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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Columnists > Retrospect

The F.B.I.'s Monticello Connection

Nov 22, 2019

By John Conway - sullivan county historian

Stanley W. Finch, the Monticello native who conceived the idea of the F.B.I.
On November 21, 1951 Stanley W. Finch suffered a massive heart attack at his Baltimore home, and died a short while later. Few people outside of his immediate family made note of his passing, despite the fact that he had once been among the most powerful men in United States law enforcement.
Finch, who was born in Monticello on July 20, 1872, was the very first director of the United States Bureau of Investigation, which quickly morphed into the Federal Bureau of Investigation, more commonly known simply as the F.B.I.

The Bureau was formally established on March 16, 1909 by an order from Attorney General George W. Wickersham, but its formation came several months earlier, and it was all Finch's idea.
Although his genealogy is murky, Finch, whose middle name has been recorded as both William and Wellington, was probably the son of Monticello allopathic physician and surgeon, Dr. Phinney Finch. He attended Baker University, a Methodist college in Baldwin City, Kansas, as well as the Corcoran Scientific School in Washington, D.C. and business colleges in Albany and Washington.
In 1892, by which time he was living in Ellenville, he applied for a job as Librarian at the Department of Justice in the nation's capital. He received an appointment to that position in 1893 - earning $900 a year -- and served in various positions in the Justice Department for the better part of the next 40 years.
By 1908, Finch had risen to the position of Chief Examiner at Justice, and had earned an LL.B degree from National University Law School. That year, he suggested to his boss, Charles J. Bonaparte, Attorney General under Theodore Roosevelt, that he should form a special squad of investigators within the Justice Department. Up until that time, any Justice investigations were performed by Secret Service agents borrowed from the Treasury Department. Bonaparte took Finch's suggestion, and on July 26, 1908 created what became known as the Bureau of Investigation, with nine Secret Service agents and twenty-five other employees reporting to Finch.
The Bureau became official the following March when Bonaparte's successor, Wickersham, issued the official order and asked Congress for a specific appropriation to fund the new agency. On July 1, 1909, that appropriation was passed, and the Bureau had its funding.
In those days, relatively few crimes were classified as violations of federal law. The Bureau mainly concerned itself with banking transgressions, bankruptcy, naturalization, and land swindles. All agents reported to Finch, who by then had earned an LL.M from National University. He would be admitted to the District of Columbia Bar in 1911.
By 1910, the country had become preoccupied with suppressing the international traffic of women for immoral purposes, or white slavery, and this task fell to Finch and his men, as well. When this aspect of the Bureau's work became overwhelming, the Special Commission for the Suppression of White Slave Traffic was formed and Finch left the B.O.I. to head up this new group, which was headquartered in Baltimore.
“Mr. Finch will begin a vigorous campaign in every State in the Union for the extermination of the vice,” The Washington Post reported in its May, 2, 1912 editions. “He will cooperate with societies and individuals interested to wipe out the traffic by a systematic and comprehensive plan of investigation and prosecution and by placing agents in every State in the Union. About 600 special officers will be employed in this active campaign.”
On January 1, 1914, Finch organized the National Social Welfare League, and in March of that year he resigned from the Justice Department - where his position as special commissioner paid him $6,000 annually - to head up the new group, which “provides work for girls from the segregated districts of all large cities,” according to the Washington Post.
Later that year, he was also one of the incorporators of the General Novelty Manufacturing Company, based in D.C.
Finch lost a lot of respect - as well as credibility - in many circles of government when he claimed to have “discovered that Jews were responsible for the abduction of women used in prostitution and burlesque,” a statement that caught the attention of Ernest G. Liebold, a special assistant to the industrialist Henry Ford.
According to Jonathan R. Logsdon, in his essay “Power, Ignorance, and Anti-Semitism: Henry Ford and His War on Jews,” Liebold had established a detective agency for Ford in order to investigate prominent Jews suspected of conspiring against America. The agency was mainly staffed by former Secret Service operatives.
Logsdon notes that Finch was soon in Ford's employ, working under Liebold, studying the “shady operations of finance and big money.” Among other things, he assembled a manuscript for Ford which linked powerful institutions, corporations, and banks through their directors, all of whom were Jewish.
In their 1987 book, “The Fords: An American Dynasty,” Peter Collier and David Horowitz write that Finch was eventually fired by Liebold for padding his expense account. He claimed, for example, “that he needed an expensive fur coat to infiltrate the money-obsessed Jews he was investigating.”
Stanley W. Finch was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Baltimore a few days after his death. He was survived by his wife, two daughters and a son.

John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian. He can be reached by e-mail at

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