Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Columns

May 24, 2014

City native became financial wizard

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — When John Jakob Raskob was born in 1879, Lockport was a busy, thriving place of business.

John’s father was a cigar manufacturer and the family had a modest home at the corner of East Avenue and Charles Street. His father’s family had come from Alsace-Lorraine and his mother’s from Dublin, Ireland. The family was devoutly Catholic and John and his brother and sisters attended St. John’s School and later the old Lockport High School across from them on East Avenue.

After high school, John went on to business school but had to leave when his father died unexpectedly, leaving his mother with three younger children to support. With his background in business, it was easy for John to find employment, first with attorney John E. Pound and later as a copy boy with the Lockport Daily Journal.

In 1900, Raskob, now 21, was earning $7.50 a week working as a bookkeeper at Holly Manufacturing Company. His family was barely making ends meet, so he asked for a 50 cent raise and was refused. It was at this point that Raskob realized that if was going to make any real money, he would have to leave Lockport.

Raskob had been reading about the reorganization of the du Pont Company and wrote a well-crafted letter to Pierre du Pont offering his bookkeeping and secretarial services to the new president for $1,000 a year. With recommendations from Pound and others in Lockport, Raskob was hired as du Pont’s personal secretary for an astonishing $3,000 a year (nearly $60 a week). He moved his mother and younger siblings to the company’s headquarters in Wilmington, Del.

In 1905, he met Helena Green and they were married a year later. The couple would go on to have 13 children, 12 of whom lived to adulthood.  Just outside of Wilmington, Raskob built a grand Italianate villa, which he called “Archmere,” to raise his growing family.

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