Picture of Colonel Clarence Hodson

History and Founders

THOMAS S. HODSON (1837-1920)

Thomas S. Hodson was born in 1837 in Dorchester County, Maryland, at the family homestead, Maiden's Forest. A teacher, minister, lawyer, newspaper publisher and politician, he was a long time resident of the Eastern shore of Maryland. He was a motivating force in the Republican Party in Somerset County and widely respected as a business, and social leader. A strong advocate of education, he settled The Hodson Trust in 1920 with assets provided by his son, the founder of Beneficial Corporation, Colonel Clarence Hodson.

He attended both Yale and Princeton universities, graduating from the College of New Jersey at Princeton in 1857. Twenty-eight years later, the degree of "Artium Magister" was conferred upon him by Princeton. Following graduation, he returned to the eastern shore of Maryland and served as an instructor to his uncle's children. In 1862, he entered the ministry as a licentiate of the Philadelphia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and served as a junior preacher in Maryland and Delaware.

Shortly after his return to Maryland in 1864, he purchased the Somerset Herald, a weekly newspaper in Princess Anne, Maryland. He assumed the editorship and management of the paper for several years. In 1868, he sold the Somerset Herald and was appointed to Deputy-Collector of Customs, Port of Crisfield.

In 1875, he was commissioned by President Ulysses S. Grant as Collector of Customs for the eastern district of Maryland, Port of Crisfield. A year or so later, he was admitted to practice law. He practiced his profession as an attorney in the Circuit Courts of Somerset, Wicomico, Worcester and Dorchester counties, in the Court of Appeals of Maryland at Annapolis and in the United States Courts of Baltimore. In 1889, his son, Colonel Clarence Hodson, joined his law firm, and the firm of Hodson and Hodson was formed.

In 1883, he was elected to represent Somerset County on the Republican ticket to the Senate of Maryland. It was the first time a Republican senator was ever elected from Somerset County.

He was a staunch supporter of the Republican Party and served as a delegate-at-large at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1892 and at the Republican National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, in 1894.

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Born in Laurel, Delaware, Colonel Clarence Hodson descended from early settlers who reached Dorchester, Maryland, in 1664.

Colonel Hodson spent his youth in Crisfield where at the age of 25 he was elected president of the Bank of Crisfield, an accomplishment that made him the youngest bank president in the United States at the time. In 1896, he was commissioned a colonel by Governor Lloyd Lowndes, a title associated with him to this day.

Throughout his 40-year business career, Colonel Hodson was director for more than 40 banks, trust and mortgage companies, insurance companies, and public utilities. He applied his experience and knowledge to encourage enactment of laws to make small loans available to working-class Americans at affordable interest rates. His success forced unscrupulous loan sharks out of business. In cooperation with the Russell Sage Foundation, which began documenting the consumer need for small loan legislation in 1908, Colonel Hodson saw his efforts rewarded with the enactment of the first Small Loan Law in New Jersey in 1913. He founded the Beneficial Loan Society in Elizabeth the following year.

Over the next few years, as other states adopted laws similar to New Jersey's, his company opened its doors to other regions. The first Maryland office opened in Baltimore in March 1915 and, over the next fourteen years, the Beneficial Loan Society grew from one office to 200 offices across the United States. Colonel Hodson's ideas and continued business accomplishments read as a case study for business modeling.

After his death, his interest in higher education was continued by his daughter Lelia Hodson Hynson and his granddaughter Sally Hynson Hopkins.

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