Monday, September 2, 2013

When the Rich Marry Up, War Follows

In June 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. Woodrow Wilson was President and declared the United States to be neutral, as one after another country in Europe entered the war on the side either of Austria-Hungary or Serbia. Wilson's position would persist into 1917, while capitalists and speculators saw opportunities to cash in on the demand, possibly even selling to both sides in Europe.

October 1915
What led up to a "takeover" of Remington Arms actually began in the fall of 1915 with Midvale Steel. A syndicate of money desiring to buy a company to make war weapons contacted investment banker William A. Read to negotiate the purchase of assorted companies involved in steel production to combine into ordnance making. 

Midvale's owner had refused to violate the neutrality by selling to belligerents but was enticed into selling his stock to men who had no such compunction. William E. Corey of U.S. Steel, which had been put together in 1901 from Carnegie Steel by the Morgan banking group, headed the new Midvale Steel and Ordnance company, in which Marcellus Hartley Dodge (who controlled Remington Arms and Ammunition, maker of hunting rifles) also owned stock. Dodge had in 1907 married a sister of Percy Rockefeller of Greenwich, Connecticut, not a great distance from Bridgeport where the munitions plant would be built starting in November 1915.

Years earlier Remington Arms, a company which manufactured sporting rifles, had combined with UMC, a maker of cartridges for those guns. Texas historian John Mason Hart tells us in his highly recommended 2002 book, Empire and Revolution: The Americans in Mexico since the Civil War:
[T]he merchants were not men to trifle with: their influence exceeded the mere sale of weapons. Marcellus Hartley, part owner of Schuyler, Hartley, and Graham, served as the president of the Union Metallic Cartridge Company and as a director of Remington Arms. As a director of the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States he was also connected to the highest levels of finance. Using his access to large amounts of capital, he eventually assumed control of Remington and merged it with Union Cartridge. He was a close associate of [James] Stillman, [Cleveland] Dodge, Beekman, and [Moses] Taylor. All of them avidly supported Romero and the Mexican Liberals against the French.
Both Percy and brother William G. Rockefeller were married to daughters of banker James J. Stillman, the major stockholder of what was then the National City Bank (now Citigroup). These siblings and spouses thus joined their interests with those of their uncle and cousins at Chase Bank which was, of course, controlled by the other Rockefeller brother's family (John D. of Standard Oil).

Merchants of Death Know: War Pays

Business was good at Bridgeport.
Thus, the capital which helped to make Remington bigger and better came from men who used war profits from the U.S. war against Mexico and the Civil War to build the National City Bank in New York City. The merger resulted in the largest munitions company in America just in time to supply Europe with materiel  to meet their World War I demands. The huge factory was located in Bridgeport, CT, not far from Greenwich and New Haven, home to the famous Skull and Bones secret society. 

The stock of Remington and United Cartridge fell into the hands of a 31-year-old scion of New England wealth, whose grandfather, Marcellus Hartley, had purchased the two companies outright in 1888. He just happened to be Percy Rockefeller's brother-in-law and was described in a January 1916 feature in the NY Times entitled "Our Greatest Arms Plant," as follows:
Marcellus Hartley Dodge is the sole proprietor, and it was he as a young man of thirty-two—who looks like a youth of twenty-one—who waved the magic wand over the swamplands of Bridgeport and created almost overnight one of the greatest manufacturing plants in the country and a contribution for the military preparedness of the United States that is of incalculable value. Mr Dodge is an enthusiast over the great enterprise of which he is the head. His mother died in his infancy, and he was brought up in the home of his grandfather, Marcellus Hartley, the owner of the Remington Arms and the UMC [United Metallic Cartridge].
The article details how this one plant employed 50,000 workers in 38 building built as a city within the city of Bridgeport in only eighteen months.

Grandfather Hartley's death had occurred in 1902, two years after Percy Rockefeller (Skull and Bones) graduated from Yale. Five years later, on April 19, 1907, newspapers announced the marriage of Percy's sister to the weapons magnate:

Dodge-Rockefeller Wedding Brings
Together Eighty Million Dollars
Marcy and Gerrie go to the
New York, April 19 - The wedding yesterday afternoon at the bride's home of Marcellus Hartley Dodge and Ethel Geraldine Rockefeller gives the two young people upward of $80,000,000 with which to start their life together. The bride is a daughter of William Rockefeller and niece of John D. Rockefeller, while the groom came into a fortune on the death of his grandfather, Marcellus Hartley.
Miss Rockefeller has $20,000,000 at least in her own name and Dodge inherited $60,000,000, which he has not decreased, yet the wedding was devoid of all ostentation. There were only the closest friends present, hardly a half hundred of them, and the bride wore an extremely simple white satin gown cut in princess fashion.
Thus, while Percy Avery Rockefeller and his brother William Goodsell married the daughters of the banker, James Stillman, their sister (Ethel Geraldine "Gerrie" Rockefeller) married the man whose family had supplied the weapons for the Stillmans to sell during the wars in Texas and Mexico. It is what bankers call "keeping the money in the family."

Mr. Dodge, known to family and friends as "Marcy," was the son of Norman White Dodge, whose father, William Earl Dodge married Melissa Phelps (1809-1903), the daughter of Anson Greene Phelps and Olivia Egleston. In 1833, William E. Dodge and his father-in-law founded the mining firm Phelps, Dodge, and Company, one of America's foremost mining companies. More importantly, he was heir to the Hartley fortune. The two became for a time the wealthiest couple in the nation and were the hub of a family wheel with spokes made of powerful Skull and Bones members with names such as Stillman, Rockefeller, Phelps, Stokes and Dodge.

Prior to the war, steel had been primarily sold for railroads, whose companies may have seen a future market with the growth of the automobile industry, which would also make use of petroleum, to the glee of the Rockefeller family. Morgan had not foreseen the automobile's expansion to individual consumers and instead concentrated his efforts upon the electric street railway industry. Which direction investment monies would flow was still in limbo in 1914, and war speculation thus came at a good time for the likes of these "gentlemen.

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