Pitcairn family

By Richard Sanders, Editor, Press for Conversion!

John Pitcairn’s three sons donated to one of the American Liberty League’s fascist front groups, called Sentinels of the Republic. They are known to have donated the following: Raymond ($91,000), Harold ($5,000) and Rev. Theodore ($3,500) .

The Pitcairns are among America’s wealthiest families. Corporate patriarch, John Pitcairn, was president of Pittsburgh Plate Glass from 1896 to 1906. In 1900, his company produced 65% of the plate glass made in America. The most politically active member of the family was his first son, Raymond (1885-1966). He was a lawyer and a businessman, but is now fondly remembered as a collector of ancient and medieval art. He supervised the building of a Gothic/Romanesque Cathedral in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, and a castle-like building, called Glencairn. Now a museum housing his priceless collection of antiquities, this castle was Raymond’s home between 1928 and 1939.

Not so well known is that Raymond was a leader and the major financial supporter of a particularly noxious gang, funded by the American Liberty League, called the Sentinels of the Republic. This group, formed in 1922, took openly pro-fascist positions on the New Deal calling it “Jewish Communism.” In 1926, speaking to a Sentinels’ meeting in Washington, a fundamentalist Christian professor, Gresham Machen, spoke against the creation of a federal Department of Education, comparing the threat with socialism and slavery. In 1933, speaking on “The Necessity of the Christian School,” Machen praised the Sentinels for their efforts to stop child labour laws that he called “vicious” and an “attack upon American institutions and the decencies of the American home.” The fascist-leaning National Association of Manufacturers also opposed these laws, which threatened some of their members’ profitable exploitation of children. By 1934, the Sentinels of the Republic was largely discredited and there arose the National Committee for the Protection of Child, Family, School and Church. Its executive committee, overlapped with the Sentinels. Representing print media publishers and industrialists, it continued the Sentinels’ propagandistic scare tacics.

In 1934, while Pitcairn was national chairman of the Sentinels, he organized a mass campaign against a new tax law that would publicise data such as an individual’s gross income. Pitcairn distributed hundreds of thousands of protest stickers and form letters urging people to demand that Congress repeal this “outrageous invasion of privacy.” Congress backed down when thousands sent in letters and telegrams.

Pitcairn’s political efforts also included leading the Republican Party’s successful presidential campaign in 1952. This put General Dwight Eisenhower into the White House, with Nixon as his vice president.

Pitcairn family members were active in Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. until 1985 when they sold their stock. John Pitcairn’s three sons formed Pitcairn Trust in 1923. Still dominated by the family, it describes itself as “one of the leading private investment concerns in America.” The Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) says Pitcairn Trust serves “the wealth management needs of affluent individuals and families.”

The FPRI, a think tank with close ties to the U.S. “security” establishment and intelligence agencies, publishes the Pitcairn Trust’s annual lectures on World Affairs. The first of these lectures, in 2002, by former CIA director James Woolsey, was on “The War on Terrorism.” Last year’s speaker, Robert Kaplan, a foreign affairs journalist, spoke glowingly of covert actions, like assassinations, by the CIA and “special forces” that are needed to fight communism and empower the American empire.


Pitcairn Trust, "Who We Are" and "Pitcairn Family History."

Raymond and Mildred Pitcairn Archives

Economic Security Act

Marjorie Kornhauser, "More Historical Perspective on Publication of Corporate Returns," Tax Notes, July 29, 2002.

Dr. J. Gresham Machen, "The Necessity of the Christian School," lecture, Aug. 1933.

Julie Novkov, Historicizing the Figure of the Child in Legal Discourse: the Battle over the Regulation of Child Labor, 2002

Beulah Amidon, "Children Wanted," American Journal of Legal History, 2002.

The Pitcairn Trust Lecture on World Affairs

Source: Press for Conversion! magazine, Issue # 53, "Facing the Corporate Roots of American Fascism," March 2004. Published by the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade.

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