Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Marriage--the Ultimate Business Merger

Stillmans remain close to collateral kin.
James J. Stillman did see to it that his children married "well." Daughter Elsie married William Goodsell Rockefeller in 1895; Isabel married his brother, Percy Avery Rockefeller, in 1901; and James Alexander Stillman later in 1901 married Anne Urquhart Potter, an actress.

The Stillman daughters lived in Greenwich, CT with their Rockefeller husbands (both Yale educated and members of Skull and Bones), and they maintained close ties with their Stillman relatives, who worked at the bank which is now known as Citigroup. Charles Stillman, Jr., their bachelor uncle, had graduated from Yale in 1882 and worked in cotton brokerage like the Swensons.

The next generation witnessed the marriage of Elizabeth Goodrich Stillman, the daughter of Elsie's cousin, Chauncey Stillman, to Langbourne Meade Williams, a son of John L. Williams, one of Eric Swenson's investors in his Freeport Sulphur Co., as shown in the following news clipping:

  The John L. Williams & Sons, Banking Family

The Stillman family's shares in Freeport Sulphur were originally acquired in 1912 by James J. Stillman, when the mineral company was founded by a third-generation Texas banker:
Eric P. Swenson, vice- president of National City Bank in New York and a native Texan who retained strong financial ties throughout Texas, showed interest and visited the find in 1911. When Swenson saw the site, he realized that he could also develop a duty-free port nearby. Upon returning to New York, he formed the Vanderlip-Swenson-Tilghman Syndicate. He pooled capital of $700,000 to finance the project and purchased Bryanmound and the surrounding area.
It was said of Eric P. Swenson's Fidelity Bank when it opened in March 1900 in the upper East side of New York City, that:
while it will be a separate institution, it will practically be an up-town branch of the City National Bank....One of the Directors of the new bank said last night: "The institution is designed to accommodate the people up town, and will be more especially a 'householders' bank'. It will probably have close business relations with the National City Bank."

Langbourne Williams, Sr.'s brother, John Skelton Williams, was a Virginian like President Woodrow Wilson, who appointed him Assistant Secretary of the Treasury on March 24, 1913. While awaiting approval of his appointment as Comptroller of the Currency, he was thus placed in charge of the fiscal bureaus of the Treasury Department and would have such control until Warren Harding's inauguration in 1921--the first eight years of the Fed's operation. The Southerner's background was given in an introduction to him by the Washington Post, published May 25, 1913:
 The new Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. John Skelton Williams, has the enviable distinction of tracing his line of descent on the paternal side of his family direct from our first First Lady [Martha Washington], and from his maternal ancestors there flows in his veins the bluest blood of the F.F.V.'s [First Families of Virginia].

Mr. Williams' grandmother, Sianna Dandridge, was the daughter of William Dandridge, of New Kent, whose father, John Bartholomew Dandridge, was the brother of Martha Washington. Sianna Dandridge's mother was Susannah Armistead, the only daughter of Maj. William Armistead, of New Kent, who was a direct descendant of William Armistead, the emigrant, who landed on the shores of Virginia In 1636. 

Nor is Mr. Williams' mother's line any less distinguished. She comes from the Skeltons and the Randolphs—families who have made Virginia's history famous since Colonial days. She is the great-granddaughter of the Edmund Randolph who was the first Secretary of State under President Washington, and who was the first Attorney General of the young republic.
Secretary Williams' parents, John Langbourne and Marie Ward Skelton Williams, were living at their country home, in Powhatan county, Va., when their son, John Skelton, was born, July 6, 1866. His early boyhood days were spent there and at the Virginia capital, and in the private schools of Richmond young Williams received his rudimentary education. Later he attended the University of Virginia [later the alma mater of Mississippi-born Frank Wisner], and in 1886 he took a short term at law at that institution, not with the idea, however, of practicing, but in order to better fit himself for his business career. He entered his father's banking house as an apprentice, and learned the business from the first round of the ladder up. He had remarkable aptitude for business, as was shown when at the age of 18 he began the publication of a pamphlet entitled "A Manual of Investments," a publication commanding such a wide circulation that he continued publishing it for a number of years—in fact, until he became too busy with other things to do so. 

... It was he who first thought out, and then brought to consummation, the short line from New York to Florida—that which is now known as the Seaboard Air Line Railway system. In 1900 he was elected the first president of the system—a most unusual honor to come to a man in his thirty-fourth year. Since then Mr. Willlams has been more and more identified with the business interests of the South. He became a director in numerous trust companies, banks, railroad and other corporations, and is now a recognized leading financier, not only of the South, but in many of the business centers of the country.

Taking Charge of the New Fed

A mere seven months after this introduction Williams was being viciously attacked in the press, and soon thereafter was being investigated by Congress. Claims were made by a Republican who had been involved politically with Theodore Roosevelt, named Milton E. Ailes, that Williams had "resorted to extraordinary methods to obtain information with which to attack the National City Bank of New York" as well as the Riggs National Bank in Washington, D.C.

blue blooded Virginian
George Peabody's partner in Baltimore, Elisha Riggs, had founded the Riggs bank. This blog has previously detailed George Peabody's rise from the elite enclave of China traders in Essex County, Massachusetts, to enter banking in Baltimore. His training complete, he shipped off to England during the days his Danvers relatives were accumulating capital in the so-called China trade, into which various members of the Peabody clan, such as Endicott Peabody, were intermarried. George Peabody's role in London, as a representative for the House of Morgan, was to launder profits of his opium-trading kin through what then served as America's bank of last-resort lending. He created the model for using drug money to build up America's gold reserves.
John Langbourne Williams' financial network

Perhaps Ailes was aware of this connection, from the previous century, between the opium traders in New England and the Baltimore bankers. Perhaps he was urged to destroy the triangular scheme by which anti-Federalist shipping merchants, who were blockade runners and smugglers during the War of 1812, had linked up with Southern bankers--both of which groups had ties to British banks which had similar experience with East India Company profits before the opium wars shut off that faucet for them.

All we know at this point is that Milton Ailes made vicious attacks against the Virginian whose father, banker John Langbourne Williams of Richmond, Va., was in partnership with the J. W. Middendorf banking family, according to information from Baltimore: Its History and Its People (1912). J.W. Middendorf II would, in 1968 help finance George Bush's run for President against Richard Nixon and others; he almost got Bush's name on the ballot as vice president, he revealed in his 2011 book, Potomac Fever.

Ailes also stated that "Williams had maliciously used his high office as a cover to impertinently, arrogantly and insolently pry into matters with which he had no official concern whatever, for the purpose and with the intent to injure the bank and wreak his vengeance on certain of its officers against whom he entertained a personal hatred." Ailes was obviously working on behalf of competing banking networks, likely based in New York, who did not want to allow these Southerners to compete with them. Eventually, a grand jury indicted the Riggs bankers for selling stocks short, but the defense used former Presidents William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt as character witnesses for the defendants. It was all set out in a book by banker, Thomas P. Kane, in The Romance and Tragedy of Banking.

A Faked Memorial
Ten years after the 1916 trial, John Skelton Williams died, but his influence remained. The major investment in sulphur his father's bank had made in 1912 was destined to fall under the control of the former Comptroller's nephew, Langbourne M. Williams, Jr. in 1930, not coincidentally the same year Langbourne married Elizabeth Goodrich Stillman. As the sister of the same Chauncey Devereaux Stillman, introduced in a previous post, Mrs. Williams served as a link between the capital acquired at the turn of the 20th century by an old Connecticut family--with mining assets, including sulphur, in Mexico and Texas, along with assets in petroleum brought in when her Stillman aunt and grandmother married sons of William Rockefeller.

The 1930 marriage would allow financial management of those mining and oil assets to be handed over to one of Virginia's oldest banking families. Yet it seems nobody understood what was actually happening. G. E. Dodd, who had to pay the newspaper to get it to print his version of the farce that took place when Godfrey S. Rockefeller and J. Sterling Rockefeller went to Brownsville, Texas, with the Stillmans and Williamses to create a fake memorial for Charles Stillman did not know exactly what was amiss, only that he smelled a rat. It was with this Brownsville memorial that we began our series about the Stillman family in Texas with the intention of exploring Lisa Pease's research which connects Freeport Sulphur to the John Kennedy assassination.

It is at that point we will pick up eventually. Watch for it.

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