James Wainwright Flanagan (1872–1950) emerged as a prominent figure in the domains of banking and petroleum engineering. Born on October 26, 1872, in Henderson, Texas, he was the progeny of Robert Buck and Anna Bell (Cornelius) Flanagan. His lineage boasted connections to Gen. Webster Flanagan, making him the nephew of this military figure, and he also held the distinguished position of being the great-nephew of United States Senator James Winwright Flanagan.
Flanagan’s early years were characterized by a departure from Henderson, leading him into the realms of railroad work and mining across Cuba, Mexico, and the United States between 1888 and 1912. His professional trajectory reached its zenith when he assumed the presidency of the Royal Bank of Canada in 1913. A pivotal moment in his career unfolded in 1919 when he played a key role in organizing a corporation tasked with constructing a 615-mile petroleum pipeline from Cartagena to Barrancabermeja, Colombia. The Colombian government, recognizing the monumental nature of this achievement, commemorated Flanagan with a monument in 1949.
His contributions extended beyond professional achievements. Flanagan served as a lieutenant colonel in the Cuban army in 1896, earning the prestigious Medal of Military Merit. In 1898, he played a vital role on the staff of Brig. Gen. W. W. Gordon and later held an honorary commission as lieutenant colonel in the First and Second battalions of the Irish Regiment of Canada in 1940. Numerous accolades from South American and European countries underscored his contributions, with Pope Pius XI bestowing upon him the title of commander in the Order of St. Gregory in 1926. Active memberships in the Texas State Historical Association and the Sons of the Republic of Texas further highlighted his commitment to historical and cultural preservation. His linguistic prowess was evident in 1933 when he translated Theodore Wolf’s “Geography and Geology of Ecuador.”
The intriguing narrative of the 1933 double eagles intertwined with Flanagan’s life. Flanagan consigned his expansive collection, which included a 1933 double eagle, to Stack’s, a burgeoning numismatic auction firm. This aligns with Stack’s establishment in 1933, and by the early-to-mid-1940s, the firm had firmly established itself in the competitive New York numismatic scene. The advertisement of Flanagan’s collection in The Numismatist hinted at the scarcity of the 1933 $20 coins, estimating a mere 8-10 examples in existence. Stack’s boldly anticipated setting a world record for aggregate prices realized, emphasizing the “excessively rare and in great demand” nature of the 1933 double eagle, which led to Secret Service investigation then seizure.
After spending many years in Toronto, Ontario, and holding the position of vice president at the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, Flanagan retired from public life in 1946. He chose to make Houston, Texas, his new residence. Two marriages marked his personal life, with Panchita G. Love in 1902 and later Hazel B. Brown in 1913. The latter union blessed him with two children. The narrative of James Wainwright Flanagan came to an end in Houston on July 24, 1950.