William H. Woodin, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury

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William Hartman Woodin

Birthdate: (66)
Death: 1934 (66)
Immediate Family:

Son of Clement Ricketts Woodin and Mary Louise Woodin

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About William H. Woodin, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury


William Hartman Woodin (May 27, 1868 – May 3, 1934) was a U.S. industrialist. He served as the Secretary of Treasury under Franklin Roosevelt in 1933.

Woodin was closely involved in Jackson and Woodin Manufacturing Company. His father, Clement Woodin, preceded him in the presidency of the company and his grandfather, also named William Hartman Woodin, was an early partner in the company. Jackson & Woodin grew under this combined leadership to become the largest railroad freight car builder in the eastern United States, and was one of the 13 companies that merged in 1899 to form American Car and Foundry Company (ACF). Woodin stayed on with ACF for a while after the merger. Woodin worked up through ACF management to become president in 1916. He was a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York from 1927 through 1932.

Woodin, a Republican businessman, was a major contributor to Roosevelt's campaign in 1932. He served as Treasury Secretary from March 1933 until he resigned effective December 31, 1933. Because of his poor health, for much of his tenure, Under Secretary Dean Acheson served as Acting Secretary of the Treasury.

Despite his illness, Woodin was involved in major decisions that the brand-new Roosevelt Administration took to combat the Great Depression.

On March 4, 1933, when President Roosevelt first took the oath of office, banks were closing their doors all over the United States as waves of panic led depositors to demand immediate payment of their money. Woodin was the point man in the Administration's declaration of a "Bank Holiday" which closed every bank in the U.S. until bank examiners could determine which were sound enough to re-open. With "seals of approval" from the examiners, depositors regained confidence, and the vast majority left their money in bank deposits. This became the fore-runner of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and other such Federal guarantees intended to foster the trust which is essential to the entire financial system.

Woodin also presided over the Roosevelt Administration's withdrawal from the international monetary conference in London and decision to take the United States off the international gold standard. While he was Secretary of the Treasury, the Administration also began the decision-making process that eventually led to the Administration's decision to buy all the gold in private hands in the United States (other than that used by dentists and jewelers) and to devalue the dollar. Under Secretary Acheson was so opposed to the latter two decisions that he resigned in protest.

Woodin was also an avid coin collector, and when gold was withdrawn from private hands, he made certain an exception was put in place for "rare or unusual" coin types.

He was a member of the Union League Club of New York. Woodin graduated from Columbia University (Columbia College, School of Mines) in 1890.

Woodin is the great-grandfather of mathematician W. Hugh Woodin.

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William H. Woodin, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury's Timeline

Age 66