Leffingwell, R. C. (Russell Cornell), 1878-1960

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U.S. assistant secretary of the treasury.

From the description of R.C. Leffingwell letterbooks, 1917-1920. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 707025202

Biographical Note

  • 1878, Sept. 10: Born, New York, N.Y.
  • 1899: Graduated, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.
  • 1902: Graduated, Columbia University Law School, New York, N.Y. Joined law firm of Guthrie, Cravath, and Henderson (became partner in 1907)
  • 1906: Married Lucy Hewitt (died 1959)
  • 1917 - 1920 : Assistant secretary of the treasury
  • 1920: Rejoined law firm of Cravath, Henderson, Leffingwell, & de Gersdorff
  • 1923 - 1940 : Partner, J. P. Morgan & Co.
  • 1940 - 1943 : Vice-chairman, J. P. Morgan & Co.
  • 1943 - 1955 : Chairman, J. P. Morgan & Co.
  • 1944 - 1953 : Member, Council of Foreign Relations (president, 1946-1953)
  • 1946: Named chairman, Carnegie Corp.
  • 1955 - 1960 : Director, J. P. Moran & Co.
  • 1960, Oct. 2: Died, New York, N.Y.

From the guide to the R. C. Leffingwell Letterbooks, 1917-1920, (Manuscript Division Library of Congress)

Russell C. Leffingwell: LL.D., 1950; Special Assistant to Secretary of the Treasury, 1917; member of Cravath, Henderson, Leffingwell and de Gersdorff law firm, 1920-1923; member of J.P. Morgan & Co., 1920-1940; chairman of J.P. Morgan & Co., 1943-1955; director, 1955-1960.

Russell Cornell Leffingwell, lawyer, public servant, and banker, was born on September 10, 1878, in New York City. Except for his service in Washington, D.C., as assistant secretary of the treasury for three years during World War I, New York -- in particular the Wall Street office of J. P. Morgan & Co. -- would remain the focal point of Leffingwell's career.

Leffingwell was one of three children born to Charles Russell and Mary Elizabeth (Cornell) Leffingwell. His father, an executive in the Cornell family's iron business, sent the young Russell to private schools, first to the Yonkers Military School and then to the Halsey School in New York. Graduating in 1895, he attended Yale where, according to his own evaluation, he did "nothing significant either socially or in athletics or in studies." A scrapbook from the period indicates that Leffingwell was fond of evenings at the theater and the opera and took an interest in the work of the YMCA.

On entering Yale Leffingwell had indicated his intention to become a lawyer, and on graduation in 1899 he enrolled in Columbia Law School. Here he became a member of Phi Delta Phi fraternity and distinguished himself as editor-in-chief of the Columbia Law Review . Upon completion of his training in 1902, he accepted an offer from the firm of Gutherie, Cravath and Henderson and after five years was made a partner. During this period he courted and in January 1906, married Lucy Hewitt of Brooklyn. Their only daughter Lucy (Leffingwell) Pulling was born in 1907.

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Leffingwell volunteered for military training at Plattsburgh. Paul Cravath, sensing that Leffingwell's abilities and experience as a lawyer would be wasted if he became just another junior officer in the Army, wrote Secretary of the Treasury William Gibbs McAdoo recommending Leffingwell for a position in the war-time government: he "is one of the best lawyers at our Bar, with no superior as a contract lawyer." The words had the desired effect; three days after the May 4 letter McAdoo telegraphed Leffingwell asking him to come to Washington.

For the first several months Leffingwell served as McAdoo's special counsel in charge of floating the First Liberty Loan. Then in October 1917, Leffingwell became assistant secretary of the Treasury for fiscal affairs with responsibility for the Commission of Public Debt, the comptroller of the Treasury and the War Loan Organization. Working closely with McAdoo and his successor Carter Glass, Leffingwell was instrumental in the determination of America's wartime and immediate postwar financial policies and was directly involved in the vast bond issues and loans to European allies so important to the war effort. He remained in his post until May, 1920.

Leffingwell resumed his New York law practice in the firm of Cravath, Henderson, Leffingwell and de Gersdorff, but he remained there only three years. In July, 1923, he was offered and accepted a partnership in J. P. Morgan & Co. Challenged by the problems of Europe's and America's postwar economy, Leffingwell became a keen analyst of the financial woes that were to plague the nations in the years between the wars. Memoranda in his self-assured style concerning the stability of various European economies, silver policy, the gold standard, deflation, allied war debts, and the Federal Reserve policy flowed from his pen and were circulated among the Morgan partners. In 1940 he became vice-chairman of the Morgan executive committee and in 1943 its chairman. After the death of Thomas Lamont in 1948 Leffingwell was made chairman of the board. Although he retired officially in 1955, he continued to be an active director at the Morgan Co. until his death in 1960.

Leffingwell's interests ranged beyond his duties at the Morgan Bank. An avid compiler of family history, he built a collection of Leffingwell Family Papers which he donated to Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library. A founder of the Council on Foreign Relations, he served seven years as chairman of its board. After many years as a trustee of the Carnegie Corporation, he was named chairman in 1946. For a short time in 1951, he served on President Truman's Commission on Internal Security and Individual Rights.

Though early in his career Leffingwell had belonged to the Republican Association in New York and spoke of himself as a latter day mugwump, he never considered himself either a Democrat or Republican. More often he called himself a "free trader." With his independent views he could support Franklin Roosevelt and then Wendell Wilkie, praise Truman for maintaining civilian control over the military and then vote for General Dwight Eisenhower. But to all presidents as well as to numerous journalists, members of the banking community, and other public officials he offered the benefits of his scholarship and experience in dealing with the most complex economic issues of his day.

From the guide to the Russell Cornell Leffingwell papers, 1883-1979, (Manuscripts and Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Leffingwell family papers, 1688-1954 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf R. C. Leffingwell Letterbooks, 1917-1920 Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Crosby, Oscar Terry, 1861-1947. Oscar Terry Crosby papers, 1878-1947 (bulk 1900-1938). Library of Congress
referencedIn Warburg, Paul M. (Paul Moritz), 1868-1932. Paul Moritz Warburg papers, 1904-1932 (inclusive). Yale University Library
creatorOf Russell Cornell Leffingwell papers, 1883-1979 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Delano, William Adams, 1874-1960. William Adams Delano papers, 1902-1960 (inclusive), 1939-1960 (bulk). Yale University Library
referencedIn Stokes, Harold Phelps, 1887-1970. Harold Phelps Stokes papers, 1908-1969 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Oswald Garrison Villard papers Houghton Library
referencedIn John Mason Brown papers, 1922-1967. Houghton Library
referencedIn Harold Phelps Stokes papers, 1908-1969 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Leffingwell, R. C. (Russell Cornell), 1878-1960. R.C. Leffingwell letterbooks, 1917-1920. Library of Congress
referencedIn David Franklin Houston papers, 1891-1930 (inclusive), 1913-1921 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn Lindbergh, Anne Morrow, 1906-2001. Anne Morrow Lindbergh papers, 1906-1997 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn John Jay Chapman papers Houghton Library
referencedIn Bush, Vannevar, 1890-1974. Vannevar Bush papers, 1901-1974 (bulk 1932-1955). Library of Congress
referencedIn Vannevar Bush Papers, 1901-1974, (bulk 1932-1955) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Stokes, Harold Phelps, 1887-1970. Harold Phelps Stokes papers, 1908-1969 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Lamont, Thomas W. (Thomas William), 1870-1948. Thomas W. Lamont papers, 1894-1948 Harvard Business School, Knowledge and Library Services/Baker Library
referencedIn Oscar Terry Crosby Papers, 1878-1947, (bulk 1900-1938) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Cortissoz, Royal, 1869-1948. Autograph letter signed : to R.C. Leffingwell, 1943 Apr. 3. Pierpont Morgan Library.
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
correspondedWith Auchincloss, Gordon, 1886-1943 person
correspondedWith Baker, Newton Diehl, 1871-1937 person
correspondedWith Baruch, Bernard M. (Bernard Mannes), 1870-1965 person
associatedWith Bell, Daniel W., 1891- person
correspondedWith Billy, Édouard de, 1866-1919 person
associatedWith Blackett, Basil Phillott, Sir, 1882-1935 person
associatedWith Brand, Robert Henry, 1878- person
correspondedWith Brown, John Mason, 1900-1969 person
associatedWith Brown, Lewis Herold, 1894- person
associatedWith Burgess, Warren Randolph, 1889- person
correspondedWith Burke, John, 1859-1937 person
correspondedWith Bush, Vannevar, 1890-1974. person
associatedWith Carter, Bernard S., 1893-1961 person
associatedWith Catchings, Waddill, 1879- person
correspondedWith Chapman, John Jay, 1862-1933 person
correspondedWith Colby, Bainbridge, 1869-1950 person
associatedWith Cortissoz, Royal, 1869-1948. person
associatedWith Cravath, Paul Drennan, 1861-1940 person
correspondedWith Crosby, Oscar Terry, 1861-1947. person
associatedWith Danaher, John Anthony, 1899- person
correspondedWith Daniels, Josephus, 1862-1948 person
associatedWith Delano, Frederic Adrian, 1863- person
associatedWith Delano, William Adams, 1874-1960. person
associatedWith Dickey, C. D. person
associatedWith Douglas, Paul Howard, 1892- person
associatedWith Dulles, Allen Welsh, 1893-1969 person
associatedWith Eccles, Marriner Stoddard, 1890- person
associatedWith Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969 person
associatedWith Ernst, Morris Leopold, 1888- person
associatedWith Fisher, Irving, 1867-1947 person
associatedWith Gifford, T. J. Carlyle. person
associatedWith Gilbert, Seymour Parker, 1892-1938 person
associatedWith Glass, Carter, 1858-1946 person
associatedWith Green, William Raymond, 1856- person
correspondedWith Gregory, Thomas Watt, 1861-1933 person
associatedWith Grenfell, E. C. person
associatedWith Hanes, John Wesley, 1892- person
correspondedWith Harding, W. P. G. (William Proctor Gould), 1864-1930 person
associatedWith Harrison, George L., 1887-1958 person
correspondedWith Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964 person
associatedWith Hopkinson, Edward, 1885-1966 person
associatedWith Houston, David Franklin, 1866-1940 person
associatedWith Hull, Cordell, 1871-1955 person
associatedWith Jay, Nelson Dean, 1883- person
associatedWith J.P. Morgan & Co. corporateBody
associatedWith Kefauver, Estes, 1903-1963 person
associatedWith Kelley, Nicholas. person
associatedWith Kellogg, Frank Billings, 1856-1937 person
associatedWith Keynes, John Maynard, 1883-1946 person
associatedWith Lamont, Thomas Stilwell, 1899-1967 person
associatedWith Lamont, Thomas W. (Thomas William), 1870-1948. person
correspondedWith Lansing, Robert, 1864-1928 person
associatedWith Layton, Walter, Sir, 1884- person
associatedWith Leffingwell family. family
associatedWith Leffingwell family. family
correspondedWith Legge, Alexander, 1866-1933 person
associatedWith Lever, Hardman, Sir person
correspondedWith Lever, Hardman, Sir, 1869-1947 person
associatedWith Lindbergh, Anne Morrow, 1906-2001. person
associatedWith Lippmann, Walter, 1889-1974 person
correspondedWith Long, Breckinridge, 1881-1958 person
associatedWith Lovett, Robert Abercrombie. person
correspondedWith Macchi di Cellere, Vincenzo, conte, 1866-1919 person
correspondedWith McAdoo, W. G. (William Gibbs), 1863-1941 person
associatedWith McCabe, Thomas B. person
associatedWith McCloy, John Jay, 1895- person
associatedWith Meyer, Eugene, 1875-1959 person
associatedWith Mills, Ogden Livingston, 1884-1937 person
associatedWith Morgan, J. P. (John Pierpont), 1837-1913 person
associatedWith Morgenthau, Henry, 1856-1946 person
associatedWith Morrow, Dwight W. (Dwight Whitney), 1873-1931 person
associatedWith Nimitz, Chester William, 1885-1966 person
associatedWith Norman, Montagu Collet Norman, baron, 1871-1950 person
associatedWith Nye, Gerald Prentice, 1892-1971 person
correspondedWith Palmer, A. Mitchell (Alexander Mitchell), 1872-1936 person
associatedWith Peacock, Edward R. person
correspondedWith Polk, Frank L. (Frank Lyon), 1871-1943 person
associatedWith Rathbone, Albert, 1868-1943 person
associatedWith Rist, Charles, 1874- person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945 person
associatedWith Sachs, Alexander. person
associatedWith Stettinius, Edward Reilly, 1900-1949 person
associatedWith Stokes, Harold Phelps, 1887-1970. person
correspondedWith Strong, Benjamin, 1872-1928 person
associatedWith Strong, Benjamin, 1896- person
correspondedWith Tardieu, André, 1876-1945 person
correspondedWith Tardieu, André, 1876-1945 person
associatedWith Thomas, Elmer, 1876- person
associatedWith Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972 person
associatedWith United States. Department of the Treasury. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Dept. of the Treasury. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Dept. of the Treasury. Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. corporateBody
correspondedWith Villard, Oswald Garrison, 1872-1949 person
associatedWith Warburg, Paul M. (Paul Moritz), 1868-1932. person
associatedWith Wasson, Robert Gordon, 1898- person
correspondedWith Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924 person
associatedWith Yale University. Students. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Great Britain.
Debts, Public
Finance, Public
Gold standard
Government securities
World War, 1914-1918
World War, 1914-1918
Public officials


Birth 1878

Death 1960


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