Records of Vice President Henry Tatnall, 1897-1940 (bulk 1909-1940)

Pennsylvania Railroad Financial Dept


9.5 linear ft.
Series I. Subject files; Series II. Chronological files.
The records of Henry Tatnall cover his career from his appointment as fourth vice president in 1909 to his retirement in 1925. There are a few extraneous letters extending the range from 1897 to 1940.
The subject files cover the entire range of Tatnall's activities. There is a great deal on the formal organization and functioning of the financial department, the employees' savings fund, the insurance fund, the pension department, the publicity bureau and the voluntary relief department. Financial department matters include the issuing of bonds, the marketing of PRR securities abroad, equipment trusts, departmental salaries and correspondence with banks. There are many files on financial arrangements concerning the operation and consolidation of subsidiary companies, and the PRR's purchase of stock in the B&O, C&O, N&W and Southern Pacific under the "community of interest" plan. There are also files of a general nature on subjects touching the operation of the nation's banking system.
Among the more important projects handled during Tatnall's tenure were the divestiture of the Susquehanna Coal Company, the reorganization of the Baltimore, Chesapeake & Atlantic Railway and the Chesapeake Bay steamer lines, cost accounting for the Penn Station tunnels and for the New York Connecting Railroad's Hell Gate Bridge, the modernization and electrification of the Long Island Railroad and the ICC's valuation of railroads. Many of the files deal with problems of the World War I era, including operation by the USRA and the return to private ownership, the Transportation Act of 1920, Liberty Loans and war traffic, particularly on the Long Island to Camp Upton.
Among the minor files of more than passing interest are letters from President McCrea giving his opinion of the development potential of Alaska, correspondence with T. Coleman du Pont about highways in Delaware, lists of female employees (1917-1922), company athletics in the financial department, Henry Clay Frick's criticism of the PRR management (1915), complaints over poor service, and notes on the transportation of horses by rail.
The chronological file consists of copies of Tatnall's outgoing letters from January 1922 to July 1925. Most of this is internal to other PRR departments, although some is to outside parties. Most, but not all, of these letters are carbon copies of letters also found in the subject files.
Tatnall's files are continued by those of Vice President-Treasury, Accounting and Corporate Work A. J. County.
Henry Tatnall was the first professionally-trained vice president in charge of finance on the Pennsylvania Railroad, serving from 1904 to 1925.
Henry Tatnall was born in Wilmington, Del., on April 30, 1855, the son of William Tatnall, a lumber merchant and insurance company president, and Rachel Moon Tatnall. His grandfather, Edward Tatnall, was one of the organizers of the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad Company. After attending the Westtown School, Henry Tatnall began his career as a clerk in a Wilmington real estate office. In 1879 he moved to Philadelphia to take a position with the Girard Trust Company. He became its treasurer in 1881 and vice president in 1885. He resigned in 1900 to become president of the Franklin National Bank.
During the 19th century, the Pennsylvania Railroad usually had no difficulty raising funds on the capital markets. Often the president of the company had used his personal prestige to place securities in London. Beginning at the turn of the century, the company began a mammoth program of expansion and modernization that included the large Pennsylvania Station project in New York. The chief financial officer at that time was Vice President John P. Green, a lawyer, who had no experience outside the railroad company. The company clearly felt the need for a professional with ties to the banking community and hired Henry Tatnall as treasurer and sixth vice president effective June 1, 1904. It was one of the few times that the company broke its strict rule of promotion from within.
Tatnall had direct responsibility for the Financial (Treasury) Department under the nominal supervision of Green. The system of numbering vice presidents was merely an indicator of seniority, so that Tatnall was promoted to fifth vice president on October 10, 1905. With Green's retirement on March 23, 1909, Tatnall moved up to fourth vice president. He assumed full control of the Treasury, to which was now added to the supervision of the Employees' Savings Fund. At this time he also resigned the subordinate office of treasurer and was given a seat on the board of directors.
Tatnall was promoted to third vice president on March 3, 1911, and when the numerical system was dropped on May 7, 1912, he was designated vice president in charge of finance. He continued in this capacity until he retired at age 70 under the company's pension regulations on April 29, 1925. One of his principal accomplishments was the settlement of accounts for the period of government operation during World War I. Tatnall was also director of 115 companies, most of them PRR subsidiaries. However, he was also a director of a number of important outside firms, including Western Union, the Fourth Street National Bank, the Girard Trust, the Western Savings Fund Society, the United States Mortgage & Trust Company and the Guarantee Company of North America. He died at his home in Bryn Mawr, Pa., on March 1, 1939.
Literary rights retained by depositor.
Unpublished finding aid available at the repository.
Forms Record group 6, Subgroup C of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company records.

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