Charles E. (Charles Elliott) Fitch.

Encyclopedia of biography of New York, a life record of men and women whose sterling character and energy and industry have made them preëminent in their own and many other states (Volume 5) online

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marked the masterpieces of his eminent
uncle. His maternal grandfather, Gabriel
Furman, was one of the first aldermen of
New York City, and was a leading citizen
of more than average standing and re-
pute. During the War of the Revolution,
he fought in the battle of Long Island,
and while attempting to join Washing-
ton's army in New Jersey, he was seized
by the British as a spy and held for three
years, being confined in a jail on what
was afterward the site of the Hall of
Records. The younger John Treat Irv-
ing, like his father, was educated at
Columbia College, from which he was
graduated with the class of 1829, living
to be the oldest alumnus of that institu-
tion. In June, 1832, he accompanied the
first expedition sent by the government
to Fort Leavenworth, to treat with the
Indians, and was acting secretary, and
his experiences on that memorable mis-
sion were afterward embodied in his first
published work, which appeared in 1835
under the title "Indian Sketches," the
volume attracting wide attention by rea-
son of its graphic descriptions, both at
home and abroad, being given the dis-
tinction of republication in England. On
his return from the frontier, he took up


the study of law under Daniel Lord, and
was subsequently admitted to practice as
a member of the New York bar. In 1835
he went to Europe and for the next two
years traveled extensively, returning in
1837. In the meantime, in 1836, he wrote
"Hawk Chief," an Indian tale of excep-
tional merit that was published and
achieved popularity both in this country
and in England. Among his other writ-
ings were: "The Attorney," "Harry Har-
son," and "The Van Gelder Papers," all
of which displayed talent of a high order
and ranked as works that reflected honor
upon American literature. After his mar-
riage, however, Mr. Irving applied him-
self energetically to the practice of his
profession. He was associated with Gar-
diner Spring at this stage of his career,
and he continued to practice law until
1857, in which year he retired. In 1858
he became a real estate broker, with
offices on lower Broadway, and he re-
mained identified with realty interests
until 1887, when he withdrew from active
pursuits altogether, spending the remain-
der of his days in well earned rest. As
a business man. in his real estate venture,
he exhibited ability and gained success
equal to those which marked his earlier
professional efforts in law and literature.
He was a Republican in his political prin-
ciples but was never active as a poli-
tician. He was a member of the Authors'
and Century clubs, and the Columbia
University Alumni Association, and
served as president of the New York
Chess Club when that former metropoli-
tan organization was enjoying its palm-
iest days prior to 1863. An Episcopalian
in his religious faith, he was at one time
a member of Grace Protestant Episcopal
Church and later held membership in the
Protestant Episcopal Church of the In-
carnation. He was president of the Insti-
tute for the Blind, Thirty-fourth street
and Ninth avenue, New York City, and

a trustee of Roosevelt Hospital. Through-
out his entire life, and up to the very last,
he manifested a warm interest in charit-
able work and his deeds of good in that
direction were without number. He was
always ready and even anxious to extend
an earnest and willing hand in the
reformation of drunkards and, with true
Christian spirit, rather than wait to be
sought and importuned, ministered to the
sick and aided the unfortunate. Many
funerals among the destitute were paid for
by him, and his benefactions caused him
to be widely loved. A man of culture
and refinement, he was artistic in tem-
perament and was especially fond of
painting, that form of art claiming con-
siderable of his leisure time in his
younger years. He was married to Helen
Schermerhorn. To this union were born
eight children, namely, five sons and
three daughters, as follows : John, who
married Josephine E. Peacock, and at-
tained success in metropolitan brokerage
circles ; Cortlandt, who became a noted
jurist, married Theresa R. Beck; Helen
C. ; Henry, who married Josephine K.
Miller ; Frances R. ; Edward, who mar-
ried Julia Atkins, and died in 1880; Wal-
ter, whose name heads this sketch ; Mari-
on H., who died in 1877. The death of
Mr. Irving at an advanced age, severed
another of the links which connects the
New York of to-day with the old New
York of the past, rich in its memories of
honorable business achievements, profes-
sional eminence and intellectual attain-

Walter Irving, son of John Treat and
Helen (Schermerhorn) Irving, was born
at Glen Cove, Long Island, February 11,
1857. His education was obtained at the
University Grammar School and the Col-
umbia Grammar School of New York
City. In his very early manhood he en-
tered upon his business career in a cleri-
cal capacity in Wall street, New York





City, and for a period of five years was
associated actively with that busy center
of the city. Impaired health obliged him
to abandon business activities and for
some years he traveled in this country.
Later he devoted himself to the conduct
of his private business affairs, and spent
a great deal of his time in his fine library,
where he has a choice collection of some
two thousand volumes, many of them
rare specimens. He has been a member
of the New York Llistorical Society, the
New York Geographical Society, the New
York Museum of Natural History and
the Academy of Science. In the course
of time he has resigned from all of these
with the exception of the New York
Geographical Society.

Mr. Irving married, at Elmira, New
York, November 12, 1890, Bessie Louise
\'an Sickler, a daughter of George Wil-
son and Fayette (Woodburn) Van Sick-
ler. They have been blessed with two
sons: Walter Van Courtlandt, born July
13, 1901 ; and Harold, born December 5,
1904. They are members of the Epis-
copal church. Mrs. Irving is descended
from several noted and well-known fami-
lies; the Ridgeways. of Philadelphia;
the Burrs, the Stocktons and the Wood-
burns. Her maternal grandmother was
Jane Burr Ridgeway, who married Hiram
Woodburn ; she was the daughter of
David Ridgeway, of Philadelphia, whose
first American ancestor was Richard
Ridgeway, who came from England in
1677; he married Abigail Stockton, a
daughter of Richard Stockton, who was
the ancestor of Richard Stockton, one of
the signers of the Declaration of Inde-
pendence, and of Admiral Stockton. The
line of descent from the American pro-
genitor, Richard Ridgeway, is as fol-
lows: Joseph, David, another David. Jane
Burr, who married Hiram Woodburn,
and whose daughter, Fayette, married

George Wilson Van Sickler, and became
the mother of Mrs. Irving, as above

YAWMAN, Philip H.,

Manufacturer, Inventor.

The great force in business to-day is
not capital, nor organization, nor methods,
necessary as they are, but it is man. Em-
erson says, "Every successful institution
is the lengthened shadow of one man,"
which means that success is largely due
to the individual. The great plants of the
Yawman & Erbe Manufacturing Com-
pany, covering as they do an area of
twenty acres, is the "lengthened shadow"
of the little business started in 1880 by
Philip H. Yawman and Gustav Erbe in
a little shop measuring twenty feet in
width, thirty feet in length, located in the
heart of the business district of Roches-
ter, New York. From such a small be-
ginning has been reared a great organ-
ization with many branches in the United
States and Canada and exclusive selling
agencies throughout the world. The
company owns three large plants, two in
Rochester, one in Newmarket, Canada,
in which are manufactured more filing
cabinets and supplies for office systems
than are made by any other firm in the
world. Fifteen hundred people are em-
ployed in the United States and Canadian
plants exclusive of the agency salesmen,
and fourteen branch stores in the United
States and fourteen in Canada stretch
across the country from the Atlantic to
the Pacific.

As was said in the beginning, the great
force in businness to-day is man. The
making of filing cabinets that will meet
the needs of great modern business
houses is only an idea. Philip Yawman
and Gustav Erbe did not invent the letter
file, neither are they the fathers of office


systems. The idea of filing letters and
documents for future reference is as old
as writing itself, and some sort of system
prevailed in the first business office.
What these men have done is to take the
idea, develop it, make it practical, make
it comprehensive, make it fit the needs,
and meet the demands of modern busi-
ness. The object of this article is to give
an intimate view of the man, Philip H.
Yawman, who all through the years,
thirty-five, that cover the life of the Yaw-
man & Erbe Manufacturing Company,
has been its presiding mechanical genius.
Go into the big Rochester plant to-day
and you will probably find him in one of
the mechanical departments, a man over
seventy, slightly stooped, with loose grey
coat, black cap, and discerning eye, talk-
ing with this foreman or that workman.
In the experimental and tool making
department he has his inventive ideas
worked out and later they are passed
to the manufacturing department for
adoption. Many of the best patented
features of the "Y" and "E" cabinets and
equipment are due to his genius, working
along original lines. Though over three
score years and ten, he is still an active
factor in the business. His private office
adjoins Mr. Erbe's, they daily confer,
and their guiding hands can be seen at
every turn. The whole business is at
their finger tips, and they are familiar
with every part of both manufacturing
and selling organizations. No step of
importance is taken without their knowl-
edge, although they are too busy to
handle details. True executives in every
sense, they are never toO' occupied to give
attention to the humblest employee, and
every man in the great organization feels
that he has a friend in Philip H. Yaw-
man, president, and in Gustav Erbe,
treasurer and general manager of the
Yawman & Erbe Manufacturing Com-
pany. Both of these men, themselves

risen from the ranks, look upon each man
as an individual, deserving individual
consideration, and see in every office boy
a possible manager, in every workman a
possible foreman. Among the fifteen
hundred people in the employ of the com-
pany there are many who have been there
since its earliest days, there are more who
have served loyally for twenty years, and
many more who have been with the com-
pany for twelve years. So in addition to
being the largest manufacturers of their
lines in the world, the company stands as
a shining example of the close coopera-
tion that should exist between employers
and employees. The firm's first office
boy of over thirty years ago is now super-
intendent of the Canadian business, and
this instance is typical, not an exceptional

Philip H. Yawman was born Septem-
ber I, 1839, in Rochester, the city of his
early struggles and later successes. He
is a son of Nicholas and Anna (Gorman)
Yawman, his father born in Schmidt-
weiler, Lorraine, in 1816. In 1832 Nicho-
las Yawman came to the United States
with his father and four brothers, learned
the coopers' trade, and engaged in busi-
ness in Rochester, later in Scottsville,
New York. His wife, Anna (Gorman)
Yawman, died when her son, Philip H.,
was but an infant. Philip H. Yawman
attended public schools and in boyhood
worked with his father in the cooper shop
at Scottsville. Later he learned the ma-
chinist's trade, working in many shops,
becoming a master mechanic and an ex-
pert workman. While in the employ of
a large optical instrument manufacturing
company of Rochester, where it was his
duty to invent, design and improve new
machinery and methods, he formed the
accjuaintance of Gustav Erbe, foreman for
the same company. The two men were
much together, each finding the other a
master, and, working in close harmony.


each supplementing the other's efforts,
they accomplished important results for
their firm. Mr. Erbe stated his needs and
Mr. Yawman's inventive genius found a
solution, as a result many machines were
perfected to do work formerly performed
by hand. In 1880 the two men decided
that what they could do for others they
could do for themselves, and with little
capital, but with unlimited courage and
faith in themselves, they formed a part-
nership and launched a frail bark upon a
rough business sea. They began under
the name of Yawman & Erbe in a small
room, twenty by thirty feet, investing
practically their entire capital in ma-
chinery. They began manufacturing math-
ematical, optical and surveying instru-
ments, and from the first resolved that
whatever instrument they made should
be of the best quality. It was not easy
going, for their resources were small and
they had entered a field occupied by
large, well established firms. The part-
ners, working hard and conscientiously,
had many discouragements during the
early years, but their reputation for good
work and fair dealing was spreading and
business gradually increased. They made
goods for other concerns and soon larger
quarters were necessary. At the end of
the third year the business had grown
to such proportions that the young firm
felt that their fight was won. James Cut-
ler, later mayor of Rochester, gave them
a contract for manufacturing a mail chute
to be used in ofiice buildings and for
twenty-five years Yaw^man & Erbe made
the widely known Cutler Mail Chute.
The Eastman Kodak Company did not
always have its present large plant, and
in the spring of 1883 Yawman & Erbe
made for that company the first model
film holders, and in 1884 the first Model
No. I Kodak. Until 1895 they continued
doing all the metal work and assembled

all the work ready for inspection for the
film roll holders and Nos. i, 2, 3, 4,
Kodaks that were made for the Eastman
Kodak Company. There is a picture ex-
tant taken by George Eastman with his
first Kodak, showing Messrs. Yawman
and Erbe, standing on the steps leading
to their little shop. In the spring of 1883
Yawman & Erbe also entered into an
agreement with the owners of the patents
to manufacture the only Shannon Files
for letters, bills, etc., that were made in
the United States at that time. This
Shannon Arch File, consisting of an arch,
a board, a compressor cover, an index and
a perforator, had been invented in 1877
and was the forerunner of the modern
business filing systems. This Shannon
design, with many improvements, is still
made by Yawman & Erbe, who were
among the first to manufacture filing
equipment. During this early period and
shortly after the first Shannon File was
placed on the market, the company began
the manufacture of the now famed Yaw-
man and Erbe Rapid Roller Copier, a
machine having all the advantages of
letter press and carbon methods.

In 1884, feeling that their prospects
justified the move, the young firm pur-
chased ground, erected a four-story brick
factory, and to their product added metal
interiors for vaults, banks and public
buildings. This brought further increase
of business, and in 1890 another four-
storied building was erected on the same
lot. Prior to 1898 the company manu-
factured for other concerns, but in that
year they incorporated as the Yawman
& Erbe Manufacturing Company, took
over the entire business of the Office
Specialty Company, and instituted their
own selling organization. They then dis-
posed of their metal working business to
the Art Metal Construction Company, of
Jamestown, New York. Their business,



still increasing, a new factory was erected
in Rochester and one in Canada, which
has developed into the extensive New-
market plant, one of the largest com-
pletely motorized factories in the Do-
minion. In 1900 a building larger than
any of the others was erected in the rear
of the original plant, where now all the
Yawman & Erbe steel and paper products
are manufactured. From 1905 until 1908
the company operated both day and
night, and in 1906 an adjoining building
was purchased. In 1907, to provide room
for present and future needs, fourteen
acres in the suburb of Gates was pur-
chased and a modern factory was erected,
and in February, 1914, the largest struc-
ture of all was built, to be followed by
others that will cover the entire tract.
The entire selling organization is modern
and in line with most advanced ideas.
The company sells service and maintains
a system department of trained experts
whose services are given free of charge to
customers. Every salesman is trained in
the company's own school and must

man of sound judgment, originality, per-
severance and determination. Kindly and
friendly to all, he has many warm friends,
but it is in the home circle that his best
traits of character are made manifest. He
is a director of the Genesee Valley Trust
Company, but he has seldom gone far
beyond his own particular field in busi-
ness enterprise.

He is a good citizen and an honor to
the city that gave him birth and afforded
him business opportunities, and in return
he has carried her name to the uttermost
parts of the earth and has aided to a great
degree in spreading the name and fame
of Rochester as an industrial and com-
mercial center. The weight of seventy
years has slightly bent his frame but the
spirit of progress is strong within him,
and while the heavier burdens have been
surrendered he keeps in close touch with
every movement made, and his approval
is always secured in any measure of im-
portance affecting the company interests.
A strong and capable executive, a kind

qualify as a system expert before he is and generous employer, a citizen of worth,

assigned territory. The factory force of
five has grown to fifteen hundred, the
floor space of six hundred square feet to
twenty acres, the limited capital to un-
limited resources, and the young partners
of 1880 to the veterans of 1915 in control,
Mr. Yawman, president ; Mr. Erbe, treas-
urer and general manager. They are as
enthusiastic as they were thirty years
ago, when it took a year to do as much
business as they now transact in a week.
Mr. Yawman can review with satisfac-
tion the outcome of his mechanical and
inventive genius, and the fact that his
name is known all over the world wher-
ever office systems are in use, which
means wherever civilization extends. But
more than his mechanical fame he values

a man among men, he has ever been the
great force that, more than capital, more
than organization, more than method, has
created a great enterprise.

Mr. Yawman married, in 1863, Mary C
Webber, who for over fifty years was the
queen of his heart and the mistress of his
home. She died November 11, 1914. Nine
children were born to Philip H. and Mary
C. Yawman: Cecelia M. ; Marie Antoi-
nette, married Frederick J. Hafner, of
Rochester; Julia A., married Harry
Heistein, of Rochester; Cora Y., mar-
ried Frank W. Hahn, of Rochester ;
Aloysia, a resident of Rochester; Eu-
genia, a sister of St. Joseph's Convent ;
Josepha, a sister of Little Sister of the
Poor; Francis J., secretary of the Yaw-

the fact that Yawman and reliability are man & Erbe Manufacturing Company ;
synonymous and that he is honored as a \'ictor, residing with his father.


'•'1 Battis-rBf^'j-


BREWSTER. Henry Colvin,

Financier, Humanitarian.

It is the record of such men as Henry
Colvin Brewster that stands as contradic-
tory evidence of the statement, too
often heard, that America is given over
to the spirit of commercialism ; that busi-
ness and naught else claims the attention
and efiforts of our leading men. Roches-
ter knows Henry C. Brewster as a finan-
cier of ability, but has known him more-
over as a public-spirited citizen, as a man
of benevolences, of kindly purposes and
high ideals. The great interests of the
country at large — politics, the church and
the charities — have made claims upon his
attention, claims that he has fully met,
and while the business activity and pros-
perity of the city have been greatly aug-
mented through his labors, her public
welfare has profited by his efiforts and his
history is one which reflects honor and
credit upon Monroe county and the state-

Rochester may well be proud to num-
ber him among her native sons. The an-
cestral history is one of close connection
with America through many generations.
His parents were Simon L. and Editha
(Colvin) Brewster. The father, who was
born in the town of Griswold, New Lon-
don county, Connecticut, in 1811, ac-
quired his education in the common
schools and afterward became connected
with the business interests of his native
town. For ten years he was there en-
gaged in manufacturing and in his thir-
tieth year he removed to Rochester, New
York, where for eighteen years he was
a prominent representative of mercantile
interests. On the expiration of that
period he retired from business life in
1859, but four years afterward again took
his place in the business world, being
elected president of the Traders' Bank in

1863. Two years subsequently this was
reorganized under the National Bank Act
under the name of the Traders' National
Bank and Simon L. Brewster continued
as its president until his death, which
occurred in August, 1898. He was. there-
fore, for more than a third of a century
at the head of this important financial in-
stitution and under his guidance it took
rank among the leading monied concerns
of the Empire State. Its business covered
every department of banking and its finan-
cial strength, based upon the well-known
reliability and business methods of its
president and other stockholders and
officers, secured to it a constantly in-
creasing patronage. In 1844 Mr. Brew-
ster was united in marriage to Editha
Colvin, a daughter of Hiram D. Colvin,
of Rochester. She died in 1899.

September 7, 1845, was the natal day
of Henry C. Brewster, who was reared
amid the refining influences of a home of
culture. Between the ages of six and
eighteen years his time and attention
were largely given to the acquirement of
an education, and he then became a
factor in financial circles, entering the
Traders' Bank, later the Traders' Na-
tional Bank, in the fall of 1863. No pa-
rental influence smoothed his pathway or
released him from the arduous work
which constitutes the basis of advance-
ment and success. It was personal merit
that gained him promotion as he mas-
tered the various tasks assigned to him in
the different positions which he filled in
the bank. He realized that there is no
excellence without labor and in the years
which followed he so thoroughly ac-
quainted himself with the banking busi-
ness that in July. 1868, he was chosen by
the vote of the directors to the office of
cashier, in which he continued to serve
for more than twenty-six years. He was
then elected to the vice-presidency in the



fall of 1894 and five years later succeeded
his father as president of the Traders'
National Bank, since remaining at the
head of the institution.

For forty-four years Henry C. Brewster
has been a factor in financial circles in
Rochester, his usefulness and activity con-
stantly increasing as time has passed.
He was for many years the first vice-
president of the Rochester Trust & Safe
Deposit Company, and for a considerable
period was president of the Genesee Val-
ley Trust Company, which was organized
by him. In 1893 ^^ became the founder
of the Alliance Bank of Rochester and for
nearly seven years served as its first vice-
president. As a financier he is known
and honored throughout New York. In
1899 he was elected to the presidency of
the New York State Bankers' Associa-
tion, which he had assisted in organizing
five years before, acting as its vice-presi-
dent during the first year of its existence.
He was also vice-president of the Ameri-
can Bankers from the State of New York
for five years. His course has ever been
such as would bear the closest investiga-
tion and scrutiny. There is in him a
native sagacity and a weight of character
that well qualify him for leadership and
command for him admiration and confi-