Hobcaw House Guestbooks Part 2: Baruch’s Transition from Wall Street Speculator to Public Servant


By the second decade of the Baruch era at Hobcaw (1915 – 1925), as Bernard Baruch’s involvement in national politics grew, guests began to include members of the Democratic Party and Congress.


Bernard Baruch first learned of presidential nominee Woodrow Wilson at the 1912 Democratic Convention, and formally met him through William Gibbs McAdoo, Jr., Wilson’s campaign manager. Impressed with Wilson, Baruch gave generously to his campaign. In October 1914, Wilson appointed Baruch to the National Defense Council and in 1918 made him Chairman of the War Industries Board (WIB), created to oversee industrial procurement for the war. Its members served with no salary and were called “dollar-a-year-men.”

A number of those with whom Baruch worked in Washington D.C. during this period appear as guests at Hobcaw Barony well into the 1920s. Baruch made many close friends through his WIB work, several of whom became lifelong policy associates. Members of the WIB who signed the Guest Book included George Peek (farm policy) and Leland Summer (engineer and nitrate specialist).Other regular visitors included Joe Robinson, Senator from Arkansas; Key Pittman, Senator from Nevada; and Edith Bolling Wilson, Woodrow Wilson’s widow.

Another frequent Hobcaw visitor was Cary T. Grayson, White House physician and personal confidant of President Wilson’s. On January 31, 1926, Rear Admiral Grayson wrote in a Guest Book, the “T. in my middle name stands for Turkey,” a reference to his love of turkey hunting in the woods of Hobcaw. He and Baruch also shared an interest in thoroughbred horse racing.

In February of 1916, artist Louis Aston Knight visited, commissioned by the Baruchs to paint Hobcaw scenes. Today, visitors to the Discovery Center and Hobcaw House are beneficiaries of this visit, as many of Aston Knight’s works are on display.

Garet Garrett also signed the Guest Book. A conservative journalist and author, he was a close friend of Baruch, dating to his early Wall Street years. Garrett reinforced Simon Baruch’s admonition to young Bernard that the value of money lies in the good one does with it rather than the money itself.

Even though he left the South to live and prosper elsewhere, Baruch always enjoyed the company of native-born Southerners whose interests paralleled his own. One of these was Key Pittman, a visitor to Hobcaw as early as 1911. Born in Mississippi, Pittman spent most of his life in Nevada and served as Nevada’s senator from 1913 to 1940. From 1933 – 1940 he was Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee. This was the period when the President looked to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for national security direction, called the pre-National Security era.

Baruch also nurtured relations with the leaders of European countries, including Winston Churchill, who became a close friend and shared Baruch’s interests in mining and national preparedness. Baruch cultivated these connections to nurture access, influence and power in the halls of Congress and around the world, bolstering his legacy as a presidential advisor over seven decades. Much more can be learned about Bernard Baruch’s life in his two-volume memoir, Baruch: My Own Story and Baruch: the Public Years.

Hobcaw House Guest Books Part 1

Hobcaw House Guest Books Part 1

by Tom Russo

To Our Guests

A happy host awaits your meeting
He welcomes you with cordial greeting
In Hobcaw Guest Book inscribe your name
For Hobcaw seeks no greater fame
Than in fond memory to be kept
By friends who beneath the roof have slept.

This welcome rhyme is the first entry in the 1911 – 1923 Hobcaw House Guest Book. guest-bookThis guest book represents one of seven known guest books that survived fire, time and perhaps even the misplacement of records. They say much about the many guests who found their way to Hobcaw Barony. Two represent Bernard Baruch’s Scotland residence. It is not known if the 1911 Guest Book is the first that was kept, or if others preceded the 1911 book but were lost in the 1929 fire.

Hobcaw Barony, purchased by Baruch in 1905, served as his “country home.” His purchase came during a period when groups of wealthy Northerners sought hunting retreats in the South, particularly in Georgia and South Carolina. But Bernard Baruch’s choice of a family retreat departed from the norm, and guest book signatures show that indeed family, extended family and close friends were among Hobcaw’s many visitors in the first decade of the twentieth century.guest book2.png

For example, among the many entries, in addition to those of family members, is that of Dick Lydon, a high school chum of Bernard who was a frequent visitor. A New York Supreme Court Justice, Lydon was visiting Hobcaw on December 29, 1929, when the Old Relic burned down.

A Guest Book entry includes the guest’s signature, the date of the visit and an occasional comment in the Remarks column. Guest’s comments are always of a personal nature. Today, those comments, or graphics, give us a glimpse into a guest’s Hobcaw experience and, at times, reveal something about how that guest was viewed by others. For example, Albert Wittson, M.D. wrote in 1916, “the old pill pusher,” in reference to his reputation for dispensing medications for the ills his patients complained about. On February 21, 1916, Louis Aston Knight wrote, “I feel like a Hobcaw oyster,” more than likely referring to the fine hospitality and variety of seafood served up from Hobcaw waters. Of course, many guests bestow accolades upon their gracious, charming host…the Baron of Hobcaw!


Louis Aston Knight

While family members’ signatures are recurring, it is interesting to track the entries of friends, acquaintances and business associates, and by browsing through several years a researcher can see the frequency of selected individuals’ visits. Ironically, in Baruch’s published works, including his autobiographies, personal friends are unlikely to get a mention, yet in the Guest Book, their signatures can be frequent. The “old pill pusher” is an example whose recorded visits number at least six between 1911 and 1918.

Hobcaw Barony’s Guest Book Research Committee has begun to study in earnest the connection between Baruch and his visitors in an attempt to answer the questions, “What drew these individuals together?” and, “What were the common interests of Baruch and his guests?“ While transcription and interpretation of guest book signatures is a tedious process, much has been learned about the first couple of decades from 1912 through 1919 and the end of World War I.

The books reveal a transition from family and close friends to prominent political figures, as well as to those who must be understood in the context of politics and governance of the period, both nationally and within the state of South Carolina. As Baruch’s circle of influence expanded from New York to Washington, D.C. and he transitioned from Wall Street speculator to public servant, guests included artists, aristocrats, politicians, journalists and celebrities.

In Part 2 we will explore how the Hobcaw Barony guest list included visitors from selected Southern states and even international guests such as Estelle Romaine Manville, Countess of Wisborg.