Henry Latham Doherty

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Henry Latham Doherty
Born 1870
Columbus, Ohio
Died Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Occupation Investor,oilman
Years active 1882 - 1939
Notable work Founded Cities Service Company (now Citgo)

Henry Latham Doherty (1870–1939) was an Irish-American financier and oilman, a native of Columbus, Ohio, who in 1910 created the Cities Service Company, a utility holding company, which later became CITGO Petroleum Corporation.

Business career[edit]

Doherty was first hired by the Columbus Gas Company at the age of 12. Rose reportedly wrote years later, "I could not get along in school...and under expulsion a large part of the time I was supposed to be in school."[1] He made such a favorable impression with his knowledge and devotion to work that CGC management assigned him to take charge of a subsidiary company, a declining utility in Wisconsin. By the age of 20, he held the title of Chief Engineer at CGC.[1]

In June 1899, the Emerson McMillan & Company, a financial company that invested in utility companies, had sent one of its senior executives, George T. Thompson, to the Denver Gas & Electric Company as president. Thompson died on October 1, 1900, McMillan asked Doherty to replace Thompson. On October 18, Doherty became acting president and treasurer of the Denver Gas & Electric Company.[1]

In 1905, he started Henry L. Doherty & Co., which provided technical and financial consulting services to utility companies. In 1905, he founded his own holding company, Cities Service, which held the stock of energy companies[a] he had bought previously.[2] Cities Service bought the holdings of Theodore N. Barnsdall, founder of Barnsdall Oil Company, in 1912.

In 1916, he established the Doherty Energy Research Laboratory Co. (DORELCO) in Bartlesville, Oklahoma to advance his theories about field unitization as a means of oil conservation and as a location to train petroleum geologists and engineers. He received numerous awards and recognition for his contributions to the development of scientific methodology in the petroleum industry.[3]

Doherty was awarded the Franklin Institute's Walton Clark Medal in 1931. In 1969 Columbia University added his name to the Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory, after he made a large contribution.[4]

The Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 (PUHCA) required that a company like Cities Service divest itself of either its electric utility holdings or its other energy companies. Cities Service chose to sell off its utilities and remain in the oil and gas business. The first steps to liquidate investments in its public utilities were taken in 1943 and affected over 250 different utility corporations.


Before founding Cities Service, Henry Doherty moved to New York City, where he lived atop an office building at State and Liberty Streets, now the site of 1 Battery Park Plaza. The suite had a gym, squash court and motorized bed that slid out onto the terrace. Clearly, he was already beset with recurring rounds of arthritis.He nearly died in 1927 from complications of the disease, but recovered with the help of a friend, Grace Eames. Grace was a widow, and married Henry in December, 1928. A New York Times article said that he had bought several properties in Manhattan for redevelopment, but most of the projects were delayed because of these bouts.[5]

One of the projects completed for Doherty was a 60-story skyscraper initially named for its street address, 70 Pine Street.[b] It was topped by a tower containing six smaller floors that would contain Doherty's private residence. The building site was only 120 feet (37 m) wide. Conventional building practices would have set 48 stories as the economic limit for a plot of this size, but engineers from Otis Elevator Company told Doherty that double-deck elevators could solve the problem. Doherty bought the Otis plan. A 1932 article in the Engineering News-Record said that installing eight double-deck elevators instead of fourteen standard elevators saved $200,000 in construction costs and freed 40,000 square feet (3,700 m2) of rentable space.[c][5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ petroleum, natural gas, and electric utilities
  2. ^ Later it was known informally as the Cities Service Building. American International Group bought the building in 1979 to serve as its headquarters.
  3. ^ Comparable office space was said to rent for $3.50 per year at that time.[5]


External links[edit]