Charles Taussig (1896-1948)

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Charles Taussig was a close friend of Franklin Roosevelt and “one of the most prominent industrialists who sympathized with the New Deal” [1].  He served as chairman of the National Advisory Committee for the National Youth Administration (NYA) (1935-1943), as a member of the Advisory Council on the Virgin Islands (c. 1934-1940), and was an associate of FDR’s “Brains Trust” [2].

Charles William Taussig was born in New York on August 9, 1896, to Noah and Constance Taussig.  He had two siblings, Richard and Helen [3].  His uncle, Isaac Taussig, had been mayor of Jersey City, New Jersey, c. 1880-1884 [4].  After graduating from Stuyvesant High School in New York City, around 1914, Charles began working at his family’s business, the American Molasses Company [5].  During World War I, he served in the Navy as a radio operator and electrician.  Radio had been a hobby of Taussig’s for many years, and he wrote a guide on the subject in 1922, The Book of Radio [6].  After the war, Taussig returned home and concentrated on the family business.  He became chairman and then president of the American Molasses Company, as well as a key figure in several other businesses associated with the production, distribution, and use of molasses [7].

During the New Deal years, Taussig’s business experience helped the president in a number of ways: he helped write some of FDR’s early speeches; he joined Adolf Berle, Jr., on a trip to Cuba to assess economic conditions; he served as a technical adviser for the U.S. delegation to the 1933 World Economic Conference in London; and he participated in a number of studies and commissions to improve economic conditions in the Caribbean [8]. The latter led to Taussig helping to create the Virgin Islands Company, a public business to restore the area’s rum and sugar industries.  Started with $1 million from the Public Works Administration (PWA), the Virgin Islands Company succeeded in reducing unemployment and offered homesteading land to native Virgin Islanders in exchange for the production of sugar cane [9].

Taussig had a tenuous relationship with other members of the Brains Trust.  Rexford Tugwell later wrote that he “seemed somewhat alien in our group… When he found out about [the Brains Trust], he became attached simply by asking Roosevelt if he could join us.  Without status, he wandered in and out of our company.  [Raymond Moley] rather resented him, but Taussig was often around, persistent even when Ray’s glances were coolest” [10].  Taussig probably had more influence in his role as advisory chairman for the NYA, where “he repeatedly defended it from hostile criticisms” [11].  Taussig promoted the NYA to the business community [12], and, despite his wealthy background, expressed sympathy for the dilemma facing young men and women during the 1930s: “When we were young we were taught that thrift and virtue brought success.  Today it would be foolhardy to dare speak thus to unemployed youth.  Hard work?  Yes, but where?  Thrift?  Yes, but with what?” [13].

Taussig remained active in many civic, business, and governmental affairs during and after World War II.  Unfortunately, his life was cut short by a heart condition on May 10, 1948.  He was 51.  Taussig was survived by his wife, Ruth Adler; his two daughters, Mrs. Ruth Jean Pearsall and Miss Patricia Ann Taussig; and his brother and sister, Richard and Helen Taussig [14].

Sources: (1) “C.W. Taussig Dead; Roosevelt Deputy,” New York Times, May 11, 1948.  (2) Ibid.  (3) Ibid.   (4) Sources differ on Charles’ relation to Isaac (nephew or grandson), as well as Isaac’s tenure as mayor of Jersey City.  See, e.g., note 1 above; and “Noah W. Taussig Dies,” New York Times, July 9, 1927; and “Mayors of Jersey City,” Wikipedia,, accessed April 6, 2016.  (5) See note 1.  (6) Ibid., and “Charles W. Taussig Dies, Was Brains Trust Member,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 11, 1948.  (7) See note 1.  (8) Ibid., and Rexford Tugwell, The Brains Trust, New York: Viking Press, 1968, pp. 344-345.  (9) See, “Virgin Islands Will Create Rum Monopoly; Profits Will Go To Public Welfare Work,” New York Times, March 8, 1934; “Virgin Islands Begin To Build Industries,” New York Times, June 3, 1934; “Virgin Islands Laboratory for New Deal Experiment,” Associated Press, July 7, 1934, in the Reading Eagle newspaper (Pennsylvania), July 8, 1934, p. 5; the accompanying note to “The Beginnings of a Comprehensive Plan for the Social and Economic Advancement of the Virgin Islands. White House Statement,” Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, F.D. Roosevelt, 1934, Volume 3, pp. 102-104; and the 1934 and 1935 annual reports of the Department of the Interior, pp. 24 and 28-29 respectively.  (10) See note 8, Tugwell, p. 201.  (11) See note 1.  (12) “Says Industry Aids NYA,” New York Times, October 29, 1936.  (13) “Warns Of Youth Idleness,” New York Times, April 26, 1936.  (14) See note 1, and also note 6, Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Taussig Charles
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