Financial History 145 Spring 2023 | Page 7


India House ’ s “ Basic Commodities of Commerce ”

By Sarah Poole , Collections Manager
Museum founder John Herzog recently donated to the permanent collection a unique artifact from the India House club — a specimen cabinet containing the “ Basic Commodities of Commerce .” The cabinet was prepared by The Economic Laboratories and curator Chas . R . Toothaker , and it was presented to India House on April 28 , 1922 by James A . Farrell . Made of mahoganized wood , the specimen chest has 30 labeled drawers containing samples of commodities , including items such as grains , coffee , tobacco , woods , cotton , silk , furs , leather , metals and more . Each specimen is neatly displayed and labeled with its name and a description of its use , as well as its country or region of origin .
Farrell , president of US Steel from 1911 – 1932 , co-founded India House in 1914 with Willard Straight , an investment banker and diplomat . The club was created to serve as a meeting place for men involved in foreign trade and , according to its charter , “ create in this country a relation between the bankers and the promoters of foreign enterprises that would make it possible to handle foreign undertaking …” Early governors of the club included the presidents of companies such as Lackawanna Steel , Dollar Steamship , Chase National Bank and United States Rubber . Prominent members throughout the club ’ s history include President Franklin D . Roosevelt ; Secretary of Commerce Harry Hopkins ; Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau , Jr .; New York
Governor W . Averell Harriman and New York City Mayor John P . O ’ Brien .
The landmark building at One Hanover Square in Lower Manhattan housed India House from when the club acquired the parcel in 1921 until 2022 . Completed in 1854 , the prior occupants included Hanover Bank and the New York Cotton Exchange . In 1925 , the club built the Marine Room , designed by architect and India House member William Adams Delano , which pays homage to maritime trade with decorative architecture depicting shells , fish and seahorses . The club owned an extensive collection of maritime art , which included painting , prints , engravings , relics and rare ship models donated by Willard Straight , his wife Dorothy Whitney and James Farrell .
www . MoAF . org | Spring 2023 | FINANCIAL HISTORY 5