James Howell Post Obituary

horizontal rule

Obituary:  New York Times.  March 6, 1938.  p. 43

Brooklyn Civic Figure Noted
Financier and a Leader in Sugar Refining
Involved in Famous Anti-Trust Case -- Held Directorates in Many Enterprises

James Howell Post, sugar refining financier, philanthropist, and civic leader, died yesterday in his home at 88 Remsen Street, Brooklyn, after a short illness. He was 78 years old.

Surviving are his widow, the former Louisa H. Wells of Brooklyn; three daughters, Mrs. Philip A. Hubert, Mrs. Thomas I Morrow, and Mrs. Jessie W. Post, all of Brooklyn, and a sister, Mrs. Charles F. Cantine of New York. The funeral service will be private.

Mr. Post, although small in stature, exerted the influence of a giant in those spheres of activities where he labored most effectively for more than a quarter of a century. From his office at 129 Front Street on the southern tip of Manhattan, he directed an industrial empire in sugar, reputed to be among the world's greatest. And in the the family home at 88 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, Mr. Post controlled a flow of donations anonymously to Protestant, Catholic and Jewish charitable and educational institutions.

A majority of those who knew him by sight will remember a quiet man, probably in the act if waving aside rounds of applause at a dedication or like ceremony.  He attended to many affairs in the roll of officer but seldom delivered speeches.  He disliked the limelight.

Nevertheless, his generosity frequently placed him squarely before the public.  Thus in 1930 the Downtown Brooklyn Association presented him with its first annual medal for distinguished service, and two years later the national Institute of Social Sciences followed suit with a gold medal in recognition of contributions to the "civic and cultural life of Greater New York."

Mr. Post expressed his views on charity in a letter to The New York Times in December, 1935.  He wrote:

"Though long association with charitable work in New York, I have learned something of the individualized care which each family receives from private agencies.  I am heartily in sympathy with the great governmental relief program, but I realize that in thousands of instances relief is not enough."

Sought to Aid Handicapped

"Nearest my heart is the rehabilitation of those so handicapped that they can never return to their former occupation.  I believe, furthermore, the American public will give generously when they are convinced the need is real and the funds will be properly administered."

Underlying the philanthropist's record was Mr. Post's personal story and vast financial gains from business enterprises.  He began work at 15 as an office boy earning $3 a week.

Born at New Rochelle, N.Y., on Oct. 13, 1859, the son of William and Eleanor Sackett Post, he traced his descent from New England settlers in 1650,  Between the ages of 5 and 12 he lived with his family at Brookhaven, L.I.  Years later he was to return to Brookhaven to establish a Summer home on Bellport Bay.

In 1872 the Posts moved to Brooklyn.  Mr. Post was educated in the Brooklyn public schools, at the International College of the Y.M.C.A. at Springfield, Mass. and at Colgate University, where he received his LL. D. degree.  His first job was that of office boy with the firm of B. H. Howell Son & Co., Inc., of New York.  The firm was the largest dealer in molasses and molasses sugars in the country with half a dozen factories in New York and Philadelphia.

Changes in the tariff laws made it impossible to run the molasses factories.  The result was the eventual organization in 1900 of the National Sugar Refining Company of New Jersey.  Mr. Post became president of the concern.  It had a capital of $10,000,00 preferred and $10,000,000 common stock.

Consolidation Prevented

Anti-trust litigation instituted in 1911 prevented the American Sugar Refining Company form controlling the National through stock ownership.  Again in 1924 rumors spread of an impending consolidation.  The resultant firm would have been the largest on earth in that business with control over approximately one-third of the world's sugar refining facilities.  Mr. Post was slated to become president of the amalgamated company at a salary of $75,000 a year.

Attorney General Harlan E. Stone said he would oppose the move inasmuch as he conceived it his duty "to uphold decrees under the Sherman Law * * * rather than attempt to substitute my judgment for the wisdom of my predecessors and of the courts which entered such decrees."

Mr. Post ended the consolidation talk with a statement in which he said the "unwillingness of the Department of Justice" would be accepted as final.

During the World War he was chairman of the American Refiners committee of the National Food Administration.  He issued repeated warnings of a sugar shortage unless housewives practiced greater economy.

A so-called "sugar trust" action of major importance followed the organization in 1927 of the Sugar Institute, Inc., with Mrl Post as chairman of the board of directors and president.

Litigation was Protracted

In February, 1932, the trial opened in the Federal court here, with the government charging the institute was a blind to hide an illegal price-fixing conspiracy in the restraint of trade.  On the other hand, the sugar merchants said the organization swept away grave trade abuses.

The case proved one of the most intricate ever tried under the Sherman Law and involved the most elaborate legal test of the activities of a trade association ever undertaken by the government.  Points at issue included an unusually large number of those which must be considered by members of an industry seeking to cooperate for the elimination of abuses and general improvement of conditions within the industry.  A large number of trade associations had modeled their codes of ethics upon that of the Sugar Institute.

The decree permitting the continued existence of the institute, but outlawing many of its activities, was entered Oct. 9, 1934.  Further arguments on the case were heard before the Supreme Court in 1936.  When the battle lines were drawn between the government and the institute, Mr. Post said:

"We welcome the opportunity of having the courts determine finally the correctness of the course which we have followed in good faith."

Headed Other Companies

Besides the National Sugar Refining Company of New Jersey, Mr. Post was chairman of the board and director of the Cuban-American Sugar Company and president and director of the New Niquero and Guantanamo Sugar Companies.

He was a director of the following:  The National City Bank of New York, the Title Guarantee and Trust Company, the Atlantic Mutual Insurance Company, the United States Casualty Company, the Manhattan Fire and Marine Insurance Company, the Brooklyn Edison Company, the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Company, the Fajardo Sugar company, the Central Aguirre Associates, the Alliance Realty Company, the Holly Sugar corporation, the American Foreign Marine Insurance Association, the Underwood Elliott Fisher Company, the Westchester Insurance Company, the City Bank Farmers Trust Company, the Terminal Warehouse Company and the New Amsterdam Casualty Company, and a vice president and trustee of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank.

He was chairman of the board of trustees of the Brooklyn Y.M. and Y.W.C.A.'s and gave large sums to both institutions; president of the board of trustees of Adelphi College, Garden City, L.I., and a trustee of Princeton Theological Seminary, Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, Brooklyn Bureau of Charities and a number of educational institutions in the United States, the Near East and Brazil.  In 1925 he contributed $25,000 for the establishment of colleges in the Near East.

Mr. Post was trustee of the Brooklyn Eye and Ear Hospital and of a number of welfare agencies in Kings county.  In 1937 he received an honorable mention award from the Grand Street Boys Association for "his leadership and support of more than a score of philanthropic and civic organizations in Brooklyn."

His clubs were the Union League, Engineers, City, the Down town, Hamilton and University of Brooklyn.  He was president of the board of trustees of the South Third Street Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn.

Governor and Mayor Among the Leaders Praising His Work

Governor Lehman, while on a visit to Brooklyn yesterday, said:  "I have learned with very great regret of the passing of James H. Post.  He was a man of kindliest spirit and of the broadest vision, whose sympathy and interest knew no limitations of race, color or creed.  He was one of the most valuable citizens of New York.  The community has lost a great leader and a friend."

Mayor La Guardia deplored Mr. Post's death as "a great loss to the city and real personal loss to me.  He was a kindly man and he had a real public interest."

James H. Perkins, chairman of the board of directors of the National City Bank of New York and the City Bank Farmers Trust Company, said that "Mr. Post's death has brought deep sorrow to all his associates in the National City Bank of New York.  He had been associated with the bank as a director since 1896.  He had also been a director of the City Bank Farmers Trust Company since 1929."

Justice Louis Goldstein, president of the Y.M and Y.W.H.A.'s of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, said:  "I was greatly grieved to hear of the death of James H. Post, who had been for many years a friend of the young people of Williamsburg and was greatly interested in their problems."


 Page revised:  28 September 2012