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Harry Sinclair

AKA Harry Ford Sinclair

Born: 6-Jul-1876
Birthplace: Benwood, WV
Died: 10-Nov-1956
Location of death: Pasadena, CA
Cause of death: Illness
Remains: Interred, Calvary Cemetery, Los Angeles, CA

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Business
Party Affiliation: Republican

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Founder of Sinclair Oil

Harry Sinclair grew up in Kansas City, studied pharmacy, and briefly worked as a druggist before losing the business speculating on oil futures. He entered the oil business by selling lumber for oil derricks, then started buying and selling oil leases. He struck it rich with an oil find in Kiowa, Oklahoma in 1904, and subsequently demanded absolute control of all his business ventures, which were many and almost invariably successful. By 1913 he owned 62 oil companies, and in 1916 he established Sinclair Oil. With construction of a vast pipeline, refineries, and storage tanks capable of holding two-million barrels of oil off the market to force the price upward, Sinclair was perfectly poised to profit from the auto boom that swept America, and he became one of America's wealthiest men.

Sinclair was involved in the infamous Teapot Dome scandal, when a subsidiary of Sinclair Oil was granted a lease on federal grounds at Teapot Dome, Wyoming, with no competitive bidding. An investigation showed that the lease had been authorized by Albert Fall, Secretary of the Interior under Warren G. Harding, after Fall had been "loaned" $100K by Harry Sinclair. Fall was imprisoned for the bribe, and Sinclair -- who refused to cooperate with the investigation in any way -- was sentenced to nine months in federal prison, not for the bribe but for contempt of Congress, and for hiring detectives to shadow and intimidate members of the jury deliberating his trial. While jailed, he worked as prison pharmacist.

Sinclair was also a sports fan, and a key financial backer of the Federal League, a professional baseball circuit that challenged the American and National Leagues' duopoly in 1914 and 1915, until the league folded. Sinclair was peripherally involved in the gambling swirl that led to the 1919 Chicago "Black Sox" scandal, but found himself on the wrong side of that investment, having wagered $90K on the White Sox to defeat the Cincinnati Reds. A horse-racing aficionado, he owned Rancocas Stable, and employed famed jockey Earl Sande. Sande broke his leg in two places in a spill at Saratoga, quit when Sinclair refused to pay his medical bills, and instead rode Gallant Fox to win horse racing's Triple Crown in 1930.

Long after his death, Sinclair Oil was merged into ARCO, which itself is now a subsidiary of British Petroleum. Sinclair's name still adorns more than 2,500 American gas stations.

Father: John Sinclair (druggist, d. 1893)
Mother: Phoebe Simmons Sinclair (b. 14-May-1845, d. 20-Jul-1946)
Brother: Earle Westwood Sinclair (Sinclair executive, b. 5-May-1874)
Wife: Elizabeth Farrell Sinclair (m. 21-Jul-1904, one daughter, one son)
Daughter: Virginia Sinclair M'Divani (b. 1915)
Son: Harry Ford Sinclair, Jr.

    High School: Independence High School, Independence, KS
    University: BS Pharmacy, University of Kansas

    Member of the Board of Richfield Oil Corporation (1937-54)
    Sinclair Oil Founder & President (1916-49)
    Benevolent & Protective Order of the Elks
    Bribery (acquitted)
    Conspiracy charged (1924), not guilty (21-Apr-1928)
    Contempt of Court convicted (16-Mar-1927)
    Contempt of Congress convicted (16-Mar-1927)
    Obstruction of Justice convicted
    Teapot Dome Scandal
    English Ancestry (maternal)
    Irish Ancestry (paternal)
    Scottish Ancestry (paternal)
    Risk Factors: Smoking

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