Catherwood, Cummins. 1910-. Financier, philanthropist. Formerly co-owner, Evening Public Ledger; director, Bryn Mawr Trust Co. President, Mineral Production Corp. President, Catherwood Foundation. Trustee, Academy of Music; Board of Governors, Philadelphia Museum of Art; Board of Directors, Philadelphia Orchestra Association. Residence: Gladwyne.
From the clipping files of the now defunct Philadelphia Evening Bulletin [now located at the Urban Archives, Paley Library, Temple University in Philadelphia], it was reported on November 28, 1947 edition that, "A petition for a non-profit corporation to be known as the Catherwood Foundation was filed in common pleas court today…to establish a fund, or funds, the income from which will be used exclusively for religious, scientific, literary and educational purposes."
With an address in Bryn Marr, Pennsylvania, [14 Elliott Ave., Suite 10, Bryn Marr, 19010 / (215) 525-3720] on the Philadelphia Main Line suburban train route, the Catherwood Foundation was originally directed by Cummins Catherwood, his wife Mrs. Ellen Cowen Catherwood, his sister, Mrs. Charles G. Chaplin, Othelia Aarnolt, William Hamilton and I.F. Dixon-Wainright.
Independently wealthy from a family inheritance that was accumulated in the munitions industry during the industrial revolution, Cummins Catherwood married the former Ellen Cowen Coats and lived in an estate they called "Baja Sumantaga," an East Indian word that means, "welcome weary traveler." Along with his family, Catherwood was quoted as saying that golf, sailing, bridge, skiing and travel were his unchanging interests."
During World War II Catherwood went on a special air mission to Germany, about which he later said, "I had a feeling that much could be done by individuals towards international understanding that couldn’t be done by governments."
The main feature of the Catherwood Foundation is the Catherwood Fund, ostensibly a philanthropic fund; it also served as a conduit for the funding of covert CIA operations during the Cold War.
Catherwood’s sister, Mrs. Charles G. Chaplin, one of the Fund’s directors, knew Peter Fleming, the British MI6 agent and brother of Ian Fleming, author of the 007 James Bond novels. Peter was an amateur ornithologist and is said to have been one of the models for Fleming’s fictional hero, whose name was appropriated from James Bond, the renowned Philadelphia ornithologist and author of the classic ornithological work, "Birds of the West Indies."
Ian Fleming must have also known or knew about Catherwood, as he based one of his villains – Milton Krest of the "Hildebrand Rarity" [From: "For Your Eyes Only"] on Catherwood’s unique profile. Fleming quotes "Krest" explaining the Foundation system to James Bond while they are aboard Krest’s yacht fishing for rare species. "Ya see, fellers, it’s like this. In the states we have this foundation system for lucky guys that got plenty of dough and don’t happen to want to pay it into Uncle Sam’s Treasury. You make a Foundation – like this one, the Krest Foundation – for charitable purposes – charitable to anyone, to kids, sick folk, the cause of science – you just give the money away to anyone or anything except yourself and your dependents and you escape tax on it."
"So I put a matter of ten million dollars into the Krest Foundation, and since I happened to like yachting and seeing the world, I built this yacht with two million of the money and told the Smithsonian that I would go to any part of the world and collect specimens for them. So that makes me a scientific expedition, see?"
In 1948 Catherwood had a yacht built in New England to his personal specifications, "The Vigilant," and sailed frequently to the Caribbean with friends, associates and on occasion, with some scientists who collected specimens for the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences and the Smithsonian. On one particular Vigilant expedition in 1948, Catherwood was accompanied by ornithologist James Bond, who collected rare bird species on the various out islands they visited.
But Catherwood’s fund was not just a tax loophole, as Fleming implied, but rather, it also served as a secret conduit for funding covert CIA operations. David Wise and Thomas Ross, in their groundbreaking book "The Invisible Government," (Vintage, 1977, p. 247n), exposed the CIA’s network of Blue Blood benefactors when they reported that, "…conduits for the CIA money included the Cathewood Foundation."
Since then, other writers, such as Joseph B. Smith ("Portrait of a Cold Warrior"), have mentioned the CIA use of the Catherwood Foundation as a front for CIA activities as well. The activities of the Catherwood Foundation created a web of intrigue that extended behind the Iron Curtain into Russia, as well as Cuba, the Philippines and Vietnam. Although the full extent of these activities have yet to be publicly explored, and much of it is still classified and kept from the public record, the Soviets knew about the secret relationship between the CIA and the philanthropic foundations from the very beginning.
Created by the National Security Act of 1947, an outline of the charter of the CIA was written by Ian Fleming when he visited Washington with his boss, Admiral Godfey, the Chief of British Naval Intelligence.
The British MI6 liaison with the CIA and FBI in Washington after the war was Harold Adrian "Kim" Philby, the notorious KGB double-agent who wrote his memoirs from Russia, "My Silent War" (Grove Press), in which he describes the meetings he attended with Frank Wisner, the head of the CIA’s Office of Policy Coordination, responsible for Covert Operations and Dirty Tricks.
According to Philby, "Wisner expiated on one of his favorite themes – the need to camouflage the source of secret funds supplied to apparently respectable bodies in which we were interested…"
Philby quoted Wisner as saying, "…It is essential to secure the overt cooperation of people with conspicuous access to wealth in their own right."
Cummins Catherwood was one of those people, and his Catherwood Foundation was one of those respectable bodies.
In July, 1956 Catherwood, like the fictional Milton Krest, went "looking for new fish" off the Bahamian reefs. In May 1958 Catherwood announced that he had given financial aid to projects in the mental health field at the Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital. He also gave money to the Granary Fund of Boston, which was directed by George H. Kidder, who is listed in "Who’s Who" as "with General Counsel, CIA, 1952-1954," as well as being on the board of directors of Collins Radio, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
In his book, "Portrait of a Cold Warrior," Joe Smith wrote: "…former ambassador to the Philippines Myron Cowen joined Cummins Catherwood in persuading a few staunch friends of the Philippines, such as Gen. Leland S. Hobes, ex-Joint Military Advisory Group chief; Charles V. Griffiths, the publishers, and Gen. Hugh Casey of the board of Schenley Distillers, to set up the Committee for Philippine Action in Development, Reconstruction and Education. Somehow, this just happened to form the acronym COMPADRE – the one word that held more meaning than any other for a Filipino. Gabe Kaplin was resident director of COMPADRE, on the spot to carry out all sorts of good works, backed by a bankroll the size of which Filipinos could only guess."
The Catherwoods enjoyed traveling as well. In March 1957, Mrs. Catherwood toured North Africa with the former first lady, Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt as guests of the Sultan of Morocco. In June 1960, Catherwood and his wife traveled to Helsini, Finland, taking the Oswald Route on the first leg of their journey to the USSR and behind the Iron Curtain. On their return, Mrs. Catherwood was quoted as saying, "Moscow is as drab as Akron, Ohio, but Leningrad is glorious."
As Main Line Blue Blood personages, the Catherwoods frequently made the society pages. On March 27, 1970 the Catherwoods attended the wedding of the season, between Princess Jane Obolensky of Grosse Point, Michigan and Dean Rucker, with the reception being held at Great Harbor Cay, owned by Canadian Midas Lou Chesler.
One of Catherwood’s corporations, Visions, had offices in New York, England and Central America, providing Latin American publishers with a Spanish language news and feature wire service. On December 26, 1977 the New York Times reported that, "Another major foreign news organization that CIA officials said they once subsidized was Vision, the weekly news magazine that is distributed throughout Europe and Latin America. However, none of those associated with the founding of Vision or its management over the years said they ever had any indications that the CIA had put money into the magazine." Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza bought into Visions after the CIA connections became known.
Catherwood also sponsored the International Division of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. In December 1960, Nicolas Chatelain, the U.S. correspondent for the Paris daily Fiagaro, became the first recipient of the Columbia/Catherwood Award for journalists. The second recipient, John Bertram Oaks of the New York Times, used the occasion to urge support for French President Charles deGaul against the revolt of the French generals in Algeria.
Among those aspiring foreign student journalists to receive grants from the Catherwood Foundation was Leona Shluder, then 23 years old, of Rio de Janerro, Brazil, who was quoted as saying she, "was impressed especially with the news coverage given President Kennedy’s assassination." Indeed.
The Catherwood Foundation also financially supported the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, including the Dallas parish to which Marina Oswald had her children baptized, possibly without the knowledge of her husband, Lee Harvey, the accused assassin of President Kennedy.
Another organization of interest that was funded in its entity by the Catherwood Fund is the Cuban Aid Relif, established to assist Cuban refugees, specifically professionals who had previously supported the Castro revolution against Batista.