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Bennett, Howard F. (Howard Franklin), 1911-1974



  • Existence: 1911 - 1974

Howard Franklin Bennett was born in Worcester, Massachusetts on January 3, 1911, the only son of Abbie M. (Flagg) and Edwin Harlan Bennett. He attended the Worcester public schools, was editor-in-chief of the school yearbook and president of the student body at North High School. From 1929-1933, Bennett attended Amherst College as a scholarship student. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Amherst in 1933 with a B.A. in History. During the next five years Bennett alternated between teaching high school and pursuing graduate work at Harvard University. He was a recipient of the Thompson Fellowship in 1937 and was an Edward Austin Fellow in 1938. In 1939 he received master's degrees from Harvard both in History and Teaching.

Bennett began his doctoral work at Harvard in 1940 but was interrupted by the advent of World War II. He enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve and was commissioned a Lieutenant, j.g. in March, 1942. Bennett served in various capacities, including: Company Officer, Student Flight Battalion, 1942-1943; Instructor, Air Navigation, 1943; Executive Officer, U.S. Navy Flight Preparatory School, 1943-1944; Air Combat Intelligence Officer on the U.S.S. Essex, Pacific Fleet, 1944-1945; and in the Aviation History Office, 1945-1946.

Bennett returned to Harvard in the spring of 1946. The following autumn he accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Business History at Northwestern University. In addition to fulfilling his teaching responsibilities, Bennett continued work on his dissertation, “The Development of Northern Missouri: Land and Colonization Policy of the Hannibal and St. Jo Railroad, 1850-1870”, and received his Ph.D. History from Harvard in 1951. During the same year he married Elizabeth Maurine Hoover, a secondary school teacher.

Prompted by the Korean Conflict, Bennett re-enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 1951 and served on active duty until 1953 as an Air Intelligence Officer. He remained in the reserve as Commanding Officer of the Naval Air Intelligence Unit at Glenview, Illinois. Bennett attained the rank of Captain in 1960 and retired from the reserve in 1969.

After resuming his academic position at Northwestern in 1953, Bennett began work on a history of the Bodine Electric Company, the largest producer of fractional-horsepower motors in the United States, which Appleton-Century-Crofts published as Precision Power in 1959. Precision Power was hailed as a pioneering effort in business history because Bennett had chosen to examine a small business rather than the usual blue-chip corporation.

Bennett also held memberships in many professional societies, including the Lexington Group, which he co-founded in 1946. The Lexington Group was established to promote interest in railroad history. Bennett served as secretary-treasurer and editor of the Lexington Group Newsletter from 1954-1969. In addition to his Lexington Group activities, Bennett contributed many articles and reviews to the American Historical Review, the Journal of American History, the Business History Review, and other journals.

In 1955 Bennett was appointed chairman of the Department of Business History in the School of Commerce, and became a full Professor of Business History in 1960. While performing increasingly more arduous duties, Bennett also found time to serve on a number of committees in the School of Commerce, the Graduate School of Management, and the University. Bennett began teaching courses for the Northwestern Institute for Management in 1961, and subsequently served on the Institute curriculum committee. From 1964-1969 he also was President of the Student Publishing Company, the non-profit corporation that published the student newspaper, the Daily Northwestern.

In addition to his university-related activities, Bennett was also involved in several projects outside the university. He lectured for an A.T.&T. management pro-gram in 1959 and taught in a comparable program for Illinois Bell in 1960. In 1962 and 1964 Bennett wrote and edited material for the World Book Year Book Trans-vision series. In 1964 Bennett was also a planning consultant and discussion leader for a General Electric management program. During the summers of 1965-1967 he directed the National Defense Education Act Summer Institute for Secondary School Teachers at Northwestern.

On New Year's Eve, 1968, Bennett and his wife were involved in an automobile collision in San Francisco. As a result of the accident Bennett was partially paralyzed and was compelled to curtail all his academic and professional activities. In August 1969 he was moved from a hospital in San Francisco to the Veteran Administration Hospital in Downey, Illinois. For the next five years Bennett was in and out of the hospital, until his death at Downey on September 21, 1974.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Lexington Group Records

Identifier: 55/40
Abstract An informal organization dedicated to the study of American railroad history, the Lexington Group formed in 1942 when business historian Richard Cleghorn Overton of Northwestern University and eight other railroad enthusiasts gathered in a Lexington, KY coffee shop. The Lexington Group met once each year until 1947, after which time two or even three meetings took place annually in conjunction with such major conferences as the Mississippi Valley Historical Association and the American...