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Oral history interviews with John J. Raskob family

2004-2005
 Collection
Identifier: 2004-208

Abstract

John Raskob (1879-1950) was a financial executive for the E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., General Motors, and financier of the Empire State Building. During the 1920s Raskob became active in Democratic Party politics and from 1928 to 1932 served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He was an important financial backer of Governor Alfred E. Smith (1873-1944) when he ran for president in 1928. This collection consists of seven oral history interviews conducted between 2004 and 2005 with members of John J. Raskob’s immediate family, primarily his children and grandchildren. The interviews are largely personal in nature and often focus on family relationships.

Dates

  • 2004-2005

Creator

Extent

7 item(s)

Physical Description

15 videocassettes (DVCam). 11 videocassettes (VHS). 11 audio cassette tapes. 7 transcripts, PDF files.

Biographical Note

John Raskob (1879-1950) was a financial executive for the E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., General Motors, and financier of the Empire State Building. During the 1920s Raskob became active in Democratic Party politics and from 1928 to 1932 served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He was an important financial backer of Governor Alfred E. Smith (1873-1944) when he ran for president in 1928.

Raskob was born in Lockport, New York, on March 19, 1879 to Anna Frances (Moran) Raskob (1851-1926) and John Raskob (1850-1898). He was educated in the area's public schools. He was the oldest of four children. He had a brother and two sisters: Gertrude A. Raskob Hull (1881-1968); William F. Raskob (1883-1973), and Edith Raskob Kaiser (circa 1888-1967).

In 1900, Raskob was working for the Johnson Company of Lorain, Ohio when he met Pierre S. du Pont (1870-1954). Pierre S. du Pont had recently purchased the Johnson Company. By 1902, Raskob became Pierre du Pont’s private secretary and would later serve as an executive for the DuPont Company and General Motors. Raskob and du Pont worked together on projects such as the DuPont Highway in Delaware. The two maintained a close professional and personal relationship throughout their lives.

In 1904, Raskob met Helena Springer Green (1884-1963). She was a devout Catholic, well-educated, and an accomplished musician. Raskob met her while she was playing an organ at St. Mary’s Church in Wilmington, Delaware. John and Helena Raskob married in 1906. The couple had thirteen children:

John “Jake” Jacob Raskob Jr. (1907-1981)

William “Bill” Frederick Raskob II (1908-1928)

Helena “Sis” Mary Raskob Geuting (1909-1997)

Elizabeth “Betty” Ann Raskob Parkman (1910-2009)

Robert “Bob” Pierre Raskob (1911-1974)

Inez “Yvonne” Yvonne Raskob (1912-1935)

Margaret “Marcy” Lucy Raskob Harmon (1914-1998)

Josephine “Jo” Juniata Raskob Robinson (1915-1998)

Nina Barbara Raskob Lyon (1916-2007)

Catherine Lorena Raskob (1918-1918)

Patricia “Patsy” Virginia Raskob Bremer (1919-2013)

Mary “Boo” Louis Raskob Duffy (1921-2017)

Benjamin “Ben” Green Raskob (1922-2009)

The family first resided in Wilmington, Delaware. In 1910, the Raskobs purchased property in Claymont, Delaware. The estate had two houses: “Archmere” and “Woodsedge”. In 1915, the Raskobs began to construct a new home at the site of Archmere. During construction they resided at Woodsedge. Construction of Archmere was completed in 1919. The family lived in the house until 1930. Helena Springer Raskob was known for keeping a well-maintained household, because of this, the entire family called her “Skipper”.

All the Raskob children attended boarding school. Most seemed to have been able to travel home on the weekends and all lived at home during the summer. John J. Raskob traveled frequently for work, and lived in an apartment in New York City during the work week. He traveled home on most weekends.

Many of the Raskob children went on to obtain advanced degrees. As the children married, they made homes of their own in various locations throughout the United States.

Three of the siblings died in their youth. In 1918, Catherine Raskob died of the Spanish flu, she was six months old. In 1928, Bill Raskob was killed in an automobile accident. In 1935, Yvonne Raskob, who had been sickly her entire life, died of pneumonia.

In 1923, John "Jack" Phillip Corcoran (1900-1991) started working as a swim instructor for the Raskob children and would go on to become a close confidante of the family. He later served as the family’s estate manager.

In 1930 the Raskob family moved to a property called Pioneer Point in Centerville, Maryland. The estate also had two houses: Mostley Hall and Hartefeld. The family lived at Pioneer Point until 1938. Throughout the 1930s, the family also made regular visits to Corcoran's hunting lodge, Camp Melody Pine, in Catharage, North Carolina.

Between 1938 and 1942, Helena Springer Raskob lived in various places in the western U.S. due to her asthma. In 1942, she moved to Tucson, Arizona with Nina Raskob.

In 1945, John and Helena Raskob founded the Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities, a philanthropic organization which provides grants to Catholic organizations and programs around the world. Many of their children became actively involved in the foundation, with a few holding leadership positions.

In March 1950, John J. Raskob took a European cruise aboard the SS America with daughters: Helena Geuting, Jo Robinson, Patsy Bremer, Boo Duffy and their respective families. The family states that he did not seem at all unwell. However, on October 15, 1950 John J. Raskob died at his Pioneer Point home.

Scope and Content

This collection consists of seven oral history interviews conducted between 2004 and 2005 with members of John J. Raskob’s immediate family, primarily his children and grandchildren. The interviews are largely personal in nature and often focus on family relationships. Each discuss their birth, education, and travels. Memories of times spent at the various family estates are recounted. Those present on the cruise to Europe in 1950, share their recollections about the trip. Some speak of the death of Bill Raskob, Yvonne Raskob, and Catherine Raskob, as well as, John J. Raskob’s funeral. Also discussed are the families views on religion, race, and philanthropy.

Raskob children interviewed include: Betty Parkman, Nina Raskob Lyon, and Patsy Bremer, Boo Duffy, and Ben Raskob. Grandchildren interviewed were: Rosalie "Roz" Parkman (1937-) and John Jakob Raskob III (1932-2008); Lorena “Lori” D. Sala (1952-), and Sister Patricia Geuting (1934-). John J. Raskob’s nephew, John Raymond "Rex" Kaiser (1927-2016) was also interviewed.

The interviews were conducted by Richard James and David Farber.

Richard James was the project archivist for the John J. Raskob papers (Accession 0473) in the Manuscripts and Archives Department at Hagley Museum and Library.

David Farber was a history professor at Temple University at the time of the interviews. He is the author of Everybody Ought To Be Rich: The Life and Times of John J. Raskob, Capitalist, New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Existence and Location of Copies

The oral history interviews and transcripts have been digitized.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Related Material

John J. Raskob papers (Accession 0473), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

John J. Raskob photographs (Accession 1984.248), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
Oral history interviews with John J. Raskob family
Status:
Online
Author:
Laurie Sather
Date:
2019.
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin
Sponsor:
This oral history project was funded by The Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities.

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Audiovisual Collections Repository

Contact:
PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA
302-658-2400