Ultimately the Log Cabin and the New Yorker were merged into the New York Tribune. As is a recognized fact, Greeley was stronger in a fight than in peace, and the attacks which this new enterprise received soon run its circulation from the hundreds into the thousands. Of course new presses had to be bought and Greeley, who by the way preferred to discuss the financial policy of a great nation than that of his own office, soon found himself obliged to get a business man as a partner. He was exceedingly fortunate in securing Mr. Thomas McElrath, who soon brought order from chaos, and the Tribune became not only an ably conducted paper but a paying one as well.
Mr. Greeley next became a lecturer, and in this field he was also fairly successful. He traveled in Europe and wrote such books as "Hints About Reform," "Glances at Europe," "History of the Slavery Extension," "Overland Journey from New York to San Francisco," "The American Conflict," "Recollections of a Busy Life," "Essays on Political Economy," and just before his death, "What I Know About Farming."
While Mr. Greeley must ever be regarded among journalists as one of their brightest stars; he was one of the most peculiar writers it has ever been our pleasure to read. In fact he must be regarded as a kind of literary gymnast. While conducting a political paper he at one time devoted page after page to the theory of reorganizing society after the plan of Fourier; that is to divide society up into small communities to live in common. After wearying the readers on this and numerous other 'isms,' it was discontinued. He went into a political frenzy over Clay and protection; next his paper was full of the 'Irish Repeal,' 'Advocacy of the Water Cure,' 'Phrenology,' 'Mesmerism,' 'Opposition to Capital Punishment,' 'Trinitarianism' and the 'Drama.'
He was finally elected to Congress to fill an unexpired term. While here he caused some amusement by his eccentricities. He refused to sit up at night sessions, abruptly leaving when his hour for retiring arrived. Possibly his letter addressed to the managers of his party in his State was one of the greatest surprises that he ever sprung upon the country. It was addressed to Mr. Seward personally, but upon mention being made of it by that gentlemen's friends, it was made public by Greeley's demand. It ran something as follows: "The election is over, and its results sufficiently ascertained. It seems to me a fitting time to announce to you the dissolution of the political firm of Seward, Weed and Greeley by the withdrawal of the junior partner, said withdrawal to take effect on the morning after the first Tuesday in February next. I was a poor young printer, and editor of a literary journal—a very active and bitter Whig in a small way, but not seeking to be known outside of my own ward committee. I was one day called to the City Hotel where two strangers introduced themselves as Thurlow Weed and Lewis Benedict, of Albany. They told me that a cheap campaign paper of peculiar stamp at Albany had been resolved on, and that I had been selected to edit it. I did the work required to the best of my ability. It was work that made no figure and created no sensation; but I loved it and I did it well."
"When it was done you were Governor; dispensing offices worth three to twenty thousand to your friends and compatriots, and I returned to my garret and my crust and my desperate battle with pecuniary obligations heaped upon me by bad partners in business and the disastrous events of 1837. I believe it did not occur to me then that some one of these abundant places might have been offered to me without injustice. I now think it should have occurred to you. In the Harrison campaign of 1840 I was again designated to edit a campaign paper. I published it as well and hence ought to have made something out of it despite its low price. My extreme poverty was the main reason why I did not."
"Now came the great scramble of the swell mob of coon minstrels and cider suckers at Washington, I not being counted in. I asked nothing, expected nothing, but you Governor Seward ought to have asked that I be Post Master at New York."
When the Republicans met at Chicago he 'paid' Mr. Seward off by checkmating his chances of the nomination, and placing Lincoln at the head of the ticket. Mr. Greeley had always been an uncompromising opponent of slavery, and once had all but asked for the impeachment of Buchanan, hence the South expected little sympathy from him; yet, this great editor dismays his friends while his enemies are dumbfounded when they read, "Let the South go," but no sooner do the 'erring sisters' act upon his suggestion than this political ranchman is out with his literary lasso vainly trying to keep them in. He next raises the war-whoop of "On to Richmond," and thereby aids in precipitating the terrible disaster of Bull Run. Time goes on—the Union cause looks gloomy enough—all seems lost; yet, when once more the nation needs his powerful support he rushes off to Canada unauthorized, to negotiate a treaty with Southern Envoys which, to say the least, would have been disgraceful to the Union Government. When the cause is won he flees to Washington to sign the bail-bond of the arch traitor, and is thus instrumental in his release from justice. Yet, for all this the Tribune prospered.
He was regarded by many of his readers as a kind of moral law-giver, and if, per chance, one person journeyed to New York and returned to state that their beau ideal had used undue profanity in his common conversation, the indiscrete individual was ostracised.
If Mr. Greeley's previous career had surprised the country and disappointed some of his friends, it remained for the last political act of his life to completely paralyze the country at large, and plunge some of his most ardent supporters into the deepest gloom. This was when they beheld him the nominee of Republicans, 'who were anything to elect Greeley,' and endorsed by Free Traders and Democrats whom he had so bitterly denounced all his life. Had he been nominated by the straight Republican party it might have been considered as a somewhat extravagant reward for party service for this position could not have been regarded otherwise than consistent; but the position he now assumed was inconsistent, not to say ludicrous. The result was he carried only six States against the successful Grant.
He was a Universalist in belief, but educated his daughters at a Catholic school. He refused to get his brother, who actually needed assistance, a position worth perhaps $1,000 a year; yet, he could lend Corneel. Vanderbilt about eight hundred thousand dollars without security. His early friend, Mr. Jones, once sent a friend to him bearing a note requesting Greeley's aid to a subordinate position in the custom-house. No sooner had Greeley glanced it over than he astonished the gentleman, who was aware of Mr. Greeley's early obligation to Mr. Jones, by the volley of oaths and vituperation which he heaped upon him because he did not go West instead of hanging around there seeking office. No wonder the gentleman, who was a reputable middle-aged man, fled from the presence of this famous expounder of 'Moral Ideas.' However, when all this has been said we cannot help but admit that a great and good man died on December 29th, 1872. Certain it is that Journalism lost one of its brightest and most successful stars.
Who indeed has not heard of Thurlow Weed, "The king maker," born at Cairo, Greene County, New York, November 15, 1797. His father was a teamster and farmer. The reader can get some insight into the seemingly mysterious power he held for so many years, when it was known that so great was his thirst for knowledge that he was glad to wrap bits of a rag carpet about his feet and thus shod walk through the snow two miles to borrow a history of the French Revolution, which he mastered at night, stretched before 'the sap bush fire.'
The more one investigates the character and lives of those men whom we so often envy, the more we are forced to see that it was will-power rightly directed that overcame all obstacles. Certain it is to this that Thurlow Weed owes his everlasting fame as the 'American Warwick'; for knowledge is power. He first left the farm work as a cabin boy on a Hudson river steamboat bound for New York, but being born a journalist he soon drifted into a printing office where he became a good journeyman.
When the second war with Great Britain broke out he enlisted, and served on the Northern frontier, where by faithfulness he became Quartermaster Sergeant. When the war was over he returned to the printing office, being at one time in the same establishment with the late James Harper. Finally he started a paper at Oxford, New York, in 1818. He afterward became connected with the Onondaga Times, which he finally changed to the Republican. For the next few years he is connected with several different papers until we find him in Rochester at the head of the Anti-Masonic Enquirer.
About this time the body of a man who had drowned in Lake Ontario was found, and it was claimed that his name was Morgan; if so, he was a renegade mason. A question of identity was raised, but as his murder was boldly asserted to have been the work of Masonry, it caused a great excitement for the time being. This excitement divided the political parties into Mason and Anti-Mason factions. Anti-Masonry was the political fertilizer which produced the astonishing growth of the assiduous Weed, he being sent to the Assembly twice, mainly on that issue. While at Albany his ability as a party leader becoming so apparent he was decided upon as the proper person to assume the party leadership against the obnoxious 'Albany Regency,' the great Democratic power in New York State at the time. He accordingly moved to Albany and assumed the editorship of the Albany Evening Journal. Weed was one of the men who consolidated the Anti-Jackson, Anti-Mason and old Federal factions into the Whig party. The 'Regency' with which he had to deal consisted of such men as Martin Van Buren, Silas Wright, Willian L. Marcy and others of equal ability. Such were the men with whom he was pitted, but they soon found him in every way worthy of their steel. No one, when speaking of this great political warrior ever thought or spoke of him as a millionaire. Seemingly no one cared how much he was worth; but what did worry them was,—what will be the outcome of this secret conclave which we now suspect to be in progress at the headquarters of the opposition of the 'Albany Regency.'
He went to battle fearlessly, and his terse pen dealt stinging blows straight in the face of the opponent. Indeed, as an editor he has been rarely equaled. While Greeley would devote a column to an article, he would take the same subject and in a few words put the argument in such shape as to carry far more conviction. His two terms in the State Assembly wound up his career as a legislator, although he could have had any place within the gift of his party from 1830 to 1860. His ambition was not to hold office but to rule men, and it is well-known that his desires were accomplished. He was a great dictator, being largely instrumental as an independent advisor in the selection of Harrison, Taylor and Scott. His first trial of personal strength in this line was when he secured the nomination and election of his personal friend, William H. Seward, as the first Whig Governor of New York. Mr. Seward, who was an unobtrusive man, was one time riding with the driver on a stage when that dignitary asked the stranger his name and business, as was customary when people did not volunteer the information. The answer was, "Why, I'm William H. Seward, Governor of the State." This was too good for the driver, whose answer was a loud laugh, plainly implying that he considered that the gentleman had given a most cute but evasive answer. "Don't you believe me?" asked Seward. "Of course not," replied the driver. Mr. Seward, who was acquainted with the proprietor of the next hotel they came to, agreed to leave it to him. In time they arrived and the driver, calling out the landlord, immediately said, "This man says he is Governor of New York State and we have left the matter to you." "Yes," broke in Seward, "am I not Governor of this State?" The answer came quick and sharp; "No, but Thurlow Weed is." "There," exclaimed the ignorant driver, who could not see the point at once; "I knew you weren't Governor of New York State."
In 1864 Mr. Weed sold the Journal, but never entirely suspended literary work. He afterward assumed the editorship of the New York Commercial Advertiser, and often sent letters to the Tribune. In 1882, shortly before his death, the country was set in a flutter by his publishing the whole details relating to the Morgan matter, which he had kept all this time claiming it would injure certain parties, but as the last had died, it was now made public. On November 23rd of the same year one more great journalist passed away. He left a large estate, but a larger host of friends.
GEORGE W. CHILDS.
No one can read the life of George W. Childs without a feeling slowly coming over him that the possibilities of our country are indeed very great. Certain it is that when we see so many examples showing what has been done by poor boys from the farm, we are forced to exclaim that we live in a free country; despite what some say we reiterate, our country is free.
George W. Childs, at the age of ten, became an errand boy in a book-store in Baltimore, and after a period of over a year in the Navy which he served later, he removed to Philadelphia and once more entered a book-store—his natural calling. After four years' apprenticeship, when less than twenty, with his savings he opened a small book-store on his own account.
"Where there's a will there's a way," so believed young Childs. He determined to one day be proprietor of the Philadelphia Public Ledger. "Aim high that you may not strike low,"—how true that adage is. When you see a boy make up his mind to do something; if he makes his actions correspond with his words, you can rest assured that it will be done. Sickness may come; disappointments will follow, but all must be overcome.
Jerome B. Rice determined to succeed in the seed business, but just as success seemed about to crown his efforts that terrible disease, rheumatism, came and deformed him. He lost the entire use of his lower limbs, but his brain was spared, and his determination was unshaken. An invalid chair was bought, a colored man wheels him every morning to his office door where loving hands gently lift him, chair and all, up the steps of the beautiful building now occupied and owned by Jerome B. Rice & Co. Nearly thirty years have passed and Jerome B. Rice has not taken a step, but during that time, despite all obstacles, the firm of Jerome B. Rice & Co. has become one of the leading seed-growing concerns of America. Young men with the same chance he had are apt to say, "It's no use." We answer, "Where there's a will there's a way." "To think a thing impossible is to make it so."
George W. Childs determined to own the Public Ledger. He determined to own the leading paper of the great city of Philadelphia, and he was a poor boy. Was this presumption? If it was he has proved its practicability. If he was building an air-castle he has since placed a firm foundation under it. He labored hard in this little store of his; he built his own fires; he did his own sweeping,—it was the same old story; he hired done nothing that he could himself do. He made some money—not very fast—but a good average profit, and he saved what he did earn. He mastered the publishing business, and he developed a marked business capacity in that line. A man usually fills the notch for which he is fitted: I was about to say—I will say that he fits himself to the notch which he does fill. Sometime we see men in subordinate positions who apparently are capable of the best, but a careful study reveals a screw loose somewhere; there is a weak point, and invariably that point is the one thing which stands between them and victory. "Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candle stick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house." So said Christ eighteen hundred years ago; is it not so to-day? As young Childs had ability, and it was apparent, what matter it how old he was or where he came from? All the world asks is, "What can he do"?
The publishing firm of R. E. Peterson & Co. sought his alliance, and the firm of Childs and Peterson became known far and near. Do our readers call this luck? He now became a successful publisher, and seemingly his cup was running over, so far as this world was concerned, but it will be remembered that years ago he determined to own the Public Ledger, provided he lived. He was alive and his purpose still remained. He was waiting and watching. The Ledger was a penny paper—the war broke out—stock went up—the management was weakened by death and other complications, the Public Ledger was losing nearly $500 every time it went to press. The paper, great as it was, was losing $3,000 a week—at the rate of $150,000 a year. Now was Mr. Child's chance. In vain did friends entreat; in vain did wise business men shake their heads; Mr. Childs felt that his time had come, and he bought the paper, paying for it nearly $150,000. The new proprietor changed things; the paper was made a two cent issue, and into the Public Ledger he now threw his whole soul. "There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads on to fortune." It is even so; he had purchased the Ledger at the right time.
Not one man in a hundred can successfully edit a newspaper; not one editor in twenty could edit the Public Ledger with success. Yet, Mr. Childs is one man out of the hundreds—he is the one editor out of that twenty. He determined to publish only the truth; all claim to do that, but Mr. Childs does it. The paper grew, and on the 20th of June, 1867, the Public Ledger took possession of its new building. This new building cost half a million of dollars, and is one of the finest in the city. At its formal opening many of the most distinguished men in the country were present.
Mr. Childs has been largely instrumental in establishing a small city at Wayne Station. He owns a large tract of land which he has divided into building lots of about an acre each. Any one desiring a home can get one by paying one-third down, and he is also furnished plans from which to select his ideal of a home. The houses built from these plans cost from $2,000 to $8,000 each. Mr. Childs and his partner, Mr. Drexel, have expended about $2,000,000 exclusively for beautifying the city.
Years ago Mr. Childs told a gentleman that he meant to prove that a man could be at once liberal and successful as a man of business, and the princely hospitality of this good man has demonstrated, beyond doubt or contradiction, its practicability. Dinners to newsboys and life insurance policies given to the wives of his employes; such acts make up the history of his life. The late Chief Justice of Pennsylvania once said in a speech: "Some men pursue military glory, and spend their time and energies in the subjugation of nations. Caesar and Napoleon may be named as types of this character. But the tears and blood which follow violence and wrong maculate the pages of history on which their glory is recorded. Others erect splendid palaces for kingly residences, and costly temples and edifices for the promotion of education and religion in accordance with their particular views. But views of education and religion change, buildings waste away, and whole cities, like Herculaneum and Pompeii, are buried in the earth. Others again win public regard by the construction of means of communication for the furtherance of commerce. The canals, railroads, and telegraph are glorious specimens of their useful exertion for the public good. But the marts of commerce change. Tyre and Sidon, and Venice are no longer commercial centres. The shores of the Pacific are even now starting in a race against the great commercial emporium of our continent. But Mr. Childs has planted himself in the human heart, and he will have his habitation there while man shall dwell upon earth. He has laid the foundation of his monument upon universal benevolence. Its superstructure is composed of good and noble deeds. Its spire is the love of God which ascends to Heaven." Such a monument is, indeed,
"A Pyramid so wide and high That Cheops stand in envy by."
Is not that glorious success? But if the name of George W. Childs was not a synonym for charity and philanthropy, the fact that he has demonstrated beyond doubt the possibility of making a newspaper not only pure and clean, but also proving that people will buy wholesome news, as well as trash, and thus refuting the opinion that the people are wholly responsible for the vile matter that is circulated, ought alone to commend him to the world as a great benefactor. Worldly reasoners and great financiers, wiseacres and successful editors prophesied its failure, but what mattered this to George W. Childs? When a boy he determined to one day own the Public Ledger; he accomplished that. When a man he determined to elevate the tone of a newspaper, and thus prove the fallacy of the opinion that "A newspaper must print all the news, no matter what, or else fail";—he has here also fulfilled his desires. Surely, "Where there's a will there's a way."
JAMES GORDON BENNETT.
When Horace Greeley was starting the Tribune the Herald was five or six years old, and its success assured. Mr. Greeley started his as an uncompromising party paper; Mr. Bennett presented the Herald to the people as an independent paper, the first ever published that was simply an indicator of public opinion bound and gagged by no party.
To Scotland shall we as a nation ever be indebted for one of the greatest journalists of the nineteenth century. When about fifteen years old he entered a Catholic school at Aberdeen expecting to enter the clergy, but after an academic life of two or three years he abandoned the idea. This sudden change was in no small degree influenced by an edition of "Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography" which was published in Edinburgh about this time. He was greatly taken with the spirit of this volume which found sympathy in his thrifty Scotch nature. From the moment he finished this life of Franklin he determined to come to America, and after a short stay in Halifax, and Boston, his stay in each place being attended with great privation, we find him in the year 1822 in the city of New York, and still later he is employed on the Charleston Courier, of Charleston, South Carolina. There his knowledge of Spanish was a benefit, enabling him to translate the Cuban exchanges, and to decipher the advertisements which were sent in that language.
After a few months he returned to New York where he attempted to open a Commercial School. This scheme came to naught, however, and he then tried lecturing on political economy with but moderate success to say the least. He soon saw that these undertakings were not in his sphere, and once more he returned to journalism. He first connected himself with the New York Courier and when that journal became merged into the Enquirer he was chosen associate editor. After this the senior editor, J. Watson Webb, turned square around and began to support the United States Bank which he had so bitterly opposed and fought so vehemently. Young Bennett now withdrew and started a small paper, The Globe, but it was short-lived. He next went to Philadelphia and assumed the principal editorship of the Pennsylvanian. At that time all papers allied themselves to one party or the other.
Mr. Bennett conceived the idea of an independent paper; one which would be bound to no party or ring. He accordingly returned to New York for this purpose. He was very short of funds, and this fact alone would have discouraged most young men; not so with this man. He hired a cellar; two barrels with a board across served as desk on which was an ink-stand and goose quill. The proprietor of these apartments was not only editor and manager, but reporter, cashier, book-keeper, salesman, messenger and office boy. One hour he was writing biting editorials or spicy paragraphs; the next rushing out to report a fire or some other catastrophe, working sixteen to twenty hours per day. He persuaded a young firm to print his paper, and he was thus tided over that difficulty. Most young men would never have undertaken such a task, but what would they have done had they, after embarking in it, been twice burned out and once robbed within the first fifteen months? Such was the experience of Bennett, but as expressed by himself, he raked the Herald from the fire by almost superhuman efforts, and a few months later, when the great fire occurred in Wall street, he went to the scene himself and picked up all kinds of information about the firms burnt out, the daring deeds of the firemen, and anything sensational he did not fail to print. He also went to the unheard of expense of printing a map of the burnt district and a picture of the Produce Exchange on fire. This enterprise cost, but it gave the Herald a boom over all competitors, which it well maintains. It was the first paper that published a daily money article and stock list, and as soon as possible Bennett set up a Ship News establishment consisting of a row-boat manned by three men to intercept all incoming vessels and ascertain their list of passengers and the particulars of the voyage.
Mr. Calhoun's speech on the Mexican war, the first ever sent to any paper by telegraph, was published in the Herald. At one time when his paper wished to precede all rivals in publishing a speech delivered at Washington, for the purpose of holding the wire, Mr. Bennett ordered the telegraph operator to begin and transmit the whole Bible if necessary, but not to take any other message until the speech came. Such enterprise cost, but it paid; and so it has ever been. Seemingly regardless of expense, bureaus of information for the Herald were established in every clime. 'Always ahead' seemed to be the motto of James Gordon Bennett, and surely enterprise was no small factor in the phenomenal success of the Herald. The tone, it has been said, was not always so edifying as that of its contemporaries, the Post and Commercial, still every article was piercing as a Damascus blade. To buy one paper meant to become afterwards one of its customers. It was indeed astonishing what a variety of reading was contained in one of those penny sheets; every thing was fresh and piquant, so different from the old party papers. As originally intended, the Herald has always been independent in politics, although inclined to be Democratic. It supported Fremont and the Republican party, and was one of the staunch war papers.
Mr. Bennett has been described as being stern and disagreeable in his manners. In this we do not fully concur, and in view of the large number of employes who have grown old in his service, we cannot but feel justified in this belief. Horace Greeley and James Gordon Bennett, the two leading New York journalists, but how different. Mr. Greeley had a larger personal following than the Tribune; the Herald had a larger friendship than did Bennett who was the power behind the throne. Journalism lost no lesser light when the great Herald editor passed away June 1st, 1872, than it did six months later when Horace Greeley passed from darkness into light. As Mr. Bennett was a life-long Catholic, he received the last sacrament from the hands of the renowned Cardinal McClosky.
PHINEAS T. BARNUM.
We would not pass by so remarkable a character as that presented to us in the life of P. T. Barnum, a man born of poor parents at Bethel, Connecticut. Like many boys, he picked up pennies driving oxen for his father, but unlike many other boys he would invest these earnings in nick-nacks which he would sell to joyful picknickers on every holiday, thus his pennies increased to dollars. At an early age he was deprived of his father, and began work for himself at six dollars per month. He here saved his money, and afterwards opened a store which proved a successful business venture, especially after he added a lottery scheme. It is interesting to read of the many of our successful men who have drifted from one thing to another until they settled upon some life-work, then there was a hard struggle for victory, which was sure to come, provided they persevered.
In 1835 Barnum heard of a negress in Philadelphia who was reputed to have been the nurse of George Washington, and who it was claimed was 162 years old. Barnum immediately set out for Philadelphia, and succeeded in buying her for $1,000. This was more money than he already had; he, therefore, risked more than he owned, but by judicious advertising he was enabled to draw large houses, bringing the show up to paying $1,500 per week. The next year the negress died, and a post mortem examination proved her to be possibly eighty years old, but Barnum had secured a good start. From this time on, for fifteen years, he was connected with traveling shows, and his museum proved a most profitable enterprise.
In 1842 Mr. Barnum first heard of Mr. Charles Stratton, whom he presented to the world as General Tom Thumb—exhibiting him in both America and Europe.
In 1849, after much correspondence, he secured the sweet singer, Jenny Lind, for one hundred nights, at one thousand dollars per night. His profits on these concerts were simply immense, and he retired from business.
In 1857 it was heralded all over the land that Barnum had failed. It was so; unfortunate speculations had swamped him, and he returned to New York a bankrupt. Without a dollar he bought the Museum again, and in less than a year he succeeded in paying for it. His life henceforth has been full of its ups and downs; twice was he burned out, but as often he came forth in some new role—or rather an improvement on the old.
General Tom Thumb was again taken to Europe. This venture, and his lecture on 'Money Making,' in England, succeeded beyond his most sanguine expectations. Every note was taken up, and he is to-day once more a millionaire. He has been for years the central figure in 'The Greatest Show on Earth,' the expense of which is from four to five thousand dollars a day. But not alone is he great as a showman; his lectures must have made him noted, and he is connected with different other enterprises.
He is a very shrewd man, and is also honest. Think of it! at fifty a ruined man, owing thousands more than he possessed, yet resolutely resuming business life once more—fairly wringing success from adverse fortune, and paying his notes at the same time.
When solicited for money with which to carry on his campaign for Congress, he answered, "God grant that I be defeated, sooner than one grain of gold be so basely used." Such principles are glorious, and upon their perpetuation depends the rise or fall of a Republican form of government. Mr. Barnum's latest sensation, in order to draw crowds, is the consolidation of his great show with that mammoth show formerly belonging to Adam Forepaugh. This caps the climax, the two "Greatest Shows on Earth" united.
Vassar College, five hundred feet long and five stories high, is a monument of which any man might be proud. The founder, Mathew Vassar, was born in England in 1792, and four years later landed in America, settling in Poughkeepsie, on a farm with his parents.
In those days the English people thought that they couldn't live without a yearly supply of home-brewed ale; such a thing being unknown in the quiet community to which they had come. As there was no barley to be had, seed was imported from the mother-country and the family once more enjoyed their favorite beverage. When neighbors called they were, of course, invited to partake, and the fame of Vassar's ale steadily increased, until finally the father concluded to manufacture the ale to sell. Mathew, for some reason, disliked to go into the brewery to work, and the irate father bound him out to a neighboring tanner. However, when the time came for young Vassar to go, lo, he was nowhere to be found.
He fled to Newburg, where he remained four years, learning to keep books, and saving his money. He then returned to his home and, having demonstrated that he could both earn and keep money, was duly installed in his father's establishment as book-keeper. All went well for some time, till at last a fire came, destroying all the property, ruining his father, and worst of all causing his brother's death. The father now returned to a farm, but Mathew determined to retrieve the business. He began business in an old shed. The supply was of necessity small, but it was an A 1. article, and its fame increased, making the ale of Vassar known far and near. From such a beginning the business developed into an immense establishment, with a profitable business, which he carried on for over thirty years, when he retired.
In company with his wife he made an European tour, and on his return resolved to do something with his money for the betterment of society. On the 28th of February, 1861, twenty-eight gentlemen received from Mathew Vassar, a box containing $408,000, in trust, for the establishment of a college for the education of young ladies. The result of their efforts was Vassar Female College, afterwards changed to Vassar College. His entire donations for the establishment and maintenance of this institution of learning amounted to about $800,000. It was the first Female College ever established. His influence will be felt by the numerous generations which will follow him.
JOHN JACOB ASTOR.
Not far from the lovely Heidelberg on the Rhine, is the picturesque village of Walldorf, which is the birth place of John Jacob Astor, who was born in 1763. His father was a peasant, thus it is seen that he had not the advantages of family influence or assistance. He saved what little money he could earn, and at sixteen set out on foot for the sea coast, where he took passage in a vessel for London. He had a brother in that city who was, in a small way, a manufacturer of musical instruments. Here he remained until 1783, when he embarked for America, taking some flutes with him. On the voyage he made the acquaintance of a furrier. This individual he plied with numerous questions, until he was quite familiar with the business, and when he reached America he at once exchanged his flutes for furs, and hastening back to England succeeded in selling them at a fair profit over all expenses.
Having disposed of his business in London, he engaged passage in a ship which did not return for some weeks. In the meantime he purchased a lot of goods which he thought would prove salable in America. He also improved the time in visiting the Governor of the then great East India Company. The Governor was from his native town in Germany, and Astor, making the most of this fact, secured from him a permit to trade at any port subject to the East India Company. When he arrived in New York once more he at once closed a bargain with a West India trader, that gentleman furnishing a ship and cargo, Astor the permit, which was very valuable, as it gained them access to Canton, China, which was closed to all foreigners save the vessels of the East India Company. The terms of this bargain was that each should participate equally in the profits of the voyage, and Astor's share was several barrels of milled dollars, the total profit being about $110,000.
He after this bought ships of his own, and shipped his own merchandise to the East, bringing back cargoes to be sold in the new world. The Government at Washington approved of Astor's proposition to get possession of the fur business of the Interior, controlled at that time by British companies. He succeeded in raising a corporation with $1,000,000 capital, and within a few years Mr. Astor controlled the fur interests of the country. This was back in Jefferson's time when the city of New York was a small village. Astor, with that keen foresight which marked his life's history, had been buying land on Staten Island, and the marvelous growth of the city brought the price of his possessions up to fabulous amounts, and the latter part of his life his whole attention was occupied in taking care of his great blocks of real estate.
While other merchants went to their desks at nine, Astor could always be seen there at prompt seven. He early in life, before leaving his old home on the Rhine, resolved to be honest, to be industrious, and to avoid gambling. Upon this solid moral basis he built the superstructure of his fame and secured his great wealth.
The one great act of John Jacob Astor's life, which must forever keep the name of Astor before the people, is the establishment of the Astor Library by donating for that purpose $400,000, to which have been added large contributions by his son William B., to whom the elder Astor left about $20,000,000. The library contains about two hundred thousand volumes, the catalogue alone contains two thousand five hundred pages alphabetically arranged. The Astors are the principal real estate owners of America.
A hotel that has averaged five hundred and fifty daily arrivals for a dozen years. This naturally awakens interest; where is it? Who built it? How does it look? In answer, we speak of the Palmer House, of Chicago, the 'Palace Hotel of America,' built by Potter Palmer. The building is as nearly fire-proof as any building can be made, and is swarming with servants.
You are accommodated with a room which satisfies your desires financially; and upon entering the dining-room you can choose between the American and European plans. This hotel is, indeed, first-class in every respect. It certainly enjoys the widest reputation as such of any on the continent, and is undoubtedly the finest hotel in America, save possibly the Palace Hotel, in San-Francisco, which is a rival in magnificence.
Mr. Palmer was born near Albany, New York, where he worked summers among the farmers as a day-laborer, and attended the district school winters. This kind of life was maintained until he was nearly nineteen years of age when he entered a store at Durham, New York, as a clerk. Here he allowed nothing to escape his attention and, by industry, coupled with frugality, he was enabled to enter a business on his own account when twenty-one. Mr. Palmer, like all other young men who have risen from poverty to affluence, was constantly alive to the problems of the day; especially did the subject of this narrative watch the indications of progress in his native country.
Being filled with the idea that Chicago was to be the city of America, he in 1852 moved 'West' to that city. Here he opened a dry-goods business which grew to mammoth proportions for those days. After fourteen years of successful trade he retired, investing heavily in real estate. When the great fire came much of his vast gains were swept away, but with that indomitable will and courage which has always characterized his efforts, he succeeded in forming a company which successfully brought to completion the magnificent hotel before mentioned. Probably no man has been more closely identified with the project of improving the streets of Chicago.
When Palmer first entered the city he found it situated in a slough. It was generally supposed that the ground upon which the city was built was a natural swamp, and when Palmer, among others, advocated the idea of raising the streets they were ridiculed. But subsequent tests proved that beneath the surface there was a solid rock bottom, therefore it was impossible for the water to leach through. When this was an established fact, and therefore the grumblers were deprived of this excuse, the cry was raised that the city could not afford it. Against all obstacles the measure was carried, however, and State Street was widened, making it one of the grandest and most 'stately' streets among any that can be found in any city on the entire globe. Indeed, it is difficult to estimate the possible benefit Chicago may have derived, directly or indirectly, through the influence of Potter Palmer.
In a treatise on the Harpers, their life and character, the history of James is the history of the firm. This firm consisted of James, John, Joseph, Wesley and Fletcher; James, as the eldest, laying the foundation of that powerful concern, Harper Brothers, which is the largest and wealthiest publishing house in America.
James Harper was born April 11, 1795. Like many other poor boys who have become wealthy he was the son of a farmer. He early determined to become a printer and, in 1810, was apprenticed to Messrs. Paul & Thomas of the city of New York. He left home to assume this position, the prayers of his parents following him. The last words of his mother bade him remember that there was good blood in him. The printer boy in those days was made a sort of lackey to be ordered about by all hands. Among other duties he had to clean the rollers when they became clogged with ink. The ink would get on his hands and apron, and thence it would reach his face—thus the printer boy with his blackened face earned the sobriquet of 'printer's devil.' James Harper became the 'devil' in this office. There is little doubt but that he often felt discouraged and disposed to give up, but he regarded this position as only a stepping stone to something higher and pleasanter. It was soon observed that such was the case; that James Harper fully expected to one day rise to be himself proprietor; even the street Arabs recognizing that he aspired to higher things. One day as he was passing along the street an audacious newsboy came up to him and gave him a push, while another sneeringly asked him for his card. Seizing the latter by the shoulder he fairly kicked the astonished ruffian half across the square. "There," said he, "is my card, keep it and when you want work come to me, present that card, and I will give you work." This ended all further molestation from this source.
His brother John came to New York in the course of a little more than a year and entered another office, arranging his apprenticeship so that it might end about the same time as did that of his brother James. In time James became one of the leading pressmen in the city, and John was one of the best compositors and proof readers in the country. All through their long apprenticeship they had worked evenings; the surplus thus acquired and not one cent of their day earnings ever went for drink, as was so common in those days. To be temperate in Harper's day required far more exertion than it would at present, as nearly everyone drank then. So while others spent their evenings in saloons drinking, playing pool and billiards, and 'having fun,' these young Harpers were either hard at work putting in extra time, or at home, thus if they did not earn more they saved what they had already earned.
When their time was out they each had a few hundred dollars, and they began business for themselves under the firm-style of J. & J. Harper. They felt their way, at first publishing books only for others. They were industrious, no hand in their employ working harder than the proprietors. Not only were they workers, but they were enterprising. When it was found that the stereotyping consumed much of their profit, they resolved to learn that art and add it to their business. This was no small undertaking; those already in the business were not anxious to set up a rival, as they felt these young men sure to become, but after much trial and vexation the Harpers learned the art, and were therefore better able to carry on their rapidly increasing business. When they had fully become established they ventured out upon a publication of their own. They put out but five hundred for the first edition, taking orders in advance from the booksellers about town. The two other brothers were apprenticed to the firm of J. & J. Harper and, as soon as their time was out, were taken into the firm.
In 1825 the firm-style was changed to Harper & Brothers. One of their business maxims was, "Mutual confidence, industry and application to business." This made the four one man. They ranked as equals in all things, and the history of James Harper is the history of Harper & Brothers. James being the eldest was once asked, "Which is Harper and which the brothers?" He answered, "Either is Harper, the others are the brothers." This was precisely the relation they bore toward each other. In 1853 a workman threw a lighted paper into a tank of benzine which he mistook for water, and property valued at $1,000,000 was destroyed; as their insurance amounted to only about $250,000 their loss was great. This was a terrible blow, but the next day they hired temporary quarters, and the debris was hardly cleared away ere they had bought the ground on which to erect the splendid building they have since occupied. It is a most imposing structure, and is probably the most commodious, and finest building in which to carry on a general book business, in all its branches, in the world; every operation required to produce and publish a book being carried on under one roof. The building is absolutely fire-proof, and is seven stories high. Underneath are long vaults in which their plates are stored.
In 1844 James was elected Mayor of the great city of New York. Mr. Harper was a man of unusual ability, this was recognized by his friends and towns people, but he was at the head of the largest publishing business in the country, and was loth to leave it, therefore he refused to be a candidate for Governor. He was always full of mirth and running over with good humor, but he was business, morning, noon and night. He remained actively engaged in business until he was nearly seventy-five years of age, in fact he was still in business and enjoying good health when he met an untimely death, caused by his horses running away in Central Park, throwing him to the ground and injuring him so badly that he died within forty-eight hours.
He was a devout Methodist, and a class-leader, but used some of the Episcopal forms. He was a worthy example for our youth to imitate in business or religious matters.
In Tewksbury, England, May 24th, 1819, was born a little boy who was destined to become one of the leading manufacturers of the nineteenth century. At fourteen he came to America with his father, who died three days after their arrival here. A poor, homeless orphan, in a strange land—ah! it takes courage to rise from such a beginning. There is little 'luck' in the life of such boys who become wealthy. The poet says:
"The fading flowers of pleasures Spring spontaneous from the soil, But the real harvest's treasure Yields alone to patient toil."
Whether these lines ever caught the eye of Henry Disston or no, we are not able to say; certain it is, however, that he concurred in that belief, for so hard did he work, and so closely did he study the business, that he was made foreman when he was but eighteen.
When his seven long years of apprenticeship was up he arranged with his employer to take his wages in tools. With scarcely any money, he wheeled a barrow load of coal to his cellar where he began to make saws. Saws of American manufacture, were at that time held in poor esteem, and he had a great public prejudice to overcome. But Henry Disston determined to show people that he could compete with foreign goods, and to do this he sometimes sold goods at an advance of only one per cent. He moved to a small room twenty feet square, at the corner of Front and Laurel streets; this was in 1846. In 1849 he was burned out, and before he rebuilt he obtained control of additional land adjoining that which he had occupied, and here built a new factory. Now he began to reap the reward of his early toil and study. He was enterprising, like all successful men, and his inventive genius soon enabled him to get up new designs for teeth to do different kinds of work. He never allowed a poor tool, or an imperfect one, to be shipped from his factory. Consequently a market once gained was easily kept. His enterprise induced him to add a file works to his already large business; in fact, the Keystone Saw Works made a splendid exhibit at the Centennial, showing all kinds of tools made from steel. His works cover hundreds of acres of land, and employ over fifteen hundred hands, while the business extends all over the world.
In March, 1878, this great manufacturer died in Philadelphia. He was a very common man—great wealth did not spoil him, and he could perform with his own hands any part of the work in his immense establishment. This ability to work thorough mastery of the business, which had taken years of patient thought to develop, brought about his splendid success.
Who, indeed, is there who has not heard of Peter Cooper? He was born in the city of New York in 1791. His father was a man who possessed some ability, but was so inconstant that the poor boy received only about six months' schooling, and he received that before he was eight years old.
Reader, think of it; can you make yourself believe that his great riches came through 'good luck'? we will see: His father, being a hatter, little Peter was early employed pulling the hair off the rabbit skins to obtain material with which to make the hats. In the course of time his father moved to Peekskill, and at seventeen Peter resolved to strike out into the world for himself. He returned to his native city and apprenticed himself to the firm of Burtis & Woodward. Here he remained four years where he acquired a thorough mastery of the coach-making trade. In addition to his board he received during his apprenticeship the sum of twenty-five dollars per year with which to clothe himself. Although he had spent four long years learning the trade of coach-making he, for some reason, determined not to make that his calling for life. Accordingly he went to Hempstead, Long Island, and there he met a party who was manufacturing a patent shears for shearing cloth. To this man he engaged himself at $1.50 per day, where he remained until the business became unremunerative, a period of three years. He next turned his attention to the business of making and selling cabinet furniture; at the end of a year he sold out this business, and with his family returned to New York city.
He now entered the grocery business and the next year, seeing his opportunity, leased for a period of nineteen years a piece of land containing a few buildings. He now moved his grocery business into one of these buildings, subletting the others at a profit. His eyes were kept open, and he never let an opportunity slip by to turn an honest penny. There was a glue factory situated not far from his present location. True, it had never paid, and that seemed to be reason enough for all others, but Cooper made a study of the glue business. He satisfied himself that he could make it pay; he thought he could see where the trouble was with the present proprietor, and he bought it out, paying two thousand dollars, cash down, for it. By a progressive study of this new business he soon produced a better article than was made by others, and so materially reduced the price as to drive out foreign competition from the American markets. Of course, he made money, and when he saw that we paid Russia four dollars per pound for isinglass, he studied up on the manufacture of the same, and added that article to his business, and soon was enabled to sell it at less than ONE DOLLAR A POUND. It is needless to say that he succeeded in completely monopolizing the isinglass industry for a long time, and his profit on that one article would have made him a very rich man.
Mr. Cooper was an observing man; he saw and realized that our country was rich in mineral resources; especially was his attention drawn toward the iron deposits in Pennsylvania and neighboring States. He felt that there was big money in that business for the man who early entered the field; he felt that there would be money in it for Peter Cooper. These feelings made him an easy victim to two sharpers who one morning entered his premises and succeeded in getting him to invest $150,000 in a large tract of land, in Maryland, of some three thousand acres. He was told that this land was on a 'boom,' as the Baltimore and Ohio Railway, it was rumored, would soon be completed. The steep grades, however, and sharp curves, made it impossible for engines then known to make the road in safety. Indeed, it seemed that his land speculation was destined to prove a 'White Elephant' on his hands, and, with nine out of ten men it would have so proved, as they would have given up right here. Mr. Cooper set about this problem resolved to solve it. He soon saw that the success of the Baltimore and Ohio was the success of his speculation. The only thing needed to bring this success was an engine that could ascend the grades and turn the curves in safety.
He set to work patiently, and succeeded in inventing an engine that would do what was required of it, he, himself acting as engineer on its trial trip. This and other favorable influences which were brought about through the success of the railroad, 'boomed' his land in dead earnest this time. He next established an iron furnace on the site of his land and burned the wood for charcoal. The land went on up, and when it reached two hundred and thirty dollars per acre he sold out at an immense profit. He still continued in the iron business, and as he was always studying his business, he was the first man to roll out iron beams for fire-proof buildings. His iron industries spread all over Pennsylvania, and the business is to-day carried on by his successors. As is well-known, he was one of the warm supporters of Cyrus W. Field from first to last, extending his aid and sympathy. When the Bank of Newfoundland refused to honor the Cable Company's paper Peter Cooper advanced the much needed funds. While all this business was on his mind his glue and isinglass industry was not in the least neglected. He had removed the works to Long Island, where it assumed mammoth proportions. The profits of this giant combination of business poured the money into his pockets in large streams.
One feature of the great success of Peter Cooper was he always paid cash. But the great life-work of Peter Cooper is embellished with one gem that is perpetually bright. We speak of Cooper Union. In 1854 the ground was cleared, the plans made and the work begun. This institution cost Cooper about eight hundred thousand dollars. It is deeded as a trust, with all its rents and profits, to the instruction and profit of the poor working people of New York city. Mr. Cooper himself thus describes his motives: "The great object that I desire to accomplish by the erection of this institution is to open the avenues of scientific knowledge to the youth of our city and country, and so unfold the volume of nature that the youth may see the beauties of creation, enjoy its blessings and learn to love the Author from whom cometh every good and perfect gift." Could any sentiment be more beautiful? Could any motive be more worthy of imitation than this?
He was a Democrat and a member of Tammany Hall, but toward the latter part of his life he became a leader of the Greenback party, being a candidate for President on that ticket. He had good habits and was always occupied with business. Two children are living, Edward, and a daughter who married Mr. A. S. Hewitt. The son and son-in-law have each been mayor of their city. There was great mourning in New York city on April 4th, 1883, when it was learned that Peter Cooper was dead. But man liveth not to himself, his memory and influence will be felt by the countless generations which will follow after his death. Certain it is those who are benefited by the aid of "Cooper Union" will not forget their benefactor.
"There is a wide difference between men, but truly it lies less in some special gift or opportunity vouchsafed to one and withheld from another,—less in that than in the differing degree in which these common elements of human power are owned and used. Not how much talent have I, but how much will to use the talent that I have, is the main question. Not how much do I know, but how much do I do with what I know?"
On October 25th, 1806, in a an humble farmer's home, was born a boy; that boy was George Law. For eighteen summers he lived contentedly on his father's farm, but a stray volume, containing a story of a certain farmer boy who left home to seek his fortune, and after years of struggle returned rich, caught his eye, and young Law determined to go and do likewise. His education was meager, but he had mastered Daboll's Arithmetic.
Having decided that he could not follow the occupation of his father, he set at work to raise the amount he deemed necessary to carry him to success. By exercising great frugality in his already simple mode of living, he managed to save forty dollars, and at the age of eighteen he set out on foot for Troy, New York, thirty-six miles distant. Putting up at the cheapest hotel he could find, he immediately went out in search of employment, which he soon found, beginning as a hod-carrier. He next obtained employment as a helper, laying brick and 'picking up points,' soon obtained employment as a mason at $1.75 per day.
But George Law did not mean to always be a day-laborer, he observed everything closely, and books were freely bought that would help him to a better understanding of his business. Seven long years of day-laboring, then he became a sub-contractor, then a contractor. His first efforts in this capacity was building bridges in various parts of Pennsylvania and although it has been said that he could not spell correctly any word in the English language, of three syllables, yet, so carefully were his plans laid that on every contract that he took he cleared money. He put in a bid for three sections of the Croton Aqueduct, and succeeded in obtaining the work on two of them. High Bridge was afterwards awarded to him, among a host of competitors, and was completed in ten years' time from its beginning. These two contracts alone had made him a millionaire, but his active mind could not rest.
He first turned his attention to bank stocks. Next he became interested in the horse railway system of New York city. He bought the Staten Island Ferry, ran it five years, and sold out. He was also much interested in steam ships. Nearly all these ventures proved profitable, and at his death his estate amounted to about $15,000,000. He was a giant in size, being over six feet tall, and his mind compared favorably with his stature. His whole energies were concentrated on money-getting and, of course, he succeeded. It has been said that he walked until he could ride, and lived humbly until his wealth would more than warrant his living on Fifth Avenue. He carried the hod until he found better work, and never left one position until he had found a better one, no matter what his real or supposed provocation might be. He lived to return home, as did the boy of whom he early read, and established his father comfortably on a farm which he had bought for him.
DARIUS O. MILLS.
In Westchester county, New York, was born one bright September day, in 1825, Darius O. Mills. True, it is, that his parents were somewhat well-to-do people, but Darius O. Mills would have become a wealthy man had he been born in poverty.
If a man determines to succeed and has a perceptive mind to see opportunities, if he relies on no one but himself, and follows this up by hard, persistent work, he will succeed. If he does not he is lacking in some other vital point, but we have never yet read the life of any man who possessed these qualities but that he was a success. What one has done another can do under the same conditions and circumstances. For some time he was casting about to find his calling, and finally determined to become a banker. In this sphere he has proven himself a phenomenon. His talent for money-making was early apparent, and he was appointed cashier of a bank in Buffalo when only twenty-one. Now it must not be imagined that Darius O. Mills was picked up indiscriminately and placed in so responsible a position. Things do not come by chance. It is evident the case under consideration did not happen through 'good luck.' He was a young man of unusual ability, of which he has always made the most. The bank flourished and at twenty-three he resigned and, taking what money he had, he was soon on his way to California. He did not go there to dig gold. Darius O. Mills knew that gold was the object of nearly every one who went; he also knew that the people must live; he perceived the chance to make a fortune as a merchant. Like any man who will succeed, he acted at once. In 1849 he settled in San Francisco, opening trade with the miners.
In the course of a few years he became immensely rich through very successful trade and, as he was about to retire from active business, the Bank of California was projected. This he materially aided into existence, and as he was recognized as one of the ablest financiers in the city, he was chosen its first President. So well did he manage its affairs that it soon became the leading banking institution in the country, wielding an immense power in the financial world. He remained at its head for nine years when his private fortune had assumed such mammoth proportions that it demanded his immediate attention, he therefore resigned in 1873.
In 1875 his successor, William G. Ralston, was asked to resign and the bank suspended. Mr. Ralston was a splendid man, but had been somewhat unwise in placing the bank's money, and thus the failure was brought about. At a meeting of the directors it was decided to ask for the resignation of the President. Mr. Mills was the person selected to convey the intelligence of the result of the meeting to Mr. Ralston and this he did. Mr. Mills, much against his personal desire, once more assumed the presidency of the bank, and after three years he once more resigned to attend to his private affairs; leaving the bank in a flourishing condition. Possibly no man in America is better capable of handling large sums of money, to bring not only large returns, but to handle the money safely.
In 1880 he turned his attention toward the East, moving his family to Fifth Avenue, New York city. His large business block, the Mills Building, ten stories high, fitted up for offices containing three hundred in all, is a magnificent structure. His wealth is very great, being estimated at from fifteen to twenty millions of dollars. He has established on the Pacific slope, at a cost of about two hundred thousand dollars, a seminary for young ladies.
He has also presented a beautiful piece of statuary to the State of California. It is a magnificent gift, representing Columbus at the court of Isabella. He has given numerous costly presents to institutions and relatives. Among the shrewd far-sighted men of the country few are more distinguished than is Darius Ogdon Mills.
Stephen Girard was born in Bordeaux, France, May 24th, 1750. He lived in an age when avenues of business were utilized by the rich. A poor boy had little chance of being other than a poor man. Not only was the subject of this sketch born to poverty, but he also inherited a deformity which made him the butt of ridicule among his vulgar companions. His childhood was made up of neglect which developed a cold, distant nature. He is generally described as a loveless old man, but his biographers seem to forget the influences that surrounded his childhood. Such were the opportunities enjoyed by Girard; such the chance offered to him, but he held that a man's best capital was "industry," and this seemed to have been his main idea to the last; as he willed but little property to his relatives, and but little to any one individual.
He sailed as cabin boy at the age of twelve, and by following a line of fidelity, industry and temperance, gained the esteem and confidence of the captain who gradually learned to call him "My Stephen," and at his death placed him in command of a small vessel. He became a resident of Philadelphia, and owned a farm a short distance out of the city. When he visited this farm he rode in an old gig drawn by a scrawny horse; when he arrived he fell to work like any common hand, and labored as though his very subsistence depended on it. This is an illustration showing the secret of his success in life. He was familiar with every detail, in every department of his business; no matter what part of his business he went to oversee he was no novice.
With Stephen Girard nothing came by chance. He was a self-taught man, having but little education so far as books go; but in the great school of actual business he received a diploma, and to this was afterwards added several complimentary degrees earned after his graduation. He never ceased to be a progressive man. A large range of stores were for sale in the city of Philadelphia at a great sacrifice; these Girard would have been glad to buy but he lacked sufficient funds; seeing it beyond his means to buy safely, he leased them for a term of years and then sublet them at an immense profit.
How few young men have the necessary enterprise to gain for themselves success. Girard had both enterprise and energy; it is not at all surprising that he succeeded. And this was not all; of whatever he undertook he had thoroughly mastered the details, hence was prepared for success and made money; that money he saved. Ah! that is three-fourths of the secret. Most young men earn enough but foolishly throw it away on unnecessaries.
If Girard owed a man a cent he could rest assured that he would get it; if a man owed him there was much trouble in the way for that man if he attempted to evade the payment. He was just to all men and just to himself and family. There is another feature in the history of Girard that is worthy of imitation; that is he kept abreast, yea, ahead of the times,—he made a study of the various problems of his day.
He saw that the United States Bank was daily growing less popular, and he saw that it must go down in the near future. He had prospered in his shipping business, and seeing here a grand opportunity he began to study up on banking preparatory to taking the bank. Reader, think of this kind of enterprise. His friends might think such a thing visionary; the best financier might pass the opportunity by, but this man knew that the United States Bank had a vast patronage, and he also knew that the man who stepped into its business would have every reason to expect success. He at once set about to buy a controlling interest in the stock. When the bank was discontinued it was found that he had not only secured a controlling interest in the stock, but had gained possession of the bank building itself. While his friends were predicting his ruin he had bought $1,200,000 worth of stock and, by so doing, had stepped into the largest banking business of the Republic.
Does one of my readers for one moment allow himself to believe that Stephen Girard was a lucky man? Was it 'good luck' that placed Girard at one move at the head of American financiers? As is well known a great panic followed Jackson's administration, and, of a whole nation, Stephen Girard seems to have been the only prosperous man. His capital stock soon became $4,000,000. In this capacity he was enabled to aid his Government much, in fact to save it from ruin in the terrible crash of 1837.
Stephen Girard was bent upon getting rich and yet, while he is generally regarded as a cold money-getter, still he had a heart, a tender heart, locked up within that cold exterior. While the terrible plague, yellow fever, raged in Philadelphia with a violence never before known in American history, and while many others fled the city, Stephen Girard remained and nursed the dying,—performing with his own hands the most loathesome duties, and giving most liberally of his wealth toward the fund for the suppression of the disease.
A young man, who was a protege of Girard, was one day called to the private office of that gentleman, when the following dialogue took place: "Well, you are now twenty-one, and should begin to think of a life-work." The young man who thought perhaps Girard was going to set him up in some business, said, "What would you do if in my place, Mr. Girard?" Imagine his astonishment when Mr. Girard replied, "I should learn some trade." The young man, who was built of the right material, said, "Very well, I will learn the cooper's trade." In the course of a few years he received a letter from Mr. Girard ordering the best barrel that he could make with his own hands. When done it was delivered. The young man was thunderstruck when, after a thorough inspection by Girard, he received a check for $20,000; the reader can draw the moral.
Time fled, the 26th of December, 1831, came, and with it the death of this man. At his death he possessed about $9,000,000, not a large fortune compared with those of the rich men of our day, but a colossal sum for his day. For all practical purposes it is just as great and useful as one hundred millions.
When his will was read it was found that he had left to the Pennsylvania institute for deaf and dumb, $20,000; to the Orphan Asylum of Philadelphia, $10,000; for fuel for the poor of Philadelphia, $10,000; to the Philadelphia Public Schools, $10,000; to the Society for the Relief of the Distressed Masters of Ships, $10,000; to the Masonic Loan, $20,000; to the city of Philadelphia, $500,000; and to the State of Pennsylvania, $300,000. There were other bequests, the largest of which was $2,000,000, with which to found a college for orphan boys who were to be taken between the ages of fourteen and eighteen. He left minute directions pertaining to the construction and other details, showing even at this time that carefulness, which characterized his life's history. The main building is said to be the finest specimen of Grecian architecture in the world,—it surely is the finest in America. "Contemplating the humility of his origin, and contrasting therewith the variety and extent of his works and wealth, the mind is filled with admiration of the man."
What a pleasure it is to read the lives of such men as Moses Taylor. He began life as a clerk and died worth $50,000,000; but it is not alone for his wealth that we take such an interest in Moses Taylor, but the good he did with it, and the example he set moneyed men.
Born in New York, January 11th, 1808, he served a clerkship of ten long years, when he started business on his own account. The cholera raged that year in that city; consequently all business suffered, many fled from their homes but young Taylor stood by his new enterprise, and even the first year cleared some money. Three years later he was burned out, but while the smouldering brands lay at his feet he arranged to erect a new building to stand on the same spot, and the next day opened a store in his dwelling house. Of course such enterprise would win in the end; when he was called to the presidency of the city bank no one seemed surprised for when a man has ability it is not necessary for him to tell it—he becomes a marked personage. The success that attended his efforts in this new capacity is shown from the following:
In the great panic of 1857 a meeting of the various bank presidents was called. When asked what percentage of specie had been drawn during the day some replied fifty per cent., some even as high as seventy five per cent. but Moses Taylor replied, "We had in the bank this morning, $400,000; this evening, $470,000." While other banks were badly 'run,' the confidence in the City Bank under his management was such that evidently people had drawn from other banks and deposited in the City Bank. He was Treasurer of the Transatlantic Cable, being one of its most ardent supporters from 1854 until long after it had became established.
He was a most conspicuous 'War Democrat,' taking an early stand as to the duty of all bankers. Probably no one man, save possibly Jay Cook, did more to sustain the credit of the North in those trying times than did Moses Taylor. He became interested in the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western railway, and the mines in the coal regions of Pennsylvania. In 1873 he became President of the Lackawanna Iron and Coal Co. He also became largely interested in the Manhattan Gas Co., out of which alone he made a respectable fortune. When he died he left a very large sum of money for the purpose of building a hospital at Scranton. The need of this hospital was very urgent, as accidents were continually happening to the miners in their dangerous work. The building is not only a splendid edifice but it fills a long-felt want.
Such a man was Moses Taylor who died May 23rd, 1882. Few such men have we, would that there were more. Moses Taylor was a practical man, he cared more for business than for any amusement. Art was of far less account with him than were the suffering miners who had no place to stretch their bleeding forms until he came to their aid.
WILLIAM C. RALSTON.
William C. Ralston, a synonym for goodness, was born at Wellsville, Ohio, January 15th, 1820. He drifted to California, being one of the first to pass through the Golden Gate. Here he remained for twenty-five years, becoming the most noted man in the State, having prospered wonderfully.
It has been truly said of him that he did more than any other one man to secure a good municipal government for San Francisco. Aiding with his money weak industries, he did much to elevate the tone of a class of people consisting of almost every nationality—the miners. The struggling young man had nothing but sympathy extended him from this great philanthropist; indeed, his great desire seemed to be, what can I do for my less fortunate fellow-man. He was elected President of the Bank of California, to succeed Mr. Mills. This bank had a credit all over the globe. It was the greatest financial power in the Republic. Such was its standing in the financial world when Mr. Mills delivered the bank over to Mr. Ralston. Mr. Ralston was a great and good man, but his desire to benefit and aid others led him to place out the bank's money too freely; hence, when Mr. Flood made his sudden and unlooked for call for over $5,000,000, the amount of his deposit, it was useless for the bank to try to raise it at once, as it could not be done, notwithstanding the bank had ample resources, if they had only been available. Mr. Flood, it seemed to us, need not have pressed his claim when he knew that the bank could pay him soon. It is claimed by some that he chose this method to cripple the Bank of California to the advantage of his Nevada Bank. Be this as it may, Mr. Ralston unwisely allowed his tender heart to be touched too deeply, and thus placed the bank in a weak position to meet such a crisis. A meeting of the directors was immediately called, and it was decided to ask the President for his resignation which, together with his household effects, he promptly tendered. This was a terrible blow to him, and it may be the officials were somewhat hasty. On the 27th of August he went down to the beach, put on his bathing suit, drank something from a bottle (it is alleged), dived into the waves, was carried far out and was never again seen alive.
As the people gazed on his lifeless body they began to realize what a loss they had sustained. Threats of vengeance were heard on every hand, which made it seem best for the founders of the rival Nevada Bank to abstain from being seen in their usual haunts. A public meeting was called, and long before the appointed time to begin the business of the meeting the public hall where it was held was packed, and thousands were unable to get in. One orator addressed those in the hall while the dense mass outside, who were unable to get in, were divided and addressed by two speakers. The several charges against him were in turn taken up, and either proven false or shown to be justified by the excited populace. The following resolution expressive of the irreparable loss the city had sustained, was presented.
Resolved, "That in reviewing the life of the deceased. William C. Ralston, we recognize one of the first citizens of San Francisco, the master spirit of her industries, the most bounteous giver to her charities, the founder of her financial credit, and the warm supporter of every public and private effort to augment her prosperity and welfare. That to his sagacity, activity, and enterprise, San Francisco owes much of her present material prosperity, and in his death has sustained an irreparable loss. That in his business conceptions he was a giant, in social life an unswerving friend, and in all the attributes of his character he was a man worthy of love and trust." When "All those in favor of this say aye," was called, the answer came like the sound of heavy artillery, and not a solitary 'No' was heard in that vast crowd.
Rev. T. K. Noble said, "The aim of his life was not to pull down but to build up. What enterprise can you mention looking to the betterment of material interests in which he did not have part? In the building of railroads, in the establishment of lines of steamships to Australia, to China, to Japan; in the manufacture of silk; in the Pacific Woolen Mills, the Bay Sugar Refinery, the West Coast Furniture Manufactory; and in those superb buildings, the Grand and Palace hotels; and in many other enterprises I have not time to mention. Into each and all of these he put his money and his brains." This was expressive of much, and it very clearly represented the general impression of the people throughout his State. He gave not only his money, but his sympathy.
People of the East who know of him principally as a man of great wealth cannot conceive an idea of such a man,—indeed they have none such among them. He was the moral phenomenon of modern times. The people of his State all love him, and there are those to-day who are struggling in various enterprises who can look to no one now for help, who like to tell of the time 'when they could have gone to 'Frisco and seen Ralston about it.' What a tribute is this; when we think of a man who regarded money only as a means to do good, and who seemed a special Providence to all in need. We look upon this picture and we see him happy only in giving; but we turn and our hearts bleed in sympathy when we behold him torn from his position, the victim of avariciousness and envy, which to all appearance is the immediate cause of his untimely death. But there is another thought here; he should have been very cautious in placing money where it could not be brought into immediate use in such an emergency.
Great was the feeling at his burial. Three regiments, cavalry, artillery, and the National Guard, escorted his remains to their last resting place. After several years Mrs. Ralston received back over $100,000, and is therefore comfortable. We shall forever mourn the death of such men, and ever regard and cherish their memory as among the dearest in American history.
A long time ago a little boy who was poorly dressed, but had an honest face, was passing a country tavern in Vermont; night was fast approaching, and he looked tired and hungry; seeing which, the landlord, who had a kind heart, generously offered him supper and a nights' lodging free. This he refused to accept, but said, "If you please, I will cut wood enough to pay my way." This was accepted by the landlord, and thus the affair passed. Fifty years later he passed the same tavern as George Peabody, the great London banker.
The above self-reliant nature was illustrative of the man. It is always interesting to learn how great fortunes were made. Nothing is so fascinating as success, and the momentous question relative to every great man is: "How did he begin?" George Peabody began life in Danvers, Massachusetts, February 18th, 1795. He was born of humble parents and the public schools of his native town furnished him his education. At the age of eleven he became a clerk in a grocery store where he remained four years, when he went to Newburyport to become a dry-goods salesman. By cultivating a loving disposition he gained friends wherever he went, and, of course, thus gained a confidence which he otherwise never would have known. For this reason he gained his first letter of credit which enabled him to buy his first consignment of goods without advancing the money for them.
As we review the various great and influential men we cannot but notice how many, out of the total number, cultivated a pleasing manner. Certain it is, to pleasing manners and ability owed he his success; without either he could not have succeeded. Without the generous heart he possessed he could never have won the great honor that he enjoyed, for great wealth alone could not bring such honor. He was a notable moral phenomenon. Of all the great and rich men of whom we are aware, none gave as liberally as did he. Reader, think of it; a poor boy who became one of the greatest bankers of his time, and who, during his life, gave over eight millions of dollars to charity. Many of our rich men have willed much to charity, but he gave while living.
He went to Georgetown, District of Columbia, and entered into a partnership with an uncle, the firm-style being Riggs & Peabody. They were wonderfully successful, and soon established branches in Philadelphia and New York. In 1829 Mr. Riggs retired from actual work, the firm-style becoming Peabody, Riggs & Co. Time passed on, the business grew, and in 1837 he went to London, soon after establishing the banking house of George Peabody & Co. He made banking his study and kept thoroughly posted on financial matters. At about this time the great panic occurred in America, and at a great risk of losing his fortune he bought Maryland securities. But George Peabody knew what he was about; he was thoroughly posted and was capable of managing a banking business. By his influence with the Bank of England, he soon became recognized as the man who had saved Maryland from bankruptcy.
He now began to dispense the great fortune with which God had so bountifully blessed him. In 1851 he supplied a large sum, so much needed, to make a success of the great Worlds Fair in London. In 1851 he gave $10,000 toward the second Grennell expedition, and the same year the people of his native town, Danvers, invited his presence at an anniversary. He could not personally attend, but sent them $20,000 to be applied toward education. In 1857 he gave the city of Baltimore $300,000 to found a college, and afterward added to this magnificent sum $200,000 more. In 1866 he added still $500,000 more, and later yet $400,000 more, making $1,400,000 in all he gave to this one institution, which is called Peabody Institute. He gave nearly $3,500,000 toward the fund to educate the poor of the South. He gave Yale and Harvard college each $150,000; to Phillips Academy $25,000; to Peabody Academy $140,000; to the Memorial Church in Georgetown $100,000; to Peabody Academy $250,000; and numerous other contributions in America.
In London he established a fund of $3,000,000 with which to build homes for the poor of that great city. The Queen acknowledged this in a private letter, and presented him with her portrait painted on ivory and set in jewels, valued at $255,000. She also offered to make him a Baron, but this he respectfully declined.
He resembled the late A. T. Stewart in some respects. No gold chain ever hung from his watch, and when he wore studs or other ornaments they were never more costly than pearl. He detested show. Altogether during his life he gave away over eight millions of dollars, and at his death left a fortune of over four millions. Had he saved his money and manipulated it like many of our great millionaires have done, we doubt not he would have died worth perhaps twenty or thirty millions.
He, however, had gained not only worldly success, but true success, for when he died in 1869, both of the great English speaking nations united to do him honor. He was at first laid in Westminister Abbey among the dead kings and queens. After this her Majesty's ship Monarch bore his remains to America to be buried in Danvers. The respect in which he is held by the people of that town is shown when we know that they have since changed the name of their town to Peabody. He left an imperishable crown containing pearls which cannot be stolen. They are set in homes for the poor, libraries for every one, schools for the young, and other securities which are safely stored in the hearts of a grateful people. Ah! we are thoughtful after reading the life of such a man.
WILLIAM W. CORCORAN.
The veteran philanthropist, William W. Corcoran, was born in 1798. He began his business career in Georgetown, but for many years he has been a resident of Washington. At twenty he went into business for himself, beginning as an auctioneer. After several years of successful business he was obliged to suspend, during the depressed times of 1838.
After this he was married to the beautiful daughter of Commodore Morris, of the United States Navy, much to the disgust of that gentleman, who little dreamed what an illustrious son-in-law Mr. Corcoran was destined to become. Some years of hard struggle followed, but at last it was found that he had won for himself a somewhat extended reputation as a financier, which gained for him a partnership with the successful banker, Riggs. This firm began to deal in United States Government securities, which were then at a low ebb abroad. Being a boy friend of George Peabody, the great London banker, his firm was enabled to materially aid the Government in its financial straits during the Mexican war. As the firm prospered, Mr. Corcoran became wealthy, and this money he laid out in Washington real estate, the rapid rise of which made him a millionaire. As Mr. Corcoran prospered he began to think of those old debts. When he had failed he secured favorable terms with his creditors, and legally was not bound for one cent, but he recognized a higher obligation than law made by man: hunting up all those old customers, creditors of his, he paid them not only the principal, but the interest that had been accumulating all these years. By this one act we gain a glimpse of the inner heart and impulses of this great and good man.
Thousands of dollars found their way into the hands of charity, but then his desire to aid and gratify humanity was not satisfied.
On May 10th, 1869, the grounds and institution for the Corcoran Art Gallery was deeded to trustees, and later was incorporated by Congress, being exempted forever from taxation. The gallery is situated directly opposite the State, War, and Navy buildings. It has a frontage of one hundred and six feet; is built of fine, pressed brick; and is one of the most attractive buildings in the whole City of Washington. The whole building cost $250,000, and the donor placed therein his own private collection of paintings and statuary, valued at $100,000. Not satisfied with this he has added an endowment fund of $500,000. Many rare and beautiful works of art have been purchased abroad, as well as American works of rare value. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays the gallery is free; on alternate days an admission of twenty-five cents is charged. When it is considered how many there are who would naturally take advantage of the free days, and then that the annual income is over $75,000, one can form some idea of the attractiveness of this institution. Mr. Corcoran's desire was to elevate the American taste in the finer arts, and the thousands of visitors which the institution attracts, indicates to what an extent he has succeeded. The lower floor is devoted to statues and to the exhibition of sculpture. The second floor is occupied by several hundred rare and costly paintings, representing the advance of art during the past centuries. The gallery is, probably, all things considered, the finest of the kind in the country.
Another institution of wide celebrity is the Louisa Home, founded by Mr. Corcoran in 1871. It is a magnificent building, conspicuously situated in the most fashionable part of the city, the West End. This is a most worthy institution, designed for ladies who have been reduced from affluence to poverty, affording them a home where they can mingle with a class of people congenial to their refined natures. This building is a beautiful brick structure, four stories high, erected at a cost of $200,000. Visitors are welcome every afternoon.
These are only two of the many gifts and enterprises which originated with the venerable banker. George Peabody and William Corcoran were boys together; how similar their lives have been. Would that there were more Corcorans, more Peabodys. Mr. Corcoran has given several millions to charity and art; how we envy him—not for his wealth, but his reputation, or better, would that we could do as much good in the world as did these two great men.
NATHAN MAYER ROTHSCHILD.
Who indeed is there who has not heard of the Rothschilds? But how few there are who know much of them save that they are the richest bankers in the whole world. The subject of this sketch was the richest and most noted of five brothers. The father, Mayer Anselm Rothschild, sprung from a poor Jewish family, and was a clerk in Hanover before establishing himself at Frankfort. At Hanover it is claimed that his integrity and ability became so marked in every position to which he was called that the attention of the Government was called thereto.
After the great French victory of Jena, Napoleon decreed that the Governor of Hesse-Cassel should have his lands and property confiscated. The order was no sooner given than a French army was on its way to carry the edict into effect. The Elector William, before his flight from Hesse-Cassel, deposited with the father of the subject of this sketch $5,000,000, without interest, for safe keeping. There was no luck about this; it was a most difficult undertaking at that time. Any one who had been found with this money would have lost his life. For Rothschild to invest it so that he could make money from its use was his object; to do so safely and secretly required a good business tact. The Elector, it is said, studied sometime before he decided to whom he could intrust this vast sum during his absence. Thus it is seen that as Rothschild came of poor parents, and was simply a clerk. It was not so much luck in his case as strict integrity and the determination he manifested to master everything he undertook. This Rothschild had five sons, and by the aid of these, through different bankers, he succeeded by good management to lay a foundation upon which has been built that colossal fortune which the sons have accumulated. This money, belonging to the Elector, they had the benefit of until 1828, when the whole was paid over to the heirs of the original owner with two per cent. interest for a portion of the time. Of the five brothers, Anselm was situated at Frankfort, Solomon at Vienna, Charles at Naples, James at Paris, and Nathan at London. The two ablest financiers were James and Nathan, and of these two Nathan was the superior. His son was the first Jew that ever sat in the English Parliament. It has been said that the fundamental rule of this great banking-house was "To sell when people desired to buy, and buy when people wished to sell." It is related of Nathan Mayer Rothschild that, all day long, at the battle of Waterloo, he hung about the skirts of the two armies, waiting to see how the battle turned. Toward night of that memorable day, the clouds of smoke lifting, revealed the French army in full and disastrous retreat. Rothschild took in the situation at once. True to his instincts, he saw in that awful carnage only the shimmer of his gold. Chance had overcome the most heroic valor, the most stubborn resistance, the best laid plans, and once more declared in the Hebrew's favor. He dashed into Brussels, whence a carriage in waiting whirled him into Ostend. At dawn he stood on the Belgian coast, against which the sea was madly breaking. He offered five, six, eight, ten hundred francs to be carried over to England. The mariners feared the storm; but a bolder fisherman, upon promise of twenty-five hundred francs, undertook the hazardous voyage. Before sunset Rothschild landed at Dover; and engaging the swiftest horses, rode with the wind to London. What a superb special correspondent he would have made! The merchants and bankers were dejected; the funds were depressed; a dense fog hung over the city; English spirits had sunk to their lowest ebb. On the morning of the 20th, the cunning and grasping Nathan appeared at the Stock Exchange, an embodiment of gloom. He mentioned, confidentially, of course, to his familiar that Blucher, at the head of his vast army of veterans, had been defeated by Napoleon, at Ligny, on the 16th and 17th, and there could be no hope for Wellington, with his comparatively small and undisciplined force. This was half true, and like all half-truths, was particularly calculated to deceive. Rothschild was a leader among trading reynards. His doleful whisper spread as the plague—poisoning faith everywhere. The funds tumbled like an aerolite. Public and private opinion wilted before the simoon of calamitous report. It was 'Black Friday' anticipated in Lombard Street. The crafty Israelite bought, through his secret agents, all the consols, bills, and notes, for which he could raise money.
Not before the afternoon of the 21st—nearly forty eight hours after the battle—did the news of Wellington's victory reach London through the regular channels. Rothschild was at the Exchange half an hour before the glad tidings were made public, and imparted them to a crowd of greedy listeners. The Bourse was buoyant. Everything went up more rapidly than it had gone down. England was happy—as well she might be—for she had stumbled into the greatest triumph in her history. When bankers and merchants shook hands with the Hebrew speculator, they noticed—though they did not understand—an unusual warmth of pressure. It was not rejoicing with the nation; it was the imaginary clutch of six millions more of gold. Thus it is seen that the great wealth of the Rothschild was not always used to the best advantage of mankind as a Christian would argue; but a promise given by a Rothschild was as good as his note.