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My (Tenuous) Ties to Armand Hammer:

I was just looking over the transcript of an interview I did with my late grandmother a couple of decades ago, and at some point my grandfather interjected

Grandpa: You want to know who my doctor was when my sisters were born? Armand Hammer. David: Really? Grandpa: He was the local doctor at that time in the Bronx and he was a socialist [as was my grandfather and great-grandfather].

According to Wikipedia, "Hammer was born in Manhattan, New York and attended Columbia College and then medical school at Columbia University as a young man; he received his medical license in 1924 and, though he never practiced medicine, he relished being referred to as 'Dr. Hammer.'"

Well, either Wikipedia is wrong, or my grandfather was wrong. I'm guessing the former; when I was a boy, I'd sit with my grandfather and watch the (old version of) Jeopardy and he'd amaze me by getting just about every answer right, leading me to constantly beg him to go on the show. (To which he always responded with an old-Jewish mannish, "Eh, what do I need that for?")

AK (mail):
Wikipedia incorrect? Why, I am the picture of surprise.
4.20.2007 1:10am
OrinKerr:
David,

This purports to be an excerpt from a Washington Post obituary of Armand Hammer:
Armand Hammer, 92, who won world renown for his accomplishments in business, art, diplomacy and philanthropy, died of cerebral arteriosclerosis Monday at in his home in Los Angeles. He had heart and kidney ailments.

An entrepreneur with the touch of Midas, Dr. Hammer was board chairman and chief executive officer of the Occidental Petroleum Corp., which he built into a $20 billion food, chemical and energy giant. Educated as a physician, he never practiced medicine. Instead, he made his first million while still in medical school, . . .
4.20.2007 1:41am
davidbernstein (mail):
I won't be too disappointed if my grandfather was misremembering, but given what I've read about Hammer, I wouldn't take anything about his biography for granted, especially if it's based on his own word.
4.20.2007 1:46am
neurodoc:
Notwithstanding the recognized authority of Wikipedia and the Washington Post, I wouldnt bet against DB's grandfather on this.

Might help to know when the sisters were born, so as to place events in time. Could be like Hilary Clinton's claim to have be named after Sir Edmund Hilarly, conqueror of Everest, though she was born before he ever achieved fame.

It is not unknown for the details of famous personages' bios to be less than entirely accurate, sometimes being closer to what they would have liked them to be than to what they in fact were. Not unbelievable that Hammer, great friend to the Soviets, preferred as a story line that he never practiced medicine. Or perhaps he attended DB's family when still a student, not formally licensed to practice medicine. (If it were a question of great interest and I were a historian type, I would first try to find out if Hammer was ever licensed to practice in NY.)
4.20.2007 1:55am
davidbernstein (mail):
I know I have a great aunt living in Florida, who is probably a bit over 80, though I'm not sure of her age.
4.20.2007 2:01am
A. Zarkov (mail):
As a first year medical student Armand Hammer performed an illegal abortion in 1919 and the patient died. He would surely have gone to jail, but his father Julius, a licensed doctor took the blame. Normally at that time in New York State doctors were rarely prosecuted, but Julius went sent to Sing Sing state prison for first-degree manslaughter.

The New York Times obit was a whitewash. According to Edward Jay Epstein in his book Dossier, Armand Hammer was a truly despicable person. A ruthless and corrupt businessman, a Soviet Agent; he used Occidental Petroleum as his personal slush fund cheating the stockholders and the government. He kept signed and undated resignations from all the board members. Epstein provides ample documentation to back up everything he says including, Hammers own tape recordings, FBI files, SEC documents, and intelligence files kept by the Soviet Union on the Hammer family. He committed almost every kind of fraud you can think of.

Dossier is a gold mine of information on how power and corruption proceeds in the business world. Highly recommended.
4.20.2007 2:51am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
We are really po'ed that Armand told anyone of his practicing medicine, as we swore him to secrecy on this.

DTH
Grand Council
Quadrilateral Commission
(Which gives orders to the Trilateral Commission, who are a bunch of patsies)

PS I suspect it might be reflected on the birth certificate unless, in accord with our directives, he used one of the standard pseudonyms like L. Harvey Oswald or R. M. Nixon.
4.20.2007 2:55am
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Couldn't it be that there was more than one guy with this name?
4.20.2007 4:36am
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
I have the impression that people who are better known for something else and only practice the profession for which they are trained for a relatively short time often develop the reputation of never having practiced it at all. It probably starts with people saying: "He never really practiced..." and then the "really" gets dropped. I know a politician who I was told by several people who ought to have known had never practiced law who, I later learned, had indeed practiced for several years, though even at that time he was spending a good part of his time on politics.
4.20.2007 6:07am
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Couldn't it be that there was more than one guy with this name?"

How many Armand Hammers who were president of Occidental Petroleum do you think there were? Besides his father Julius told friends that he named his son after the symbol of the Socialist Labor Party. It would not surprise me if there were only one Armand Hammer as that's a pretty unusual name.

Let's face it; the New York Times is not a very reliable source of information. There are at least two other biographies of Hammer, Dark Side of Power, and Armand Hammer: The Untold Story. I've only read Dossier, but the Amazon review of Dark Side of Power is consistent with Dossier, which I have read, and the latter biography was written before he died while his PR machine was grinding away keeping the truth from getting out.

Of particular interest is the connection between Hammer, Occidental Petroleum and the Gore family. Hammer made Congressman Albert Gore Sr. a partner in the cattle breeding business. Later Senator Gore Sr. would leave Congress to work full time for Occidental. You will never get this kind of information from the New York Times which is essentially a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party.
4.20.2007 6:28am
Mike Keenan:
The Encyclopedia Britannica indicates he went on a medical aid mission to the Soviet Union after graduation (it indicates 1921 and not 1924). That sounds like practicing medicine.
4.20.2007 10:04am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I am glad that someone else brought that up. I was going to ask what did Richard Nixon and the Al Gores have in common? And the answer is Armand Hammer and his money. It is interesting that this man was able to and did buy politicians so far apart politically.
4.20.2007 10:06am
Trapdoc (mail):
To Neurodoc's question - According to a 1952 FBI file released under the FOIA:

"The records of the New York State Education Department, Bureau of the Professional Licensure, Medical Division, reflect that the subject was born May 21, 1898 at New York City, attended Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, graduating in September 1921, and was licensed as a physician with Medical License #18127 issued on January 31, 1924. His license is currently valid and his office address is listed as 183 West 4th Street, New York City"

http://foia.fbi.gov/hammerop/hammerop4.pdf
4.20.2007 10:07am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
The Wikipedia entry on Algore, Sr. is interesting:
The contradiction between Hammer's open sympathy for the Soviet Union and his success as a capitalist, as well as his involvement in international affairs and politics, have made Hammer a subject of suspicion and conspiracy theory for many; further, his close relationship with former Democratic Tennessee Senator Albert Gore, Sr., despite Hammer's own party affiliations, has been the subject of especially broad scrutiny and speculation.
Coming at the end of a paragraph on other things, and the fact that Algore, Jr. wasn't mentioned, seems almost like the information was being obscured. Hum...
4.20.2007 10:13am
Anderson (mail) (www):
Let's face it; the New York Times is not a very reliable source of information.

NYT-slamming aside, *no* obituary is likely to be "a very reliable source of information." They're scribbled out years in advance by people who are unlikely to question the first couple of sources they come to, and without being subjected to any kind of rigorous review until they're published ... if then.
4.20.2007 10:14am
davidbernstein (mail):
The mystery deepens. Wouldn't surprise me if Hammer was treating people without a license from 21-24, something he hardly wanted known later.
4.20.2007 10:56am
M (mail):
There is a pretty funny inference pattern suggested in the original post, though. "X, whom I generally trust, told me Y. X was also extremely good at Jeopardy, at least while playing in the comfort of his own home. Therefore, I have even more reason to trust X even when his story is contradicted by modestly reliable sources Z and Q".
4.20.2007 11:32am
davidbernstein (mail):
Yes, M, except that you're missing the obvious point that I didn't raise his Jeopardy ability to support the notion that he is "trustworthy," as in honest, I raised it to show that he was unusually gifted memory-wise.
4.20.2007 11:44am
rbj:
M, except that it isn't a generic X, but rather David's grandfather -- whom he obviously was able to form an opinion of his trustworthiness first hand. And Wikipedia has been known to be a bit unreliable at times.
4.20.2007 12:12pm
Rich B. (mail):
Today, at least, final year medical students see patients and assist "real" doctors in all sorts of procedures.

It strikes me as very likely that "Dr." Hammer called himself a doctor, took your grandfather's blood pressure and medical history, and did whatever else he was allowed to while still in medical school.

If a lawyer graduates law school and goes right into an MBA program, you could say that he never "practiced law," even if he did a clinical where he did pro bono work.
4.20.2007 12:32pm
Stormy Dragon (mail) (www):
The next town up the freeway from me has a major road named 'Armand Hammer Beaulevard'. For most of my childhood, I thought it was 'Arm and Hammer Beaulevard'.
4.20.2007 12:48pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
David I think your grandmother might have confused Armand with his father Julius who was a practicing doctor in the Bronx at that time.
4.20.2007 1:29pm
Kate S (mail):
On the subject of famous people with less than truthful biographies, my mother had a cousin by the name of David Brower, famous environmentalist. She saw him occasionally when he was young but not at all as an adult. He kept in contact with my grandfather (his uncle) until my grandfather's death in 1974. Amazingly enough I had another relative on my father's side who was also big in the environmental movement and he met David on several occasions. This relative knew that David Brower was the son of a man from a dirt poor Kansas farm family from Clay Center Kansas but according to my other cousin David Brower would deny the family connection when questioned about it. I guess he wanted to project the impression that his entire family were native Californians who came in with the first load of bricks and the grandson, of William Brower, Kansas dirt farmer, was not who he wanted to be.
4.20.2007 1:35pm
Tillman Fan (mail):
While the Armand Hammer story is certainly interesting, I'm more intrigued by the fact that Professor Bernstein conducts transcribed interviews of his family members.
4.20.2007 1:51pm
liberty (mail) (www):
Its a great thing to do. There is so much interesting history that can be passed down via family lines but its so easily forgotten if it goes unrecorded. I am so happy that my father got together some notes about his mother (from interviews recorded and transcribed) before she died and that my grannie is writing her memoirs now. Every generation has so many stories to tell.
4.20.2007 2:18pm
FC:
In response to Rich B.:

Medical students today start seeing patients in their third year. I suspect they started clinicals early in the course back in the 1910s, even at Columbia.
4.20.2007 2:29pm
neurodoc:
Thanks A Zarkhov for the informative posts about Armand Hammer. I knew there was dirt, but recalled none of the particulars. (Didn't Occidental have a large presence in Libya and good relations with Qaddafi?) Your suggestion that it was most probably the father, not the son who attended DB's family seems most plausible to me, notwithstanding the impressive memory of DB's grandfather.

Trapdoc, thanks for the info about H
4.21.2007 2:08am
neurodoc:
oops, premature transmission...

Was expressing appreciation for the info about Hammer's licensure as a physician. Doesn't settle the question of whether he ever practiced, but may make the possibility that he did slightly more likely. I wonder why the 2+ year gap between graduation and licensure. Was he off in Russia then, and thus delayed in getting licensed. I suppose he might have been unsuccessful at first and only passed later, but that seems a bit improbable. (Where did you come up with the FBI info? Did Hammer maintain a license all those years, so that it was indeed active circa 1952? I doubt that he thought he would ever have to fall back to practicing medicine for a living.)
4.21.2007 2:17am