John Elmer Milholland

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John Elmer Milholland
John E. Milholland.jpg
BornMay 31, 1860
DiedJune 29, 1925
Known forFirst treasurer of NAACP

John Elmer Milholland (May 31, 1860 – June 29, 1925) was an American businessman. He served as the first treasurer of the NAACP. Milholland was an editor at the New-York Tribune for twelve years.


Born in Lewis, New York to Irish immigrants, who (after their house burnt down) shortly returned to Ireland, after two years Milholland returned to America, where his father opened a confectioners shop. Educated at Paterson High School, Milholland was aided by William Walter Phelps and attended New York University.[1] After two years, he dropped out and became a journalist, working for the Ticonderoga Sentinel, which he bought. Milholland subsequently sold the paper and was employed by the New York Tribune, where he would reach chief editorial writer. A close friend of Harry Reid, Reid urged Benjamin Harrison, to appoint Milholland as chief inspector of immigration for the Port of New York. Reid was nominated for vice president, in large part through the work of Milholland, for which he was named assistant secretary of the National Republican Party. Milholland soon destroyed his political career by campaigning against Tammany Hall politicians.[2]

He also invested in the Batcheller Pneumatic Tube Co., eventually becoming its president. The corporation worked on the first pnuemanic tube lines in New York City. Expanding into other markets, by 1900, Milholland was worth $500,000. An antiexpansionist, Milholland soon moved to London. While there, Milholland founded the International Union Club, which supported the Boers. In 1904, he created a syndicate that controlled much of the pneumanic mail in Europe. He used the large amounts of money he earned to fund several civil-rights activists; first Booker T. Washington, and later W. E. B. Du Bois. Milholland was criticized for these donations, and was soon removed from the board of the corporation. After leaving the corporation, he expanded his funding of civil rights, funding Mary Ovington, and investing in Phipps Houses; as well as helping to organize the Constitution League, a forerunner of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). "The NAACP was founded in part because of Milholland's financial support of Ovington, as she used the money he gave her to travel and recruit people to answer "the Call" to create the NAACP. Milholland was the NAACP's first treasurer." Milholland married Jean Torrey, and would have three children, Vida, John and Inez Milholland.[3]


  1. ^ Paterson History
  2. ^ "Inez Milholland Chapter 1" (PDF).
  3. ^ "Milholland, John Elmer (1860-1925) · Jane Addams Digital Edition". Retrieved 2017-12-16.