Monday, April 23, 2012

Focus On: Sen. Simon Guggenheim of Colorado

Historians of the Titanic disaster often ignore the fact that Benjamin Guggenheim, one of the wealthiest people killed in the Titanic disaster, was the brother of Sen. Simon Guggenheim of Colorado.  They care truly, madly, deeply about the fancy clothes that Benjamin was wearing when the boat sank.  But reporters and movie makers have carefully ignored his politics and the political connections of his brother, Simon.

Politics are priority No. 1, however, for those who suspect that someone deliberately sank the RMS Titanic as part of a political plot to kill the powerful millionaires on board.  For those who harbor such suspicions, a direct relationship between one of the millionaires killed and a key member of the U.S. Senate is highly significant.

The direct relationship of Benjamin Guggenheim to a U.S. senator from Colorado tells us a couple things:

1) The Guggenheims certainly knew Molly Brown and Molly Brown certainly knew the Guggenheims (both families made their fortunes in the silver and gold mines of Leadville, Colorado, and Molly's house on Pennsylvania Street in Denver is only a couple blocks from the house at 1555 Sherman Street, Denver, that was once occupied by Sen. Simon Guggenheim's family).

2) The fact that Benjamin Guggenheim and Molly Brown knew each other well and boarded the Titanic together in Cherbourg, France, strongly suggests that they had not met by accident -- they were in league somehow

3) The staunch silence surrounding their association suggests that there is a skeleton buried nearby. Perhaps some powerful third party may have wanted both Benjamin Guggenheim and Molly Brown dead? Sen. Simon Guggenheim makes a reasonable suspect for such a third party. He certainly stood to inherit a fair share of Benjamin Guggenheim's fortune if Benjamin died, and Benjamin's death would certainly have given Simon much more influence and control over the Guggenheim family's massive mining and smelting business.  Benjamin would no longer be around to argue with Simon.

4) It is also significant that Simon Guggenheim had a clear motive to kill Margaret Brown. In 1909 Margaret Brown ran for one of Colorado's seats in the U.S. Senate, and that made her, potentially, a real threat to the seat of Simon Guggenheim and his agenda within the Senate.  Margaret was moving in the same monied circles as Simon Guggenheim back in Denver, and that meant she was extremely well-informed about him and potentially a danger to him.

5) Finally, last but not least, Sen. Simon Guggenheim, R-Colo., was well known to be a close ally of Sen. Nelson Aldrich of Rhode Island -- the Senate majority leader behind the "Aldrich Plan" for a central bank and a Money Trust.

If Simon Guggenheim lost his senate seat, Nelson Aldrich and J.P. Morgan's other agents in the U.S. senate might lose some of the political muscle they needed to ram their bill for a "National Reserve Association" through the House and Senate.

Titanic millionaires conspiring to sink the Aldrich Plan?

This bill, the infamous "Aldrich Plan," had just been sent to Congress in January 1912, and in April 1912 when Titanic sailed, it was still the talk of the town.  Everyone knew that it was extremely important to J.P. Morgan to pass this bill.  It was worth billions (in fact trillions!) of dollars to Morgan and his friends.

This was the bill that would establish a personal income tax in the United States, and it also proposed that the entire country switch from gold and silver coins to paper currency.  It was not exactly the favorite flavor of millionaires who had made their fortunes from gold and silver mining.  Sure, a few elite Wall Street banks like J.P. Morgan & Co. would gain complete control over the U.S. currency, but some of the wealthier silver miners were going to take a big hit

If Margaret Brown and Benjamin Guggenheim were putting their heads together, looking for ways to make trouble for Simon Guggenheim, Nelson Aldrich and J.P. Morgan, or talking dirt about them in powerful circles, then, voila, what a beautiful motive for murder!

If Margaret Brown and Benjamin Guggenheim were also sitting across the dining table from a few other powerful enemies of the Aldrich Plan (namely John J. Astor and Isidor Strauss) then what we are talking about is a stunningly good reason to sink the entire ship.

This small group of millionaires making casual dinner chat on the Titanic controlled more than $600 million (or $1.8 billion in modern dollars).  They had enough money to make very big waves for J.P. Morgan and Nelson Aldrich in the upcoming 1912 election.

John Jacob Astor alone was worth about $150 million and had enough money to alter the course of the 1912 election. The Astor Trust in New York was so connected to all the major bankers in the city that it wasn't funny.  When Astor spoke, people listened -- and he belonged to more than a dozen elite social clubs.

Were Margaret Brown and Benjamin Guggenheim bending J.J. Astor's ear, spinning stories, dishing out inside information, pitching a plan to J.J.? What political dirt might Margaret and Benjamin have dug up on Sen. Simon Guggenheim and his political partner, Aldrich?

The Dirt on Simon Guggenheim and Nelson Aldrich

Well, it was already well known in 1912 that Simon Guggenheim had bought his senate seat with the help of corrupt cronies in Colorado (see Russell, Charles Edward "What Are You Going to Do About It? Colorado - New Tricks in an Old Game" Cosmopolitan, Vol. 50, December 1910 - May 1911).

Less well known to the public was the fact that Simon Guggenheim had partnered with Sen. Nelson Aldrich of Rhode Island to manipulate stock prices in rubber. The Guggenheim family and Aldrich had invested heavily in the "Rubber Trust" (the Intercontinental Rubber Co.) which was notorious for exploiting slave labor in the Belgian Congo.

With Benjamin Guggenheim present, J.J. Astor had a direct line into all the dirty details.  If Astor didn't like the smell of the Aldrich Plan (and there many millionaires who didn't), Benjamin's information might give him enough ammo to sink Aldrich and Simon Guggenheim both.

Why would Benjamin Guggenheim rat out his brother, Simon, and his own family? Well, unlike his brothers, Benjamin may have felt conscience stricken by his family's use of slave labor in Belgian Congo.  It was widely reported that he had broken off relations with his family a few years back and moved to Europe because he couldn't stomach the way the Guggenheim family were doing business.

It is very possible, then, that Benjamin would willingly pitch in with J.J. Astor and Margaret Brown in a "progressive" effort to interfere with the Aldrich plan. It might even be possible that their dinner conversation on Titanic centered on an effort to push Simon and Nelson Aldrich out of office.

Would this hurt Morgan? It certainly would. "In other investments, the great Guggenheim combination goes hand-in-hand with the great Morgan combination," says Charles Russell.

Astor was a key player because he had all the inside scoop on J.P. Morgan's dealings with the Rothschild banking family of Europe. JJ's cousin William was certainly in the middle of all the banking talks in London.

As William Astor's employee and press agent, William T. Stead was no slouch either.  He had political connections all over the world, especially in New York and London.  That's what made him such a widely read correspondent.  He knew everyone who counted -- had interviewed several heads of state --and had a good feel for their opinions.

Finally, Isidore Straus was in a position to make very insightful comments on such a political conversation. As a member of New York's powerful Chamber of Commerce and a former congressman for New York who had been a member of the House monetary policy committee, he knew what he was talking about.  He knew how Nelson Aldrich's racket worked in Congress and how they had been fixing tariffs and trade for years.

Was Isidore Strauss joining this conversation by accident? Hardly.

Worth More Dead than Alive

Taking into consideration the political backgrounds and interests of this small circle of millionaires, one can easily imagine conversations that might have alarmed J.P. Morgan.  One can also see why Nelson Aldrich and Simon Guggenheim might have pressured J.P. Morgan, owner of the Titanic, to send this group of millionaires to the bottom of the Atlantic.

The money at stake in the Aldrich Plan actually exceeded all the money invested in Titanic by a thousand fold. Add to that the amount of money that might be picked up by clever Wall Street men who knew how to profit from the deaths of their rivals, and one begins to see why a practical man like J.P. Morgan might give some serious consideration to simply sinking the Titanic.