Closed for Business

The Story of Bankers Trust Company During the Great Depression

Irland McKnight Beckman

Secretary of the Board, Bankers Trust Company
from 1929 to 1930-12-22
Vice-President and Comptroller, Bankers Trust Company
from 1938 to 1940
Pennsylvania Secretary of Banking
from 1940 to 1942
Treasurer, Temple University
Irland M. Beckman worked for more than 15 years in Pennsylvania's Department of Banking, eventually serving as Secretary of Banking from 1938 to 1940. During an ill-fated hiatus from government service, he served as a vice president and comptroller of Bankers Trust Company from late 1929 until the bank closed on December 22, 1930. His one-time boss, Secretary of Banking Peter G. Cameron, then assigned Beckman to assist the department with the handling of Bankers Trust Company for the first six months the bank was under the state's management. The Department of Banking was still overseeing the liquidation of Bankers Trust Company when Beckman began his term as Secretary of Banking in 1938, and would continue the process for six more years after Beckman left office.
During his first year as secretary, Beckman was drawn into the Philadelphia "publishers' war," which coincided with the 1938 Pennsylvania senate and gubernatorial races. Moses L. Annenberg, owner of the Republican-oriented Philadelphia Inquirer faced off against Democratic-leaning Philadelphia Record owner J. David Stern and his allies, especially Albert M. Greenfield. Annenberg accused Democratic Governor George Earle's administration of fraud and corruption and charged Greenfield with withdrawing a large sum of money from Bankers Trust Company in the days before it closed. Given Beckman's role at Bankers Trust Company at that time, he too came under fire for an alleged conflict of interest in his oversight of Bankers Trust Company's liquidation.
After his time at the state Banking Department, Beckman served as treasurer of Temple University from 1940 to 1942, when he resigned due to internal conflicts.
Albert M. Greenfield papers (#1959). Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.
"Irland Beckman Succeeds Harr as Banking Secretary." The Philadelphia Record. December 31, 1937. Philadelphia Record news clippings morgue (#3344). Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.