- Collection Overview
- Collection Description & Creator Information
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- Petersen, Howard C. (Howard Charles), 1910-1995
- Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
- Howard C. Petersen Papers
- Public Policy Papers
- Permanent URL:
- 1915-1995 (mostly 1935-1970)
- 26 boxes
- Storage Note:
- Mudd Manuscript Library (mudd): Box 1-26
Howard C. Petersen (1910-1995) was an expert in international economics and foreign trade. He served in the War Department under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, as Assistant Secretary of War for President Harry S. Truman, as National Finance Chairman and fundraiser for the Dwight D. Eisenhower campaigns, and as Special Assistant on International Trade for President John F. Kennedy. Petersen was also a principal drafter of the Selective Service Act, a lawyer, and president of Fidelity-Philadelphia Trust Company. Petersen's papers document his entire career, especially his work with the new Security and Exchange Commission regulations as a lawyer in the 1930s and with the United States War Department during World War II, and include correspondence, articles, and publications.
Collection Description & Creator Information
Petersen's papers document his entire career, especially his work with the new Security and Exchange Commission regulations as a lawyer in the 1930s and with the United States War Department during World War II, and include correspondence, articles, and publications. The papers also document his career as a lawyer and his service as president of Fidelity-Philadelphia Trust Company, as Special Assistant on International Trade for President Kennedy, and as National Finance Chairman for the 1952 Eisenhower campaign.
Please see the series descriptions in the contents list for additional information about individual series.
The Papers have been arranged in four series:
- Collection Creator Biography:
Petersen, Howard C. (Howard Charles), 1910-1995
Howard C. Petersen (1910-1995) was an expert in international economics and foreign trade. He served in the War Department under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, as Assistant Secretary of War for President Harry S. Truman, as National Finance Chairman and fundraiser for the Dwight D. Eisenhower campaigns, and as Special Assistant on International Trade for President John F. Kennedy. Petersen was also a principal drafter of the Selective Service Act, a lawyer, and president of Fidelity-Philadelphia Trust Company.
Howard Charles Petersen was born in East Chicago, Indiana on May 7, 1910. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1930 from DePauw University and a law degree (J.D.) with distinction in 1933 from the University of Michigan. He also received honorary degrees from DePauw University in 1953, Drexel Institute at St. Joseph's College in 1962, Swarthmore College in 1968, and the University of Pennsylvania in 1974. Petersen married Elizabeth Anna Watts of Princeton, Indiana in 1936, whom he met while he was a student at DePauw University. They had two children, Elizabeth Spiro Clark and Howard Jr.
From 1933 to 1941, Petersen was an associate in the New York law firm Cravath, deGersdorff, Swaine & Wood. He worked predominantly on general corporation, financial, and public utility law, specializing in utility bond issues. He was also involved with the first security filings done by the firm under the new Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations. While at the law firm, Petersen was introduced to Grenville Clark. Clark enlisted Petersen to leave the practice of law and become a member of the National Emergency Committee of the Military Training Camps Association. The Military Training Camps Association was formed during World War I by Clark and Elihu Root to train officers for the United States Military. The National Emergency Committee of the association was formed in 1941 with Grenville Clark as chair. As a key member of the committee, Petersen was one of the principal drafters of the Burke-Wadsworth Bill, which became the Selective Service Act of 1940. He then served as counsel of the committee appointed by President Roosevelt to draft the initial regulations for the Selective Service.
Petersen was hired as the special assistant and then executive assistant to the Undersecretary of War, Robert P. Patterson, from 1941 to 1945. He was promoted to Special Assistant to the Secretary of War, also under Robert P. Patterson, in 1945. In December 1945, Petersen was appointed Assistant Secretary of War by President Truman, a position he held until August 1947. His worked on the economic recovery of occupied Germany and the Western Allies and supervised United States military occupational activities in Germany, Japan, Korea, Austria, and Italy, traveling overseas several times to carry out his duties. One of his significant contributions was to help prevent famine in Europe by laying the groundwork for the Marshall Plan. He also served as the War Department's chief representative at the State Department on political policy and the War Department's member on the State-War-Navy Coordination Committee. Petersen was awarded the Medal of Merit, Exceptional Civilian Service Award, and the Selective Service Medal for his service. He resigned his post for financial reasons.
Petersen returned to private sector work as Executive Vice President and Director of Fidelity-Philadelphia Trust Company, later renamed The Fidelity Bank. He was elected President and Chief Executive Officer in 1950. Through his leadership, Petersen transformed a mid-sized Philadelphia trust company into a modern full-service bank within the national and international financial communities. He was also involved in the banking industry as a whole, serving as president of the Pennsylvania Bankers Association and filling key roles in the American Bankers Association and the International Monetary Conference.
He retained his position at Fidelity-Philadelphia Trust Company while also serving Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy. From 1951 to 1953, Petersen served as the National Finance Chairman for the 1952 Eisenhower presidential campaign and as Chairman of the Finance Committee for the Citizens for Eisenhower. In 1954, he was a member of the Finance Committee of the National Citizens for Eisenhower Congressional Committee, and he assisted in fundraising for the Eisenhower campaign in 1956, but not in an official capacity. Petersen served as Special Assistant to President John F. Kennedy for International Trade Policy from 1961 to 1962. He was appointed to manage Kennedy's controversial campaign for a new foreign trade policy. His main task was to assist with the passage of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, and he also negotiated the conclusion of the 1960-1962 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations with the European Economic Community. Petersen resigned after the Trade Expansion Act was passed.
He was elected Chairman of Fidelity-Philadelphia Trust Company in 1966. In 1969, he became the Chairman and CEO of Fidelity Corporation of Pennsylvania, later renamed Fidelcor Inc. He retired as CEO of Fidelity-Philadelphia Trust Company and Fidelity Corporation in 1975 but continued as Chairman of both institutions. He resumed his responsibilities as President and CEO on an interim basis in 1978, and retired December 31, 1978.
In addition, Petersen served as a member, director, or chairman of a wide variety of institutions, including financial, political, legal, education, and social organizations. These positions included chairman of the Adela Investment Company, a corporation for the development of Latin America, an officer for the Committee for Economic Development, Director of the Panama Canal Corporation, and a trustee of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Petersen was chairman of the boards of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., the University of Pennsylvania Museum, and the Marshall Foundation, and chairman and advisory committee member of Export-Import Bank of Washington.
Howard Petersen died in 1995 at his home in Radnor, Pennsylvania, at the age of 85.
This collection was acquired from the Howard C. Petersen estate in April 1998 , with additions in December 2003 and July 2004 .
- Archival Appraisal Information:
Materials separated from this collection include duplicate publications, personal bank statements, news magazines and newspapers, and invitations and itineraries from the International Monetary Conference.
These papers were processed with the generous support of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the John Foster and Janet Avery Dulles Fund.
- Processing Information:
This collection was processed by Adriane Hanson in 2005. Finding aid written by Adriane Hanson in December 2005.
Access & Use
- Access Restrictions:
The collection is open for research.
- Conditions for Reproduction and Use:
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. For quotations that are fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For those few instances beyond fair use, any copyright vested in the donor has passed to Princeton University and researchers are free to move forward with use of materials without anything further from Mudd Library. For materials not created by the donor, where the copyright is not held by the University, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold the copyright and obtaining approval from them. In these instances, researchers do not need anything further from the Mudd Library to move forward with their use. If you have a question about who owns the copyright for an item, you may request clarification by contacting us through the Ask Us! form.
- Credit this material:
Howard C. Petersen Papers; Public Policy Papers, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library
- Permanent URL:
- Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library65 Olden StreetPrinceton, NJ 08540, USA(609) 258-6345
- Publication Note:
The following articles were consulted during the preparation of the biographical note: "Howard Charles Petersen (7 May 1910-28 December 1995)" by William B. Eagleson, Jr. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 142, No.2 (June 1998), pp. 294-299. "Howard Petersen, 85, banker and trade adviser" by Eric Pace. New York Times (Late Edition (East Coast)). New York, N.Y.: Jan 1, 1996. pp. A32. "Our Assistant Secretary of War" by Lucian Warren. The Phi Gamma Delta. Washington, D.C.: March 1946. pp. 392-395.
- Subject Terms:
- Banks and banking.
Campaign funds -- United States.
Draft -- Law and legislation -- United States.
Economics -- 20th century.
Foreign trade regulation.
International economic relations.
Presidents -- United States -- Election--1952.
Securities -- United States -- Cases.
Tariff -- Law and legislation.
World War, 1939-1945 -- Economic aspects.
World War, 1939-1945 -- Manpower.
- Genre Terms:
- Bills (legislative records)
- Committee for Economic Development.
Cravath, de Gersdorff, Swaine & Wood.
Fidelity-Philadelphia Trust Company
United States. War Department
International Monetary Conference
Military Training Camps Association (U.S.)
Clark, Grenville, 1882-1967
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
Kennedy, John F. John Fitzgerald 1917-1963
Petersen, Howard C. (Howard Charles), 1910-1995