The Home of American Intellectual Conservatism — First Principles

April 24, 2019

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Earhart Foundation
Lee Edwards - 12/22/11

Earhart Foundation (no “the”) was founded in 1929 by Michigan entrepreneur and philanthropist Harry Boyd Earhart. It concentrates its support on the work of graduate students, scholars, and researchers; of 305 grants in 2000, 78 percent were in support of individuals. Daniel J. Boorstin, historian and former Librarian of Congress, wrote that the foundation has “shown a faith in the individual scholar which has itself been an inspiration in this collaborative age.” And in a field where the intent of the founder is often ignored or perverted, Earhart Foundation respects scrupulously the free-market, pro-America philosophy of H. B. Earhart.

Born in 1870 in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, Harry Earhart was the son of a village storekeeper. He was the first cousin, once removed, of the famous woman pilot, Amelia Earhart. Guided by only an eighth grade education and a brief commercial course, Harry Earhart launched a business career that included stints as a cargo broker on the Great Lakes and as a designer and salesman of logging machinery before he began manufacturing lubricating oil in Detroit.

The growth of the automobile industry led to the distribution of allied petroleum products, and in 1912 Earhart organized the White Star Refining Company. Under his energetic leadership, the company came to operate its own oil refineries and to sell its products throughout the Midwest and in Canada. White Star operates today as a part of Exxon Mobil Corporation. Earhart retired from White Star in 1932 at the age of 62.

Earhart devoted the final two decades of his life to philanthropy and the Earhart and Relm foundations. Earhart Foundation, founded in 1929, was a “family” foundation that initially concentrated its support on charitable and religious causes. But it soon broadened its mission to include research and education for leadership that would “eliminate” social ills rather than simply “relieve the results of social ills.”

In 1949, in response to what Harry Earhart regarded as increasing threats to the free enterprise system and “the great American heritage,” Earhart Foundation was reorganized, now emphasizing the support of research into economic freedom as the sine qua non of a truly free society. The following year, the Relm Foundation was created with a corporate life of twenty years and a similar mission. With the same trustees and staff, the two foundations differed only in their activities, with Earhart dispensing the H. B. Earhart Fellowships and Relm being responsible for nearly all the programs. In 1977, Relm’s trustees terminated the foundation and transferred all its remaining assets to Earhart Foundation to implement H. B. Earhart’s philanthropic goals.

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