Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Image ID: 800290
A glimpse of New York from Trinity Church steeple. (1872) (NYPL)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Developing the Equitable Block

January 14, 1912, New York Times, Part 9, Page 1, Building Plans For Equitable Block Will Be Watched With Keen Interest,
Many Speculations as to Character of New Structure and Whether Insurance Company Will Abandon Old Home Site--- Less than $5,000,000 Paid for Block Now Valued at $15,000,000---History of the Purchases Which Covered Period of Forty Years---Lottery Office Once There.

First purchase 1866 $372,000
Second purchase (Corner B'way and Cedar St.), 1868
Bought in 1884, 112 B'way Delmonicos $302,857
Bought in 1884 (4 lots on Pine Street) $667,500
Metropolitn Bank Bought 1885 $762,500
Clearing House Bought 1897 $490,000
Last Purchase 1906 $400,000

November 2, 1908, Progress, Volume IV, Issue 1, Page 22, The Equitable "Sky-Scraper."

The following paiticulars are from the Office of the New York building authorities: The plans filed consisted of seventy sheets of drawings, each measuring 4x5 feet, and it is estimated that the cost of preparing these plans, together with the cost involved in preliminary engineering work in connection with them, represent an outlay of probably not less than £62,500.

The plans provide for a main structure thirty-four storeys in height, reaching 489 feet into the air, and having a frontage of about 150 feet on two sides, and over 300 feet on the other two sides. Above the main building there will be a square tower rising twenty-eight additional storeys, and capped with a cupola, having a combined height of 420 feet. This, together with the thirty-four storeys of the main building, will give a total of sixty-two storeys, and a height of 909 feet. Above the tower of the building itself there is to extend a flagpole 150 feet long. The building is to be equipped with a group of thirty-three passenger elevators, built in two rows in a great elevator corridor finished in ornamental bronze. Eight of these elevators will run to the top of the tower extension. In addition to these, there will be a number of elevators exclusively for freight transportation. Despite the great value of the land which it will occupy (£3,750,000), and the expected large cost of the building itself, the society expects its building to be a big money-saver. Officials have estimated that the return on it should be from 8 to 10 per cent. Speaking of these plans, and generally of the kind of structures to which they belong, our contemporary, "Building," declares that no matter what opinion one may have about their necessity, one cannot but take pride at the magnificence of such stupendous conceptions and the splendid testimonies they are to the human conquest of constitutional difficulties.

May, 1908, Building Trades Employers' Association Bulletin, Vol. 9, No. 5, New Equitable Life Building, page 56,

It is reported that the Equitable Life Assurance Society is planning to erect what it is understood will be the largest commercial building in the world and will entail an expenditure of $10,000,000 to $15 000,000. It will occupy the block, bounded by Broadway, Nassau, Pine and Cedar Sts., owned by the company. The number of stories has not yet been decided but the proposed structure will contain approximately 1,650,000 sq. ft. of floor space.

July, 1908, Building Trades Employers' Association Bulletin, Vol. 9, No. 7, Equitable to be 62 Stories page 80,

An office building 909 feet in height has been planned to replace the old home of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, occupying the blocks bounded by Pine, Nassau and Cedar Streets and Broadway. It will therefore be 251 feet 7 inches higher than the annex to the Metropolitan Life Building, being erected at the North end of the block front in Madison avenue, from 23d to 24th Sts. With its annex, which is nearly finished, the Metropolitan Life Building is the tallest office structure in the world, as it rises 6^7 feet 5 inches above the curb line. It has forty-six stories.

In every respect the proposed new home of the Equitable Life will be a record office structure. Besides being the tallest, it will occupy the most expensive skyscraper site in the world, as the estimated value of the land on which the present building stands has been placed at from $12,000,000 to $15,000,000. It will have, too, sixteen stories more than the Metropolitan Life, twenty-one more than the Singer and will be over three times the height of the Trinity Building, opposite, with its twenty-one stories and rising 280 feet 6 inches above the curb. It will also be the costliest office building in the world, as D. H. Burnham & Co., architects, of Chicago, who have drawn the plans for this greatest of all skyscrapers, place the cost at $10,000,000.

The costliest structure ever built as a investment is the new Plaza Hotel, in the Westerly block front in Fifth Ave. from 58th to 59th St. That hostelry was opened several months ago and represents an expenditure of nearly $15,000,000. The Metropolitan Life, Singer and New Plaza projects comprise only three of the remarkably large structures erected in this city in the last few years, an era unparalleled for building activity in the history of this city. The City Investing Building, too, the largest office building in the world as regards area occupied, was recently opened for occupancy, and the twin buildings of the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad Company, the biggest structures ever put up for use partly as a railroad terminal station and for offices, were also finished a few weeks ago. The City Investing Building is at Cortlandt Street and Broadwav and the twin structures of the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad Co. occupy the Westerly block fronts in Church St. from Cortlandt to Fulton Sts. At a recent meeting of real estate experts and students of realty affairs, Robert E. Dowling, president of the City Investing Co., prophesied that the dawn of a new and greater era in building on Manhattan Island was near at hand. He predicted that structures would be built which would eclipse in size, cost and probably in every other respect the record buildings of the world.

January, 1909, Building Trades Employers' Association Bulletin, Vol. X, No. 1, Praise for Skyscrapers.

There is nothing worth while to be gained in the way of light and air in the limitation of the height of skyscrapers, according to the Committee on Charter Revision of the Municipal Art Commission, which has addressed a long communication to the Board of Aldermen on the subject. The committee declares that skyscrapers are an aid in supplying safety, air, light, and access, and declaring that tall buildings are essential to the growth of the city, the letter continues:

"As to safety, engineers and builders have so met the situation that, whether as a fire or earthquake risk, our tallest buildings are best insured by their structure, and risks therein most cheaply assumed by insurance companies, while as to light and air one need only compare lower Manhattan as thirty years ago it could be seen from the Equitable Building roof—a flat mass of four, five, and six story buildings, approximately covering the ground and completely blanketing each other except at the street front, with basement and first floor offices equally crowded by clerks largely working by gas light—with lately built dry and airy "skyscrapers" the machinery of which has driven from their basements most of the humans that once sweltered there, and in which, taking all floors together, the proportion of occupants whose conditions are healthful and bright is far greater than before, and steadily rises as architects meet in scientific spirit the requirements imposed by the new conditions."

The letter proposes the elimination from new buildings of projections of any kind above a height of fifty feet. The Question of the adequacy of the streets is then taken up, and the removal of all obstructions, such as hydrants and lampposts, is suggested. The letter concludes:

"In short, our study of the problems arising in connection with the question of high buildings has shown us that they not merely supply an imperative need, but greatly mitigate the very evils with which they are charged, and are now adding to the pressure for other reforms equally desirable from every standpoint of civic pride and business economy, and that they should be encouraged and regulated rather than restricted."

The letter is signed by John De Witt Warner, as Chairman.

August 13, 1908, The Spectator, Life Insurance Topics In and About New York, page 81,

The building superintendent has approved the plans for the Equitable Life's sixty-two-story building to be erected on the site of its present offices at 120 Broadway. The proposed building will be the most pretentious structure which has thus far been undertaken. In the matter of exits, fireproof construction and fire fighting appliances, no pains will be spared to make the building safe for all those who may occupy space in it. The plumbing plant for a building of this size is necessarily on a scale never before attempted. It will provide nine large house sewers, nine house drains, six lines of soil pipes, twenty four lines of waste pipes with sewage ejectors, twenty eight lines of vent pipes and seven separate inlets for fresh air---literally miles of piping. There will be 169 drinking fountains of marble, together with a rain spray shower bath in the basement for the use of the engineers. The water supply will be obtained from the city mains through a suction tank, thence conveyed to a pump, transmitting it to two steel storage tanks, each ten feet high and thirteen feet in diameter, installed on the thirty fourth floor and also on the roof, each tank being provided with an automatic pump starter. There will be an auxiliary filtering plant, through which all water for the use of tenants will pass to insure its purity. There is also to be provided a separate water supply plant in connection with the auxiliary fire standpipes, so that the use of the fire hose will in no wise affect the regular water supply.

The Outlook; A Weekly Newspaper, edited by Alfred Emanuel Smith, Francis Walton.
Vol. 89, May-August, 1908, page 972, Proper Space, Air, and Light in City Streets.

The final acceptance by the New York City Building Department of tentative plans drawn by Messrs. D. H. Burnham & Co., of Chicago, for the Equitable Life Assurance Society's new edifice calls renewed attention t the encroachment of high structures on street air, light, and sunshine, and to certain clever methods now in use among architects for the avoidance, as much as possible, of these evils. While the Equitable directors have not as yet definitely concluded to build in accordance with the plans submitted, they are of general interest : first, because they provide for a structure higher than any other in America; and, secondly, because of special features—the maximum foundation pressure, the wind resistance, and the protection against fire. As to height, the new building, 909 feet high, would look down upon the present tallest structures in this country—the Singer Building, 6l2 feet, and the Metropolitan, 700 feet. As to foundation pressure, the New York City Building Code states that the maximum pressure on a rock bottom, where caisson foundations are used, shall not exceed fifteen tons to the square foot ; and as to wind resistance, that the walls of the steel skeleton type of structure must be a foot thick for the uppermost seventy-five feet of their height, and increased four inches in thickness with every sixty feet below that. Not only does the proposed huge building, occupying an entire square, comply with these requirements, but it has been shown that even a higher structure, also complying, could have been constructed upon the same area. Indeed, competent authorities declare that it is possible to erect a building two thousand feet high upon an area two hundred feet square, without exceeding the New York City Building Code limit. Protection against fire is to be provided by the absence of wood in the building‘s construction, by staircases inclosed in fireproof partitions, by the equipment of an auxiliary stand-pipe fire apparatus throughout the entire structure, and by an elevator capacity which will quickly empty the edifice of all tenants, and especially of a particular elevator, ready night and day, for firemen’s use. The main feature of the new building, the central tower, would be in harmony with the principle followed by Mr. Flagg, the architect of the Singer Building, who would place all tall towers well away from other buildings.

Mr. Flagg's excellent idea is that buildings may be erected only to a height equal to once and a half the street's width, or, in case of a very wide street, not to a greater height than, say, a hundred feet. But the proposed Equitable building would rise 489 feet on the building line. He thinks that there need be no limitations at all to the additional height of that part of the building, which would cover an area not greater than a quarter of the whole plot. However that be, it is well to emphasize the principle that every “sky-scraper ” or tall tower ought not to abut upon a street, and should depend upon its own land for its light and air. Such a structure as the tall Metropolitan tower in New York City, fronting not only a street, but the great width of Madison Square, forms, of course, an exception to the above plan. Every plan, like this, is humane if it reserve sufficient air, light, sun, and space to the streets. There is increasing need for this preservation. It is most notable in the narrow, lower part of the metropolis, hemmed in as- the city is between two rivers. During the last five years in New York City office buildings from fifteen to forty stories high, accommodating about forty thousand persons, have been erected between Chambers Street and the Battery. The result is the present use of streets early in the morning and late in the afternoon by an increased and enormous number of persons—indeed, no less than a hundred and twenty-five persons a minute pass certain points in the downtown sections. In such regions, to increase the room for passers-by, heavy wagon traffic might well be prohibited from eight to ten in the morning and from four to six in the afternoon. If the construction of “skyscrapers ” cannot be prevented, with the addition of their population of tenants, structures should be limited, as indicated above, so as to insure as much air, light, and sunshine as possible to those in the streets and in the lower stories. Our architects are themselves recognizing the fact that American cities must be sanitary as well as aasthetic, and the tendency, emphasized by the most recent buildings, is to transform the metropolis, at least, into what San Gimignano of Italy is in little—a city of towers. But, in general, the citizens must see to it that the aesthetic and the hygienic go hand in hand.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Equitable To Pay $4,000,000 On Suits

May 3, 1911. New York Times,


Settlement of Long-Standing Litigation Approved by Hotchkiss and Attorney General.
PROFITS AT ONCE $5,000,000
Hyde's Cheap Leases Which Have Prevented New Buildings Here and In Boston to be Canceled.

ALBANY, May 2. -- Through a settlement which to-day received the approval of State Superintendent of Insurance Hotchkiss and Attorney General O'Malley, litigation of many years' standing involving millions of dollars, by which the Equitable Life Assurance Society and some of its Directors from the Hyde regime have been harassed, has been wiped off the calendar. According to a statement made to-day by Supt. Hotchkiss, the settlement involves the payment of $4,025,000 by the Equitable Life to the Mercantile Trust Company, the Mercantile Safe Deposit Company, and the Security Safe Deposit Company. In return, according to the statement, the Equitable will receive immediate benefits valued at $5,048,000, or a net gain to the policy holders of $1,018,000.

The action brought against certain Directors of the society by the State for waste of the resources of the Equitable has been dropped. The Equitable will pay to the Mercantile Trust Company $2,750,000 in settlement of the so-called "Turner" loans, which is $650,000 less than was at first claimed. In return it will receive bonds and certificates representing lands in Colorado and Kentucky said to be worth at least as much as the sum it pays out.

By the payment of $1,050,000 to the Mercantile Safe Deposit Company it obtains a release from the lease it had granted for a portion of its building on Broadway, and by a payment of $225,000 to the Securities Safe Deposit Company of Boston a similar release from a lease to part of its building in that city. It is estimated that these releases will enhance the value of the real estate of the Equitable by $2,000,000 and $430,000, respectively.

The so-called "Turner" loans, which had proved fruitful causes of litigation, took their rise in the days of Henry B. Hyde, founder of the Equitable. In 1894 he was interested in the Western National Bank with Marcellus Hartley, Gen. Louis Fitzgerald, William N. Coler, Jr., and John C. Searles. This bank at that time made certain loans to the value of $621,291 which were of doubtful character. The State Bank Examiner objected to them, and they were transferred to the Mercantile Trust Company by means of dummy loans to a clerk named Turner. The Equitable at this time owned 12,000, or a majority, of the shares of the Western National Bank, and was also closely allied with the Mercantile Trust Company.

After a time the Bank Examiner's suspicions were drawn to the Turner loans, and he requested that they also be withdrawn from the trust company. Then Mr. Hyde went to Messrs. Hartley, Fitzgerald, Coler, and Searles and requested their personal guarantee in order to satisfy the State Banking Department. They gave it on the distinct pledge, it is alleged, of Mr. Hyde that neither the Equitable nor the Mercantile would ever try to enforce it.

When President Paul Morton took office he instituted litigation in relation to this loan, and the Mercantile made claim on the Equitable. Its guarantors urged the promise of immunity they had received from Mr. Hyde, and as the outcome of the case was exceedingly doubtful it has now been recommended by the committee representing the policyholders and Directors of the Equitable that it be compromised on the terms set forth above.

The question of the long leases by the Equitable to the Mercantile Safe Deposit Company in New York and the Securities Safe Deposit Company in Boston attracted a great deal of attention at the time of the insurance investigation. It was stated then that the Mercantile Safe Deposit Company had among its stockholders these men, who were also Directors of the Equitable: James H. Hyde, James W. Alexander, Gage E. Tarbell, Valentine P. Snyder, Thomas D. Jordan, Charles B. Alexander, Henry R. Winthrop, Alvin R. Krech, and William R. McIntyre.

The rent which was paid to the Equitable by the Mercantile Safe Deposit Company was so small that in fifteen years all the insurance company had received in excess of what it had been forced to expend in the way of repairs was $3,463. In addition the lease was extended in the last few years of the Hyde regime so as to run for 100 years.

The Equitable has had for some time under consideration the pulling down of its present old-fashioned quarters on lower Broadway and the erection of a modern skyscraper. Two years ago it filed with the Building Department plans for a building loftier even than the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company's tower. It proposed to build on the block it now occupies a building 62 stories high and measuring 909 feet from the street level to the base of the flag staff.

The Equitable will now be at liberty to carry out this design as it sees fit. In the same way, it will be able to improve the real estate in Boston, having bought up the lease of the Securities Safe Deposit Company, which also had nearly 100 years to run.

The settlement also provides for turning over to the society the pension claimed by Mrs. Henry B. Hyde, widow of the founder of the society.

The settlement was reached after many conferences between a committee of policy holders and Directors of the Equitable, extending over two years. The committee was composed of J. Edward Swanstrom of New York, Charles H. Zehnder, formerly of Philadelphia and now of New York; Thomas Spratt of Ogdensburg, and W. A. Day of counsel for the Equitable. Deputy Attorney General Edward H. Letchworth represented the Attorney-General, and Alfred Hurell, counsel to the Insurance Department, and Nelson B. Hadley, Chief Examiner of life companies, represented the Insurance Department. After participating in the consultation they urged the Attorney General and the Superintendent of Insurance to approve the settlement. In a memorandum submitted they say:
When one considers that this settlement will end costly and troublesome litigation, much of which would result unfavorably to the society; allows the society to improve its buildings in New York and Boston, and thus take advantage of the steadily increasing values of this real estate, all without cost to the society, and at the same time puts it in position probably to gain millions by reason of readjustment---there can be but one conclusion, and that is that official approval should be given to the settlement and the same consummated at once.

When the question of injunction in the case of Hyde vs. The Equitable was decided by Judge Bischoff, the law governing the case was set forth which practically charged the defendant with the Turner loan liability of over $3,000,000. The statute of limitations had already run against the Directors, who had collusively fastened on the society the burdensome leases, when the action was commenced by the State.

There is no escape from them, and at the same time no affirmative relief against those who caused them can now be obtained. This being so, the same course to pursue is to permit the society to effect this settlement, whereby those liabilities can be avoided and practically accomplish all that could be gained in the suit by the State, if it were maintainable.

Under all of the facts and the circumstances, we therefore recommend to the Attorney General the discontinuance of the suit of the People of the State of New York against the Equitable et al., and to the Superintendent of Insurance that his approval be given to the proposed settlement as outlined.


Market rate?

Sept. 26, 1905, New York Times,


Equitable Head to Occupy New Home of the Secretary of State.

Paul Morton, President of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, has taken a lease of Elihu Root's house at the southeast corner of Park Avenue and Seventy-first Street.

The house, which stands on a plot 42.6 by 100, was finished only recently, having been built from plans by Carrere & Hastings on land bought from Charles Dana Gibson in 1903. Mr. Root sold his former residence, at 25 East Sixty-ninth Street , several months ago, intending to occupy his new house, but his appointment as Secretary of State necessitating his removal to Washington, has caused him to abandon this plan.


Sept. 18, 1905, New York Times,

Declares Equitable and Mutual Also Aided Republicans.
Unembarrassed Raids Upon the Public Through Trusts the Reward of Campaign Contributions.

ESOPUS, Sept. 17. -- Ex-Chief Judge Alton B. Parker to-day referred to the charges made by him last Fall, when Democratic candidate for President, that corporation funds were being used in aid of the Republican campaign.

Asked if he had anything to say in relation to the statement of Vice President George W. Perkins of the New York Life Insurance Company to the legislative committee investigating the insurance business, that President John A. McCall of that company had caused a contribution of about $50,000 to be made last year to the Republican National campaign fund, Judge Parker said:

"Yes, I believe I ought to say, now that there is no political excitement to distract the public attention, that the President of the New York Life was not the only such contributor. The officers of other great life insurance companies, such as the Equitable and the Mutual, also contributed of the policy holders' funds for campaign purposes last year.

"What has been proved in the case of the New York Life will undoubtedly be proved in the other cases. The facts exist, and honest and able counsel, backed by an honest committee, will undoubtedly bring them out for the public good.

"Were there an investigation of railroad, manufacturing, and other corporations, it would be found that these life insurance officers were not the only corporation officers who put their hands into the Treasury and took out moneys belonging to widows and orphans to help secure a partisan triumph.

"That their acts were unlawful and their purposes corrupt goes without saying. They intended to have the money used, as it was, in corrupting the electorate. Mr. Perkins makes the point that John A. McCall, the President of the New York Life, is a Democrat. Apparently he would have the public assume that when Mr. McCall unlawfully and wrongfully contributed these funds---the company's share probably as a member of the underwriting syndicate---it was evidence of political virtue rather than misconduct.

"The truth about it is, and I say it without feeling, but emphatically, that men like McCall have no political convictions that stand in the way of their personal advantage. Such men desire the triumph of that party which will better serve their personal financial interests and will---for contributions, past, present, and future---continue to protect those interests by lenient legislation and by pretense at execution of law which shall be tenderly blind to all their offenses. That party they espouse in the board room, and contribute to it of the moneys they hold in trust, and, occasionally, a little of their own.

"The underlying principles which divide the great mass of the people into parties have no effect upon such men. Their one inquiry is, will the party organization in its hour of triumph remember our generosity, and respond to our demands? Of course the organization does remember, for it expects a similar contribution next time. And the expectation is not in vain. Last year was not the first time. Such contributions had been made before in National, State, and municipal elections.

"The officers responsible for these raids upon the treasuries of corporations have received their reward in unfettered management of life insurance corporations; in unembarrassed raids upon the public through trusts---condemned by both common and statute law; in refusal to punish criminally the officers of railroad and other corporations violating the laws. and in statutory permission to manufacturing corporations to levy tribute on the people.

"There can be no hope of checking the unlawful aggressions of officers of great corporations so long as they may thus form a quasi-partnership with the organization of the dominant political party. For in the hour when the administrative official seeks to punish the offender he is reminded by the head of the organization of the magnitude of the contributions of the corporation.

"There is, however, something worse, if possible, than the escape of such offenders from justice. It is the gradual demoralization of voters and the dulling of the public conscience caused by the efforts to make these vast sums of money procure the ballots they were intended to procure, corruptly and otherwise.

"It is not my purpose to claim that the Democratic Party, subjected to the temptation which has overcome the other party during the last few years, would have acted any differently. Mere party advantage should not be sought from the disclosures made in this investigation. But their facts should be diligently sought, that the people may become so aroused that they will insist upon legislation making it a criminal offense for officers to contribute corporate funds for political purposes and depriving the apparently successful candidates of their offices.

"Efforts in that direction have been making in different States since November last, and particularly in this State. But the Republican organization would not consent to it, so the Legislature defeated the bills. And the organization never will consent until an aroused public sentiment shall threaten legislators with political oblivion who fail to enact effective laws upon the subject."


Wants Law to Stop Corporation Gifts to Political Parties.

"Contributions by corporations to political campaign committees is most iniquitous---it's a damned iniquity," declared District Attorney Jerome at his Summer home in Lakeville yesterday. He said this when he was asked about an interview in The Brooklyn Eagle, which quoted him as saying:

"I hardly see how it is criminal in itself. If the truth were known, I suppose that there is hardly a single large corporation in the City of New York which did not contribute to the campaign fund. The heads of corporations which manage fiduciary funds have a good deal of latitude in the matter of disbursement. There is a wide difference between an act or a course of action which is morally wrong and one which is criminal.

"Intent is the important factor in the consideration of the criminality of an act. There are many cases where a suit in equity would lie and a verdict could be obtained ordering men to restore money wrongfully used or expended, in which it would be hopeless to attempt to show the commission of a crime.

"You say that Mr. Perkins explained the payment of the campaign contribution by saying it was made to protect the policy holders from possible disaster, which the officers believed would follow the election of Bryan and the adoption of the St. Louis platform. If that statement is true, I can see no criminal intent in the act. I can understand how the trustees of fiduciary funds might consider it their duty to protect the policy holders or bank depositors or stockholders from threatening danger.

"Suppose a big bank should be built in a place especially exposed to danger from fire. Would it not be right for the officers to employ special watchmen to guard against the danger? I do not mean that the cases are identical, but the latter case illustrates the point I am trying to make that judgment must always play a large part in the policy pursued by those in control of corporations in guarding the funds entrusted to them.

"If there is evidence that any of these men have violated the Penal Code, in other words, have committed a crime in New York County, I shall certainly submit the evidence to the Grand Jury, and ask for indictments. I shall prosecute them to the very best of my ability."

In his talk to a TIMES reporter yesterday about the contributions of corporations to campaign funds Mr. Jerome said:

"It is a practice that should be severely checked. As I view it, the best way to bring about its eradication would be the enactment of corrupt practices acts. As is well known, efforts for the passage of such legislation have been made at Albany session after session, but we have not been able even to get them out of committee.

"Why? Because the politicians and leaders knew full well that with such laws the practice of corporations contributing would become absolutely illegal, the flow of money into the coffers of committees would cease, and the men who run the machines and organizations would naturally have just that much less to put into their own pockets in return for their political activities.

"When serving on the Legislative Committee of the City Club, which I did for four years, I was opposed to the practice, which was so much of a feature at the investigation by the legislative committee, and I am no less opposed to it now. I condemn it.

"No one would want to give an opinion on the particular phase brought out by the committee unless the complete stenographic reports were at hand, and the statutes as well.

"Incidentally, it is well known that there was hardly a corporation or large business firm that didn't contribute to the Republican campaign fund in 1896 and 1900."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


November, 4, 1869, The Sun, page 3, column 3,


The Most Commodious, Durable, massive and Imposing Commercial Building of the Metropolis---A Grand Triumph of Renaissance School of Architecture---The Equitable Life Assurance Society's Building---Modern Commercial Conveniences.

Towering grandly and most conspicuously above all surrounding edifices, and crowned by a double-faced Mansard roof, and more lofty pavilions, is the magnificent, new, and wonderfully attractive Concord white granite structure located at the corner of Broadway and Cedar street. Surrounded as is this wonder of architecture and mechanical skill by many of our most stately and lofty brick, brownstone, granite, and marble commercial palaces, yet, towering far above them all, the attention of the passer by is drawn irresistibly aside from all these other Broadway wonders to contemplate this, the glory of them all. As we pause on the opposite pavement to view this most majestic and magnificent of all the commercial buildings of our own or of all continents, we are delighted with the symmetrical outlines of the Renaissance school of architecture from which the design of this new building wonder has been drawn.

As we approach the central business location of the city, upon which this vast edifice has been erected, our attention is first attracted by its extraordinary massiveness and solidity. As our gaze reaches upward to its seventh story, we are surprised and delighted with the beautiful outlines of the structure and the harmonious combinations of elaborately chiseled granite, bastions, columns, arches, and facings. Approaching it from uptown, we have the fullest view of its Mansard roof, two stories in height, and the two majestic pavilions which crown it. As we inspect its exterior more closely, we are struck with the peculiar adaptability for commercial buildings of this white granite, which we ascertain is from a new quarry recently opened near Concord, New Hampshire. For such a classical rendering of the Renaissance school as the architects have applied to this structure, it affords a most delightful combination of light and shade, and presents an aspect of warmth and transparency not to be found in brownstone, red sandstone, Illinois buff, or glaring white marble. The deep Mansard roof is most happily relieved by boldly projected cornices, stone dormer windows, and a high, ornamental, galvanized cast-iron railing. The great windows, too, attract our attention, and we hastily and properly decide that they are larger than any other windows in any building on our continent.


From our hasty view of the exterior of this architectural wonder of the year, we give our praise to a design of such rare classical beauty, and acknowledge that the whole country, or any European city either, does not furnish a rival. The peculiar preference of the architects for the classical design of the Renaissance school over the Venetian is certainly one of the happiest. By its selection, the whole exterior appearance of the building is relieved of the bizarre and ludicrous effect to be observed in so many of our so-called Renaissance buildings.


This great building, fronting five full numbers, 116, 118, 120, 122, and 124, on Broadway, and 84, 86, and 88 Cedar street, is constructed of white granite, iron and brick; in all, about 6,000 tons of these materials have been used. A million and a half bricks have been employed in its inside walls and floors. It is covered by 15,000 superficial feet of slate roofing. The height of the building from pavement to roof is 145 feet, and to the massive gilt eagle which crowns the pavilion facing on Broadway is 200 feet.


Over the projected and massive portico of the Broadway entrance will be placed an exquisitely wrought group of statuary, the emblem of the Society. It is from a model in plaster by Ward, now being cut in the finest Italian marble. It represents the guardian angel of life assurance holding a shield in the left arm over the widow and orphan, while it holds a spear in the right. Its extreme height is 11 feet. Of all the emblematic marble groupings in the country this is certainly one of the most appropriate and attractive.


is the Equitable Life Assurance Society, which at present occupies the second and third floors of Nos. 92 and 94 Broadway, where it has been located since its organization in 1859. The officers at present consist of the Hon. Wm C. Alexander, President; Henry B. Hyde, Vice-President; James W. Alexander, Secretary; Geo. W. Phillips, Actuary; Edward W. Lambert, M.D., and Alfred Lambert, M.D., Examining Physicians; Willard Parker, M.D., Consulting Physician; Henry Day, Attorney; and Henry M. Alexander, counsel.


Before entering the grand edifice, at present the pride pf all the commercial buildings on our continent, we called at the Society's offices, for we naturally queried for whom and for what purpose was this commodious and magnificent building constructed. We learned the following from the presiding officers and heads of the departments: The building will cost when finished upward of $1,500,000. It was projected in 1864, for at that time the corporation found that its rapidly increasing business demanded more extensive office accommodations. They determined to secure an eligible site, and construct a model building upon it. One of the most desirable objects to be obtained was perfect security from fire. Their 40,000 or more valuable documents were in constant danger from fire, and not longer ago than last winter they barely escaped conflagration. The wisdom displayed by the Society in thus desiring to secure their papers forever from destruction by fire is most praiseworthy. The Board of Directors appointed a committee consisting of Messrs. Henry A. Hulbert, Wm. G. Lambert, and Henry Marquand, and authorized them to secure an appropriate building site. On the 19th of December, 1865, the committee purchased lots Nos. 116, 118, and 120 Broadway, and 88 Cedar street, from the United States Telegraph Company. The following year they purchased lots 84 and 86 Cedar street. This gave them an L shaped lot. In 1867, after much vexatious negotiations, they secured lots 122 and 124 Broadway, at a cost of $300,000. This gave the company 7,967 superficial feet, purchased at a cost of $59.62 per square foot, which, all things considered, was a most reasonable price. $300 per superficial foot has been offered and refused for the ground corner Wall and Broad streets. The Park Bank site, 6,020 feet, though inside lots, cost $53.15 per foot. In estimating building sites 25 to 30 per cent. less value is given inside lots. As soon as this last purchase was made, a Building Committee, consisting of Messrs. W.G. Lambert, Chairman, Henry B. Hyde, John Auchincloss, Wm. T. Blodget, and Henry G. Marquand, was selected. They visited our larger cities to study and investigate plans, buildings, and estimates. They examined designs presented by eleven different architects, and accepted that handed in by Messrs. Gilman and Kendall. Geo. B. Post was appointed associate architect, to supervise iron construction.


Curiosity promoted us to inquire into the history, standing, and management of this Society, which had found it necessary to erect such a vast structure. Our investigation resulted in our becoming satisfied that the Equitable is one of the best managed corporations in the business world. It was organized in 1859 with a capital of $100,000, which was invested in bonds at a premium of $1,600. This started the Company that much in debt. There is nothing peculiar in their having thus started with so small a capital, but when we find that from such a beginning the assets of the Society have grown to the enormous sum of about twelve million dollars, with an annual income of $6,000,000, and rapidly increasing, we as well as the millions interested in life insurance may well inquire into the policy and plans of a Company which has achieved such unparalleled success. Its standing risks are about $135,000,000. Its last year's business reached the enormous sum of $51,891,825. Its cash income exceeds the total cash premium of all American companies combined during the year 1861. Its volume of business for a single year is greater than the combined new business of all companies reporting to the New York Insurance Department in 1862 by $10,000,000. We presume that the new business of the Equitable for the past year has never been surpassed by that transacted in any single year by any company in the world.

Its President, the Hon. William C. Alexander, has occupied that place since its organization ten years ago. He was President of the New Jersey State Senate for a number of years, is an LL D., one of New York's most benevolent citizens, and a son of the late distinguished Archibald Alexander, of Princeton College. The Vice-President Mr. Henry B. Hyde, has also held that second position since the Society was organized. These two gentlemen believed that an Insurance Company organized and managed under strict economical principles could afford by means of annual dividends to insure life at rates below those of the majority of other companies. They associated with them such business men only as had achieved great financial success. The income of the Society has been invested with such judicious care that it has never been obliged to foreclose a mortgage. In making its loans the Society principally invested in bond and mortgage and gives decided preference to its own policy holders. It thus becomes, as its officers desire, the benefactor of its own patrons, and thus establishes a genuine mutual business connection. They invest all receipts immediately, holding in bank only such an amount of funds as is necessary to meet current expenditures.


Accompanied by the officers of the Equitable, we visited the interior of their new building. We had previously examined the plans, elevations, and other working drawings for the edifice at the office of Mr. Ed. H. Kendall, 92 Broadway. He had shown us the various designs for the interior, embracing decorations in iron, marble, bronze, and stucco, which are now being elaborated under his personal supervision. We enter this commercial palace at its central entrance on Broadway. We find an opening vestibule 20 feet square and 33 feet high, with stairs on either side conducting to the principal floor above. Between these two flights are a few broad steps, by which we descend to the spacious basements, which are thus made as convenient and desirable as the upper rooms. The first floor is divided into three grand banking rooms, with burglar and fire proof vaults and toilet conveniences. The grand banking room on the corner of Broadway and Cedar street is 32 x 90 feet. The other two are 25 x 50 feet each. Separating them is the grand corridor with tiled marble floor and wainscoting in fine marble, five feet high on all sides. We pass half-way down this corridor to the grand stairs, upon either side of which is one of Otis Tufts's incomparable steam passenger elevators. These two elevator passages are 130 high, each being 15 feet higher than that built by Mr. Tufts, of Boston, for the Grand Hotel, and the highest in the world, and which was described in THE SUN last September. They are built under his exclusive patents, with six twisted iron ropes each. Underneath one of them is a freight attachment to accommodate the packing and printing departments of the Equitable. By employing these elevators, the only secure ones constructed, the rooms of the upper stories are as desirable as those of the first floors. Their occupants have more wholesome atmosphere, and are free from the noise of the streets. Such a revolution in commercial building conveniences are these elevators working, that we learn from their builder, Mr. Tufts, that he has numerous orders for them from Paris and London. We take a seat in one of these noiseless elevators, or ascend by the grand stairs to the second floor, that set aside and specially arranged for the immense business of the Society. We find here the most complete and imposing business hall in the world. It is spacious in area as the vast building itself. The center space of this floor, which is 26 feet high, 103 long, and 35 wide, is the clerks' department, in the center of which is a semicircular skylight, giving an additional 7 feet in height. Within this space are 12 ponderous iron columns, 26 feet high, covered an inch deep with variegated marble cement. Extending around this imposing space is a solid marble counter, with a running length of 225 feet. It is surmounted with an ornamental bronze screen, for protecting valuable documents and papers. Within the space enclosed by this counter is room for 150 clerks. Connecting with this grand hall are two tiers of offices for the agents and officers of the company. Each tier has an altitude of one half the grand hall, or 13 feet. Each one of these rooms---40 in all---connects directly with the grand hall, and inside the upper tier is a gallery extending entirely around the floor, paved with marble and protected by an elegant iron railing. From any point of this gallery a view may be had of every desk in the grand hall. Across the entire front of this floor, fronting on Broadway, are five large rooms for the use of the presiding officers and the Board of Directors. They are connected by double sliding doors, so that in case of necessity the whole front may be thrown into one room. The doors are heavy oak and etched glass. The desks and furniture are of the finest American hard woods. From the Vice-President's room is a private spiral stairway conducting to the marble gallery around the upper tier of offices.


Leaving the ground floor, we pass upward by the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh stories to the roof. Intervening between the grand hall and roof are fifty spacious offices, which, with the three large banking offices of the first floor and great rooms of the basement, will be rented for business purposes. Toilet conveniences, equal to the most approved, are found attached to them all. It has been estimated that the rent accruing from these rooms and banking offices will pay full interest on all money expended in constructing and furnishing the building, and still leave the Equitable its second floor free of rent---which is another studied, advantageous consideration for the policy holders.

The ventilation of this building has been under the personal supervision of Prof. Leeds. The lathing, all of which is iron, is from a new pattern from the West Point foundry. There is considerable fine marble work in the building, besides the marble emblematical group over the portico. Rolling iron shutters protect the great windows. Vast vaults extend from the building underground half way across Broadway and Cedar street. These are for the use of banks, insurance companies, or private parties.


From the seventh story we ascend to the roof, and still higher to one of the pavilions, where we find ourselves at a higher altitude than can be had on any other roof-top in New York, or from any position other than our highest church spires. Before us is spread the most exciting, wonderful, and instructive view to be had on our continent. The brown roofs of the buildings of the city extend over the island like a vast table land. East and North Rivers and the bay appear as if at our feet, with their myriad flotillas of the navigable world. Suburban Brooklyn, Jersey City, Hoboken, Hudson City, and Harlem are all plainly before us. Certainly not elsewhere in all New York can such another unobstructed bird's-eye view be had as from the open pavilions of the Equitable Life Assurance Society's building. We find them, as well as the great roof, surrounded by a heavy, ornamental, galvanized cast-iron railing.


We take our way down from the pavilions and roof by the winding stairway. Our attention as we reach the third floor is called to the large dining room of the Society, where all the officers and employees will be required to take their meals during business hours. The kitchen, a model in its way, is just in the rear. As we come down to the lower floors yesterday, we met a number of architects from Philadelphia who had been examining the building. Their opinion, with which we coincide, is that, for safety, strength, durability, blended with rare classical elegance, symmetry of outline. and harmonious combinations of architectural beauties, there is no rival among all the commercial buildings of the world to this property of the Equitable Life Assurance Society.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Devil's Work.

March 14, 1874, The Daily Graphic, Page 99, Column 4, Letters From the People. A Life-Insurance-Policy Pawnbroker's Shop.


Can you give me some information regarding the "Traders' Deposit Company," which has an office at No. 85 Liberty street, and which advertises to "lend money on approved securities?" I am informed that the "company" has a merely nominal capital, and that it is made up principally of the controlling officers of a certain prominent life insurance company; also that the object for which the concern was established is to lend money on the pledges of polices issued by the aforesaid life insurance company. The charter of the latter prohibits the loaning of money on its own policies, and its officers take advantage of the necessities of policy-holders, who are forced to borrow on their policies by sending them to the Traders' Deposit Company. At first blush this may seem to be a fair and legitimate business. But I am told that the moneys advanced by the "deposit" company really belong to the life insurance company; that is to say, the insurance officers deposit their "trust funds" with the Traders' Deposit Company, and the officers of the latter use it in the manner above described. This kind of traffic is said to be very large, and its profits are enormous. Will you not investigate the matter and publish the facts?

New York, March 10.

[The above comes to us from a perfectly trustworthy source. Immediately on its receipt we sent a capable commissioner to the office of the Traders' Deposit Company to inquire concerning the charges of our correspondent. The replies of the officer in charge were evasive and unsatisfactory, and it was impossible to ascertain anything beyond these facts: That the Deposit Company was organized under a special charter, granted on April 19, 1871, authorising the Company "to receive or deposit on pledge or otherwise money, certificates, and evidence of debt or value, and contracts; also, to advance money, securities, and credit on the same at agreed rates of interest." A certificate of the payment of the capital stock of $50,000 in full was executed before Recorder Hackett January 6, 1878, bearing the signatures of George W. Campbell, Jr., President; Samuel Hatton, Secretary; Simeon Fitch, K. Boudinot Colt, and Joseph B. Lemaire, acting collectively as trustees of the corporation. February 1, 1878, a second certificate was executed setting forth that after legal notice—given in the most obscure daily newspaper in the city—the corporation had decided to increase the capital stock to $300,000, and that the said $300,000 was subscribed and paid in in cash to the treasurer of the society. Beyond the declaration that all the officers of the Traders' Deposit Society were stockholders, and that Mr. H. B. Hyde, Vice-President of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, was interested in the stock, Mr. Campbell H. Young, the present President, withheld information concerning the connection of the concern with any life insurance company. The refusal to give information regarding the character of the Company's business, or the manner of conducting it, certainly looks suspicious. It is this circumstance which determines us to pursue our investigation. We shall press our inquiries in other directions, and our readers shall know the result. Meanwhile we call upon all persons who have had dealings with the Traders' Deposit Company to give us a brief account of their experience. We do not want their names for publication—only as a guarantee for the correctness of their statements. If any life insurance policy-holders have pledged their policies to the Traders' Deposit Company, let them send us the number, date, and amount of their respective policies.--ED. THE DAILY GRAPHIC.]

March 19, 1874, The Daily Graphic, page 135, Column 2,The "Traders' Deposit Company. Is It a Life Insurance Policy Pawnbroker's Shop?

Further investigation of the organization of the Traders' Deposit Society, No. 85 Liberty street tends decidedly to strengthen the inference drawn by our correspondent in his communication of the 15th instant. The first name on the list of corporators in the charter of the Company is Sidney Ashmore. We have ascertained that Mr Ashmore was formerly established in Wall street as a mining stock operator, but having failed became a soliciting agent to the Equitable Life Assurance Society, from which position he passed to that of editor of the society paper, the Protector, and also managed the advertising department. Among the names of the signatures to the certificate of increase of capital stock that was filed at the County Clerk's office February 1, 1873, appears that of Theodore Weston. Mr. Weston was in the engineers' branch of the Croton Aqueduct Department when Mr. Craven controlled the Bureau, and afterwards took an office in the Equitable Building, thus coming into connection with the latter society, which employed him in certain engineering matters. A close business relation between Mr. Weston and Mr. H. B. Hyde, Vice-President of the Equitable, was the result, and the former now has charge of the works on the Equitable Building in course of construction in Boston, and is also one of the auditors of the Society.

The certificate of incorporation filed at the County Clerk's office January 6, 1872, is signed by George Wm. Campbell as President of the Traders' Deposit Society. Mr. Campbell is brother-in-law to Mr. Borrowe, Secretary to the Equitable Life Assurance Society.

Thus far inquiry has failed to develop that any of the corporators of the Traders' Deposit Society are individuals whose resources would enable them to secure a capital such as that claimed to have been paid up in full, and that several of their number are merely salaried employes of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, whose Vice- President, Mr. Hyde, is declared, by the President of the Traders' Deposit Society, to be a stockholder in the latter. The above facts by no means exhaust the information we have obtained, and when fully digested all that has come to our knowledge will be laid before our readers.

March 23, 1874, The Daily Graphic, Page 163, Columns 3 & 4, A Life-Insurance-Policy Pawnbroker's Shop-Speculating on the Necessities of Embarrassed Policy-Holders--Fifty Per Cent. Per Annum For Loans,

We publish below two letters selected from several which have been received at THE GRAPHIC office in response to our call for information respecting the Traders' Deposit Company at No. 87 Liberty street. There is no longer any doubt that the concern has been engaged in the abominable traffic of speculating on the necessities of embarrassed policy-holders. The rates of interest charged, if we may believe the statements of our correspondents, are hardly below the charges of the most unblushing pawnbroker, and, as every policy on which a loan is made has to be absolutely signed and transferred, the Traders' Deposit Company seems to be organized for nothing more nor less than the pawning of life insurance policies. To illustrate the modus operandi of the concern, let us suppose the case of a policy-holder in the Equitable Life Assurance Society. He has been insured for several years and has paid altogether the sum of $800 in annual premiums. He finds himself suddenly embarrassed and must raise a few hundred dollars to discharge a pressing indebtedness. A poor man, he has nothing which he can give as security except the policy on his life. In this emergency a friend tells him that he can go to the company which issued his policy and arrange for a loan. The suggestion is timely; it had not occurred to him. On visiting the magnificent offices of the company, he is politely informed that the company's charter forbids the making of loans on policies, but that the Traders' Deposit Company will probably accommodate him, and at the same time he receives a card containing the following:
87 Liberty street,
New York.
Money Advanced on Good Securities of Every Description.
Loans on Life Insurance Policies.
Seventy-five percent. of the surrender value loaned on life insurance policies in the best companies.
The office of the Traders' Deposit Company is conveniently located within a few steps of the Equitable's towering edifice, and thither our straitened applicant presses his foot steps. The attendant clerk receives him kindly, and, after a little hasty figuring informs him that the "surrender value" of his policy (that is, the amount which the company issuing it would pay for its surrender) is exactly $400, or one-half the sum total of all the premium payments. "Our rule," the clerk declares," is to loan seventy-five per cent. of the surrender value. We can let you have $300, less ten per cent, as our commission. Then for every month that you retain the money we shall charge $--- as interest, payable when the loan is taken up." The poor man, distressed for the want of money, is only too eager to accept the loan without noticing the hard conditions with which it is coupled. Neither does he notice the fact that he is required to sign a document absolutely alienating his interest is the policy. The foregoing, doubtless, will serve as a fair illustration of the experience which thousands of needy policy-holders have undergone during the past year. The loaning of money on life insurance policies, when effected under fair and honorable conditions, is perfectly proper, and oftentimes is of great benefit to policy-holders. But when it is coupled with the exaction of an enormous rate of interest, when it is carried out in such a way as to induce almost inevitably the forfeiture of policies without any adequate consideration for their surrender, and when the machinery for compassing these detestable objects is under the control and in the interest of two or three grasping life insurance officers, then the whole business is degraded to the meanest kind of pawnbroking and requires to be arrested by indictment.

We have taken up this inquiry in the interest of life insurance policy-holders (of whom there are not less than 100,000 within twenty-five miles of the City Hall), and we intend to collect all the information that can be obtained regarding the nature and extent of the business, now openly practiced in this city, of loaning money upon life insurance policies. There may be other concerns similar to the Traders' Deposit Company, but it is due to the life insurance companies to say that that is the only one which is reported to us as having any connection with any particular life company. Doubtless the Traders Deposit Company loans on the policies of other companies than the Equitable; but that is a matter which the companies cannot prevent or even discountenance.

While we are pursuing our inquiries, we particularly desire all persons who have bad dealings with the Traders' Deposit Company to come forward and relate their experiences. Their names will be required only as a guanntee of good faith, and not in any case will they be divulged.

The following are two letters already received:
(To The Editor of The Graphic.)
I have read an article in your issue of Saturday last, headed "A Life Insurance Policy Pawnbroker's Shop," and as you ask for information relative to their method of transacting business, I send you these few lines.

Having had occasion to make use of some money, and not having anything to use as security, and seeing the advertisement of the Traders' Deposit Company on Liberty street, I took with me my life policy on the best company in New York. After I had made known my wants to the managers of the concern they produced some papers which had to be signed and sworn to. The signing of those papers completely transferred the policy to the officers of the concern in case of non-payment of the interest! The commission for obtaining the money was 10 per cent, cash, and 3% per cent, per month interest, or the sum total of $150 per year on a loan of $800. Now, Mr. Editor, what do you think of this? Is it lawful to clear $150 per annum interest on $800? If you require, I will at some time, when my convenience admits, call on you and have an interview on this subject.
A VICTIM TO SHYLOCKS. New York, March 30.
(To The Editor of the Graphic.)
I am glad to see that you are probing into the affairs of the Traders' Deposit Company for the benefit of the public. Some time since I received their card, with my full name and address. As I am a modest man it puzzled me then, and has often since been in my mind. How did they know me? It is clear now as the noonday sun, I am a policyholder in the Equitable Life Assurance Society. What more natural than that, the same people being interested in both concerns the books of one should be open to the other? Thank fortune, I am not so impecunious as to be obliged to spout my life policy, even with so good a concern as the "Trader's," though it is run on an "Equitable" basis.

New York, March 20. G. W. P. D

"The story of the trust companies" by Edward Ten Broeck Perine, 1916, page 217

Equitable Trust Company of New York had been established in 1871 by a special act of the Legislature, under the name of the Traders' Deposit Company. This was changed in 1895 to the American Deposit & Loan Company. The principal business of the Company from that time until 1902 was that of making loans on life-insurance policies. The Company's affairs were managed largely by interests identified with the Equitable Life Assurance Society, the owner of a controlling stock interest. In 1902 the name was changed to the Equitable Trust Company of New York, and its field of activity was extended to include all banking and trust functions

Laws of the State of New York, Volume 2, Chap. 604. AN ACT to incorporate the Traders' Deposit Company. Passed April 19, 1871

Section 1. S. Ashmore, E. B. Colt, J. B. Le Mare, S. Hatton, Joseph Lyons, H. V. Butler, jr., Daniel Garrison, and their associates and successors are hereby constituted a body corporate and politic under the name corporate of the Traders' Deposit Company, and under that name may sue and be sued, plead and be impleaded, and by that name may exercise and enjoy all the rights and powers granted by this act.

May 24, 1896, New York Times, SIGNED BY THE GOVERNOR;

Measures Affecting New-York and Brooklyn Interests

ALBANY, May 23. -- Gov. Morton to-day announced the signing of thirty-eight bills, including the following: Mr. Husted's, extending the powers of the Traders' Deposit Company of New-York City...

Meanwhile, over at the New York Times...

April 6, 1877, New York Times, LIFE INSURANCE AFFAIRS.;
ALBANY, April 5. The Insurance Committee resumed its investigation at 9:30 this morning. Previous to the resumption of the testimony the committee went into executive session, and it is understood that Mr. Floyd Jones made a motion to discontinue the investigation and make a report. What the result of the motion was is unknown. 
After the recess Theodore Weston testified that he was the architect of the Equitable Building; the work was commenced in May 1874, and was completed in July, 1876; the leases commenced in May, 1875; the original office of the Equitable was separated from the main building, and its completion was delayed; there is no restaurant in the building; Delmonico's adjoins it; the actual expense of putting up the main building was about $1,500,000, including the land; the additional building cost about $1,000,000; witness received a salary of $15,000 per year; the preliminary plans were drawn by Mr. Kendall; he had not completed the plans before the building was commenced; the internal arrangements were left entirely to the preliminary drawing; there was no percentage paid upon any of the material to my knowledge; blank ; furnished a statement of expenditures to the Building Committee of the Equitable at almost every meeting; Mr. Lambert was Chairman of this committee; they had meetings three times a week; the plans were submitted to them, and the contracts were made by witness; upon the larger contracts, bids were advertised for; all payments were made by approval of the committee; Silman & Cheney were the contractors for the stone; they bid $98,000, I think; it was the lowest bid of 17; it ran a little over $3 per cubic foot upon the granite actually furnished; the granite was measured by myself; no commission nor any consideration was paid on the contract; the contractor for the masonry work who cut the stone was T.T. Smith; his work was let in the same way at $18 per 1,000 foot of brick, and $9, or about that, for setting the granite; that included pay for everything; he was paid nothing more; no one else received any gratuity on account of the contract; he did the fire-proof wall in the interior and the plastering; for the first he received 40 or 50 cents, and for the last 42 cents, per square yard; Morton and Chesley did the carpenter work at about $65,000; no gratuity or commission was allowed anyone on any work; a number of contracts were made for the elevators, for the boilers, for the sub-cellar, for taking down the old building, and for other purposes; the entire work cost about $1,000,000, and upon it no bonus or commission was paid to any one; neither to officers, Directors, not any one else; the granite contractors furnished about $1,500 worth of work for Mr. Hyde's house on Long Island; Mr. Calvert Vaux was the architect of the house.

From Kings Photographic Views of New York 1895


Bromley 1891

Bromley 1879

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Charles E. Hughes

Charles E. Hughes "Speaking" During Campaign, Duquesne, Pa., 1916

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Original Source: New York & its institutions, 1609-1873. [s.n.] [1873] Richmond, J. F. (John Francis), Author.

Image ID: 806069
New York Public Library Digital Photo Collections - Equitable Building Search

The American skyscraper, 1850-1940: a celebration of height By Joseph J. Korom, page 45.

Perris. Maps of the city of New York. 1852, 1855, 1857

Perris. Maps of the city of New York (7 v.) (3rd. ed)
Contents: v.1 (1852)

Plate 3: Map bounded by Liberty Street, Nassau Street, Broad Street, Exchange Place, Broadway, Rector Street, West Str... (1852)

Perris 1855.

Perris 1857.

An Equitable Lifer; and Occasionally, an Equitable Death Too.

I suppose it wouldn't be unusual for a 66-year-old man to die in a public way of "heart trouble," but Jordan's case smacks of a ritualistic sacrifice of necessity of a type that does occur amid vast conspiracies, especially when they unravel. Jordan lacks that era's signature wound--a blow to the base of the skull, but perhaps heart-attack-mimicking drugs such as those apparently used in the September 11th, 2001 plans, were available in some form then. Better still---he could represent a hybrid semi-involuntarily committed suicide. Jordan clearly had to go and a goodbye visit to his son confirms it. The presence of "Dr. F.C. Wells of the Equitable," both on the subway platform, and in the news reporting later, is evidence I've come to see as crafted narrative detail. "Coroners' Physician Weston," (which makes for a fascinating Google by the way,) could, and did, go both ways.

The New York Times was the same old bitch selling her tired ass 90-years ago with her "came out of his retirement voluntarily" finesse. Jordan Sr. was on the lam for 20 months to evade the subpoenas of the Armstrong committee. There ought to be a law that shuts down a corporation until its Comptroller complies.

Jordan Jr. plays a strange role in that period too---a sort of opposite "coals to Newcastle" function. He sold fire insurance in---and to---the Equitable building, but for some reason nobody bought it. This served to clear the field of apparent motive for charges of incendiarism in the January 9, 1912 Equitable Building fire and collapse, unlike the later manifestation of Cantor-Fitzgerald, who took a reported $1.5 billion from just the government 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund alone, not to mention the fake art.

However, the history of insuring the Equitable building for fire, and then un-insuring it via young Jordan, provides our complex modern minds with a more satisfying smoking-gun resolution than "Jewish lightning." The usually compliant New-York Daily Tribune, on the fourth page of the Jan. 10, 1912 edition, in The Equitable Allowed $4,000,000 Policies to Expire, tells the Rumsfeld of what they didn't know they didn't know.

Jordan Jr. spoke briefly at the Armstrong hearings and was a punk. I've appended a transcript below.

July 15, 1908, New York Times,
Ex-Controller of the Equitable Expires of Heart Disease on Wall Street Platform.
In Connection with Revelations Before the Armstrong Committee
Death Overtook Him While on Way Home.
Thomas D. Jordan, ex-Controller of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, who was indicted for forgery a year ago because of his connection with the Equitable's "yellow dog fund," dropped dead on the downtown platform of the Wall Street Subway station yesterday afternoon. Mr. Jordon had lived in Englewood, N.J., for many years. He came into town yesterday to see some friends. He then called to see his son, Frank B. Jordan, who has a general fire insurance brokerage office in the Equitable Building. The younger Mr. Jordan accompanied his father to the entrance of the Subway station and then returned to his office.

The elder Mr. Jordan, after purchasing his ticket, was seen to walk up and down the platform several times. Suddenly he staggered back to the railing, and after leaning there for a second or two, fell to the ground. In the crowd on the platform was Dr. F.C. Wells of the Equitable. He recognized Mr. Jordan and telephoned to his son. Mr. Jordan's body was taken to the Church Street Police Station, and later to his home, at Englewood. Coroners' Physician Weston, who examined it before issuing a removal permit, found that the cause of death was heart trouble.

Mr. Jordan was 66 years old. He was born in New York City and entered the employ of the Equitable as errand boy when he was 17 years old. He afterward became a solicitor for the company and was promoted to one executive place after another. When the Armstrong Investigating Committee turned its attention to the Equitable, on Sept. 1, 1905, subpoena servers tried to find Mr. Jordan, who was then Controller of the society. He was never served.

His son, Frank D. Jordan, surprised the Investigating Committee and its counsel, now Gov. Hughes, by testifying on the stand a few months later that he did not know where his mother and father were, or whether they were dead or alive.

In May of last year the elder Mr. Jordan came out of his retirement voluntarily and pleaded not guilty to eighteen indictments for forgery in the third degree and one charging perjury, Mr. Jordan all the indictments having been found by the Special Life Insurance Grand Jury. Most of the forgery indictments grew out of so-called loans which Mr. Jordan, as Controller of the Equitable, made to various employes of Kuhn, Loeb & Co., These loans were put as bona fide loans on the Equitable books. But Kuhn, Loeb & Co. never received any money from them or deposited any securities with the Equitable as collateral.

Mr. Jordan is said to have made the entries or caused them to be made with a view to reducing the Equitable's actual bank balence in order to conceal the amount of policy holders' money lying idle in bank at a small rate of interest. The names of Louis A. Heinsheimer of Kuhn, Loeb & Co. appeared on the Kuhn, Loeb & Co. checks. Mr. Heinsheimer afterward denied Mr. Jordan's statements concerning his dealings with the firm. The perjury indictment was based on a false report which Mr. Jordan, as the Controller of the Equitable, was said to have made to the Insurance Department as to the transactions covered by the forgery indictments in May, 1907. Mr. Jordan was released in $10,000 bail for trial last October.

Besides his wife and son, Mr. Jordan leaves a daughter, Mrs. Edward D. O'Brien of New York City.
Armstrong Committee Testimony
pages 3260 - 3264
FRANK B. JORDAN, called as a witness, being duly sworn, testified as follows:
Q. Mr. Jordan have you learned of the whereabouts of your father since you were last on the stand? A. No, sir, I have not.

Q. Have you had any communication with him? A. No, sir.

Q. Or with your mother? A. I received a letter from my mother.

Q. Where was it from? A. I think if I am not mistaken, I think it was from Canada.

Q. What? A. Canada, I think.

Q. Did she say that your father was with her? A. Did not say anything about him.

Q. Have you any idea when he is coming back? A. I don't know.

Q. Do you keep a record of the amounts that you have received for placing fire insurance upon properties mortgaged to the Equitable? A. I have a record, yes, sir.

Q. Can you state approximately what that amount has been? A. No, sir; I never figured it out.

Q. Has anyone been interested with you in that business? A. No, sir.

Q. Has your father received any portion of the moneys that you have received for placing such fire insurance? A. Never.

Q. Any member of your family? A. None whatever.

Q. Has anyone connected with the Equitable Life Assurance Society received any portion of the moneys which you have had for placing fire insurance on properties mortgaged to the Equitable Life? A. Emphatically, no.

Q. How did it happen that this business was put in your hands? A. That I don't know, sir.

Q. Was it a surprise to you? A. Well, I guess so.

Q. When was it first placed in your hands? A. About five years ago.

Q. What had been your business previously? A. General fire insurance.

Q. General fire insurance? A. Yes, sir.

Q. Had you placed any fire insurance upon properties mortgaged to the Equitable before that time? A. I have placed them, yes, sir.

Q. But you did not have the entire business? A. No, sir; I have not the entire business now.

Q. You mean that there are still some old mortgages still outstanding where the mortgagors have the option to place it where they please? A. I don't know about that, sir.

Q. Don't you know that there is a clause in the mortgages of the Equitable for about the last five years to the effect that the Equitable has the the right to determine through whom the insurance shall be placed? A. I believe there is such a clause.

3265 - 3269

Q. And you know that under that the Equitable requires that the policies of insurance should be placed through you? A. No, sir, they can place with whom they please.

Q. Don't you know that the Equitable refers persons who are placing fire insurance upon such properties to you? A. I do not, sir.

Q. How much fire insurance have you placed in the last year? A. That I don't know.

Q. Can you tell within a million dollars? A. I cannot, no, sir.

Q. Within five millions? A. No, sir.

Q. Within ten million dollars? A. No, sir, I could not.

Q. Well, you have placed fifty million dollars of insurance? A. I don't know, sir.

Q. Haven't the wildest idea? A. No, sir.

Q. I suppose you can get all that for us? A. I can get that if you wish, yes, sir.

Q. Has there been any change in the policy of the Equitable Life with regard to placing fire insurance through you within the last few months? A. I have placed some of their business to date, yes, sir.

Q. Are you still placing, that is the business of fire insurance upon properties mortgaged to the Equitable? A. Some of it, yes, sir.

Q. How much of it have you placed within the last two months? A. That I don't know.

Q. Have you any idea? A. No, sir.

Q. Have you any compensation from the Equitable? A. None whatever.

Q. What portion of your business is furnished by the Equitable in this manner? A. I don't know.

Q. Have you anv idea? A. No. sir.

Q. Have you any idea whether you have any business except that? A. I have, yes, sir.

Q. Does the Equitable furnish nine-tenths of the business that you have? A. It does not, no, sir.

Q. Will you give me a statement, please, showing what the amount of the business upon properties mortgaged to the Equitable has been during the past five years and the amounts that have been made from it? A. Yes, sir.

Q. What is your rent that you pay to the Equitable Life? A. Equitable Life?

Q. Yes. A. $60 a month.

Q. What offices do you occupy? A. I am on the seventh floor, room 23.

Q. Have you any compensation from the Equitable? A. None whatever.

Q. Never had? A. Never, no, sir.
What makes this level of non-compliance so frustrating is the several levels of investigation preceding the Armstrong hearing. You might think a spoiled punk nepotism beneficiary might get his act together--instead he reveals the real power dynamic. And the following story in the Times? Pure meaningless window-dressing. Get it now?

May 19, 1905, NYT,
Favoritism Alleged in Fire Insurance for Equitable Clients.
Moses Tanenbaum of the insurance firm of I. Tanenbaum & Co., with offices in the Whitehall Building, Battery Place, sent yesterday to Chairman Henry C. Frick, of the investigating committee of Equitable Directors, a letter in which he called the committee's attention to an alleged practice in the society of inserting in its bond and mortgage forms a provision compelling the holder of the mortgage to procure his fire insurance through a broker of the Equitable's selection. Coupled with this information was the statement that a near relative of an officer of the society is the broker through whom the fire insurance on property mortgaged to the Equitable is placed.

Deputy Superindendent of Insurance Robert Hunter, with Congressman Driscoll of Syracuse, Superintendent Hendricks's personal counsel, yesterday took up the examination of William H. McIntyre, Fourth Vice President of the Equitable, who was once private secretary to the late Henry B. Hyde. Mr. McIntyre, was before the Deputy Superintendent all day. The Frick investigating committee also held a session yesterday in the Equitable Building.

In the Supreme Ciurt yesterday Justice Greenbaum reserved decision on the application of William McCulloh of Alexander & Green to vacate the order to show cause why James H. Hyde, James W. Alexander, and Gage E. Tarbell should not be examined before trial in the suit of Herbert E. Tull of Phildelphia to enforce a distribution of the Equitable's surplus. Yesterday's daily peace report, had it that William Nelson Cromwell had become one of the counsel representing President Alexander.

Monday, August 8, 2011


See what you think about this scan of the front page of the Sept. 28, 1905, New-York Daily Tribune. Check out the article, MORE "YELLOW DOG" FUNDS, at the top of Columns 5 & 6---specifically paragraphs 4, 7, 8, 12 and 15. Does this look like the original typescript to you, altered perhaps by age or scanning artifacts, or something worse?

It would be significant if Chronicling America, the work of the Library of Congress, had sunk to the same spooky lows as Thomas M. Tryniski's---of 309 South 4th Street, Fulton, New York, 13069---effort's at Orwellian information f l o w ---fultonhistory.com.

But what could they possibly be trying to suppress when surface details this absolutely delicious are left? Of course, with government investigating capitalists being reported on in newspapers retrieved via the web, the serpent is always eating his tail. Supposedly, Pulitzer's New York World can take credit for single-handedly breaking the Equitable story wide open, and forcing this distasteful display onto the poor public. I haven't found copies of that original reporting online yet, although several year-end synopsis are available.

Sept. 28, 1905, New-York Daily Tribune, Equitable's Inside Wheels Uncovered at Prolonged Session of Committee.
Entire Burden, Except Taking the Proceeds. Occasionally Borne by Society -Its Share from Some Deals Disappeared.
A second Equitable "yellow dog fund." apparently employed as a feeder for the famous "J. W. A. No. 3" account, was disclosed at the close of the session of the Armstrong insurance investigation yesterday, and so important did the record of this account, preserved in a private and unpretentious black book, seem to the members of the committee that they sat for an extra hour, while Henry Greaves, who was the apparent keeper of this account, testified to the history of this secret record, and incidental to the existence of an earlier secret fund known as the Marcellus Hartley account.

The second of the "yellow dog"accounts, that which occupied much of yesterday's session, was known as the "George H. Squire Trustee" fund, and was deposited with the Equitable Trust Company. In it were carried not a few of the profits made by the Equitable in various syndidate participations and not entered in any other place, and it was apparently subject to the direction of McIntyre, Jordan and Alexander. From this account sums aggregating $265,000 were transferred to the "J. W. A. No. 3 account." and to this account at its inception $55,000 from the Marcellus Hartley account was transferred.

Moreover, it was disclosed that this fund and the cash book for it were in the keeping of Thomas D. Jordan, the former controller of the Equitable, who was summarily dismissed by
Paul Morton for refusing to tell about the JAW No 3 account, and who has not yet been reached by the committee, which desires him to testify before the investigation closes.

In addition to a number of profits from syndicates in which the Equitable participated, which appear in this account, there are evidences of other syndicates in which the Equitable participated only through this fund and from which profits were directed thither instead of to regular accounts.

As to the uses to which this fund were put, and whether they were similar to the uses for which the New-York Life employed its "nonledger" accounts, such as campaign contributions and "Andy" Hamilton transactions, no evidence was adduced yesterday, but it was clear that Mr. Hughes believed he was following a "warm" trail, because of his refusal to leave it at the usual time of adjournment.

Hardly less interesting than the developments concerning the George H. Squire trustee fund were those regarding the syndicate operations of the Equitable through "George H. Squire and Associates," as well as "James H. Hyde and associates" and "Louis Fitzgerald and Associates." In previous testimony the fact had been shown that the Equitable not infrequently received its participation, not directly from syndicate managers, as is the usual proceeding, but through one of the "and associate" combinations of its officers.

Yesterday the fact was shown that not infrequently the whole burden of carrying the personal participation of the "and associates" —that is, of furnishing all the money— was performed by the Equitable, and that the "associates" figured only when the time for the division of profits arrived. Among those who profited in syndicates in which the Equitable participated were the following officers of the company: Senator Chauncey M. Depew; the president, James W. Alexander; the vice-president, James Hazen Hyde, and George H. Squire, of the private "trustee" account and of the various "associates" syndicates

Senator Depew participated in two syndicates, his interest aggregating $150,000. Moreover, in several of those transactions, notably in Chicago and Northwestern, profits apparently due the Equitable had, it seemed, vanished, to be found in some cases in the George H. Squire trustee
account and at other times not to be found at all.

That the Equitable, through Paul Morton, intended to seek civil action in the courts to recover interest wrhere loans had been carried for the officers of the company by the Equitable, was one of the suggestions contained in the testimony of Henry Rogers Winthrop. George H. Squire's successor as financial manager of the Equitable, who was on the stand most of yesterday's session.


In relation to these syndicate participations through the medium of associates the hopeless, tangled condition of the Equitable records of these affairs was manifest from Mr. Winthrop's testimony. Time and again he testified that expert accountants were still endeavoring to trace the receipt or non-receipt of profits. Not infrequently his only means of showing that the Equitable had participated or was entitled to profits was through calls made on it by syndicate managers for its agreements. Following this up the present management of the Equitable had communicated with the syndicate managers, and from them learned the exact amount of the Equitable's participation and the amount of the profits which the managers had delivered to the company. Then the hunt for the account to which these profits had been transferred began. Sometimes they were found credited to profit and lose, sometimes embodied in the "George H. Squire Trustee" fund, and, in several cases not found at all.

Just how many items of "missing" profits were discovered was a matter of considerable doubt because of the entirely confused state of the Equitable books at the present time.

Two such items in Chicago and Northwestern aggregating $44,000 were disclosed, and items amounting to upward of $100,000 more, which might ultimately have to be placed in this category, were shown.

In view of Jacob H. Schiff's testimony regarding the relation of his firm to the Equitable in bond sales in syndicate agreements, interest was shown in the fact demonstrated yesterday that in several instances the Equitable had definitely paid checks directly to Kuhn. Loeb & Co.

A minor but amusing detail of Equitable management shown in yesterday's proceedings was a clerk loan, recalling the famous $1,000,000 transaction in the name of a $10 a week clerk disclosed in the New-York Life some time ago.

This transaction was for $626,090 in the name of Eugene Barrington, a $2,000 clerk. No record of the loan could be found on the books of the Equitable, and the obvious intention, as shown by the testimony, was to get this amount of the bonds of the Atlantic Coast Line off the books
of the society.

The Equitable Trust Company, which made the loan, charged interest on it, and the only evidence of the loan to be found by the Equitable was the request of the trust company in a letter for the payment of this interest.

Some suspicion was directed toward this transaction, as Mr. Barrington is the clerk who has charge of the advertising expenditures, and these items are being carefully scanned.

The testimony of Mr. Winthrop on the Equitable syndicate operations was not closed last night, nor was that of Henry Greaves, the keeper of the "George H. Squire Trustee" fund. Both will be recalled in the morning session today. The next witness to be called is Jacob H. Schiff. While the committee took no definite action on the point yesterday, both James McKeen, of counsel for the committee, and Ezra P. Prentice the secretary, agreed that both Senators Dryden, of New-Jersey, and Depew would be called. William A. Day. the new controller of the Equitable, and Senator Morgan G. Bulkeley president of the AEtna Life Insurance Company, of Connecticut, were in attendance yesterday.