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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

More About John Blodgett Sr.

by Jeffrey Sytsma


In addition to continuing the lumbering business of his father, Delos Abiel Blodgett, John Sr. was also fascinated with banking.  During the Depression John consolidated three banks into one, the American Home Security Bank, and then raised enough cash to keep it from closing. His efforts kept many families from losing their savings.  Before this, from 1917-1922, Blodgett served as a Director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and at one point he served on a committee aiding Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover. This began a friendship with President Hoover that lasted until Blodgett’s death.  Blodgett was also acquainted with Presidents McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Harding, and Coolidge.

John and his wife Minnie Cumnock Blodgett were married in 1895.  They had two children, Katherine S. who married Morris Hadley, whose father had been president of Yale, and John W. Jr. John and his wife Minnie generously gave away their great fortune to various causes.  Apart from the Blodgett Memorial Hospital in East Grand Rapids which they donated in memory of his mother, Jane Wood Blodgett, Minnie was also concerned with children and families.  They gave a large donation to Vassar College to found a Euthenics program.

In the West Michigan, they helped found the Clinic for Infant Feeding, the Association for the Blind, the Grand Rapids Child Guidance Clinic, and the D. A Blodgett Home for Children, renovated in 2007-08.  They also donated forty acres on Lake Michigan as a camp for children, and Mrs. Blodgett was instrumental in starting the first nursing program at Grand Rapids Junior College.  John was a founder of the Anti-Tuberculosis Society of Michigan, and was an organizer of the Social Welfare Association of Grand Rapids, later known as the Community Chest, and now the United Way.  

John and his family were in France when WWI broke out.  After driving to Switzerland, Blodgett left his Packard behind, and the family fled to Italy. There Blodgett, with the financial help of a few other men, was able to charter a large steamship. Knowing there might not be any reimbursement, Blodgett located Americans who had no way home from Europe, fit as many on the ship as was possible, and sailed for home.  Upon arrival back in the States he received numerous letters of thanks and a personal thank you from Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan.

The History and Special Collections Dept. of the Grand Rapids Public Library has Biography and Portrait files on several members of the Blodgett family.

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