivotal in shaping the nation's banking system and establishing its global economic influence.

 His appointment as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in 1897 served as a training ground where he learned the challenges and intricacies of the American financial system. In 1910, Vanderlip joined a select group of individuals at Jekyll Island, Georgia, to develop a plan for a central banking system. The Jekyll Island Conference laid the foundation for the Federal Reserve Act of 1913.

 Vanderlip played a key role in shaping the Federal Reserve Act and advocated for a decentralized banking system. He believed in regional representation and including private and public entities in the Federal Reserve.

 Vanderlip later served as president of the National City Bank of New York (now Citibank). Under his leadership, the bank became one of the largest financial institutions in the United States. In addition, Vanderlip's innovative approach to banking practices, including diversifying the bank's portfolio and expanding its international operations, solidified its position as a global player.

 In addition, he served as editor of The New York Evening Post and later founded The New York Tribune, using them to raise awareness of economic and political issues, advocating for reforms that would benefit the American people.

William G. McAdoo, Secretary of the Treasury

As Secretary of the Treasury,  William G. McAdoo played a central role in creating and implementing the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, which established the Federal Reserve System.

This groundbreaking legislation centralized banking authority, stabilized the nation’s financial system, and provided a flexible tool for managing monetary policy.

 He championed other critical financial reforms, such as the Clayton Antitrust Act and the Federal Farm Loan Act, to promote fair competition and provide affordable credit to farmers. His efforts helped curb the power of monopolies and ensured economic opportunities for all.

 McAdoo oversaw the construction of the Panama Canal. And then, in 1917, he was appointed Director General of the United States Railroad Administration (USRA). In this role, he centralized the nation’s rail system under federal control, ensuring the efficient movement of troops and supplies. McAdoo also envisioned a network of interconnected highways, bridges, and tunnels to revolutionize travel and commerce. And even though his plans didn’t all come together during his time in office, they served as a blueprint for future infrastructure development.

 Later, McAdoo turned his eye to politics, seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 1920 and 1924. And while not successful in his bid for president, McAdoo continued a public service career, helping to establish the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and serving as its first president.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Herbert Hoover As Food Administrator During World War I


Herbert Hoover served as the United States Food Administrator during World War I. As the head of the Food Administration, he was tasked with ensuring the efficient production, distribution, and conservation of food resources at a time when the country was challenged with feeding its own population plus its European allies.


Hoover recognized the urgent need to increase food production and launched nationwide campaigns encouraging farmers to boost their yields. In addition, he appealed to their patriotism, emphasizing the importance of their contribution to the war effort. As a result, farmers were encouraged to plant "victory gardens" in their backyards, substantially increasing homegrown food production.


Hoover also focused on the conservation of resources. He implemented rationing measures and introduced "Meatless Mondays" and "Wheatless Wednesdays" to conserve supplies for the troops. These initiatives ensured food availability and fostered a sense of solidarity among Americans, encouraging them to make sacrifices for the greater good.


Hoover implemented food relief efforts for war-torn Europe, establishing the United States Food Administration's American Relief Administration (ARA), which provided crucial assistance to European countries devastated by the war. The ARA organized and coordinated the distribution of food aid, alleviating hunger and preventing further destabilization.


Hoover's efforts as Food Administrator earned him the title "The Great Humanitarian." His wartime experiences shaped his belief in the importance of international cooperation and relief efforts, providing him with valuable insights into managing and alleviating hunger on a massive scale. He employed that knowledge later in his relief work during and after World War II.

Saturday, May 6, 2023

General Fitz-John Porter

George McClellan said Porter “was probably the best general officer I had under me. He had excellent ability, sound judgment, and all the instincts of a soldier…He was one of the coolest and most imperturbable men in danger whom I have ever known.”

Porter graduated from West Point in 1845 and fought in the Mexican War at Veracruz, Cerro Gordo, and Molino del Rey, among other battles. From 1849 to 1853, he served as a cavalry and artillery instructor at West Point.

Porter’s troops were in the thick of the fighting throughout the Seven Days Campaigns. His men often formed the rear guard, protecting McClellan’s retreat. Porter set up the defenses at Malvern Hill and, along with his artillery officer, Henry Hunt, placed the guns that did their deadly work cutting up Lee’s army.

General Samuel Heintzelman


David Strother, writing as Porte Crayon, described General Heintzelman as “a grim, grizzled veteran, who looks as if he had mettle in him.”

Heintzelman graduated from West Point in 1826, fought in the Seminole Wars in Florida, the Mexican War, then in the expedition to put down the Yuma Indian uprising in 1851.

During the Civil War, Heintzelman had two of the most aggressive field commanders in his corps—Fighting Joe Hooker and Philip Kearny. As a result, his corps fought in the thick of the action during the Peninsula Campaign and the Seven Days Battles.

And yet, for all his military experience, Heintzelman lacked imagination, ingenuity, and the ability to command a large body of men. Hooker and Kearny made him look good but take them away, and Heintzelman was lost.

General Fighting Joe Hooker


Everyone called Joseph Hooker Fighting Joe, but he was never comfortable with that sobriquet. “It sounds to me like a fighting fool,” he said. “People will think I’m a highwayman or a bandit.”

His men liked him well enough, but his fellow officers had doubts. Hooker often spoke before he thought. He called Lincoln “incompetent” and proclaimed the saving hope of the country required a “military dictatorship.”

The day before Lincoln appointed Hooker commander-in-chief, Ambrose Burnside recommended that the president dismiss him from the military. He accused Hooker of creating dissent among his fellow officers and suggested he was nothing but a big bugaboo who “made statements which were calculated to create incorrect impressions.”

Like many of his fellow West Point classmates, Hooker fought in the Mexican and Seminole Wars, then resigned from the peacetime army, hoping to find success in civilian life. He tried his hand at farming and real estate speculation and even took a crack at politics in California, but nothing seemed to work for him.

When the civil war broke out, Hooker rejoined the army as a brigadier general and served at Williamsburg, South Mountain, and Antietam.

Everyone agreed that Joseph Hooker cut the most dashing figure in the Union army. He was tall and handsome, with big blue eyes and long, flowing blonde hair. If that didn’t make him stick out like a sore thumb, picture the general dashing everywhere on the battlefield sitting astride a big white stallion.

General John Pope appeared to have a man crush on Hooker. He remembered him as a handsome young man with a florid complexion and fair hair and with a figure agile and graceful. “As a corps commander, with his whole force operating under his own eye,” said Pope, “it is much to be doubted whether Hooker had a superior in the army.”

General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson


Stonewall Jackson earned his name at Stone Bridge, about four miles north of Manassas Junction. General Barnard Bee’s troops had been under heavy fire all day. At about 2 o’clock, his force had dwindled to almost nothing. Bee rode up and down the line encouraging the men to give it their all. Finally, when it looked as if everything was lost, he approached General Thomas Jackson and said, “General, they are beating us back.”

Jackson replied, “Sir, we will give them the bayonet.” General Bee rallied his troops and urged his men on, saying, “There is Jackson, standing like a stone wall.” Moments later, General Bee got cut down, leading his men into battle.


History remembers General Thomas Jackson as “Stonewall” Jackson.

His genius on the battlefield was offset by the quirkiness of his character. He often walked around with one arm in the air, reportedly to balance the blood in his body. For some reason, he believed one side of his body was heavier than the other.


He acted the same way on horseback, often riding with one arm raised in the air.

He was a brilliant tactician on the battlefield, second only to Robert E. Lee. Jackson tied up Federal troops in the Shenandoah Valley for nearly a year, fought in the Second Battle of Bull Run, forced the surrender of 12,000 Union soldiers at Harper’s Ferry, and marched to Antietam the next day to join in the battle there.


His wife described him as a quiet, solitary, closed-mouth individual. “He was a character apart; a man of mystery; silent and uncommunicative.” He asked no advice, “forming his own plans, which those nearest to him could not penetrate and hardly dared to conjecture, and which were disclosed only to his military family only when he gave his orders for the march and battle.”


D. H. Hill said Stonewall “Jackson’s genius never shone out when under the command of another.” That was true. Jackson let Lee down twice during the Seven Days Battles. First, when he arrived a day late for the battle of Mechanicsville (or Beaver Dam Creek) and again at Glendale (or Frayser’s Farm) when he sat the fight out.


What everyone did agree on was that Jackson was quick. Super quick. The Chicago Daily Tribune suggested that “with his swift movements from field to field, Stonewall Jackson’s sobriquet should be changed to Stonewall ‘Portable Fence’ Jackson.”