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"In the autumn of 1910, six men went out to shoot ducks, Aldrich, his secretary Shelton, Andrews, Davison, Vanderlip and Warburg. Reporters were waiting at the Brunswick (Georgia) station. Mr. Davison went out and talked to them. The reporters dispersed and the secret of the strange journey was not divulged. Mr. Aldrich asked him how he had managed it and he did not volunteer the information." 3
Davison had an excellent reputation as the person who could conciliate warring factions, a role he had performed for J.P. Morgan during the settling of the Money Panic of 1907. Another Morgan partner, T.W. Lamont, says:
"Henry P. Davison served as arbitrator of the Jekyll Island expedition." 4
From these references, it is possible to piece together the story. Aldrich's private car, which had left Hoboken station with its shades drawn, had taken the financiers to Jekyll Island, Georgia. Some years earlier, a very exclusive group of millionaires, led by J.P. Morgan, had purchased the island as a winter retreat. They called themselves the Jekyll Island Hunt Club, and, at first, the island was used only for hunting expeditions, until the millionaires realized that its pleasant climate offered a warm retreat from the rigors of winters in New York, and began to build splendid mansions, which they called "cottages", for their families' winter vacations. The club building itself, being quite isolated, was sometimes in demand for stag parties and other pursuits unrelated to hunting. On such occasions, the club members who were not invited to these specific outings were asked not to appear there for a certain number of days. Before Nelson Aldrich's party had left New York, the club's members had been notified that the club would be occupied for the next two weeks.
The Jekyll Island Club was chosen as the place to draft the plan for control of the money and credit of the people of the United States, not only because of its isolation, but also because it was the private preserve of the people who were drafting the plan. The New York Times later noted, on May 3, 1931, in commenting on the death of George F. Baker, one of J.P. Morgan's closest associates, that "Jekyll Island Club has lost one of its most distinguished members. One-sixth of the total wealth of the world was represented by the members of the Jekyll Island Club." Membership was by inheritance only.
The Aldrich group had no interest in hunting. Jekyll Island was chosen for the site of the preparation of the central bank because it offered complete privacy, and because there was not a journalist within fifty miles. Such was the need for secrecy that the members of the party agreed, before arriving at Jekyll Island, that no last names would be used at any time during their two week stay. The group later referred to themselves as the First Name Club, as the last names of Warburg, Strong, Vanderlip and the others were prohibited during their stay. The customary attendants had been given two week vacations from the club, and new servants brought in from the mainland for this occasion who did not know the names of any of those present. Even if they had been interrogated after the Aldrich party went back to New York, they could not have given the names. This arrangement proved to be so satisfactory that the members, limited to those who had actually been present at Jekyll Island, later had a number of informal get-togethers in New York.
Why all this secrecy? Why this thousand mile trip in a closed railway car to a remote hunting club? Ostensibly, it was to carry out a program of public service, to prepare banking reform which would be a boon to the people of the United States, which had been ordered by the National Monetary Commission. The participants were no strangers to public benefactions. Usually, their names were inscribed on brass plaques, or on the exteriors of buildings which they had donated. This was not the procedure which they followed at Jekyll Island. No brass plaque was ever erected to mark the selfless actions of those who met at their private hunt club in 1910 to improve the lot of every citizen of the United States.