The alternative media is awash with accounts of various obscenely wealthy families that have wielded undo influence over the American political landscape for any number of years. There are the classic targets --the Rockefellers, the Morgans, the Rothschilds, and the Fords, as well modern multi billionaire bogeymen such as the George Soros and the Koch brothers. Yet one family which has wielded enormous influence over the nation for over a century is curiously absent from many such accounts. As the title implies, I am referring to Pittsburgh-based Mellon clan.
The Mellon family claims Scots-Irish origins, though the name Mellon itself has Irish origins. The original Gaelic word for Mellon was O Meallain, which derived from the word meall, which means 'pleasant.' The name first appeared in the Irish county of Tyrone where the Mellons had held a family seat since ancient times.
The first Mellon to immigrate to the United States was Archibald Mellon, who did so in 1816. Two years later the family of Thomas Mellon, who hailed from the parish of Cappagh in Northern Ireland, also arrived. It was Thomas who first established the Mellon family fortune. While serving as a judge in Allegheny County he would become involved in real estate speculation in the city of Pittsburgh. This provided the nest egg for the family bank he would open in 1869 with several of his sons. It was this bank that the Mellon family would use to erect a vast financial empire.
By far the most well known member of the House of Mellon is Andrew W. Mellon (1855-1937), one of the longest-serving US Treasury Secretaries (1921-1932) and possibly the third richest man in the United States in the 1920s behind only John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford. Mellon had made his fortune in banking but by the time the twentieth century rolled around he was involved in any number of interests.
"...Andrew also built a great business empire. He and his brother Richard created first a national bank, then a steel concern, and then an empire. Young Mellon cornered the bauxite market. He shared in the profits of Carnegie Steel... The Mellons together established the enormous Aluminum Company of America; later they picked up Bethlehem Steel. They invested in Spindletop, the Texas gusher that opened the Gulf Coast oil industry. By the time Hoover reached adulthood, the Mellons also were players in the steel, railway, construction, and insurance industries. Succeeding Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick, Andrew Mellon ruled Pittsburgh in a way that not even the president ruled Washington."
(The Forgotten Man, Amity Shlaes, pgs. 24-25)
In his time Mellon was a highly controversial figure. He was a good friend and business partner of Henry Clay Frick, the Chairman of Carnegie Steel (which Mellon was involved in), who attempted to employ paramilitary methods to put down the legendary Homestead strike which led to the second largest pitched battle in US labor history. This was hardly the only time the Mellons backed brutal methods to put down labour strikes. Andrew's brother, Richard Mellon, would equip the notorious Pennsylvania Coal and Iron Police with machine guns to put down a strike at the Pittsburgh Coal Company, for instance. More accounts of the violent tactics the Mellons employed against labor unions can be read here.
|A depiction of the infamous Homestead Strike|
Andrew Mellon was a lifelong proponent of easing taxes on the rich and even wrote a book on the topic employing populist overtones despite the fact that only the very rich paid income taxes at the time of the book's publication.
"The austere Mellon gave his an unexpectedly populist title: Taxation: The People's Business. In it he laid out the theories of his fellow Scot Adam Smith to justify his program of continued tax-cutting. Reaching to find an image from the day --it may have been hard --he talked about Henry Ford's company. 'Does anyone question that Mr. Ford has made more money by reducing the price of his car and increasing his sales than he would have made by maintaining a high price and a greater profit per car, but selling less cars? The government is just a business.' The lesson of the book was simple: people respond to tax rates, and lower rates might promote growth in the 1920s and pull in higher revenues for government. The whole idea of overtaxation was to Mellon un-American. 'Any man of energy and initiative in this country can get what he wants out of life. But when initiative is crippled by legislation or by a tax system which denies him the right to receive a reasonable share of his earnings, then he will no longer exert himself and the country will be deprived of the energy on which its continued greatness depends.' When failure attended business, after all, noted Mellon, 'the loss is borne by the adventurer.' "
(ibid, pgs. 33-34)
The Mellon family remains one of the chief proponents of tax cuts for the rich to this very day, as we shall see. Another Andrew Mellon trait that seems to have been embraced by his descendants is a loathing of the press and public attention in general.
"When it came to the press, Mellon was suspicious --Victorian, in fact. More than Coolidge, he hid from newspapermen, even when he had good news. To show off was, to his mind, as to Coolidge's, unseemly. Besides, it brought bad luck. As a result, he lost out on his share of puff pieces. And he was often surprised to find that the press did not side with him when he needed it... Mellon lore was so scarce that people ended up trafficking in the stereotype of Mellon as miser. They noted that Mellon rarely spoke, that he seemed 'half-frightened'..., and that he was quick to dismiss ideas that he considered shallow. He was reported to be an incredible penny-pincher. His wife left him. Mellon's son Paul, who bore great affection for his father, also found much to criticize. He later compared Andrew to Soames Forsyte, the cold husband and 'Man of Property' in John Galsworthy's novels, who also collected pictures..."Despite Andrew Mellon's loathing of trade unions and taxes he was more than willing to fund the Soviet Union via art transactions during his reign as Secretary of Treasury. Continuing with Shlaes:
(idid, pgs. 26-27)
"And as it happened the greatest distress sale in the art world was on: the Soviet Union was selling. Stalin needed hard currency badly. He was therefore offering a transaction obvious to both him and Mellon: Mellon would purchase some of the art from the Hermitage. The buying had already begun. Mellon did not talk about it, but in September 1930, the New York Times carried reports that a Mellon representative --Knoedler --was in Paris arranging the purchase of Jan van Eyck's Annunication from a Volshevik regime broker, A.V. Lunacharsky, the former Sviet commissioner of art. The price was rumored to have been $800,000. Both Mellon and the Soviets promptly denied the transaction, the Soviets because, as the Times put it, such a purchase would be 'an admission of moral as well as financial weakness from which the Soviet Union is not now suffering.' But the rumors had not died, and the next month, October, saw reports that Frans Hals's Admiral and Rembrandt's Portrait of Sobieski had exchanged hands, along with the van Eyck. Now, in 1931, Mellon moved again, making a series of purchases that formed the nucleus of a new collection. From 'time to time,' David Finley, then Mellon's staffer at Treasury, recalled later, 'cables would arrive, saying Botticelli's Adoration of the Magi, Jan van Eyck's Annunciation, Perugino's Crucifixion... could be bought if Mr. Mellon gave his approval.' Mellon gave his approval..."
(ibid, pgs. 114-115)
|Annunciation, one of the paintings Mellon purchased from the Soviet Union|
Many of these works ended up in the Nation Gallery of Art, a museum which Mellon was chiefly responsible for. This museum will feature in one of the more bizarre aspects of Mellon's legacy after his death, so keep it in mind.
Mellon was one of the chief financial architects behinds the so-called 'Roaring Twenties' and was the sitting Secretary of Treasury during the stock market crash of 1929 that ushered in the Great Depression. Following the stock market crash Mellon would gain infamy by advocating a policy of full scale liquidation. Shlaes notes:
"Perhaps all that was needed now was for owners to sell their holdings, so that the market could find its own bottom. This was what Mellon would mean when he recommended that stockholders, banks, and farmers liquidate their holdings. The phrase 'to liquidate' sounded harsh, but it also represented an old and important argument. Uncertainty was one of the market's problems. Only when stocks or wages were 'marked to market' and found their bottom could they rise again."Despite the fact that Mellon was a major player during an era the saw the rise of the Federal Reserve System he is curiously absent from many conspiratorial accounts of the early years of the Fed. G. Edward Griffin's The Creature From Jekyll Island, the chief conservative/libertarian account, only mentions Mellon sparingly. In general Griffin seems to struggle reconciling Mellon's laissez-faire beliefs with the role he played in the Great Depression. Conversely the chief liberal account of the Fed, Ellen H. Brown's Web of Debt, does not mention Mellon at all (at least according to the index), which I find rather surprising.
(ibid, pg. 88)
|Both Federal Reserve conspiracy classics are surprisingly mum on Mellon|
Murray Rothbard has presented the only compelling account of Mellon's role in the Depression that I have found. Before going any further though let us briefly consider the power structure in America during the 1930s. By this point there were essentially eight groups that dominated the bulk of the American economy, of which the Mellons were one.
"It has been calculated that the 200 largest nonfinancial corporations in the United States, plus the fifty largest banks, in the mid-1930s, owned 34 percent of the assets of all industrial corporations, 48 percent of the assets of all commercial banks, 75 percent of the assets of all public utilities, and 95 percent of the assets of all railroads. The total assets of all four classes were almost $100 billion, divided almost equally among the four classes. The four economic power blocs which we have mentioned (Morgan; Rockefeller; Kuhn, Loeb and Company; and Mellon) plus du Pont, and three local groups allied with these in Boston, Cleveland, and Chicago, together dominated the following percentages of the 250 corporations considered here: of industrial firms 58 percent of their total assets, of railroads 82 percent, and utilities 58 percent. The aggregate value of the assets controlled by the eight power groups was almost $61. 205 million of the total assets of $198,351 million in these 250 largest corporations at the end of 1935."At that time there were essentially two major factions within America's power elite: One was aligned to the interests on the Anglophilic J.P. Morgan while the other centered around John D. Rockefeller.
(Tragedy and Hope, Carroll Quigley, pgs. 531-532)
"There were many Robber Barons, but J. Pierpont Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller led the pack. Morgan dominated finance, Carnegie dominated steel, and Rockefeller monopolized oil. Carnegie built his business himself, and he loved competition; but Morgan was a different type of capitalist. He didn't build, he bought. He took over other people's businesses, and he hated competition. In 1901, Morgan formed the first billion dollar corporation, U.S. Steel, out of mills he purchased from Carnegie.
"Rockefeller, too, dealt with competitors by buying them out. His company, Standard Oil, became the greatest of all monopolies and the first major multinational corporation. Before World War I, the financial and business structure of the United States was dominated by Morgan's finance and transportation companies and Rockefeller's Standard Oil; and these conglomerates had close alliances with each other. Through interlocking directorships, they were said to dominate almost the entire economic fabric of the United States."
(The Web of Debt, Ellen H. Brown, pgs. 116-117)
|Morgan (left)) and Rockefeller (right)|
Anywho, returning to Murray Rothbard and his take on Andrew Mellon. Rothbard, an economist from the far right Austrian school, has blamed much of the Great Depression on the inflationary policies of New York Fed Governor Benjamin Strong, whose actions throughout the 1920s led to a stock bubble that eventually resulted in the 1929 stock market crash. Rothbard places Mellon nominally within the Morgan camp and presents him as a major backer of Strong's inflationary policies.
"If Strong was the point man for the monetary inflation of the late 1920s, the Coolidge administration was not far behind. Pittsburgh multimillionaire Andrew W. Mellon, secretary of the Treasury throughout the Republican era of the 1920s, was long closely allied with the Morgan interests. As early as March 1927, Mellon assured everyone that 'an abundant supply of easy money' would continue to be available, and he and President Coolidge repeatedly acted as the 'capeadores of Wall Street,' giving numerous newspapers interviews urging stock prices upward whenever prices seemed to flag. And in January 1928, the Treasury announced that it would refund a 4.5-percent Liberty Bond issue, falling due in September, in 3.5-percent notes. Within the administration, Mellon was consistently Strong's staunchest supporter."
(A History of Money and Banking, Murray Rothbard, pg. 415)
|Benjamin Strong (top) and President Calvin Coolidge (bottom), two other close associates of Andrew Mellons' who oversaw the stock market run up in the 1920s that led to the Great Depression|
So, to recap: Andrew Mellon was a staunch and vocal supporter of lowering taxes on the rich. He also supported an easy money policy for the Federal Reserve which led to rampant stock speculation and a bubble economy that resulted in the worst economic depression in US history. This is rather strikingly similar to policies promoted by the so-called 'New Right' ever since the early 1980s. Incidentally, 'Reaganomics' were little more than a rehash of the 'Mellonomics' that dominated the 1920s. Indeed, the Mellon family were one of the chief financial backers of the New Right, as we shall see.
But before the glory years of Reagan dawned upon the American public there was a long, dark night in the wilderness for the nation's elites. The mojo of these power brokers leading upon to the Great Depression had gradually been waning with the rise of populism in the United States.
"Because of its dominate position in Wall Street, the Morgan firm came also to dominate other Wall Street powers such as Carnegie, Whitney, Vanderbilt, Brown-Harriman, or Dillion-Reed. Close alliances were made with Rockefeller, Mellon, and Duke interests but not nearly so intimate ones with great industrial powers like du Pont and Ford. In spite of the great influence of this 'Wall Street' alignment, an influence great enough to merit the name of the 'American Establishment,' this group could not control the Federal government and, in consequence, had to adjust to a good many government actions thoroughly distasteful to the group. The chief of these were in taxation law, beginning with the graduated income tax in 1913, but culminating above all else, in the inheritance tax. These tax laws drove the great private fortunes dominated by Wall Street into tax-exempt foundations, which became a major link in the Establishment network between Wall Street, the Ivy League, and the Federal Government."The Great Depression further weakened the American Establishment in relation to labor, leading to the highest standards of living in human history for the American middle class from the end of World War II till the 1970s. In this context Andrew Mellon's attacks against income and inheritance tax in the 1920s can be seen as a last ditch effort to maintain the status quo. But it ultimately had disastrous results for the elites and it would take nearly five decades for them to regain their former domination over the economic pie. And the Mellon family would be at the forefront of this wealth redistribution, as shall be examined in a future installment.
(Tragedy and Hope, Carroll Quigley, pgs. 937-938)
Before moving along there's one final aspect of Andrew Mellon I would like to consider: The Mellon Fountain and its ties to Freemasonry.
"In July 1947, Congress approved the erection of a memorial fountain to the late Andrew W. Mellon, one of the richest and most influential Masons of the first half of the century, who had died in 1937, leaving his important art collection to the nation. It was Congress who ordered that the fountain be constructed in front of the National Gallery at the intersection of Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues. The fountain was completed by 1952, and located --as Congress ordered --in a triangular area at the eastern tip of the Federal Triangle. The water from the fountain's jets rains down into a raised inner bowl, which overflows to discharge into an even larger basin, whence it flows into a wide basin at ground level: thus, the water overflows three times from the central basin into the ground-level bowl. Below the lip of the second bowl, inset on the sides so as to be obscured by the flow of water, are the 12 signs of the zodiac designed by Sidney Waugh.
"These zodiacal images were carved with considerable insight and feeling. It was probably the architect Eggers --aware of the Masonic tradition that permeated Washington architecture --who insisted that the image for the zodiacal sign Ares... should be oriented so that it received the first rays of sunlight on March 21, which marks the vernal equinox...
"This orientation of Aries toward the vernal equinox Sun may sound merely like sensible architectural planning, with no special arcane overtones, yet there is a secret design: a secret connected with Virgo.
"If one draws an imaginary diameter across the 18-yard bowl of the fountain, from Pisces to Virgo, one finds that the line follows the orientation of Pennsylvania Avenue. The vernal orientation is designed to run directly down Constitution Avenue, with the fountain bowl acting, as it were, as the fulcrum of balance for the tow massive zodiacs which hang at either end of this section of the avenue --the Dirksen Building to the east and the National Academy of Sciences to the west.
"It is evident that Eggers must have known something of the mystery of the Virgo orientations which radiate through Washington, D.C. It is Virgo, to the west of the fountain, that participates in the arcane structure of the city, as she looks down George Washington's Grand Avenue along which could be seen the president's palace."
(The Secret Architectue of Our Nation's Capital, David Ovason, pgs. 281-282)
|the Mellon Fountain|
I have confirmed that Andrew Mellon was in fact a Freemason. There is some indication that he used Masons at all levels of his various interests. For instance, in The Underground History of American Education author John Taylor Gatto notes that his grandfather, Giovanni Gatto, a man hired personally by Mellon to manage the Foreign Exchange Department of the Mellon Bank, was the leader of Pittsburgh Freemasons.
Of the vernal equinox and its association with Aries, the 33rd degree Freemason Manly P. Hall writes:
"When the vernal equinox no longer occurred in the sign of Taurus, the Sun God incarnated in the constellation of Aries and the ram then became the vehicle of the solar power. Thus the sun rising in the sign of the Celestial Lamb triumphs over the symbolic serpent of darkness. The lamb is a familiar emblem of purity because of its gentleness and the whiteness of its wool. In many of the pagan Mysteries it signified the Universal Savior, and in Christianity it is the favorite symbol of Christ. Early church paintings show a lamb standing upon a little hill, and from its feet pour four streams of living water signifying the four Gospels. The blood of the lamb is the solar life pouring into the world through the sign of Aries."While Aries is clearly associated with the sun there is some indication that Virgo is associated with Sirius, the Dog Star.
(The Secret Teachings of All Ages, pgs. 285-286)
"Each name of the Egyptian Sirius linked it with ancient wisdom, and in particular with the goddess Isis, who was the chief of the feminine mystery deities and the prototype of the stellar Virgo."
(The Secret Architecture of Our Nation's Capital, David Ovason, pg. 139)
The sun and Sirius have a rather curious linkage in the occult.
"In the Arcane Tradition, the vast star, Sirius, symbolizes the sun behind the sun; i.e. the true father of our universe. Sirius was the primordial star of all time, as the duplicator or renewer (of time cycles). He was known in Egypt as the Doubling One, therefore a Creator or reflector of the Image."More information on the Sirius Tradition can be found here and here. With that, I shall bring this installment to an end. In part two we shall begin to examine the vast influence the Mellon family has continued to wield over the nation.
(The Magical Revival, Kenneth Grant, pgs. 226-227)