Remembering William H. Woodin – Part One
You have probably heard of William H. Woodin. In recent years his name has appeared in many articles about the 1933 double eagle—a coin that has been in the news, in view of the U.S. Mint suggesting that they were not officially released and cannot be legally held, and many collectors, historians, and others feeling otherwise (including the Professional Numismatists Guild). He was secretary of the Treasury at the time, and also an avid numismatist.
That said, and ignoring this particular coin, Woodin deserves enshrinement in the Pantheon of 20th century numismatic figures. In April 1933, when just-inaugurated President Franklin D. Roosevelt named Woodin as his secretary of the Treasury, Frank G. Duffield, editor of The Numismatist, devoted his monthly space to commenting on the recent appointment. Although Woodin was a new figure in public life, he was a well-known name in numismatics, having been a member of various organizations and having co-authored, with Edgar H. Adams, the standard work on United States pattern coins. The far-ranging intellectual, business, and personal interests of the new official were given by Duffield:
Mr. Woodin is moderate sized, white haired, pleasant of speech, quick of humor, a Presbyterian. Since 1916 he has been president of the American Car and Foundry Company. He rose to that position in 16 years, starting as district manager of a plant at Berwick, Pennsylvania. He was born in Berwick, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Clemuel Ricketts Woodin, May 27, 1868. He was educated at Woodbridge School in New York, and graduated from Columbia University School of Mines in 1890. Two years later he was general superintendent of the Jackson & Woodin Manufacturing Company at Berwick. He left that firm as president to go with the American Car and Foundry Company in 1899.
In less than a year he was called to New York to be assistant to the first vice president. In another year he was assistant to the president and in 1902, in little over two years after joining the company, he became director. With his rise to the presidency he collected other important industry posts. He is now chairman of the board and member of the executive committee of the American Locomotive Company; chairman of the board of the American Car and Foundry Company; chairman of the board of the Brill Corporation; chairman of the board of the Railway Steel Spring Company; president of the American Car and Foundry Export Company; president of the American Car and Foundry Securities Company and a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He is a member of the board of directors of the Remington Arms Company, the Super Heated Company, the Montreal Locomotive Works, the Cuba Company, the Cuba Railroad Company, Compania Cubana Consolidated Railroads of Cuba and the American Ship and Commerce Company.
The new Treasury head has composed five symphonies, a children’s book of songs and numerous popular pieces. The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra recently played his Oriental Suite. He does not orchestrate his own music, doesn’t know enough about the technique of it. To get his melodies he props himself up in bed at night with a guitar. His musical instruction ceased when he was seven years old.
One other thing that will take his mind momentarily from business is a tip that he can find a book with drawings by Cruikshank in it. He collects them. He also goes in for fine hand bindings. He also belongs to the Union League, Racquet and Tennis, Railroad, Metropolitan, Union, Lawyers’, Lotos and Indian House clubs. He lives in East 67th Street, Manhattan. He was married in 1889, the year before he finished school, to Annie Jessup, of Montrose, Pennsylvania. They have four children, William H., Jr., Mary, Anne, and Elizabeth.
Next week: More about Woodin, with his commentary, made in 1911, regarding rare coins as an investment.