Herbert L. Pratt


Herbert Lee Pratt (November 21, 1871 – February 3, 1945) was an American businessman and a leading figure in the United States oil industry. In 1923, he became head of Standard Oil of New York; his father Charles Pratt was a founder of Astral Oil Works, which later became part of Standard Oil. He lived and worked in New York City, as well as having a country estate, "The Braes" in Glen Cove, Long Island, and a hunting preserve and estate, "Good Hope Plantation" in Ridgeland, South Carolina. He was also an art collector and philanthropist.[1]

Herbert L. Pratt
Herbert Lee Pratt in 1918.jpg
Photograph of Pratt, 1918
President of Standard Oil Company of New York
In office
Preceded byHenry Clay Folger
Succeeded byCharles F. Meyer
Personal details
Herbert Lee Pratt

(1871-11-21)November 21, 1871
Brooklyn, New York
DiedFebruary 3, 1945(1945-02-03) (aged 73)
Manhattan, New York
Florence Balsdon Gibb
(m. 1897; died 1935)
RelationsFrederic B. Pratt (brother)
George Dupont Pratt (brother)
John Teele Pratt (brother)
Harold I. Pratt (brother)
Charles M. Pratt (half-brother)
Parent(s)Mary Helen Richardson)
Charles Pratt
Alma materAmherst College

Early lifeEdit

Pratt was born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 21, 1871. He was the fourth of six children of the Standard Oil industrialist Charles Pratt, and Mary Helen (née Richardson) Pratt (1840–1907), his father's second wife. His siblings included Frederic B. Pratt, George Dupont Pratt, Helen Pratt, John Teele Pratt (husband of Ruth Baker Pratt, the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from New York) and Harold I. Pratt. From his father's first marriage to Lydia Richardson (the elder sister of his mother), who died young in 1861, his older half-siblings were Charles Millard Pratt and Lydia Richardson Pratt.[2]

His paternal grandparents were carpenter Asa Pratt and Elizabeth (née Stone) Pratt. His maternal grandparents were Thomas H. Richardson and Lydia (née Teel) Richardson.[3]

He took a degree of Bachelor of Arts at Amherst College in 1895,[4] a classmate of future president Calvin Coolidge.[1]


After his graduation from Amherst, he became a clerk at Bergen Point Chemical Works. He later became assistant to the manager of the Pratt Works and factories in Brooklyn and the manager of the Kings County and Long Island Works.[1]

Like his father, who was a pioneer in the independent oil industry and accepted a merger with Standard Oil, Pratt was a leading figure in the U.S. oil industry. On June 1, 1923, he was elected to replace Henry Clay Folger as head of Standard Oil Company of New York, also known as Socony (which eventually became known as Mobil). After the announcement, he was featured on the June 11, 1923, cover of Time. In 1928, after Charles F. Meyer became president of Standard Oil of New York, Pratt became chairman of the board.[5]

In 1931, when Socony merged with the Vacuum Oil Company, Pratt was elected chairman of the board of the new Socony-Vacuum Corporation, which had capital of $1,000,000,000.[6][7] Pratt retired as chairman on June 1, 1935, after forty years of service.[1] He was also a director of Bankers Trust Company from 1917 to 1938, Asia Banking Corporation,[4] the American Can Company, Stone & Webster and the Charles Pratt and Company.[1]

Personal lifeEdit

Pratt on the cover of Time magazine

On April 28, 1897, Pratt married Florence Balsdon Gibb (1873–1935). Florence, a graduate of Packer Collegiate Institute, a daughter of Harriet (née Balsdon) Gibb and John Gibb, a leading merchant who was the head of Loeser & Co.[8] In 1927, Florence was the first woman elected to the State Board of Regents. Together, Herbert and Florence were the parents of five children:[4]

  • Edith Gibb Pratt (1898–1956),[9] who married Allan McLane Jr., a son of Judge Allan McLane, in 1919.[10] They divorced in 1934 and she married Howard W. Maxwell Jr., a grandson of John Rogers Maxwell Sr., in 1946.[11]
  • Herbert Lee Pratt Jr. (1900–1974), who married Hope Gordon Winchester, daughter of Lycurgus Winchester of Baltimore, in 1926.[12]
  • Harriet Balsdon Pratt (1901–1978),[13] who married Lawrence Bell Van Ingen, son of Edward Hook Van Ingen Jr.,[14] in 1923.[15] They divorced in 1938,[16] and later that same year she married Donald Fairfax Bush.[17]
  • Florence Gibb Pratt (1905–1965),[18] who married Francis Edward Powell Jr.,[19] son of Francis Edward Powell who represented the Standard Oil Company in Germany and later in England.[20][21]
  • Frederic Richardson Pratt (1907–1966),[22] who married Pauline Dixon Dodge; after his death, she married landscape architect Richard K. Webel in 1969.[23]

On January 2, 1935, his wife died at their New York residence, 1027 Fifth Avenue.[8] Pratt died on February 3, 1945, at the age of 73 at 834 Fifth Avenue, his home in Manhattan, New York City.[1] After a funeral at St. James' Episcopal Church on Madison Avenue and 71st Street, he was buried in Pratt Cemetery, the family cemetery in Lattingtown, New York.[1]


"The Braes", now Stevenson Taylor Hall, Webb Institute, Glen Cove, New York (c. 2001)
1027 Fifth Avenue (center).

Pratt was a native of the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. His mansion at 213 Clinton Avenue was constructed in 1908, but, in 1914, the Pratt's moved to 640 Park Avenue in Manhattan, a luxury building designed by J. E. R. Carpenter.[24] In 1916, the 12-story 907 Fifth Avenue building, also designed by Carpenter, was completed, and Pratt, then vice president of Standard Oil, rented the largest apartment, 25 rooms and eight baths, occupying the entire top floor, at an annual rent of $30,000.[25] It was the first building developed to replace one of the mansions previously fronting on Central Park.[25]

Pratt soon outgrew this residence and moved again to the 1027 Fifth Avenue, a 40 ft. wide residence that was the central of three Beaux-Arts mansions at 84th and Fifth Avenue. Their neighbors included Florence Adele Vanderbilt Twombly at 1028 Fifth Avenue. In 1936, a year after his wife's death, he sold 1027 Fifth Avenue to the Marymount School, who had owned Mrs. Twombly's home since 1926, and combined the building with its neighbors but preserved all the exteriors and much of the interiors.[26]

His country estate, "The Braes", in Glen Cove, Long Island, was built in 1912–14 and designed by James Brite in the neo-Jacobean style. It was the largest of the six Pratt family mansions at Glen Cove. It is now part of the Webb Institute. Pratt also built "Homewood" for his daughter Edith and "Preference" in Lattingtown for his daughter Harriet, both designed by Carrère and Hastings.[27]

In 1910, Pratt bought the 9,000-acre (36 km2) Good Hope plantation and hunting lodge in South Carolina (about five miles (8 km) from Ridgeland) from Harry B. Hollins, also of Long Island.[4] For several years, the Pratt family leased Yester, an old castle on the Moors in East Lothian, Scotland for the shooting season.[1]

Pratt also spent summer months at his Japanese themed "camp," Pine Tree Point, on Upper St. Regis Lake in the Adirondacks, which he purchased from Frederick William Vanderbilt in the early 1900s.[28] He also spend some time at the Caughnawana Fishing and Hunting Club in Quebec, Canada.


Pratt was an art collector, particularly of portraits and miniatures. In 1937, he was elected a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[29] When Rotherwas Court, Herefordshire, England, was dismantled and auctioned in 1913, Pratt purchased the dining room for his neo-Jacobean mansion "The Braes," then under construction as a country estate in Glen Cove. His bequest to Amherst College included the Rotherwas Room and more than 80 American portraits and miniatures, as well as an extensive collection of decorative arts.[30] The Rotherwas Room was incorporated into the Mead Art Museum, when it was built at Amherst College in 1949.[4]

The Webb Institute of Naval Architecture acquired "The Braes" in 1945 for use as its campus. After renovation, it held its first classes there in 1947. Additions have included a library, model facility and other features.


A Steamship was named after Herbert L Pratt. On June 3, 1918, the Herbert L Pratt struck a mine off Delaware laid by SM U-151 (  Imperial German Navy).[31] The Pratt was saved, salvaged and towed to port.[32]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Times, The New York (4 February 1945). "H.L. PRATT IS DEAD; EX-HEAD OF SOCONY; Former Chairman of Board a Son of Early Rockefeller Associate and Oil Pioneer". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  2. ^ Register of the Empire State Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. The Empire State Society. 1899. p. 268. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  3. ^ Sons of the American Revolution (1902). A National Register of the Society, Sons of the American Revolution. Press of A. H. Kellogg. p. 812. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Herbert Lee Pratt (1871-1945)", Passportland website, 2010-2012, accessed 25 February 2012
  5. ^ Photo, Times Wide World (21 April 1928). "RIVAL OF DETERDING HEADS STANDARD OIL; C.F. Meyer Succeeds H.L. Pratt as President of the New York Company. FIGHT MAY BE INTENSIFIED Executive Determined to Keep on Buying Soviet Product Despite the Royal Dutch Shell" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  6. ^ "SOCONY-VACUUM ELECTS OFFICERS; Herbert L. Pratt Chairman and C.E. Arnott President of New Corporation. FIRST MEETING OF BOARD C.F. Meyer Heads the Executive Committee--R.P. Tinsley, Secretary-Treasurer" (PDF). The New York Times. 1 August 1931. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  7. ^ "F.S. FALES HEADS STANDARD OIL CO.; New York Corporation's New President Has Been With Organization Since 1903. MEYER STAYS ON BOARD But Retiring President Quits Posts With Socony-Vacuum, Which Elects R.P. Tinsley a Director". The New York Times. 26 January 1932. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  8. ^ a b "MRS. H. L. Pratt, 62, Dead At Home Here. Civic Leader, Wife of Former President of Standard Oil Company of New York". New York Times. January 3, 1935.
  9. ^ Times, Special to The New York (31 December 1956). "Sting of Wasp Kills Mrs. Edith Maxwell". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  10. ^ "MISS PRATT WEDS ALLAN M'LANE, JR.; Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Herbent Lee Pratt Marries Son of Baltimore Jurist. | HER SISTER HONOR MAID | Rev. Dr. Frank Crowder Performs the Ceremony in St. James's Episcopal Church". The New York Times. 21 November 1919. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  11. ^ TIMES, Special to THE NEW YORK (3 May 1946). "H.W. MAXWELL JR. WEDS MRS. M'LANE; Princeton Graduate Takes the Former Edith Pratt as Bride in Glen Cove Ceremony". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  12. ^ "HOPE G. WINCHESTER WEDS H. L. PRATT JR.; Members of Old New York Families Fill Grace Church at the Ceremony. CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS Bishop Shipman Performs the Ceremony--Reception at Colony Club--Couple to Live in Japan" (PDF). The New York Times. 23 December 1926. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  13. ^ "Deaths". The New York Times. 12 February 1978. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  14. ^ "LAWRENCE B. VAN INGEN; Stook Broker Drove Ambulance in First World War". The New York Times. 1 November 1943. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  15. ^ "MISS PRATT TO WED LAWRENCE B.VAN INGEN; Fiance of Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. H. L. Pratt Served With Harvard Unit in Italy". The New York Times. 14 April 1923. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  16. ^ "3 NEW YORK WOMEN GET RENO DIVORCES; Mrs. Phyllis Waid, Mrs. T. B. Triest, Mrs. Van Ingen Freed". The New York Times. 6 July 1938. p. 20. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  17. ^ TIMES, Special to THE NEW YORK (30 October 1938). "MRS. VAN INGEN WED TO DONALD F. BUSH; Daughter of Herbert L. Pratt of New York Is Married at His Glen Cove Home". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  18. ^ Times, Special to The Nev York (15 August 1965). "Mrs. Francis Powell". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  19. ^ "Francis Powell, 64, Retired Socony Aide". The New York Times. 23 December 1964. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  20. ^ "FLORENCE G. PRATT ENGAGED TO WED; Betrothal to Francis E. Powell Jr. of Liverpool Is Announced". The New York Times. 13 September 1926. p. 21. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  21. ^ "WEDDINGS OF TODAY.; Florence Gibb Pratt Is to Marry Francis E. Powell Jr". The New York Times. 20 June 1927. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  22. ^ "Frederic R. Pratt, 58, Is Dead; Ex-Socony Aide Led Boys' Club" (PDF). The New York Times. 20 April 1966. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  23. ^ "Herbert L Pratt". Obituaries: Pauline Dodge Webel. Long Island Record-Pilot. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  24. ^ Gray, Christopher (18 November 2010). "When the Pratts Decamped for Manhattan". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  25. ^ a b Horsley, Carter B. "The Upper East Side Book: Fifth Avenue: 907 Fifth Avenue". www.thecityreview.com. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  26. ^ Miller, Tom (9 March 2018). "The Clark-Pratt Mansion - 1027 Fifth Avenue". Daytonian in Manhattan. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  27. ^ Mateyunas, Paul J. (2012). Long Island's Gold Coast. Arcadia Publishing. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-7385-9131-5. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  28. ^ "Camps Along the St. Regis Chain of Lakes Now the Goal of the City Folk" (PDF). The New York Times. June 25, 1911. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  29. ^ "H. L. PRATT IS PUT ON MUSEUM BOARD; Brother of Late Benefactor Is Elected a Trustee of the Metropolitan". The New York Times. 19 January 1937. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  30. ^ TIMES, Special to THE NEW YORK (21 February 1945). "Pratt Art Treasures Willed to Amherst" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  31. ^ Evening Public Ledger (June 5, 1918). "Stung by the Sea Asp, the Tanker Pratt lay partially submerged off Lewes". Evening Public Ledger. Philadelphia. OCLC 701513196. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  32. ^ Evening Public Ledger 1918, p. 1

External linksEdit

  • Herbert Lee Pratt at Find a Grave
  • "The Standard Oil". Time. 1923-06-11. Archived from the original on February 4, 2013. Retrieved 2008-08-10. Time magazine story
  • Herbert Pratt Estate Collection at New York Heritage.
  • Herbert L. Pratt portrait at the Brooklyn Public Library
Awards and achievements
Preceded by Cover of Time magazine
11 June 1923
Succeeded by