George Howard Earle, Jr.

George Howard Earle, Jr.
Born (1856-07-06)July 6, 1856
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died February 19, 1928(1928-02-19) (aged 71)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Occupation Lawyer


George H. Earle, Jr. (July 6, 1856 February 19, 1928) was a Philadelphia lawyer and "financial diplomat" who was highly sought after to save ailing corporations from financial ruin.[1]


Earle was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Grandson of noted abolitionist and philanthropist, Thomas Earle, and only son to Philadelphia lawyer George H. Earle, Sr. and Mrs. Frances ("Fanny") Van Leer Earle, he gained notoriety for his abilities as a "business doctor"—having turned around many organizations from the brink of financial ruin after being appointed as receiver and reorganizer. A Harvard University graduate (1879), Earle became a member of the Philadelphia bar—following in his father's and grandfather's footsteps[2]—practicing his trade as a lawyer in the firm of Earle & White in Philadelphia. But Earle would soon forsake the practice of law "save as a useful medicament to be employed in the cure of invalid companies, and as a study for the little indoor leisure that business leaves him."[3] He would be appointed as president and director to nearly two dozen Philadelphia companies and corporations.[4] Mr. Earle married Catharine H. French on 12 December 1881, two years after he graduated from Harvard. It was his desire to marry Miss French after he began earning at least five dollars a week, and his starting weekly salary at an attorney's office just fresh from college was only $2.50.[5] They would have ten children in all, to include George Howard Earle III—former Governor (1935–1939) of Pennsylvania.

"The Guarantee Trust and Safe Deposit Company got sick and sent for him. So did the Finance Company of Philadelphia. So did the Tradesmen's Bank. So did the Market Street National...and to-day they are all flourishing... He was consulting physician when the Reading Railroad was sick. Then he figured in two sensational cases that gave him a national reputation. One was the smash of the Chestnut Street National Bank and the Chestnut Street Trust Company... The other sensational case was the Real Estate Trust Company..."[6]

Along with his father, Earle was a member of the Committee of One Hundred (Philadelphia)—"a non-partisan effort in aid of good government"[7][8] dedicated to ending bossism politics in Philadelphia in the late 1800s. This committee of reformers, consisting initially of Independent Republicans "seeking to reform the management of the Republican party,"[9] would eventually lose influence and effectiveness. According to When Bosses Ruled Philadelphia (McCafferty, 1993), among proposed reasons for their ineffectiveness was the resulting "division between reformers over the question of partisanship," "poor organization and their dislike of political activism," and the fact that it was "a self-constituted body that conducted political affairs in an autocratic manner," geographically isolated from the "bulk of the city's population"—Mr. Earle himself later remarked that it had been "essentially aristocratic in temperament."[10] Despite the committee's failure to bring about a lasting, broad-scale influence in the city, Mr. Earle would continue to speak up for good government practices, and for the protection of political liberty for all Americans.

On October 3, 1896, at a Republican meeting in Berwyn, Pennsylvania, Earle urged his "fellow citizens" to vote for McKinley over Bryan, stating:

...a false prophet has come among you... who, in a country where all are in the highest class—that of the American citizens—tries to divide us into many, and then set those classes against each other; who tries to set State against State, section against section, and so nullify the great work for which Abraham Lincoln gave his life; who tries to lead us into paths of dishonor and asks us to disgrace the country for which we would give our lives...[11]

It would not be the last time Earle would warn about the threat of populism. In a letter to Pennsylvania Governor Samuel Pennypacker on May 16, 1906, Earle wrote of his concern that then President Theodore Roosevelt might be yielding to the latest "craze" of "Bryanism"—i.e., yielding to populism instead of standing on principle with regard to public policy—serving to discredit the Republican party:[12]

...some one has to speak in favor of the right when so speaking is unpopular. The more unpopular, the greater the necessity... The Republican party has done much for this country. It has often created and preserved prosperity by fighting crazes. For the first time in its history, it is yielding to one. If it would only say "we have made this prosperity, it is our child, and shall have our protection," and stand to its guns, it will beat Bryanism to death as it always has. But with its leader caring more for popularity than principle, courageous, as he is uninformed, I, myself, am convinced that it will have to go out of power in order that it may return chastened and more trusted than ever... I worked hard for Roosevelt's re-election, had great admiration for him, and still have, but I very much fear him... It is surprising at this time to find how many "old things" are true when the greater part of the world is engaged in discrediting and despising them.

After the Panic of 1907, Earle would speak out against a central bank—despite the "present evils," stating, "I can suggest no remedy, but would prefer present evils to those resulting from the creation of too centralized a power; and the answer, to my mind, is obvious. The true remedy must be found, not in placing our dependence upon the discretion of any one, but of every one,—that is, again, upon liberty, rather than upon power and restraint."[13]

Never before having sought political office for himself, Mr. Earle was eventually sought after and subsequently backed by U. S. Senator Boies Penrose to be the Republican candidate in the election for mayor of Philadelphia in 1911. In the Republican primary election held on 30 September 1911, Earle defeated William S. Vare by 23,000 votes; but Earle would lose the general election in November of that year by 4,000 votes to the Keystone-Democrat[14] fusion candidate, Rudolph Blankenburg—an independent Republican and also former member of Philadelphia's Committee of One Hundred.[15]

One month after Mr. Earle's unsuccessful run for mayor, he was asked to speak before the United States Senate Committee on Interstate Commerce where he gave the committee "the benefit of his experience and suggestions as to what the country needs in the way of laws amendatory of the Sherman law...and as to what further legislation is desirable to regulate interstate commerce."[16] Earle would subsequently be asked by the chairman of the Committee, Moses E. Clapp, to draft a "tentative bill embodying [his] views as to additional legislation."[17] Mr. Earle's prepared draft[18] was presented by Mr. Clapp to the Committee on the evening of 29 December 1911.[19] In Earle's draft, only eleven words (two phrases) were stricken from the original act—none of which are from the body (sections)—for Mr. Earle thought the act to be "practically a perfect piece of legislation,"[20] and merely sought to "strengthen" the law. An article written in the February 3, 1912 issue of Telephony[21] (Chicago) states:

[Earle] told the committee, the Sherman anti-trust law is not only practically a perfect piece of legislation, but it is also in complete harmony with the attitude of all peoples and all governments in the past toward this question. In the few instances where any government has attempted to foster the trust and the monopoly the result invariably has been the promotion of socialism... He advised the committee by all means to re-enact the Sherman law, making only two changes with a view, not of altering its meaning, but of strengthening and perfecting its operation.[22]

In July 1918, Mr. Earle—then president of the Real Estate Trust Company in Philadelphia—presided over a convention held in St. Louis, Missouri by the United States Council of State Banking Associations. Some held that the purpose of the organization was to disrupt the movement to bring the "State banks and trust companies into the Federal Reserve system," but Earle issued a statement saying that State institutions meet local wants and needs just as national banks meet broader national situations, and that "as there might be matters to discuss and adjust involving conflicting interests it would be better in such instances [for State banks] to have a council of their own to advise and negotiate on such matters." He thought it foolish that skeptics would guess at the principles and purposes of the convention, mentioning the availability of the organization's resolutions, and ended his statement by saying, "Speaking for myself, I think an application of American principles of democracy is all that is necessary; free discussion and the fullest cooperation after it."[23]

On March 24, 1924, The Earle Theatre—located at 11th and Market streets in Philadelphia—opened to the public. Named after Mr. Earle, the theater would showcase the 'World's Biggest Stars' to Philadelphia audiences until its final stage show on February 26, 1953.[24][25]

George H. Earle, Jr. died on 19 February 1928. According to a New York Times article, he "died at his home in Rittenhouse Square [after having] been ill for nearly a year."[26] He is buried at the Church of the Redeemer churchyard in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania alongside many of his descendants, including his son, former Pennsylvania Governor, George H. Earle III.[27] Also buried close by is his sister, Philadelphia poet Florence Earle Coates and her husband, Edward Hornor Coates—former president of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1890 to 1906.

Six years after Mr. Earle's death, his oldest son, George H. Earle III, would run for Governor of Pennsylvania on the Democratic ticket. A New York Times article[28] reported that the candidate's mother, Mrs. George H. Earle, Jr., registered as a Republican that election year. Upon being asked why she did not register as a Democrat, she answered simply, "I have always been a Republican." Her party affiliation did not keep her from appearing with her son at a Democratic rally just days before, however, where she would receive an ovation from the crowd. The article also reports that Democratic city chairman John B. Kelly—"former bricklayer who had become a wealthy contractor"[29]—said it was only "through a misunderstanding" that Mrs. Earle registered Republican—although in light of her husband's history with and dedication to the "Party of Lincoln," Mr. Kelly's statement may have been made solely for political purposes.[30] George Earle III went on to win the Governorship, and was the first Democratic Governor of Pennsylvania since Robert E. Pattison took office in 1891, stating later that he "literally rode into office on the coat-tails of President Roosevelt, and [has] no hesitation in saying so."[31] A grandson, Ralph Earle II—son to the former Governor—would be born just months after Earle, Jr.'s death, and would become a U.S. Ambassador, and "chief negotiator at the SALT II round of talks on nuclear disarmament."[32]

List of works

Those on the Lever Act, as amended, led me to read an excellent, if somewhat verbose, discussion by George H. Earle, Jr. ...

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. on reading Does Price Fixing Destroy Liberty? (1920)[33]



Court testimony

Works about George H. Earle, Jr.

Appointments and Assignments

Mr. Earle derives from his Quaker ancestry the breadth of view that recognizes no monopoly of integrity or weakness in any [religious] denomination, and that business ability and character are more valuable [to a financial corporation], because less easily pretended, than piety.[40]
  • Lawyer, Earle & White, Phila.
  • Equitable Trust and Co., Phila. (Director)
  • Pennsylvania Warehousing and Safe Deposit Co., Phila. (Pres & Dir)
  • Guarantee Trust and Safe Deposit Co., Phila. (VP & Dir; resigned his post as VP upon election to the Finance Company of Pennsylvania)
  • Finance Company of Pennsylvania, Phila. (President)
  • Reading Railroad (Commercial agent)
  • Philadelphia and Reading Railroad (on reorganization planning committee in 1895)[41]
  • Chestnut Street National Bank, Phila. (Appointed Receiver in Jan 1898)
  • Chestnut Street Trust and Savings Fund Co., Phila. (Assignee, along w/ Richard Y. Cook in Jan 1898)
  • Record Publishing Co. (Managing Director; took up loans in March 1898)[42]
  • Tradesmen's National Bank, Phila. (President; retired as Pres. in 1910)
  • Market Street National Bank, Phila. (President; retired as Pres. in 1910)
  • Philadelphia Company (Director)
  • Quebec Central Railway Co. (Director)
  • United Railways Investment Company of San Francisco (appointed Director April 1906)[43]
  • Real Estate Trust Company of Philadelphia (Pres & Dir) (reorganized company in 1906)[44]
  • Rapid Transit Company (Director)[45]
  • Finance Committee of Choctaw Railroad Co. (Chairman)
  • Chestnut Street and Safe Deposit Co. (Assignee)
  • Board of Brokers (Member)
  • Real Estate Trust Co. (1908) (Appointed Receiver and made President)
  • Pennsylvania Sugar Refining Company (Receiver)

Notable ancestors and descendants

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  1. "The Guarantee Trust and Safe Deposit Company got sick and sent for him. So did the Finance Company of Philadelphia. So did the Tradesmen's Bank. So did the Market Street National...and to-day they are all flourishing... He was consulting physician when the Reading Railroad was sick. Then he figured in two sensational cases that gave him a national reputation. One was the smash of the Chestnut Street National Bank and the Chestnut Street Trust Company... The other sensational case was the Real Estate Trust Company..." (from "The Wizardry of George H. Earle, Jr." Current Literature, November 1911)
  2. Thomas Earle (1796-1849) was admitted to the Philadelphia Bar on 15 December 1826, and George H. Earle, Sr. (1823-1907) was admitted to the Bar on 16 January 1845 (The Members of the Philadelphia Bar, a Complete Catalogue, from July, 1776, to July, 1855 by R. F. Williams. (1855)
  3. from George H. Earle, Jr., Doctor to Ailing Corporations, Munsey's Magazine, Vol. XLII, No. V.; February 1910:683-691.
  4. Appointments and assignments
  5. The New York Times (20 Feb 1928)
  6. from "The Wizardry of George H. Earle, Jr." Current Literature, November 1911.
  7. The Progressive Men of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Vol II. Logansport, Ind. A. W. Bowen & Co. 1900: p. 847.
  8. Read about the history of the Committee of One Hundred on Google Books.
  9. McCafferty, Peter. When Bosses Ruled Philadelphia: The emergence of the Republican machine, 1867-1933. (1993)
  10. McCafferty, Peter. When Bosses Ruled Philadelphia: The emergence of the Republican machine, 1867-1933. (1993); quotations from Chapter 3.
  11. The Philadelphia Inquirer (4 Oct 1896); Vol. 135, Issue 96, p. 10.
  12. The Autobiography of a Pennsylvanian (1918) by Samuel Whitaker Pennypacker; pp. 455-56.
  13. "A Central Bank as a Menace to Liberty," by George H. Earle, Jr. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Vol. XXXI No. 2: Lessons of the Financial Crisis, March 1908.
  14. A "fusion between the Democratic party and the Keystone party, which had been organized [in 1909] to combat alleged political corruption in State and city..." [The Story of Philadelphia. Joyce, J. St. George, ed. Harry B. Joseph:1919; p. 300.
  15. Joyce, J. St. George, ed. The Story of Philadelphia (1919); p. 300, 309.
  16. "Mr. Earle Defends Anti-Trust Law." The Washington Herald, 7 Dec 1911.
  17. Hearing Before the Committee on Interstate Commerce, United States Senate, Sixty-Second Congress, pers. To S. Res. 98 (1912); p. 810.
  18. Plan of Bill Proposed by Hon. George H. Earle, Jr., Philadelphia.
  19. "For Stricter Trust Law: Earle's bill would curb Supreme Court's interpretations of it." The New York Times, 30 Dec 1911.
  20. "Shows Monopoly to Have Been a Menace for Centuries: George H. Earle, Jr., Noted Philadelphia Business Man, Tells Senate Committee on Interstate Commerce Sherman Law Should be Strengthened—Cites History to Prove Continual Fight Against, and Evils of, Monopoly—How to Amend the Law." (Telephony, 3 February 1912)
  21. "Shows Monopoly to Have Been a Menace for Centuries." Telephony. 3 Feb 1912; p. 135.
  22. Italics as rendered here are also used in the original source.
  23. Evening Public Ledger (Philadelphia). 20 July 1918.
  24. "Earle Theatre." Cinema Treasures. Accessed online at:
  25. View a photo of the Earle in 1937 here
  26. The New York Times (20 Feb 1928)
  27. The Lower Merion Historical Society website (see "Earle, Jr. George H.").
  28. "Candidate a Democrat, Mother on Other Side." The New York Times (8 Sept 1934)
  29. "Pennsylvania's Little New Deal" by Richard C. Keller. Pennsylvania History: Quarterly journal of the Pennsylvania Historical Association. Vol. XXIX, No. 4, October 1962, p. 398.
  30. Barring any other known references in support of Mr. Kelly's statement...
  31. A History of Pennsylvania (1980, 1973) by Philip S. Klein and Ari Hoogenboom; p. 457.
  32. from the biography of Ambassador Ralph Earle II on Wikipedia.
  33. from a letter Mr. Holmes wrote to Felix Frankfurter on 24 October 1920. [Mennel, Robert M. and Christine L. Compston, ed. Holmes and Frankfurter: their correspondence, 1912-1934 (1996), p. 95.]
  34. From Proceedings of Joint Committee of the Legislature of Pennsylvania, Appointed to Investigate the Cause of the Recent Failures of All Incorporated State and Private Banks. Harrisburg: Edwin K. Meyers, State Printer. 1891; pp. 84-86.
  35. Read Mr. Earle's testimony on Google Books.
  36. Read Mr. Earle's testimony on Google Books.
  37. Read this article on Google Books
  38. Read this article on Google Books
  39. Read this article on Google Books.
  40. "The Man for the Place." New York Times, 8 September 1906.
  41. Read a New York Times article about the reorganization here.
  42. "Philadelphia Record Syndicate." New York Times, 9 Mar 1898.
  43. "New United Railways Directors." New York Times, 25 Apr 1906.
  44. Read a New York Times article about his receivership here.
  45. Read a New York Times article about his proposed resignation as Director here.
  46. Read Thomas Earle as a Reformer (1948) by Edwin B. Bronner.
  47. The Progressive Men of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Vol II. Logansport, Ind. A. W. Bowen & Co. 1900: p. 847.
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