Thursday, April 30, 2015

WOODIN | 8. NYC, Back to Politics (Updated Jan. 7, 2016)

Will Woodin and FDR, 1933.
In 1902 Will Woodin left Berwick - where he had been put in charge by ACF of the entire Berwick factory in 1899 after the rollup - to become assistant to the President of ACF, his Berwick colleague and relative  Frederick Eaton.

He seems he tried to get his parents to move to New York City, but they never cared to leave "The Heights" in Berwick.

Woodin at ACF

When Woodin's company in Berwick became part of ACF, it was known that a huge number of railway cars would be ordered during the next few years because of the creation of the New York City subways and commuter railways in many metro areas.

ACF created the first steel railway car in 1904 and sold hundreds of cars to the London and New York City subway systems. Woodin played a major role in selling these cars to government and private buyers.

When Eaton died unexpectedly in 1916, Will Woodin was named president of ACF in place of Eaton. Woodin thereby became one of America's magnates and a man of great public influence.

The Woodins' Manhattan Residence

Woodin descendants say it is likely that Nan Woodin checked out and decided on the homes where the Woodins lived.

After she purchased homes in New York City, East Hampton and Arizona, in addition to their inherited homes in Berwick and Montrose, she was jocularly asked by her husband when she left town: "Now don't go and buy another house!"

The Woodins purchased two homes in Manhattan as early as January 1902, on 64th Street between Lexington and Park Avenues. The mortgage on the homes was $20,000. The homes were sold in October 1902. Why did they buy and sell these homes so quickly?  The most likely explanation is that the second house was for Clement and Mary Woodin, who were at first open to leaving "The Heights" and Berwick. The elder Woodins may have decided to stay in Berwick, perhaps because of Clement's taking a turn for the worse. He had been near death several times before his eventual death in 1931.

Woodin instead purchased an appropriate apartment in Manhattan, at 2 East 67th Street, on Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park [check date of purchase]. It was two blocks from the house where Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt lived, 47-49 East 65th Street.

When a reporter for the Washington Post came to see Nan Woodin in 1933, a paragraph was devoted to the Woodin apartment:
The Woodins occupy a duplex, 22-room apartment here, overlooking Central Park. There is a penthouse terrace where Mrs. Woodin likes to have her friends come to tea informally in summer. There is a huge fireplace in the living room where she is fond of receiving them, too.
The apartment has been described as one of the two costliest in New York City:
[The] 12th floor and penthouse ... [sold] for a breathtaking $310,000 - reportedly the second most expensive apartment in New York City. (David Tripp, Illegal Tender, Free Press, 2004, 23 and 152.)
A price of $310,000 in 1916 [check date of purchase - where were they 1902-1916?] would equate to $6.7 million in 2015.

Woodin's grandson Charlie Miner used to stay with his sister Anne and their mother Mary ("Perkie") in the top floor of the duplex. (His parents were divorced when Charlie was young.) He remembers the two of them being whisked off to school in his father's company-provided Rolls Royce, driven by Lawrence. As they approached his school, he would ask Anne to keep her head down so none of the other boys would see he was traveling with a girl.

Miner remembers there were two private chauffeurs, James and his son George. James worked primarily for Nan Woodin, driving the family Cadillac. George would join him when needed, for example when they were in East Hampton and the company driver was not available.

Woodin and Theodore Roosevelt

Will Woodin was a fan of Theodore Roosevelt, who happened also to be an enthusiastic patron of pattern coins. [More to come.]

Woodin gave to Republican causes.

Woodin and New York Governors Miller and Smith - Fuel Administrator

After a Declaration of War in 1917, coal shortages developed. Woodrow Wilson created a Federal Fuel Administration to address shortages. The act also created Daylight Savings Time to save fuel.

By 1922, the Federal program was winding down, and Federal involvement in fuel issues became a scandal because of the Teapot Dome disclosures, showing that GOP President Warren Harding's Interior Secretary had enriched two oil barons by turning over to them national oil reserves at a favored price.

New York State was one of many states that decided to continue a program to address fuel shortages, in part because of continuing strikes of coal miners and fuel shortages. New York Republican Governor Nathan Miller in 1922 called for a Fuel Administrator with sweeping powers.

The Fuel Administrator's job was intended to help sort out New York State's priorities and engage in a pragmatic form of rationing among the competing governmental and business interests. In August 1922, the speculation was that Harkness would be the Fuel Administrator for the State. Instead, on September 5 Gov. Miller appointed Will Woodin as Fuel Administrator, under authority conferred by the Legislature the previous week.  While cameras clicked and newspaper men looked on, the Governor signed the commission for Mr. Woodin and handed it to him saying, "You have taken a load off my mind.” Miller personally swore in his choice.

Woodin warned gougers that the ealthy and influential would not get coal at the expense of everyone else. Woodin's determination to use the power of government to stop illegal private hoarding of scarce resources foreshadowed his later role in looking out for the public interest in dealing with the banks as Treasury Secretary in 1933.

Woodin promptly appointed qualified people. In September 1922, the month after he was appointed, Woodin announced the selection of Arthur S. Learoyd of Thorne, Neale & Co. as the administrator of fuels for New York City and Long Island. Learoyd had been Director of Distribution of the Anthracite Division at the Federal Fuel Administration. Both of the other appointees had also been with the Federal Fuel Administration.  At the time of the announcement of Woodin's appointments, Learoyd announced the appointment of his five deputies.

Meanwhile, Woodin was making Democratic friends. When Governor Al Smith replaced Miller in 1923, Woodin was reappointed. Woodin joined FDR in supporting Smith for President in 1928.

Woodin and FDR

The proximity of Woodin to FDR in Manhattan turned out to be important for them both. Woodin supported FDR's Georgia charity, the Warm Springs Foundation. FDR was diagnosed with polio in 1921. He never gave up hope of recovery, and with media cooperation concealed the extent of his paralysis from the public. FDR's involvement with the Warm Springs Foundation in Georgia was partly because he savored the atmosphere and care, and partly because he wanted to share the benefits.

Warm Springs was originally named after the family of Martha Bulloch Roosevelt. It became a popular spa town, because its mineral springs have a constant temperature of nearly 90°F. Patrons were originally Savannah people seeking to avoid yellow fever. They were joined by visitors from Atlanta when a rail link was built to Durand. Three years after FDR was diagnosed with polio, in October 1924, he sought relief by immersion in warm water and what we would today call water aerobics. For the next 21 years he spent much time at Warm Springs. He gave the town its current name and created the Little White House, where he died in 1945, now a public museum.

Woodin worked with FDR on supporting a program of his Warm Springs foundation to provide care for indigent people with polio. He was put on the Board of Trustees and went down to Warm Springs as part of his support. In this way Woodin got to know FDR well. The Warm Springs Foundation has now become the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation.

In 1932, Woodin played an important part in FDR's campaign. At a crucial point, when the enormous deficits of the Warms Springs Foundation threatened to derail FDR's candidacy for the presidency, Woodin stepped in to chair a committee that raised the money to pay off the debts.

After FDR was elected, Woodin continued to call him Governor.

FDR, of course, was to the manner born in 1882, although it was a difficult delivery. The Hyde Park, N.Y. birth did not take place until his mother Sara was in labor with him for more than 24 hours. The doctor gave her some chloroform to calm her, and 45 minutes later, young Franklin arrived, blue and motionless, weighing nearly 10 pounds. FDR was their only child.

The family was comfortably well off from trade and real estate, but was not in the same category as the steel, oil and railway barons. Franklin grew up surrounded with family love, but isolated from his peers. He was taught by private tutors until at 14 he was sent off to Groton. FDR wasn't especially popular, but he made an effort to be appreciated by his teachers.

At Harvard, FDR pursued an active social life - a much different environment from Will Woodin's rural social life or his fraternizing with his nerdy or blue-collar colleagues at the Woodridge School or the School of Mines.

FDR loved to meet new people and was eager to lead. After marrying his cousin Eleanor and graduating from law school, he entered politics in 1910 at the request of some fellow New York Democrats. He was enthusiastic and optimistic.

FDR's avocations included watching cartoons (he especially enjoyed Mickey Mouse), playing cards, and bird-watching. He collected stamps, though hardly with the intensity that Woodin collected coins. For his health he built a pool at the White House and swam regularly.

His social inclinations continued at the White House. Besides formal state dinners, Franklin and Eleanor hosted teas, children's parties, dances, cocktail parties, and game nights. Guest lists were often twice what had been planned for. Last-minute invitations to guests to stay overnight were extended when all the rooms were full.

Like Will Woodin, FDR loved music. He occasionally led sing-alongs, and his birthday parties had friends and family performing comedy skits.


Manhattan Apartment: David Tripp, Illegal Tender, Free Press, 2004, 23 and 152.
Washington Post interview, March 1933. Inflation calculation: Calculator.

Charlie Miner, Jr.: Interviews in East Hampton and Vero Beach, Fla. and many emails, 2013-2015.

Govs. Miller and Smith - Fuel Administrator: New York Times stories of August 23, 1922 and September 6, 1922 (

He appointed qualified people. Seward's Journal, A Progressive Coal Trade Weekly, Vol. 5, p. 414.

FDR: Background information from Garrison Keillor's biography of FDR in Writer's Almanac. I grew up with a veneration for FDR transmitted by my father, Ervin Ross ("Spike") Marlin, who won a place in FDR's administration in 1933. He got one of 300 places through a competitive examination taken by thousands of applicants. He told me later - "I never felt so rich as when I had a government job in the Depression."

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