Four men, two generations, one enduring institution

Four men, two generations, one enduring institution

 

The father starts the business and eventually the son steps up to succeed him. It’s the storyline behind generations of American economic growth and expansion, from the earliest farmsteads to modern industry. The Huntington story is that plot, tripled: P.W. Huntington had not one son but three, who, in succession, carried their father’s vision forward, each of them leading in a way that reflected his unique character and talents.

The father starts the business and eventually the son steps up to succeed him. It’s the storyline behind generations of American economic growth and expansion, from the earliest farmsteads to modern industry. The Huntington story is that plot, tripled: P.W. Huntington had not one son but three, who, in succession, carried their father’s vision forward, each of them leading in a way that reflected his unique character and talents.

Theodore Sollace (T.S.), Francis Ropes (F.R.) and Baldwin Gwynne (B.G.) Huntington were the “Banking Sons” of P.W. and his second wife, Frances. Beginning in 1892, 26 years after P.W. Huntington & Co. opened for business, P.W. began bringing his sons into partnership positions at the bank.1

F.R., or Franz as he was also known, was the middle son, to whom P.W. turned when he was ready to relinquish the Huntington National Bank’s presidency in 1914. The choice made sense. Though T.S. was older, he suffered from tuberculosis throughout his life, and poor health would eventually cause him to reduce his responsibilities at the bank.2 Franz, however, was a bulldog of a man, shorter than his father but aggressive and energetic, with a commanding voice and a presence. He was also an accomplished painter, and when he looked around him at the Scioto River Valley, his artist’s imagination took hold. He could see railroads, manufacturing plants and mines where at the time, there was only undeveloped countryside.3

Franz had the foresight to establish a bond department at Huntington. And, in 1923, he led the bank through two mergers, just a few weeks apart, which effectively created Huntington’s first savings department.4

When Franz Huntington died in 1928, the bank presidency was thrust on his older brother. T.S. knew he had a big void to fill. In his 1929 report to Huntington shareholders, T.S, acknowledged that Franz, who had built so ably on the institution P.W. founded and contributed so significantly to the growth of Columbus, was “unreplaceable.”5

T.S. would make his own imprint on Huntington, however. He compensated for a lack of physical vitality with an intellectual energy and a commanding grasp of banking laws, old and new, that caused other bankers to seek his counsel.6 Also, as a student of banking history, T.S. Huntington appreciated the nature of boom-and-bust cycles and his father’s lessons. By maintaining high cash reserves and a liquid position, T.S. ensured that his family’s bank was far better poised than most to weather the stock market crash of 1929.7

The health problems that plagued T.S. throughout his life caused him to cede his post after just four years. So, in 1932, the youngest Banking Son, B.G. Huntington, took charge.

Baldwin Gwynne Huntington had a theatrical spirit. He played the piano and wrote, directed and performed in plays while at Princeton.8 But he proved just as passionate about banking as he was about performing. In learning the business from his father and brothers, B.G. became intimately familiar with every aspect of running a bank, down to the smallest details of a teller’s duties.9

A favorite role for B.G. Huntington was cultivating relationships with country bankers. His knowledge of day-to-day banking procedures made him an invaluable resource to them, and in time, B.G. turned Huntington into one of the nation’s largest correspondent banks.10

In 1949, as Huntington National Bank grew, B.G. became board chairman and passed the presidency to John Stevenson, who came to Huntington as a result of one of the 1923 mergers.11 Stevenson thus became the first non-Huntington to oversee the bank’s day-to-day operations.12 He was decisive, determined and strong, qualities in keeping with the best of the Huntington family traditions, qualities that would serve Stevenson and the bank well through the 1950s and into the ’60s.

Copy of 1905 PW Huntington-t

P.W. began bringing his sons into partnership positions at the bank in 1892.

 

Copy of 19xxBG Huntington

Baldwin Gwynne (B.G.) Huntington served as Huntington’s president from 1932-1949.

 

Copy of 19xxFR Huntington

Francis Ropes (Franz) Huntington established a bond department at Huntington and led the bank through two successful mergers in 1923.

 

Copy of 19xxTS Huntington

Theodore Sollace (T.S.) Huntington served as Huntington’s president from 1928-1932, after the untimely death of his brother Franz.