GREAT FORTUNES, AND HOW THEY WERE MADE
Or, The Struggles and Triumphs of Our Self-Made Men
JAMES D. MCCABE, JR.,
Author of Planting the Wilderness, etc., etc.
Numerous Illustrations from Original Designs by G. F. & E. B. Bensell
"MAN, it is not thy works, which are mortal, infinitely little, and the greatest no greater than the least, but only the spirit thou workest in, that can have worth or continuance."—CARLYLE.
George Maclean, Philadelphia, New York and Boston Electrotyped at the Franklin Type Foundry, Cincinnati
"The physical industries of this world have two relations in them: one to the actor, and one to the public. Honest business is more really a contribution to the public than it is to the manager of the business himself. Although it seems to the man, and generally to the community, that the active business man is a self-seeker, and although his motive may be self-aggrandizement, yet, in point of fact, no man ever manages a legitimate business in this life, that he is not doing a thousand-fold more for other men than he is trying to do even for himself. For, in the economy of God's providence, every right and well organized business is a beneficence and not a selfishness. And not less is it so because the merchant, the mechanic, the publisher, the artist, think merely of their profit. They are in fact working more for others than they are for themselves."
HENRY WARD BEECHER.
The chief glory of America is, that it is the country in which genius and industry find their speediest and surest reward. Fame and fortune are here open to all who are willing to work for them. Neither class distinctions nor social prejudices, neither differences of birth, religion, nor ideas, can prevent the man of true merit from winning the just reward of his labors in this favored land. We are emphatically a nation of self-made men, and it is to the labors of this worthy class that our marvelous national prosperity is due.
This being the case, it is but natural that there should be manifested by our people a very decided desire to know the history of those who have risen to the front rank of their respective callings. Men are naturally cheered and encouraged by the success of others, and those who are worthy of a similar reward will not fail to learn valuable lessons from the examples of the men who have preceded them.
With the hope of gratifying this laudable desire for information, and encouraging those who are still struggling in the lists of fame and fortune, I offer this book to the reader. I have sought to tell simply and truthfully the story of the trials and triumphs of our self-made men, to show how they overcame where others failed, and to offer the record of their lives as models worthy of the imitation of the young men of our country. No one can hope to succeed in life merely by the force of his own genius, any more than he can hope to live without exerting some degree of influence for good or evil upon the community in which his lot is cast. Success in life is not the effect of accident or of chance: it is the result of the intelligent application of certain fixed principles to the affairs of every day. Each man must make this application according to the circumstances by which he is surrounded, and he can derive no greater assistance or encouragement in this undertaking than by informing himself how other men of acknowledged merit have succeeded in the same departments of the world's industry. That this is true is shown by the fact that many of the most eminent men attribute their great achievements to the encouragement with which the perusal of the biographies of others inspired them at critical periods of their careers. It is believed that the narrations embraced in these pages afford ample instruction and entertainment to the young, as well as food for earnest reflection on the part of those who are safely advanced upon their pathway to success, and that they will prove interesting to all classes of intelligent readers.
Some explanation is due to the reader respecting the title that has been chosen for the work. The term "Great Fortunes" is not used here to designate pecuniary success exclusively. A few of the men whose lives are herein recorded never amassed great wealth. Yet they achieved the highest success in their vocations, and their lives are so full of interest and instruction that this work must have been incomplete and unsatisfactory had they been passed over in silence. The aim of the writer has been to present the histories of those who have won the highest fame and achieved the greatest good in their respective callings, whether that success has brought them riches or not, and above all, of those whose labors have not only opened the way to fortune for themselves, but also for others, and have thus conferred lasting benefits upon their country.
In short, I have sought to make this work the story of the Genius of America, believing as I do that he whose achievements have contributed to the increase of the national wealth, the development of the national resources, and the elevation of the national character, though he himself be poor in purse, has indeed won a great fortune, of which no reverse can ever deprive him.
J.D. McC., JR.
NEW YORK, 24th October, 1870.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
CONSTERNATION AT SIGHT OF FULTON'S MONSTER (Frontispiece) GIRARD COLLEGE GIRARD'S HEROISM ASTOR'S FIRST TRIP FOR FURS "MY MEN SHALL NOT SUFFER" PORTRAIT OF GEORGE PEABODY PEABODY PAYING FOR A NIGHT'S LODGING PORTRAIT OF CORNELIUS VANDERBILT VANDERBILT EARNING HIS FIRST HUNDRED DOLLARS VANDERBILT CARRYING OFF THE SHERIFF FOUNDING A GREAT FORTUNE PORTRAIT OF ROBERT FULTON AN AMAZING REVELATION "THE MADHOUSE IS THE PROPER PLACE FOR HIM" WHITNEY WATCHING THE FIRST COTTON-GIN PORTRAIT OF ELIAS HOWE, JR. HOWE'S FIRST IDEA OF THE SEWING-MACHINE THE BOY COLT INVENTING THE REVOLVER PORTRAIT OF SAMUEL F.B. MORSE HOW THE NEW YORK HERALD BEGAN MARSHALL'S DEFENCE OF CHRISTIANITY PORTRAIT OF JAMES T. BRADY "THEY ARE GOING TO HANG MY BROTHER; YOU CAN SAVE HIM!" THE TRUANT'S SECRET DISCOVERED PORTRAIT OF HIRAM POWERS POWERS' DISTRUST OF THE HUNTERS FILIAL DEVOTION SHAPES A GREAT CAREER CARTWRIGHT CALLING UP THE DEVIL PORTRAIT OF NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE JEFFERSON, AS RIP VAN WINKLE PRESCRIBING AT THE BREAKFAST-TABLE "PRESIDENT LINCOLN HAS BEEN MURDERED!"
The fog in the Delaware—News of the war—Alarm of the French skipper—A narrow escape from capture—Arrival of Girard in Philadelphia—Early history of Stephen Girard—An unhappy childhood—Goes to sea—Is licensed to command—Becomes a trader in Philadelphia—Marries Mary Lum—Unfortunate issue of the marriage—Capture of Philadelphia by the British—Early commercial life of Stephen Girard—How he earned his first money, and the use he made of it—Aid from St. Domingo—His rigid attention to business—Thoroughness of his knowledge—One of his letters of instructions—His subordinates required to obey orders though they ruin him—Anecdote of Girard and one of his captains—His promptness and fidelity in business—He never breaks his word—How he lost five hundred dollars—Buys the old Bank of the United States and becomes a banker—Cuts down the salaries of his clerks—Refuses his watchman an overcoat—Indifference to his employes—Contrast between his personal and business habits—His liberality in financial operations—He subscribes for the entire Government loan in 1814, and enables the United States to carry on the war—His generosity toward the Government—The suspension of specie payments—Financial troubles—How Girard saved his own notes—His public spirit—How he made half a million of dollars on a captured ship—Personal characteristics—Why he valued money—His ambition—His infidelity—Causes of the defects of his character—A favorable view—Heroic conduct of Stephen Girard during the prevalence of the yellow fever in Philadelphia—The Good Samaritan—He practices medicine, and congratulates himself that he has killed none of his patients—His industry—Visit of Mr. Baring to Mr. Girard—A curious reception—Failing health and death of Stephen Girard—His will—His noble bequests—Establishment of Girard College.
JOHN JACOB ASTOR.
Legitimate business the field of success—Reasons for claiming Astor as an American—Birth and early life—Religious training—The village of Waldorf—Poverty—The jolly butcher—Young Astor's repugnance to his father's trade—Unhappy at home—Loses his mother—His desire to emigrate to the "New Land"—Leaves home—His voyage down the Rhine—Reaches London and enters the service of his brother—His efforts to prepare for emigration—Learns to speak English—Peace between the United States and Great Britain—The road to the "New Land" open—Astor sets out for America—His first ventures in commerce—The voyage—How he proposed to save his Sunday clothes—Arrival in the Chesapeake—The ice-blockade—Astor makes a friend—The fur trader's story—Astor sees the way to fortune—Reaches New York—His first situation—Learning the business—His method of proceeding—An example to young men—His capacity for business operations—He is promoted—His journeys to Canada, and their results—Sets up in business for himself—The fur trade of North America—A survey of the field of Astor's operations—His capital—His tramps into the wilderness in search of furs—Predictions as to the future settlement of the country—His first consignment to England—His marriage—A good wife—Improvement in his prospects—Buys his first ship—The secret of his success—Close attention to business—His economical habits—His indorsement disputed by a bank clerk—Statements of the profits on furs—He engages in the Chinese trade—How the Government aided the early China traders—Amount made by Astor in his legitimate business—His real estate operations—His foresight and courage—How eight thousand dollars yielded eighty thousand—His real estate in the City of New York—Purchases the half of Putnam County—The Roger and Mary Morris estate controversy—Astor wins his suit, and makes half a million of dollars—Astor's scheme of colonization—A grand enterprise—Settlement of Astoria—Betrayed by his agents, and the scheme brought to failure—Astor withdraws from active business—His boyhood's vow and its fulfillment—Builds the Astor House—His voyage to Europe—The return—The troubles of a millionaire—The great man seasick—A curious draft—The last years of his life—His fondness for literary men—His death and burial—His will—Opposite views of his character—How his refusal to buy a chronometer cost him seventy thousand dollars—He remembers an old friend—His gift of a lease—His humor—"William has a rich father."
ALEXANDER T. STEWART.
Birth and early life—Becomes his grandfather's ward—Designed for the ministry—A change in his plans—Comes to America—Teaches school in New York—Becomes a dry goods merchant—Receives a legacy—His first importation—How he began business—An energetic trader—His sample lots and their history—Success of his enterprise—He begins by encouraging honesty in trade—Wins a name for reliability—The system of selling at one price—Inaugurates the "selling off at cost" feature—His courage in business—How he raised the money to meet his note—Improvement in his business—He enlarges his store—As an inducement to the ladies, employs for clerks handsome young men—The crisis of 1837—Stewart comes out of it a rich man—How he did so—Builds his lower store—Predictions of failure—The result—Compels the Government to purchase goods from him—His foresight and liberality—Charged with superstition—Lucky and unlucky persons—Story of the old apple woman—Remarks at the opening of the St. Nicholas Hotel—Reasons of Stewart's success—A hard worker—How he receives visitors—Running the gauntlet—How he gets rid of troublesome persons—Estimate of Mr. Stewart's real estate in New York—His new residence—His benevolence—Aid for Ireland, and free passages to America—Home for women—Political sentiments—Mr. Stewart's appointment as Secretary of the Treasury—Feeling of the country—The retail store of A.T. Stewart & Co.—A palace of glass and iron—Internal arrangements—The managers and salesmen—List of sales—Wages given—Visitors—The principal salesroom—The parcel department—The wagons and stables—Extravagant purchases—Mr. Stewart's supervision of the upper store—The system of buying—The foreign agencies—Statement of the duties paid each day—Personal appearance of Mr. Stewart.
The Lawrence family—A poor boy—Early education—Delicate health—Obtains a situation at Dunstable—Returns to Groton—Becomes Mr. Brazer's apprentice—The variety store—An amateur doctor—Importance of Groton in "old times"—Responsibility of young Lawrence—Is put in charge of the business—High character—Drunkenness the curse of New England—Lawrence resolves to abstain from liquors and tobacco—His self-command—Completes his apprenticeship—Visits Boston—An unexpected offer—Enters into business in Boston—Is offered a partnership, but declines it—His sagacity justified—Begins business for himself—Commercial importance of Boston—Aid from his father—A narrow escape—lesson for life—Amos Lawrence's method of doing business—-An example for young men—His business habits—He leaves nothing unfinished over Sunday—Avoids speculation—His views upon the subject—Introduces double entry in book-keeping into Boston—His liberality to his debtors—Does not allow his business to master him—Property gained by some kinds of sacrifices not worth having—Forms a partnership with his brother Abbott—Business of the firm—They engage in manufactures—Safe business principles—A noble letter—Political opinions—His charities—Statement of his donations—Requests that no public acknowledgment of his gifts be made—Character as a merchant and a man—Advice to his son—His religious character—Loss of his health—His patience and resignation—The model American merchant.
ANDREW V. STOUT.
Early struggles—Acquires an education—Undertakes the support of his family—The boy teacher—Hard work—Is made instructor of Latin—A trying position—How he conquered his difficulties—Is made principal of a public school—His first business ventures—Engages in the building of houses—His platform of integrity—His success—A great mistake—He indorses a note—The consequence of a false step—Liberal action of the bank—Mr. Stout resolves to accept no accommodation—Pays the notes, and loses twenty-three thousand dollars—Establishes himself as a wholesale boot and shoe dealer—Enters the dry goods trade—Close attention to business—His system and its success—Organization of the Shoe and Leather Bank of New York—Mr. Stout is made Vice President, and subsequently President—Character as a citizen—Is made City Chamberlain—Generosity to the police force—Interest in church affairs—Kindness to the poor—Encouragement which his career affords others.
The largest building in the United States—The Chickering piano factory—Birth of Jonas Chickering—Early love of music—Is apprenticed to a cabinet-maker—Is employed to repair a piano—Succeeds in the undertaking—Consequence of this success—Becomes a piano-maker—Removes to Boston—Is employed as a journeyman—The labor of his life—His patience and skill—Is known as the best workman in the establishment—History of the piano—Chickering's first discovery—His hope of success based on intelligence—Becomes a master of the theory of sound—His studies and their result—Makes an improvement in the framing of pianos—Invents the circular scale for square pianos—Generously makes his invention free—A noble gift to the world—His business operations—Increase in the demand for his instruments—Death of Captain Mackay—Mr. Chickering undertakes the sole charge of his affairs—Fears of his friends—Magnitude of the business—The lawyer's question answered—The mortgages paid—Rapid success of Mr. Chickering—His varied duties—Sharp competition—A bogus Chickering—How a Boston bank lost his custom—His independence in business—His character as a merchant—Trains his sons to succeed him in business—The result of his efforts—The present house of Chickering & Sons—Destruction of the factory—Offers of aid—Mr. Chickering's kindness to his workmen—Sets to work to re-establish his business—The new factory begun—Sudden death of Mr. Chickering.
The grape interest of the United States—Growing demand for American wines—Instrumentality of Mr. Longworth in producing this success—Early life of Mr. Longworth—Apprenticed to a shoemaker—Removes to South Carolina—Returns to Newark and studies law—Removes to Cincinnati—Admitted to the bar—His first case—Is paid in whisky stills, and trades them for lands which make his fortune—Rapid growth of Cincinnati—The oldest native inhabitant of Chicago—Longworth's investments in real estate—Immense profits realized by him—His experiments in wine growing—History of the Catawba grape—Longworth decides to cultivate it entirely—His efforts to promote the grape culture in the Ohio Valley—Offers a market for all the grape juice that can be brought to him—The result of his labors seen in the Ohio vineyards of to-day—His wine cellars—Amount of wine made annually by him—The process used—How "Sparkling Catawba" is made—Longworth's experiments with strawberries—His liberality—Gift of land to the Observatory—His challenge to a grumbler—Estimate of his character—His eccentricities—His generosity to his tenants—How he made money by helping others to grow rich—His politics—How he subscribed one hundred dollars to elect Clay—His hatred of vagabondage—His stone quarry—How he provided it with laborers—His system of helping the poor—Is charged with stinginess—The "devil's poor"—Personal appearance—The "Hard-times" overcoat—Charity to a millionaire—Death of Mr. Longworth.
Birth and parentage—Early education—His first lessons in business—An apprentice in a country store—Youthful ambition—A desire for change—The visit to Post Mills—Removal to Newburyport—Reasons for his attachment to that place—His first patron—Peabody goes south—A soldier in the War of 1812-15—A young merchant—A change of prospects—A partner in the house of Riggs & Peabody—Peabody's business capacity—An irregular banker—His reputation as a business man—Promising opening of a brilliant career—Retirement of Mr. Riggs—Growth of the business—A branch house in London—Mr. Peabody saves the credit of the State of Maryland—Tribute from Edward Everett—Success in London—A model American merchant—Establishment of the house of George Peabody & Co.—The Fourth of July dinner—The exhibition of 1851—Patriotism of Mr. Peabody—How he saved the United States from humiliation—Admission of the "London Times"—Mr. Peabody's business habits—His economy—Adventure with a conductor—Finds a conscientious hackman—Personal simplicity—Visits to the United States—His munificent donations—His last visit—Returns to London and dies—Honors paid to his memory—The funeral ceremonies—His burial at Peabody—Statement of his donations and bequests—His example encouraging to the young.
Staten Island seventy-six years ago—The establishment of the Staten Island ferry—Birth of Cornelius Vanderbilt—His boyhood—Defective education—A famous rider—His early reputation for firmness—Superintends the removal of a ship's cargo at the age of twelve—How he pawned a horse—Becomes a boatman—How he bought his boat—A disastrous voyage—His life as a boatman—His economy and industry—Earns three thousand dollars—The alarm at Fort Richmond—Vanderbilt's perilous voyage for aid for the forts—His marriage—His first contract—How he supplied the harbor defenses—Builds his first schooner—His winter voyages—Becomes a steamboat captain—His foresight—Leases the hotel at New Brunswick—The dangers of navigating the New York waters—The steamboat war—How Captain Vanderbilt eluded the sheriff—Becomes manager of the steamboat line—Declines an increase of salary—Only wants to carry his point—Refuses to buy Mr. Gibbons's interest in the steamboat company, and builds his own boat—Narrow escape from ruin—Final triumph—Systematic management of his vessels—How he ruined the "Collins Line"—The "North Star"—Becomes a railroad director—How he foiled a plan to ruin him—dishonest legislature—Vanderbilt's triumph—His gift to the Government—His office in New York—Vanderbilt in business hours—Personal characteristics—Love for horses—His family.
Birth-place—Birth and parentage—A farmer's boy—Goes to New York to seek his fortune—Becomes a cattle drover—Leases the Bull's Head Tavern—His energy and success in his business—Brings the first western cattle to New York—Helps a friend to build a steamboat—The fight with Vanderbilt—Drew buys out his friend, and becomes a steamboat owner—Vanderbilt endeavors to discourage him—He perseveres—His success—Formation of the "People's Line" on the Hudson River—The floating palaces—Forms a partnership with George Law, and establishes the Stonington line—Opening of the Hudson River Railway—Drew's foresight—Room enough for the locomotive and the steamboat—Buys out the Champlain Company—Causes of his success as a steamboat manager—Becomes a banker—His success in Wall Street—Indorses the acceptances of the Erie Railway Company—His courage and calmness in the panic of 1857—He saves "Erie" from ruin—Elected a director of the Erie Road—Is made Treasurer—His interest in the road—His operations in Wall Street—His farm in Putnam County—Joins the Methodist Church—His liberality—Builds a church in New York—Founds the Drew Theological Seminary—Estimate of his wealth—His family—Personal appearance.
JAMES B. EADS.
Birth—Childhood—Fondness for machinery—Early mechanical skill—Constructs a steam engine at the age of nine years—His work-shop—Death of his father—Works his way to St. Louis—Sells apples on the streets—Finds employment and a friend—Efforts to improve—Becomes a clerk on a Mississippi steamer—Undertakes the recovery of wrecked steamboats—Success of his undertaking—Offers to remove the obstacles to the navigation of the Mississippi—Failure of his health—Retires from business—Breaking out of the war—Summoned to Washington—His plan for the defense of the western rivers—Associated with Captain Rodgers in the purchase of gunboats—His first contract with the Government—Undertakes to build seven ironclads in sixty-five days—Magnitude of the undertaking—His promptness—Builds other gunboats during the war—The gunboat fleet at Forts Henry and Donelson the private property of Mr. Eads—Excellence of the vessels built by him—A model contractor—Residence in St. Louis.
CYRUS W. FIELD.
Birth—Parentage—Early education—Goes to New York in search of employment—Obtains a clerkship in a city house, and in a few years becomes a partner—A rich man at thirty-four—Retires from business—Travels in South America—Meets Mr. Gisborne—Plan of the Newfoundland Telegraph Company—Mr. Field declines to embark in it—Conceives the idea of a telegraph across the Atlantic Ocean—Correspondence with Lieut. Maury and Prof. Morse—The scheme pronounced practicable—Mr. Field secures the co-operation of four New York capitalists—Organization of the New York, Newfoundland, and London Telegraph Company—Building of the line from New York to St. John's—A herculean task—The Governmental ocean surveys of the United States and England—Efforts to secure aid in England—Liberal action of the Government—Organization of the Atlantic Telegraph Company—A hard-won success in America—Passage of the bill by Congress—The first attempt to lay the cable—The expedition of 1857—The telegraph fleet—Scenes on board—Loss of the cable—Failure of the expedition—Difficulties remedied—The new "paying-out" machinery—The expedition of 1858—The second attempt to lay the cable—Dangerous storm—Failures—Loss of the cable—The third attempt—The cable laid successfully—Messages across the Atlantic—Celebrations in England and the United States—The signals cease—The cable a failure—Discouraging state of affairs—Courage of Mr. Field—Generous offer of the British Government—Fresh soundings—Investigations of the Telegraph Board—Efforts of Mr. Field to raise new capital—Purchase of the Great Eastern—The fourth attempt to lay the cable—Expedition of 1865—Voyage of the Great Eastern—Loss of the cable—Efforts to recover it unsuccessful—What the expedition demonstrated—Efforts to raise more capital—They are pronounced illegal—The new company—The fifth attempt to lay the cable—Voyage of the Great Eastern—The cable laid at last—Fishing up and splicing the cable of 1865—The final triumph—Credit due to Mr. Field.
Trinity churchyard—The Livingston vault—An interesting place—Fulton's tomb—Birth of Robert Fulton—Boyhood—Early mechanical skill—Robert astonishes his tutor—Robert's fireworks—"Nothing is impossible"—"Quicksilver Bob"—The fishing excursion—The first paddle-wheel boat—Fulton's success as an artist—His gift to his mother—His removal to England—Intimacy with Benjamin West—Goes to Devonshire—Acquaintance with the Duke of Bridgewater—His interest in canal navigation—His first inventions—Goes to Paris—Residence with Mr. Barlow—Studies in engineering—Invents the diving boat—The infernal machine—His patriotic reply to the British ministry—His marriage—Returns to America—The General Government declines to purchase his torpedo—Brief history of the first experiments in steam navigation—Fulton's connection with Livingston—The trial boat on the Seine—Determines to build a boat on the Hudson—Fulton and Livingston are given the sole right to navigate the waters of New York by steam—Popular ridicule—Disbelief of scientific men—Launch of the "Clermont"—The trial trip—The first voyage up the Hudson—Fulton's triumph—Scenes along the river—Efforts to sink the steamer—Establishment of steam navigation on the Hudson River—The first New York ferry-boats—The floating docks—Boats for the West—New York threatened by the British fleet in 1814—Fulton's plan for a steam frigate—The "Fulton the First"—The steamboat war—Illness of Fulton—His death and burial—His last will—True character of his invention.
Discovery of India-rubber—Mode of collecting it—Preparation and use by the natives—Its introduction into the United States—Mr. E.M. Chaffee's process—The India-rubber fever—Brief success of the India-rubber companies—Their sudden failure—Visit of Mr. Goodyear to New York—He invents an improvement in the life preserver—Early history of Charles Goodyear—His failure as a merchant—Offers his invention to the Roxbury Company—The agent's disclosures—Mr. Goodyear finds his mission—His first efforts—A failure—Discouraging state of his affairs—Renews his efforts—Experiments in India-rubber—Coldness of his friends—His courage and perseverance—Goes to New York—Accidental discovery of the aqua fortis process—Partial success—Ruined—Life on Staten Island—Removes to Boston—Delusive prosperity—The mail bag contract—His friends urge him to abandon his efforts—He refuses—On the verge of success—Discovers the usefulness of sulphur—The inventor's hope—The revelation—Discovers the secret of vulcanization—Down in the depths—Kept back by poverty—A beggar—A test of his honesty—Starvation at hand—The timely loan—Removal to New York—Difficulties in the way—Death of his youngest child—Finds friends in New York—His experiments in vulcanization—Final success—His heart in his work—Fails to secure patents in Europe—His losses from dishonest rivals—Declaration of the Commissioner of Patents—Death of Mr. Goodyear—Congress refuses to extend his patent—His true reward.
The home of General Greene in Georgia—The soldier's widow—An arrival from New England—The young schoolmaster—A mechanical genius—Early history of Whitney—Mrs. Greene's invitation—Visit of the planters—State of the cotton culture in 1792—A despondent planter—Mrs. Greene advises them to try Whitney—Origin of the cotton gin—Whitney's first efforts—His workshop—The secret labors—How he provided himself with materials—Finds a partner—Betrayal of his secret—He is robbed of his model—He recovers it and completes it—The first cotton gin—Statement of the revolution produced by the invention in the cotton culture of the South—Opinion of Judge Johnson—The story of an inventor's wrongs—Whitney is cheated and robbed of his rights—The worthlessness of a patent—A long and disheartening struggle—Honorable action of North Carolina—Congress refuses to extend the patent—Whitney abandons the cotton gin—Engages in the manufacture of firearms—His improvements in them—Establishes an armory in Connecticut, and makes a fortune—Death.
The old-fashioned clocks—Their expensiveness—Condition of the clock trade of Connecticut sixty years ago—Early history of Chauncey Jerome—A hard life—Death of his father—Becomes a farmer's boy—Is anxious to become a clock-maker—An over-wise guardian—Hardships of an apprentice—How Jerome became a carpenter—Hires his winters from his master—Becomes a dial-maker—The clock-making expedition—Jerome's first savings—Takes a wife—A master carpenter—Poor pay and hard work—Buys a house—A dull winter—Enters Mr. Terry's factory—The wooden clock business—Sets up in business for himself—Industry and energy rewarded—His first order—Sends his clocks South—Enlarges his business—Improvements in his clocks—Losses on southern shipments from dampness—Depression of business—Jerome's anxiety—A wakeful night—Invention of the brass—A new era in the clock trade—Beneficial effects of Jerome's invention—Magnitude of the Connecticut clock trade at present—Growth of Jerome's business—Makes a fortune—Organization of the "Jerome Clock-making Company"—Practical withdrawal of Mr. Jerome—Difficulties of the company—Jerome a ruined man—Honest independence—Finds employment—Becomes the manager of the Chicago Company.
ELIAS HOWE, JR.
The first sewing-machine—Birth of Elias Howe—A poor man's son—Raised to hard work—His first employment—The little mill-boy—Delicate health—Goes to Lowell to seek his fortune—Thrown out of employment—Removes to Cambridge—Works in a machine shop with N.P. Banks—Marries—A rash step—Growing troubles—A hard lot—Conceives the idea of a sewing-machine—His first experiments unsuccessful—Invents the lock stitch and perfects the sewing-machine—Hindered by his poverty—A hard struggle—Finds a partner—His winter's task—His attic work-shop—Completion of the model—Perfection of Howe's invention—Efforts to dispose of the invention—Disappointed hopes—Popular incredulity—Becomes an engine driver—Amasa Howe goes to England with the sewing-machine—Bargain with the London merchant—Elias removes to London—Loses his situation—The rigors of poverty—Returns to America—Death of his wife—Fate's last blow—The sewing-machine becomes better known—Adoption by the public—A tardy recognition—Elias Howe sets up in business for himself—Buys out his partner's interest—The sewing-machine war—Rapid growth of the sewing-machine interest—Earnings of the inventor—A royal income—Honors conferred upon him—Enlists in the United States Army—A liberal private—Last illness and death.
RICHARD M. HOE.
Growth of the art of printing—Birth of Richard M. Hoe—Sketch of the career of Robert Hoe—He comes to America—His marriage—Founds the house of "Robert Hoe & Co."—The first steam printing presses—He retires from business—Richard M. Hoe is brought up in the business—The mechanical genius of the house—The new firm—Richard Hoe's first invention—Obtains a patent for it—Visits England—Invents the double-cylinder press—Demand for increased facilities for printing—Mr. Hoe's experiments with his press—His failures—How the "Lightning Press" was invented—A good night's work—Patents his invention—The first "Lightning Press"—Demand for it—Rapid growth of the business of the firm—Statement of the operations of the house—Personal characteristics of Richard M. Hoe—The "Lightning Press" at work.
Birth and parentage—A restless boy—Dislikes school—Early fondness for mechanical inventions—Is sent to boarding-school—Runs away to sea—The story of a boy's invention, and what came of it—Origin of the revolver—Returns home—His chemical studies—Dr. Coult—The lecturing tour—His success—Completes his design for the revolver—Patents his invention—Visits England—Discovery at the Tower of London—Returns home—Formation of the "Patent Arms Company"—Objections of the officers of the army and navy to the revolver—The Florida War—It is decided by the revolver—Triumph of Col. Colt—Cessation of the demand for arms—Failure of the company—Beginning of the Mexican War—Action of General Taylor—No revolvers to be had—A strange dilemma for an inventor—The new model—Contracts with the Government—Success of the revolver in Mexico—The demand from the frontier—Emigration to California and Australia—Permanent establishment of Col. Colt's business—The improved weapon—Builds a new armory—Description of his works at Hartford—A liberal employer—Other inventions of Col. Colt—His submarine telegraph—His fortune—His marriage—Visits to Europe—Attentions from European dignitaries—Witnesses the coronation of the Emperor of Russia—His last illness and death.
SAMUEL F.B. MORSE.
Birth—Parentage—Early education—Graduates at Yale College—Becomes an artist—His masters—Visits England—His first attempt—"The Dying Hercules"—Opinion of Benjamin West—Wins the medal of the Adelphi Society of Arts—Ambition as an artist—His cold reception by the Americans—Mr. Tuckerman's comments—Organizes the National Academy of Design—Visits Europe the second time—The homeward voyage in the "Sully"—News of the experiments at Paris with the electro-magnet—How the electric telegraph was invented—Morse is made a professor in the University of New York—Completion of his model—An imperfect telegraph—His first experiments—The duplicate finished—First exhibition of the telegraph—Morse applies for a patent—Visits Europe to introduce his invention—His failure—Seeks aid from Congress—A disheartening effort—A long struggle—Independence of Morse—Despondent at last—A sudden lifting of the cloud—The experimental line—The trial—A curious Cabinet Minister—Success of the telegraph—Establishment of companies in the United States—Professor Morse wins fame and fortune—The telegraph in Europe—Honors at home and abroad—A list of his rewards—Morse originates submarine telegraphy, and predicts the laying of an Atlantic telegraph—Personal characteristics.
The Brothers Harper—Birth and parentage of James Harper—The Long Island home—James Harper goes to New York—Becomes a "devil"—Winning his way—How he gave his card to a stranger—Arrival of "Brother John"—-Good habits—Sets up for himself—"J. & J. Harper, Printers"—How they started in business—Integrity rewarded—First job—Their first effort at stereotyping—The Harpers become publishers on their own account—Their early ventures—Feeling their way to success—Their publications—Character of their books—How they drove the "yellow covers" out of the market—Their prosperity—Admission of new partners—The great fire—Destruction of the establishment of Harper & Brothers—Energy of the firm—Re-establishment of their business—Their new premises—Description of the buildings—Personal characteristics of Mr. James Harper—Religious life—Liberality of sentiment—His industry—Elected Mayor of New York—Kindness to his operatives—Physical Vigor—"The Lord knows best"—Accident to Mr. Harper and his daughter—His death.
JAMES T. FIELDS.
The old "Corner Book-store" in Boston and its associations—Carter & Bendee employ a new clerk—Birth and early life of James T. Fields—His literary talent—Governor Woodbury's advice—Enters mercantile life—Determined to rise—His studies—The result—Associated with Edward Everett at the age of eighteen—His business talent—Steady promotion—Becomes head clerk with Allen & Ticknor—Establishment of the firm of Ticknor & Fields—Success as a publisher—High character of his house—Relations toward authors—Publications of Ticknor & Fields—Removal—Organization of the firm of Fields, Osgood & Co.—The new book-store—An elegant establishment—Mr. Field's literary success—Statement of a friend—"Common Sense"—His contributions to the periodicals of the firm—Travels in Europe—Personal appearance.
JAMES GORDON BENNETT.
Birth—Intended for the Romish priesthood—How he was induced to come to America—Arrival in Halifax—Comes to the United States—What came of a shilling—Employment in Boston—Reaches New York—Attempts to establish a school—Becomes connected with the press—Success of his Washington letters—Services on the "Courier and Inquirer"—Leaves that journal—Removes to Philadelphia—Establishes "The Pennsylvanian"—Ingratitude of his political associates—Returns to New York—Establishment of "The New York Herald"—Early difficulties of that paper, and how Bennett surmounted them—The first "Herald" office—A determined effort to succeed—First numbers of "The Herald"—How one man carried on a newspaper—A lucky hit—The first "money article"—The office burned down—The great fire—Bennett's reports of the disaster—Success of "The Herald"—His first advertising contract—Increasing prosperity—The journal of to-day—How it is conducted—The new "Herald" office—Bennett's pride in his paper—Personal characteristics—His independence.
Birth and parentage—Emigration to America—Becomes a printer—A first-class compositor—Engaged upon the "Evening Mirror"—The "Merchant's Ledger"—Bonner purchases the paper, and changes its name to the "New York Ledger"—The new literary journal—Predictions of failure—Bonner confident of success—Engages Fanny Fern to write for him—A handsome price for a story—Wonderful success of the "Ledger"—Skillful advertising—Popularity of the paper—How Bonner silenced the critics—"Edward Everett writes for the 'Ledger'"—How Bonner treats his contributors—"Henry Ward Beecher writes for the 'Ledger'"—Immense circulation of the paper—The new "Ledger" building—Private residence of Mr. Bonner—His stable—His love for horses.
The model American lawyer—Birth and early life of John Marshall—A devoted father—Early education—The young patriot—Troubles with England—Marshall becomes a soldier—The "Culpepper Minute Men"—Marshall's popularity in the army—Finishes his law studies—His journey from Williamsburg to Philadelphia—Commences the practice of the law—Elected to the Legislature—Establishes himself in Richmond—The power of a powdered wig and velvet coat—Marshall's services in the Virginia Convention of 1798—Becomes the champion of Washington's Administration—Refuses public honors—Is made Minister to France —Public reception in New York—Elected Member of Congress—His memorable speech—Enters the Cabinet of President Adams as Secretary of State—Is made Chief Justice of the United States—His record—His "Life of Washington"—Personal characteristics—His generosity—William Wirt's pen and ink sketch of him—His courtesy and kindness—Fondness for manly sports—The quoit club—How he carried a proud man's turkey home—The supper party—The Chief Justice loses the wager—Mode of traveling on his circuit—The scene at Maguire's Hotel in Winchester, Virginia—The unknown champion of Christianity—A brilliant defense—Last illness and death of Judge Marshall.
JAMES T. BRADY.
Birth and early life—His "big head"—His kindliness of disposition—Enters his father's office to study law—Merry nature—How he studied law—A model for ambitious youths—His father's opinion of him—Admitted to the bar—His first case—The newsboy case—sudden rise in popularity—Practices in the Supreme Court—The India-rubber suit—A compliment from Daniel Webster—Brady's integrity—Professional success and generosity—His readiness in managing his cases—Conduct toward witnesses—His fearlessness—A bold declaration in Tammany Hall—His profound knowledge of his profession—His industry—His disinterested kindness—His humor—Meets his match—Political life—Personal appearance—A genial old bachelor—Literary tastes and labors—His generosity to the poor—Devotion to his relatives—Last appearance in public—Forebodings—Death.
A native of Pennsylvania—Circumstances attending his birth—The child of promise—First indications of genius—The baby's portrait—Lessons from the Indians—The box of colors—The truant pupil—The mother's discovery—-West's opinion of his first picture—The little portrait painter—The first attempt at historical painting—"The Death of Socrates"—Choosing a profession—Dedicated to his work—A fighting Quaker—Establishes himself in New York—Visits Europe—Arrival at Rome, and reception there—Visit to the Apollo Belvidere—West's criticism—Travels and labors on the continent—Visits England—His reception there—Urged to stay—Decides to make England his home—Sends for his bride—Marriage—"Agrippina Landing with the Ashes of Germanicus"—Success of the picture—The king becomes his friend—The most famous works of Benjamin West—"The Death of Wolfe"—Reception of the picture by the public—West triumphs over the critics, and inaugurates a new era of historical painting—Death of the king—West is elected President of the National Academy—His resignation and re-election—Closing years of a great career—Personal appearance—Leigh Hunt's description of him—Death—Burial in St. Paul's Cathedral.
Birth—Early years—Begins life as a clerk in a dry goods store—Artistic talent—Opposition of his parents—A change in his plans—Becomes an engineer—Failure of his eyes—Voyage to Spain—Return home—Becomes a machinist—Promoted—Learns to model in clay—Commences his studies in art—A hard life, and a noble perseverance—A change for the better—A sudden reverse—Out of work—Visits Europe to study his art—Returns home in despair—Enters the service of the surveyor of the city of Chicago—His first statuettes—Their success—A new field opened to him—Visits New York, and learns the new method of casting figures—Establishes himself in New York—His first studio—Immediate popularity of his works—Description of them—Removes to a new studio—His later works—Process by which they are made-Originality of the artist rewarded by the public—Personal characteristics.
Birth—Juvenile mechanical skill—The life of a Vermont boy—Hard times—Removal of the Powers family to the West—The new farm—Misfortunes never come singly—Breaking up of the household—Hiram's first employment—The reading-room scheme—Hiram becomes a collector of bad debts—Reminiscences of the young West—Powers becomes a mechanic—Story of the brass plates—Rapid promotion—The silver watch—How Hiram purchased it—The Cincinnati Museum—The artist's first lessons in modeling—His first sitter—The trial of skill—The king of the Cannibal Islands—The man-eater—Hiram becomes interested in the museum—How he played the devil in Cincinnati—A dishonest employer—Mr. Longworth's offer—Powers goes to Washington—His success there—Visit to "Old Hickory"—The first critic—Kindness of Senator Preston—Powers goes to Italy—Arrival in Florence—His first works in Italy—Visit to Thorwaldsen—Works of Powers—His rapid success—His life in Italy—Views of Mr. Powers respecting an artist life—Personal characteristics—Popularity with artists.
An American by adoption—Early life and education—How he learned to draw—Becomes an artist—His first picture—The evils of too much haste—His first professional engagement—Despondency—A ramble through the Virginia woods, and what came of it—A friend in need—Greater success—Friendship of Mr. Carey—Leutze goes to Europe—Studies at Dusseldorf-His reception there—Becomes Lessing's pupil—His first picture finds a purchaser—Travels and studies in Europe—Returns to Dusseldorf, marries, and makes his home in that place—His paintings—Returns to New York—Success in America—The Government commission—Journey to the Rocky Mountains—The great fresco in the Capitol—"Westward the Star of Empire takes it Way"—Revisits Dusseldorf—Reception by the artists—Returns to the United States—Further commissions from the Government—His sudden death—His unfinished works—Mr. Tuckerman's remarks.
HENRY WARD BEECHER.
A Connecticut boy—The minister's family—A gloomy childhood—Ma'arm Kilbourn's school—The loss of his curls—The dull boy—A bad voice for an orator—His first religious impressions—Aunt Esther—The Sunday catechism—Sent to boarding school—Love of nature—Enters his sister's school—The hopeless case—An inveterate joker and an indifferent scholar—Removal to Boston—Gets through the Latin school—The sea-going project—Dr. Beecher's ruse—Life at Mount Pleasant—Conquers mathematics—Embraces religion at a revival—Resolves to become a minister—Removal to Cincinnati—Course at the Lane Seminary—How he learned to preach—Marries—His first charge—Life at Lawrenceburg—Removal to Indianapolis—Life in the West—His popularity—His theory of preaching and its success—Conversion of his brother—Mr. Beecher accepts a call to Plymouth Church in Brooklyn—Political record—Literary labors—Pastoral work—A large audience—Government of Plymouth Church—Description of the edifice—The congregation—The services—Mr. Beecher as a preacher—Sympathy between the pastor and his hearers—His ideas of religion—How he prepares his sermons—His prayers unstudied—The social receptions—The Friday evening meeting—A characteristic scene—Labors during the war—Visit to Europe—An unpopular sermon in a good cause—Personal characteristics.
Birth—Removal to Kentucky—"Rogue's harbor"—Condition of the country and the people—Frontier life—Early life of a preacher—Becomes a Christian—His account of his conversion—Is made an exhorter in the Methodist Church—Removal to Lewiston County—Begins preaching—Qualifications of a backwoods preacher—His energy—The jerks—How Peter frightened a bully—A brimstone angel—Enters the ministry—Appointed to the Marietta Circuit—A good school—Hard times—Marries—Quiet heroism—How the old-time people married—His devotion to the Methodist Church—Troubles with other denominations—How he argued with a Universalist—How he met a wrathful dame—Encounter with a Baptist preacher—Adventure with Father Teel—Taming a shrew—Removal to Illinois—His reasons for taking that step—Death of his daughter—Arrival at his new home—Life on the frontier—A large district—The Methodist circuit riders of sixty years ago—Perils of frontier traveling—Success of Cartwright's ministry—How he was superannuated—His courage—How he cleared a camp of rowdies—Encounter on a ferry-boat—Frightens a bully—Advocates temperance—A practical joke—Is elected to the Legislature—His opinion of politics—How he raised the devil—"Another sinner down"—Missionaries from the East—Indignation of the backwoods preacher—The proposed mission to New England—Cartwright declines it—He visits Boston—His reception—How he preached for Father Taylor—Summing up—Sixty-seven years of a preacher's life.
HENRY W. LONGFELLOW.
Birth and early life—The old house by the sea—College life—Early literary productions—Becomes a professor in Bowdoin College—Travels in Europe—Marriage—Literary labors—"Outre Mer"—Is made a professor in Harvard College—His second visit to Europe—Death of his wife—Goes to live in the Craigie House—Historical associations—Washington's headquarters—A congenial home—Literary labors—"Hyperion"—Great popularity of the book—"Voices of the Night"—"The Spanish Student"—Mr. Longfellow buys the Craigie House—Summary of his works—The "Song of Hiawatha"—Death of Mrs. Longfellow—Mr. Longfellow again visits Europe—His popularity with the English-speaking race—Cause of his popularity—"Resignation"—Scene from "The Golden Legend"—The poet's home.
The Hawthornes of Salem—A sea-going race—Birth of Nathaniel Hawthorne—A sad home—Early life—His college days—Longfellow's recollection of him—Returns home—The young recluse—Literary efforts—"Twice-Told Tales"—"The most unknown author in America"—Enters the Boston Custom House—His duties—Popularity with the sailors—Loses his office—Becomes a member of the Brook Farm Community—Marries and goes to live at Concord—"The Old Manse"—Life at Concord—Curiosity of the village people—"Mosses from an Old Manse"—Hawthorne's visitors—Hawthorne and his friends—George William Curtis' recollections—Removes to Salem—Is made surveyor of that port—"The Scarlet Letter"—Removal to the Berkshire Hills—"The House of the Seven Gables"—Returns to Concord—"Life of Franklin Pierce"—Is made Consul to Liverpool—-Life abroad—Depressed by the war—Moncure D. Conway's recollections—Juvenile works—Death of Mr. Ticknor—Effect upon Hawthorne—Goes traveling with Ex-President Pierce—Sudden death of Hawthorne—Burial at Concord.
The elder Booth—His success as an actor—His sons—Birth of Edwin Booth—Early life—Brought up on the stage—Admiration for his father—Travels with him—First appearance—Appears frequently with his father—Plays Richard III. in New York—A bold venture—Learns the details of his profession—Visits Australia and the Sandwich Islands—Re-appearance in New York in 1857—Recollections of him at that time—His labors in his profession—Successful tours throughout the country—Visits England—Appears at the Haymarket Theater in London—Studies on the continent—Appearance at the Winter Garden—The Shakespearian revivals—Destruction of the Winter Garden by fire—Loss of Mr. Booth's theatrical wardrobe—Popular sympathy—The new theater—Opening of the building—Description of Booth's Theater—A magnificent establishment—A splendid stage—Novel mode of setting the scenes—Magnificent mounting of the plays produced there—Mr. Booth's performances—Personal—Genius as an actor—Beneficial influence upon the drama.
The Jefferson family—A race of actors—Jefferson the first—"Old Jefferson"—Jefferson the third—Birth of Joseph Jefferson—Childhood—Brought up on the stage—Olive Logan's reminiscence—First appearance in public—Early training—Career as a stock actor—Becomes a "star"—His success—Visits Australia, the player's El Dorado—Pecuniary success of Jefferson in Australia—His merits as an actor—Visits England—First appearance at the Adelphi Theater—"Our American Cousin"—Production of Rip Van Winkle—Makes the part his specialty—Description of his performance of Rip Van Winkle—Personal characteristics—Devotion to his profession—Love of art—A capital sportsman—Buys a panorama—A visit to John Sefton—"The Golden Farmer"—Private life.
Birth and early life—Adopts medicine as a profession—Studies in Europe—Returns home, and is made a professor in the Philadelphia Medical College—Political career—Elected to the Provincial Conference of Pennsylvania—Action with respect to the independence of the colonies—Elected to the Continental Congress—Signs the Declaration of Independence—Marriage—Is made Surgeon-General of the army—Becomes Physician-General—Troubles—Resigns his commission—Letters to the people of Pennsylvania—Services in the State conventions—Resumes his practice in Philadelphia—Plans the Philadelphia Dispensary—Resumes his professor's chair—The yellow fever in Philadelphia—A scene of terror—"The Hundred Days"—Dr. Rush's treatment of the disease—Opposition of the Faculty—Success of Rush's treatment—Testimony of Dr. Ramsay—Suit for damages—Dr. Rush's services during the fever—Reminiscences—Honors from European sovereigns—Is made Treasurer of the United States Mint—Literary labors—Zeal in behalf of Christianity—His connection with the Bible Society—Death.
Birth—Early life—Enters Columbia College—His medical studies—Continues his studies in Europe—Great surgical genius—His early success as an operator—Returns home—Is made Professor of Surgery in Columbia College—His career and success as a teacher—Introduces the system of clinical instruction—Difficulty of procuring "subjects" for dissection—Desperate expedients—midnight adventure—A ready rebuke—Success and skill as a surgeon—Tribute from Sir Astley Cooper—A wonderful operation—Sketch of his original operations—His mode of operating—Careful preparation—Success as a physician—A progressive mind—Professional honors—Visits Europe—Reception abroad—Operates upon the Sultan of Turkey—A cool proposition—Personal—His last illness and death—"President Lincoln murdered."
One May morning, in the year 1776, the mouth of the Delaware Bay was shrouded in a dense fog, which cleared away toward noon, and revealed several vessels just off the capes. From one of these, a sloop, floated the flag of France and a signal of distress. An American ship ran alongside the stranger, in answer to her signal, and found that the French captain had lost his reckoning in a fog, and was in total ignorance of his whereabouts. His vessel, he said, was bound from New Orleans to a Canadian port, and he was anxious to proceed on his voyage. The American skipper informed him of his locality, and also apprised him of the fact that war had broken out between the colonies and Great Britain, and that the American coast was so well lined with British cruisers that he would never reach port but as a prize. "What shall I do?" cried the Frenchman, in great alarm. "Enter the bay, and make a push for Philadelphia," was the reply. "It is your only chance."
The Frenchman protested that he did not know the way, and had no pilot. The American captain, pitying his distress, found him a pilot, and even loaned him five dollars, which the pilot demanded in advance. The sloop got under weigh again, and passed into the Delaware, beyond the defenses which had been erected for its protection, just in time to avoid capture by a British war vessel which now made its appearance at the mouth of the bay. Philadelphia was reached in due time, and, as the war bade fair to put an end to his voyages, the captain sold the sloop and her cargo, of which he was part owner, and, entering a small store in Water Street, began the business of a grocer and wine-bottler. His capital was small, his business trifling in extent, and he himself labored under the disadvantage of being almost unable to speak the English language. In person he was short and stout, with a dull, repulsive countenance, which his bushy eyebrows and solitary eye (being blind in the other) made almost hideous. He was cold and reserved in manner, and was disliked by his neighbors, the most of whom were afraid of him.
This man was Stephen Girard, who was afterward destined to play so important a part in the history of the city to which the mere chances of war sent him a stranger.
He was born at Bordeaux, in France, on the 21st of May, 1750, and was the eldest of the five children of Captain Pierre Girard, a mariner of that city. His life at home was a hard one. At the age of eight years, he discovered that he was blind in one eye, and the mortification and grief which this discovery caused him appear to have soured his entire life. He afterward declared that his father treated him with considerable neglect, and that, while his younger brothers were sent to college, he was made to content himself with the barest rudiments of an education, with merely a knowledge of reading and writing. When he was quite young, his mother died, and, as his father soon married again, the severity of a step-mother was added to his other troubles. When about thirteen years of age, he left home, with his father's consent, and began, as a cabin-boy, the life of a mariner. For nine years he sailed between Bordeaux and the French West Indies, rising steadily from his position of cabin-boy to that of mate. He improved his leisure time at sea, until he was not only master of the art of navigation, but generally well informed for a man in his station. His father possessed sufficient influence to procure him the command of a vessel, in spite of the law of France which required that no man should be made master of a ship unless he had sailed two cruises in the royal navy and was twenty-five years old. Gradually Girard was enabled to amass a small sum of money, which he invested in cargoes easily disposed of in the ports to which he sailed. Three years after he was licensed to command, he made his first appearance in the port of Philadelphia. He was then twenty-six years old.
From the time of his arrival in Philadelphia he devoted himself to business with an energy and industry which never failed. He despised no labor, and was willing to undertake any honest means of increasing his subsistence. He bought and sold any thing, from groceries to old "junk." His chief profit, however, was in his wine and cider, which he bottled and sold readily. His business prospered, and he was regarded as a thriving man from the start.
In July, 1777, he married Mary Lum, a servant girl of great beauty, and something of a virago as well. The union was an unhappy one, as the husband and wife were utterly unsuited to each other. Seven years after her marriage, Mrs. Girard showed symptoms of insanity, which became so decided that her husband was compelled to place her in the State Asylum for the Insane. He appears to have done every thing in his power to restore her to reason. Being pronounced cured, she returned to her home, but in 1790 He was compelled to place her permanently in the Pennsylvania Hospital, where, nine months after, she gave birth to a female child, which happily died. Mrs. Girard never recovered her reason, but died in 1815, and was buried in the hospital grounds.
Girard fled from Philadelphia, with his wife, in September, 1777, at the approach of the British, and purchased a house at Mount Holly, near Burlington, New Jersey, where he carried on his bottling business. His claret commanded a ready sale among the British in Philadelphia, and his profits were large. In June, 1778, the city was evacuated by Lord Howe, and he was allowed to return to his former home.
Though he traded with the British, Girard considered himself a true patriot, as indeed he was. On the 27th of October, 1778, he took the oath of allegiance required by the State of Pennsylvania, and renewed it the year following. The war almost annihilated the commerce of the country, which was slow in recovering its former prosperity; but, in spite of this discouraging circumstance, Girard worked on steadily, scorning no employment, however humble, that would yield a profit. Already he had formed the plans which led to his immense wealth, and he was now patiently carrying out the most trying and disheartening preliminaries. Whatever he undertook prospered, and though his gains were small, they were carefully husbanded, and at the proper time invested in such a manner as to produce a still greater yield. Stephen Girard knew the value of little things, and he knew how to take advantage of the most trifling circumstance. His career teaches what may be done with these little things, and shows how even a few dollars, properly managed, may be made to produce as many thousands.
In 1780, Mr. Girard again entered upon the New Orleans and St. Domingo trade, in which he was engaged at the breaking out of the Revolution. He was very successful in his ventures, and was enabled in a year or two to greatly enlarge his operations. In 1782, he took a lease of ten years on a range of frame buildings in Water Street, one of which he occupied himself, with the privilege of a renewal for a similar period. Rents were very low at that time, as business was prostrated and people were despondent; but Girard, looking far beyond the present, saw a prosperous future. He was satisfied that it would require but a short time to restore to Philadelphia its old commercial importance, and he was satisfied that his leases would be the best investment he had ever made. The result proved the correctness of his views. His profits on these leases were enormous.
About this time he entered into partnership with his brother, Captain John Girard, in the West India trade. But the brothers could not conduct their affairs harmoniously, and in 1790 the firm was dissolved by mutual consent. Stephen Girard's share of the profits at the dissolution amounted to thirty thousand dollars. His wealth was greatly increased by a terrible tragedy which happened soon afterward.
At the outbreak of the great insurrection in St. Domingo, Girard had two vessels lying in one of the ports of that island. At the first signal of danger, a number of planters sent their valuables on board of these ships for safe-keeping, and went back to their estates for the purpose of securing more. They never returned, doubtless falling victims to the fury of the brutal negroes, and when the vessels were ready to sail there was no one to claim the property they contained. It was taken to Philadelphia, and was most liberally advertised by Mr. Girard, but as no owner ever appeared to demand it, it was sold, and the proceeds—about fifty thousand dollars—turned into the merchant's own coffers. This was a great assistance to him, and the next year he began the building of those splendid ships which enabled him to engage so actively in the Chinese and East India trades.
His course was now onward and upward to wealth. At first his ships merely sailed between Philadelphia and the port to which they were originally destined; but at length he was enabled to do more than this. Loading one of his ships with grain, he would send it to Bordeaux, where the proceeds of her cargo would be invested in wine and fruit. These she would take to St. Petersburg and exchange for hemp and iron, which were sold at Amsterdam for coin. From Amsterdam she would proceed to China and India, and, purchasing a cargo of silks and teas, sail for Philadelphia, where the final purchase was sold by the owner for cash or negotiable paper. His success was uniform, and was attributed by his brother merchants to luck.
Stephen Girard had no faith in luck. He never trusted any thing to chance. He was a thorough navigator, and was perfect master of the knowledge required in directing long voyages. He understood every department of his business so well that he was always prepared to survey the field of commerce from a high stand-point. He was familiar with the ports with which he dealt, and was always able to obtain such information concerning them as he desired, in advance of his competitors. He trusted nothing of importance to others. His instructions to the commanders of his ships were always full and precise. These documents afford the best evidence of the statements I have made concerning his system, as the following will show:
Copy of Stephen Girard's Letter to Mr. ——, Commander and Supercargo of the ship ——, bound to Batavia.
SIR—I confirm my letters to you of the —— ult., and the —— inst. Having recently heard of the decease of Mr. ——, merchant at Batavia, also of the probable dissolution of his house, under the firm of Messrs. ——, I have judged it prudent to request my Liverpool correspondents to consign the ship ——, cargo, and specie on board, to Mr. ——, merchant at Batavia, subject to your control, and have requested said Liverpool friends to make a separate invoice and bill of lading for the specie, which they will ship on my account, on board of the ship ——, and similar documents for the merchandise, which they will ship in the same manner; therefore, I request that you will sign in conformity.
I am personally acquainted with Mr. ——, but not with Mr. ——, but I am on very friendly terms with some particular friends of the latter gentleman, and consequently I give him the preference. I am sorry to observe, however, that he is alone in a country where a partner appears to me indispensable to a commercial house, as well for the safety of his own capital as for the security of the interests of those who may confide to them property, and reside in distant parts of the globe.
The foregoing reflections, together with the detention of my ship V——, at Batavia, from June last, epoch of her arrival at that port, until the 15th of September, ——, when she had on board only nineteen hundred peculs of coffee, are the motives which have compelled me to request of my Liverpool friends to consign the specie and goods, which they will ship on my account, on board of the ship ——, under your command, to said Mr. ——, subject to your control.
Therefore, relying upon your activity, perseverance, correctness, zeal, and attention for my interest, I proceed in pointing out to you the plan of conduct which I wish you to pursue on your arrival at Batavia, and during your stay at that or any port of that island, until your departure for Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, to await my subsequent orders.
First. On your arrival at Batavia, you are to go on shore and ascertain Mr. ——'s residence, and, if you have reason to believe that he is still considered at that place as a man of good credit, and merits full confidence, you are to deliver to him my Liverpool consignees' letters to his address, and also the goods which you have on board, in such proportion as he may request, except the specie, which is to continue on board, as mentioned in the next article.
Second. The specie funds of the ship ——, which will consist of old Carolus dollars, you are to retain on board untouched, and in the said boxes or packages as they were in when shipped from Liverpool, well secured, and locked up in your powder magazine, in the after run of the said ship under the cabin floor.
The bulkhead and floor of said magazine, scuttle, iron bar, staples, etc., must be made sufficiently strong, if not already so, while you are at Liverpool, where you are to procure a strong padlock and key, for the purpose of securing said specie in the most complete and safest manner; and when you have the certainty that it is wanted to pay for the coffee purchased on account of the ship ——, then you are to receive the said coffee, and pay or deliver to your consignee Spanish dollars to the amount of said purchase, and no more, having due regard to the premium or advance allowed at Batavia on old Spanish dollars; and in that way you are to continue paying or delivering dollars as fast as you receive coffee, which is not to exceed the quantity which can be conveniently stowed on board said ship ——, observing to take a receipt for each payment, and to see that the net proceeds of the goods, which will have been shipped at Liverpool, must be invested in coffee, as far as the sales will permit, and shipped on board of said ship.
Should it happen that on your arrival at Batavia you should find that death, absence, etc., should deprive you of the services of Mr. ——, or that, owing to some causes before mentioned, it would be prudent to confide my interests elsewhere, in either case you are to apply to Messrs. ——, merchants of that place, to communicate your instructions relative to the disposal of the Liverpool cargo, on board of the ship ——, the loading of that ship with good merchantable coffee, giving the preference to the first quality whenever it can be purchased on reasonable terms for cash, or received in payment for the sales of the said Liverpool cargo, or for a part thereof, observing that I wished said coffee to be purchased at Samarang, or any other out-port, if practicable; and in all cases it must be attentively examined when delivered, and put up in double gunny bags.
If the purchase of said cargo is made at an out-port, the ship ——must proceed there to take it in.
On the subject of purchasing coffee at government sales, I have no doubt that it is an easy way to obtain a cargo, but I am of opinion that it is a very dear one, particularly as the fair purchaser, who has no other object in view but to invest his money, does not stay on the footing of competitors, who make their payments with Netherland bills of exchange, or wish to raise the prices of their coffee which they may have on hand for sale.
Under these impressions, I desire that all the purchases of coffee on my account be made from individuals, as far as practicable, and if the whole quantity necessary to load the ship can not be obtained at private sale, recourse must then be had to government sales.
In many instances I have experienced that whenever I had a vessel at Batavia, the prices of coffee at the government sales have risen from five to ten per cent., and sometimes higher.
On the subject of coffee I would remark that, owing to the increase of the culture of that bean, together with the immense imports of tea into the several ports of Europe, the price of that leaf has been lowered to such a degree as to induce the people of those countries, principally of the north, to use the latter article in preference to the first.
That circumstance has, for these past three years, created a gradual deduction from the consumption of coffee, which has augmented the stock on hand throughout every commercial city of the northern part of the globe, so as to present a future unfavorable prospect to the importers of that article. Indeed, I am convinced that, within a few months from this date, coffee will be ten per cent. cheaper in the United States than what it has been at Batavia for these two years past; nevertheless, being desirous to employ my ships as advantageously as circumstances will permit, and calculating also that the price at Java and other places of its growth will fall considerably, I have no objection to adventure.
Therefore, you must use every means in your power to facilitate the success of the voyage.
Should the invoice-cost of the entire cargo of coffee shipped at Java, on board of the ship ——, together with the disbursements of that ship (which must be conducted with the greatest economy), not amount to the specie funds and net proceeds of her Liverpool cargo, in that event you are to deliver the surplus to your consignee, who will give you a receipt for the same, with a duplicate, expressing that it is on my account, for the purpose of being invested on the most advantageous terms, in good dry coffee, to be kept at my order and disposal.
Then you will retain the original in your possession, and forward to me the duplicate by first good vessel to the United States, or via Europe, to care of my correspondents at Liverpool, London, Antwerp, or Amsterdam, the names of whom you are familiar with.
If you should judge it imprudent, however, to leave that money at Batavia, you are to bring it back in Spanish dollars, which you will retain on board for that purpose.
Although I wish you to make a short voyage, and with as quick dispatch at Java as practicable, yet I desire you not to leave that island unless your consignee has finally closed the sales of the Liverpool cargo, so that you may be the bearer of all the documents, and account-current, relative to the final transactions of the consignment of the ship —— and cargo. Duplicate and triplicate of said documents to be forwarded to me by your consignees, by the two first safe conveyances for the ports of the United States.
Being in the habit of dispatching my ships for Batavia from this port, Liverpool, or Amsterdam, as circumstances render it convenient, it is interesting to me to be from time to time informed of the several articles of produce and manufactures from each of those places which are the most in demand and quickest of sale at Java. Also of the quantity of each, size of package, and the probable price which they may sell for, cash, adding the Batavia duty, charges for selling, etc. Please to communicate this to your Batavia consignee.
The rates of commission I will allow for transacting the business relative to the ship and cargo at Java are two and a half per cent, for selling, and two and a half per cent, for purchasing and shipping coffee and other articles.
The consignees engaging to place on board of each prow one or two men of confidence, to see that the goods are safely delivered on board of the ship, to prevent pilfering, which is often practiced by those who conduct the lighter.
I am informed that the expenses for two men are trifling, comparatively, to the plunder which has been committed on board of the prows which deliver coffee on board of the ships.
No commissions whatever are to be allowed in the disbursements of my ships, whenever ship and cargo belong to me, and are consigned to some house.
While you remain at Batavia, I recommend you to stay on board of your ship, and not to go on shore except when the business of your ship and cargo may render it necessary.
Inclosed is an introductory letter to ——, which I request you to deliver, after you have made the necessary arrangements with Mr. ——for the consignment of the ship and cargo, or after the circumstance aforementioned has compelled you to look elsewhere for a consignee. Then you are to call upon said Messrs. ——, deliver them the aforesaid letter and the consignment of the ship —— and cargo, after having agreed with them in writing, which they will sign and deliver to you, that they engage to transact the business of the ship and cargo on the terms and conditions herein stated; and when that business is well understood and finally closed, you are to press them in a polite manner, so that they many give you a quick dispatch, without giving too great a price for the coffee, particularly at this present moment, when its price is declining throughout those countries where it is consumed.
Indeed, on the subject of purchasing coffee for the ship ——, the greatest caution and prudence should be exercised. Therefore, I request that you will follow the plan of conduct laid down for you throughout. Also, to keep to yourself the intention of the voyage, and the amount of specie you have on board; and in view to satisfy the curious, tell them that it is probable that the ship will take in molasses, rice, and sugar, if the price of that produce is very low, adding that the whole will depend on the success in selling the small Liverpool cargo. The consignees of said cargo should follow the same line of conduct, and if properly attended to by yourself and them, I am convinced that the cargo of coffee can be purchased ten per cent. cheaper than it would be if it is publicly known there is a quantity of Spanish dollars on board, besides a valuable cargo of British goods intended to be invested in coffee for Stephen Girard, of Philadelphia.
During my long commercial experience, I have noticed that no advantage results from telling one's business to others, except to create jealousy or competitors when we are fortunate, and to gratify our enemies when otherwise.
If my remarks are correct, I have no doubt they will show you the necessity of being silent, and to attend with activity, perseverance, and modesty, to the interests of your employer.
As my letters of instruction embrace several interesting objects, I request you to peruse them in rotation, when at sea in fine climates, during your voyage to Batavia, and to take correct extracts, so as to render yourself master of the most essential parts. I conclude by directing your attention to your health and that of your crew.
I am yours, respectfully,
Mr. Girard was not only rigidly precise in his instructions, but he permitted no departure from them. He regarded it as dangerous to allow discretion to any one in the execution of his plans. Where a deviation from his instructions might cause success in one case, it would cause loss in ninety-nine others. It was understood among all his employes that a rigid obedience to orders, in even the most trifling particulars, was expected, and would be exacted. If loss came under such circumstances, the merchant assumed the entire responsibility for it.
Upon one occasion one of his best captains was instructed to purchase his cargo of teas at a certain port. Upon reaching home he was summoned by the merchant to his presence.
"Captain ——," said Mr. Girard, sternly, "your instructions required you to purchase your cargo at ——."
"That is true, Mr. Girard," replied the Captain, "but upon reaching that port I found I could do so much better at ——, that I felt justified in proceeding to the latter place."
"You should have obeyed your orders, sir," was the stern retort.
"I was influenced by a desire to serve your interests, sir. The result ought to justify me in my act, since it puts many thousands more into your pocket than if I had bought where I was instructed."
"Captain ——," said Girard, "I take care of my own interests. You should have obeyed your orders if you had broken me. Nothing can excuse your disobedience. You will hand in your accounts, sir, and consider yourself discharged from my service."
He was as good as his word, and, though the captain's disobedience had vastly increased the profit of the voyage, he dismissed him, nor would he ever receive him into his service again.
To his knowledge of his business Mr. Girard joined an unusual capacity for such ventures. He was, it must be said, hard and illiberal in his bargains, and remorseless in exacting the last cent due him. He was prompt and faithful in the execution of every contract, never departed in the slightest from his plighted word, and never engaged in any venture which he was not perfectly able to undertake. He was prudent and cautious in the fullest sense of those terms, but his ventures were always made with a boldness which was the sure forerunner of success.
His fidelity to his word is well shown by a circumstance which had occurred long after he was one of the "money kings" of the land. He was once engaged with his cashier in a discussion as to the length of time a man would consume in counting a million of dollars, telling out each dollar separately. The dispute became animated, and the cashier declared that he could make a million of dots with ink in a few hours.
"I'll tell you what I'll do," said Girard, who was thoroughly vexed by the opposition of the other, "I'll wager five hundred dollars that I can ride in my gig from here to my farm, spend two hours there, and return before you can make your million of dots with ink."
The cashier, after a moment's reflection, accepted the wager, and Mr. Girard departed to his farm. He returned in a few hours, confident that he had won. The cashier met him with a smile.
"Where is my money?" asked Girard, triumphantly.
"The money is mine," replied the cashier. "Come and see."
He led the merchant to an unused room of the bank, and there, to his dismay, Girard saw the walls and ceiling covered with spots of ink, which the cashier had dashed on them with a brush.
"Do you mean to say there are a million of dots here?" he cried, angrily.
"Count them, and see," replied his subordinate, laughing. "You know the wager was a million of dots with ink."
"But I expected you would make them with the pen."
"I did not undertake any thing of the kind."
The joke was too good, and the merchant not only paid the amount of the wager, but the cost of cleaning the walls.
In 1810 the question of renewing the charter of the old Bank of the United States was actively discussed. Girard was a warm friend of that institution, which he believed had been the cause of a very great part of the prosperity of the country, and was firmly convinced that Congress would renew the charter. In this belief he ordered the Barings, of London, to invest all his funds in their hands in shares of the Bank of the United States, which was done, during the following year, to the amount of half a million of dollars. When the charter expired, he was the principal creditor of that institution, which Congress refused to renew. Discovering that he could purchase the old Bank and the cashier's house for one hundred and twenty thousand dollars, he at once secured them, and on the 12th of May, 1812, opened the Girard Bank, with a capital of one million two hundred thousand dollars, which he increased the next year by one hundred thousand dollars more. He retained all the old officers of the Bank of the United States, especially the cashier, Mr. Simpson, to whose skill and experience he was greatly indebted for his subsequent success.
Finding that the salaries which had been paid by the Government were higher than those paid elsewhere, he cut them down to the rate given by the other banks. The watchman had always received from the old Bank the gift of an overcoat at Christmas, but Girard put a stop to this. He gave no gratuities to any of his employes, but confined them to the compensation for which they had bargained; yet he contrived to get out of them service more devoted than was received by other men who paid higher wages and made presents. Appeals to him for aid were unanswered. No poor man ever came full-handed from his presence. He turned a deaf ear to the entreaties of failing merchants to help them on their feet again. He was neither generous nor charitable. When his faithful cashier died, after long years spent in his service, he manifested the most hardened indifference to the bereavement of the family of that gentleman, and left them to struggle along as best they could.
Yet from the first he was liberal and sometimes magnificent in the management of his bank. He would discount none but good paper, but it was his policy to grant accommodations to small traders, and thus encourage beginners, usually giving the preference to small notes, by this system doing very much to avert the evils that would of necessity have sprung from the suspension of the old Bank of the United States. The Government credit was almost destroyed, and money was needed to carry on the war. He made repeated advances to the treasury, unsolicited by the authorities, and on more than one occasion kept the Government supplied with the sinews of war. In 1814, when our prospects, both military and financial, were at their lowest ebb, when the British forces had burned Washington and the New England States were threatening to withdraw from the Union, the Government asked for a loan of five millions of dollars, with the most liberal inducements to subscribers. Only twenty thousand dollars could be obtained, and the project seemed doomed to failure, when it was announced that Stephen Girard had subscribed for the whole amount. This announcement at once restored the public confidence, and Mr. Girard was beset with requests from persons anxious to take a part of the loan, even at an advanced rate. They were allowed to do so upon the original terms. When the Government could not, for want of funds, pay the interest on its debt to him, he wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury:
"I am of opinion that those who have any claim for interest on public stock, etc., should patiently wait for a more favorable moment, or at least receive in payment treasury notes. Should you be under the necessity of resorting to either of these plans, as one of the public creditors, I shall not murmur."