A. Piatt Andrew played a crucial role in the formation of the Federal Reserve System. He was known as a scholar, a soldier, and a statesman throughout a varied career that took him from the lecture halls of Harvard University to the battlefields of France and on to the nation’s capital.
Andrew was born in La Porte, Indiana, in 1873, the son of a banker. After graduating from Princeton University in 1893, he traveled to Europe for further study and eventually earned a PhD from Harvard University in 1900.
Following his education, Andrew joined Harvard as an economics instructor and professor, a position he held until 1909. During his time at Harvard, he was widely published in scholarly journals, wrote for newspapers on business and economic topics, and counted a young Franklin Delano Roosevelt among his students.
Following the Panic of 1907, Andrew was tapped by Sen. Nelson Aldrich to work for a newly formed congressional panel charged with studying the causes behind the financial turmoil. Andrew served as an expert and editor for the National Monetary Commission, helping produce the commission’s extensive reports describing the financial system in other countries and the structural problems within the US financial system.
In 1909, Andrew, by now a well-known and recognized expert on financial and banking issues, was appointed by President William Howard Taft to serve as director of the US Mint. He quickly advanced within the Taft administration and was named an assistant secretary of the Treasury Department in 1910.
Later that year, Andrew was one of six men, including Sen. Aldrich, to attend a secret meeting on Jekyll Island Georgia, that was organized under the ruse of a duck hunt. But the group was actually there to develop a plan to restructure the country’s banking system; the plan they developed was the basic foundation for what would eventually be the Federal Reserve System.
After passage of the Federal Reserve Act in 1913, Andrew left the United States and traveled to the front lines in France soon after the outbreak of war in Europe. With other volunteers, he established a battlefield ambulance service funded by donations from his American contacts and others. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, the ambulance corps was attached to the US Army and became known as the American Field Service. Andrew was appointed a major in the Army and was eventually promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Following the war, Andrew returned to his home in Gloucester, Massachusetts. He was elected to the US House of Representatives as a Republican in 1921, and he would continue to serve his district for fifteen years. While in Congress, he worked to help France resolve its war debts and also sought to repeal prohibition.
Andrew died suddenly in 1936 after a battle with influenza. A bridge named in his honor spans the Annisquam River in Gloucester.
Written by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. See disclaimer.