My extensive research has failed to find evidence of the Anslinger-Mellon family connection through the marriage of Martha Anslinger (maiden name Denniston)  mentioned by dozens of writers.

For years I have requested help from researchers through Harry Anslingers wikipedia’s discussion page.  There was no mention of the family connection said by numerous authors to reside in the Altoona Mirror, Altoona, PA., Newspaper obituary of Martha Anslinger on October 10, 1961 p.22. After posting my previous obituary comment regarding the “Citation needed” on the wikipedia discushion page it was replaced with (ref. #22 Valentine, Douglas (2004). The Strength of the Wolf: The Secret History of America’s War on Drugs. Verso Books. pp. 16. ISBN 1-85984-568-1.) I obtained a copy of Valentine’s book “The Strength of the Wolf” for the Mellon reference. Upon my examination of page 16 in the book, referenced as #22, their appeared to be a reference mistake. Valentine should have referenced #21 Douglas Kinder, “Bureaucratic Cold Warrior: Harry J. Anslinger and Illicit Narcotic Traffic,” Pacific Cost Branch, American Historical Association, Pacific Historical Review, 1981, 172-3.” Kinder’s book did mention the “Martha Denniston Leet” reference as #5, admittedly though, reference #5 has dozens of citations. However, near the end of the reference list, Kinder states “Anslingers appointment to the Narcotics Division is explained in John K. Caldwell to Cotton, June 28, 1930, item no. 811.114 n16/1813. box 4917, State Department General Records, decimal file 1930-39, National Archives, Washington, D.C.”. I obtained a copy of the Caldwell letter in question, but no mention of Martha was found. I believe that Douglas Kinder, with his extensive amount of primary references in his Bureaucratic Cold Warrior article, might be able to provide the Mellon reference if I could only find him. Does anybody know how to contact Douglas Kinder?

On 12/18/09 I contacted David Cannadine, author of “Mellon, An American Life”, regarding the Mellon -Anslinger family connection. He replied that he was sorry to say that he had not come across any evidence of the connection. (Mellon: An American Life, published by Knopf, the first biography of one of the economic and political giants of the 20th century. With the cooperation of both the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Mellon family, Mr. Cannadine had full access to all archival materials and conducted interviews with family members that had never before been granted. He spent 12 years researching and writing the book.)

Can anyone else provide me with another reference lead regarding the Anslinger-Mellon family connection?

Uncle Mike


2 comments until now

  1. My impression is that the claims that Anslinger’s wife was Andrew Mellon’s niece are mistaken. If so, the more interesting question is where the error came from. Was it, for example, already entertained while he was Commissioner of Narcotics? (It is true that Anslinger was appointed while Mellon was Treasury Secretary.)

    The wife was Martha Kind Denniston (Leet), b. Sept 1886, d. 10 Oct 1961. Her parents were John Denniston (d. 1932) and Florence Belle Gerst (Denniston), d. 21 Feb 1917. Her Paternal grandparents were James Denniston (b. 1 Aug 1827 Indiana PA; d. 8 Jan 1899) and Martha Elizabeth McNamara. Her maternal grantparents were Ephraim Gerst and Anna Metz.

    Like Mellon, these are all Pennsylvanians, but there’s evidently no Mellon among them.

    Anslinger was Martha’s second husband. She first married Joseph Irwin Leet (d. 26 Jan 1911). She had one child from the first marriage, a son who is variously identified as Joseph Denniston Leet, Joseph Irwin Leet, and Joseph Leet Anslinger.

  2. I’d also add that Martha Kind Denniston Leet Anslinger (Harry’s wife) had a paternal aunt, Ella McNamara Denniston (d. 1894), who was married to a one-term (Republican) US Congressman from south-central Pennsylvania, Jesse Lee Hartman (b. 18 June 1853; d. 17 Feb 1930). Another Member of Congress, John Denniston Patton (1829-1904), also from Pennsylvania, was a more distant relative.

Add your comment now

You must be logged in to post a comment.