- John J. Raskob
John Jakob Raskob, KCSG (
19 March1879 - 15 October1950) was a financial executive and businessman for DuPontand General Motors, and the builder of the Empire State Building. He was chairman of the Democratic National Committeefrom 1928 to 1932 and a key supporter of Alfred E. Smith's candidacy for President of the United States.
Franklin D. Rooseveltbecame President, Raskob was a prominent opponent of the New Dealthrough his support of a number of anti-Roosevelt organizations including the American Liberty League. Raskob was also a leader in the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment.
Raskob was born to John and Anna Frances (Moran) Raskob in
Lockport, New York, where his father ran a successful cigar-production business.cite web |url=http://www.hagley.lib.de.us/raskob/raskob-bio.pdf |title=Biographical Essay |publisher= Hagley Museum and Library|work=The John J. Raskob Papers] During his studies at both parochial andpublic schools, Raskob delivered newspapers, worked in seasonal agriculture, participated in local theater, and was involved in the Catholic community. He entered a local business school after his high school graduation but dropped out to support his family through secretarial work following his father's death in 1898.
DuPont and GM
He was hired in 1901 by
Pierre du Pontas a personal secretary. In 1911, he became assistant treasurer of DuPont, in 1914 treasurer, and in 1918 vice-president for finance of both DuPont and General Motors (Raskob had been an early investor in General Motors and had engineered DuPont's ownership of 43% of GM, purchased from the financially troubled William C. Durant.
While with GM, he led the creation of
General Motors Acceptance Corporation, the corporation that allowed GM dealers to offer installment credit directly to customers. He also promoted the use of standard financial statistics to measure the performance of different operations within a diversified company, primarily through his associate Donaldson Brown.
Raskob held the head financial job at both GM and DuPont until 1928, when he resigned from GM in a dispute with chairman
Alfred P. Sloan.
"Everybody Ought to be Rich"
Raskob was very
bullishin the stock market in the 1920s and gave an interview to Samuel Crowther for " Ladies Home Journal" in which he suggested every American could become wealthy by investing $15 per week in common stocks (at a time when average American's weekly salary was between $17 to $22). [cite web
title= Crashing Hopes: The Great Depression
author= Stanley K. Schultz
work= American History 102: Civil War to the Present
quote= That same year, John Jacob Raskob, Chief Executive of General Motors and head of the Democratic National Committee, published an article entitled "Everybody Ought to be Rich" in the Ladies Home Journal. Raskob suggested that every American could become wealthy by investing $15 a week in common stocks. He failed to realize, however, that the weekly salary of the average American worker was between $17 and $22, but that's not important: the optimism was there.] The article (entitled "Everybody Ought to be Rich") arrived at newsstands just two months before the
Wall Street Crash of 1929.
Democratic National Chairman
Raskob had supported Democratic presidential candidate
Al Smithin the 1928 election, and Smith invited Raskob to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Sloan, a supporter of Herbert Hoover, insisted Raskob resign either from GM or the DNC. Raskob left GM after the board supported Sloan, sold his GM stock, and used the proceeds to build the Empire State Building. Raskob made Smith president of the Empire State Co., operators of the building, based on a promise to do business together the night Smith lost the presidential election. Raskob served as chairman of the DNC through 1932. He continued to promote Smith's candidacy as Chairman of the DNC, and to advocate for the adoption of an anti- prohibitionpolicy. Both of these positions were opposed by different factions within the Democratic Party, and in 1932, when Franklin D. Rooseveltwon the party's nomination, and the election, Raskob withdrew from politics. He was later involved with the American Liberty League, an anti- New Dealorganization active around the time of the 1936 election.
The Empire State Building
During the Great Depression, Raskob's business interests were focused on the
Empire State Building, which was in competition with the Chrysler Buildingto become the world's tallest building at the time. [cite web |url=http://www.esbnyc.com/tourism/tourism_history.cfm |title=Empire State Building:Official Internet Site] According to one story, Raskob had taken a jumbo pencil, stood it on end and asked architect William Lamb, "Bill, how high can you make it so that it won't fall down?" [cite web |url=http://www.raskob.com/jjr.htm#esb |title=John Jakob Raskob] He was also invested in precious metal mining in Nevadaand New Mexico, ranching, the aeronautical industry, and pesticides. Raskob remained with DuPont until his retirement from the company in 1946.
Raskob's religious convictions motivated him be substantially involved in charitable giving over the course of his life. He provided the initial funding for the Catholic Foundation for the Diocese of Wilmington, [cite web |url=http://www.hagley.lib.de.us/raskob/raskob-pastoral-letter.pdf |title=Pastoral Letter |author=Rev. Edmond J. FitzMaurice, D. D. |page=10 |quote=Mr. Raskob asks to be listed as the first donor to the Fund with an initial contribution of $500,000.] and established several other foundations, including one which funds grants for projects and programs associated with the Catholic Church, [cite web |url=http://www.rfca.org |title=The Raskob Foundation For Catholic Activities] and another which provides no-interest educational loans. [cite web |url=http://www.billraskob.org |title=The Bill Raskob Foundation] In 1921, he was appointed a Knight of St. Gregory by
Pope Pius XI, recognizing him for his contributions. [ [http://www.hagley.org/raskob/raskob-inventory.pdf Papers of John J. Raskob] ]
Raskob married Helena Springer Green in 1906, and together had 13 children. One son, William, predeceased him in an auto accident at the age of 20, and the Bill Raskob Foundation was started in memory of him. Raskob is known in the Claymont and Wilmington areas for building the "Patio" at what is now
Archmere Academybetween 1916 and 1918. [cite web |url=http://www.hagley.lib.de.us/raskob/raskob-arch-natreg.pdf |title=Archmere's application for registration as a National Historic Place] Originally his residence, one of its most significant features is a fountain made of marble, which has each of his 13 children sculpted around the side.
Raskob is buried at Cathedral Cemetery in the city of Wilmington, DE. Fact|date=February 2007
* [http://www.hagley.lib.de.us/raskob the John J. Raskob papers] at
Hagley Museum and Library
* [http://heritage.dupont.com/floater/fl_raskob/floater.shtml DuPont Heritage:John J. Raskob]
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