Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer.

Philadelphia; a history of the city and its people, a record of 225 years (Volume 4) online

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servatory and the dental school of the University of Pennsylvania ; the James
V. Brown Memorial Library, Williamsport, Pennsylvania ; the Penn Mutual
Life Insurance Company's office building, Boston, Massachusetts ; the Cannon
Club, Princeton, New Jersey, and numerous city and country residences.

His early education was in the public schools of Philadelphia, where he
graduated from the Central high school in 1884. After several years of prac-
tical office experience, he took up the special course in architecture at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which he finished in the class of 1890.
His professional studies were then completed in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux
Arts under the direction of M. Victor Laloux, for many years one of the lead-
ing French architects. After several months' travel in Italy and Greece, he
returned to Philadelphia in 1893 at the invitation of the LTniversity of Pennsyl-
vania to assume the assistant professorship of design in the school of archi-
tecture, which he held until 1898, when the demands of practice obliged him to
withdraw from teaching.


Mr. Seeler was born in Philadelphia, November i8, 1867, the son of George
W. Seeler and Anna Maria Viguers. He is a brother of Harrison G. Seeler,
of Seeler & Company, the well known bankers and brokers of Philadelphia.
On the paternal side, his antecedents are German, the founder of the family,
Gottfried Seeler, great-grandfather of the architect, having come from Tanger-
miinde, Prussia, in 1790 and settled in Philadelphia, where he married Barbara
Wittig, of Germantown. On the maternal side, his grandfather. Captain Isaac
Lortt Viguers, was born in Philadelphia in 1808 of French parents of Hugue-
not stock that had migrated to England during the persecutions.

Mr. Seeler was married in 1905 to Miss Martha Page Laughlin, a daughter
of James Laughlin, Jr., and Sidney Page Laughlin. They have three children,
Sidney Page, Edgar V., Jr., and Josephine Page. Mr. Seeler is a member of
the Art Club of Philadelphia and of the Merion Cricket Club. He is a fellow
of the American Institute of Architects and some time director. Since 1905,
he has been a trustee of the Fairmount Park Art Association. In 1906 he was
made a trustee of the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art.


Sound training in fundamentals was John B. Stetson's equipment for life.
His finished work is seen today in a great village of factories, benevolent institu-
tions, workingmen's homes and improvement clubs — a village that centers at
Fourth and Montgomery streets. The unfolding of his plans and the execution
of his purpose reveal the fact that he was not only master of business principles
and possessed an aptitude for successful management, but in the broader scope
of thought and study he had touched upon the sociological and economic prob-
lems of the age and he brought to these practical solution. His recognition of
the obligation of man to his fellowmen was not manifest in promiscuous giving
or illy advised charity but found its expression in the provision of means that
would enable the individual to develop the best that was in him at the same time
maintaining his self-respect and independence. Various public institutions stand
as monuments to his life work but his most fitting memorial is found in the lives
of those who were uplifted through his influence and his labors.

He was born in Orange, Essex county. New Jersey, May 5, 1830, a son of
Stephen Stetson, a hatter of sturdy English character. He learned his father's
trade and worked in his shop until January, 1865, when he came to Philadelphia
with no capital save his skill and enterprising spirit. In a small room at Seventh
and Callowhill streets he began business in the line in which he had been trained
and soon by the strictest economy was able to engage in hat manufacturing. In
less than a year he removed to larger quarters on Fourth above Chestnut and
only a brief period had passed before Stetson hats were in every retail store in
Philadelphia and the reputation of his manufactured product was extending also
beyond the limits of the city. He occupied leased quarters at Fourth and Chest-
nut but soon added another story to the building to accommodate his increasing
trade. Two years after the inception of the business it was reorganized under the





firm name of John B. Stetson & Company and two years later the house was
doing a business of eighty thousand dollars annually. In 1869 traveling sales-
men were sent upon the road and the Stetson hats found favor wherever they
were introduced. Again was demonstrated the truth of the old saying that satis-
fied patrons are the best advertisement.

In 1872 a removal was made to Fourth and Montgomery streets, where were
laid what practically became the foundation stones of the manufacturing center
that there bears his name. The history of the business from that time for-
ward has been the record of continuous, substantial and yet rapid growth.
Building after building was added to meet the demands of the trade and Stet-
son became throughout the country the synonym for all that is best and most re-
liable in the manufacture of hats. The output of the factories at the time of Mr.
Stetson's death amounted to two million hats annually and employment was fur-
nished to thirty-five hundred workmen.

While the building up of a gigantic enterprise is a matter worthy of con-
sideration, it is the methods that Mr. Stetson employed that will cause his memory
to be forever honored not only by those who were in his service or had business
connections with him but also by their descendants. The methods of the over-
bearing taskmaster never had place in his establishment. He regarded each
employe as an individual and not as a part of a great machine for the purpose
of turning out certain work. He felt and manifested a personal interest in those
who served him, sought their welfare, desired their happiness and did every-
thing within his power to render conditions among which they worked attractive
and beneficial aside from the mere earning of a weekly wage. As the result of
his sagacity and understanding of the problems and conditions of human life,
happiness and contentment reigned among his employes. There were no trades
unions there nor necessity for them, but instead he established various associa-
tions which brought real benefit to his employes and founded family interest in
his factories through the apprentice system. The organized aids for the work-
ingmen and their families include building and loan associations, a social union
modeled upon the lines of the Young Men's Christian Association, a benefit as-
sociation, a Sunday school, a kindergarten, a militia battalion of several com-
panies under national guard regulations and a dispensary public hospital. He
remained at the head of all but each was in charge of a lieutenant. Such as
could be w'ere made self-supporting for he did not believe in fostering a spirit
of dependence but arrangements for the perpetuation of all were made before
his death. Perhaps the institution which has widest scope in its benevofent
effect is the Stetson Hospital, starting as a dispensary but broadening out in its
purposes until it is today a splendidly equipped hospital, its operating rooms
and wards free to all. Twenty thousand patients are treated there eveiy year
with a staff of thirty-four physicians in attendance and eminent surgeons pro-
nounce its equipment perfect.

Mr. Stetson was the founder of the town of De Land, Florida, and held a
controlling interest in nearly all of its industries and interests. His real-estate
holdings there embraced thousands of acres, including several orange groves
in which he took great pride. In 1886, when he became interested in certain
property at De Land, he heard of a school there needing assistance and the


helpful spirit which was at all times dominant in him was at once manifest
in the financial aid which he gave. His sound wisdom also constituted an ele-
ment in its management and the school prospered. He became a trustee and
chairman of the executive board and against his protest the school was named
the John B. Stetson University. It is today one of the flourishing institutions
of the south, its buildings being valued at over one hundred thousand dollars.
Mr. Stetson was as well known in De Land, where he spent several months
each year, as in Philadelphia and in Ashbourne, Philadelphia, where he main-
tained his country home, and it was in De Land that he passed away February
i8, 1906, his death resulting from a stroke of apoplexy at the age of seventy-
six years. His remains were brought back to Philadelphia and the funeral ser-
vices were held from his country home, Idro, on the York road near Elkins
Park, on the 21st of February. Mr. Stetson is survived by his widow, a daugh-
ter, Mrs. Henry H. Roelofs, and two sons, John B. and George Henry. Mr.
Stetson was twice married, his sons being children by his second wife, who
was Miss Sara Elizabeth Shindler, of Indiana.

Mr. Stetson was a prominent member of the Fifth Baptist church of Phila-
delphia, was a generous patron of the Young Men's Christian Association and
of all charitable and church enterprises. His philanthropic spirit prompted his
assistance to various small charities as well as those of wider importance and
better known. He builded a monument to himself in the respect and affectionate
regard entertained for him by his employes and all associated with him. His
deep interest in those who served him struck a responsive cord in their hearts
and on every occasion they will be found telling the story of the unselfish and
self-sacrificing devotion of this man. He seemed to recognize every obliga-
tion of life and to meet it gladly. Of him it may well be said:

"There is a man who has done his part and has carried his load,

Rejoiced to share with every heart the roughness of the road ;

Not given to thinking ovennuch of the pains and cares behind,

But glad to be in touch with all his humankind."


James Howell Cummings stands today as a splendid representative of the
prominent manufacturer and capitalist in whom the subjective and objective
forces of life are well balanced, making him cognizant of his own capabilities
and powers, while at the same time he thoroughly understands his opportunities
and his obligations. It has been through utilizing the former and meeting the
latter that he has reached the eminent position which he now occupies as the
head of the leading hat manufactory of the world. Mr. Cummings was .born in
Goshen, Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, August 7, 1867, a son of John and
Sarah E. (Thompson) Cummings. His father was for many years treasurer
of the Holmes & Edwards Silver Company, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and
throughout the Civil war served in the Federal army as a lieutenant of heavy



I * A8Te«, LINOX *N»


In the public and high schools of Philadelphia James H. Cummings pursued
his education and then entered business life as office boy with John B. Stet-
son & Company in November, 1882. Fidelity, honesty and industry won him
promotion. He became clerk and from time to time larger responsibilities were
entrusted to him. Upon the incorporation of the business under the name of
the J. B. Stetson Company in 1891 he was elected secretary and subsequent
election made him treasurer and vice president, while upon the death of Mr.
Stetson on the i8th of February, 1906, he was elected to the presidency. Under
his management the business has developed into the most extensive hat manu-
factory in the world, and the name of Stetson is today not only known through-
out America but in foreign lands as well. The main factory in Philadelphia
covers a tloor space of twenty-four acres and employment is furnished to over
six thousand operatives. Here they maintain for their own work an establish-
ment for the cutting and treatment of furs, a factory for the weaving of silk
bands, braids and bindings, while buildings are also set aside exclusively for
leather cutting and for the printing of dies on leathers and tips. There is also
a shop for making exclusively designed blocks, a paper box factory, machine
shops and general construction department. Stetson hats are made of furs ex-
clusively and they purchase about' t\vel-ve million fur-bearing skins per year from
all parts of the world. The business is capitalized for eight million dollars.
System is manifest in every department and the work has been so organized
that there is no loss of time, labor nor material. The Stetson hats are re-
garded as standard in manufacture as well as in style, and the constantly in-
creasing output has led to the establishment of a business which is unequalled
throughout civilized lands. Few men are so thoroughly familiar with every
phase of an extensive business as is Mr. Cummings who, becoming connected
with the house as office boy, mastered various duties in many departments as
he gradually worked his way upward to the presidency. He is also a director
of the Bank of North America, the oldest in the United States, a director of
Erben Harding & Company, and a trustee of the Penn Mutual Life Insurance

On tl. ; 22d of February, 1889, Mr. Cummings was married to Miss Anna
C. Richards, a daughter of H. M. Richards, of Philadelphia, and they have one
son and three daughters, J. Howell, Marie R., Elizabeth S. and Eleanor F.
Mr. Cummings is president of the Stetson Hospital of Philadelphia and in the
midst of large responsibilities finds time for cooperation with measures and
movement; which ameliorate hard conditions of life for the unfortunate, which
uphold pr gressive citizenship and which promote public progress along many
lines. He is, however, preeminently a business man to whom long experience
and native ability have made the solution of difficult commercial problems an
easy one. He has stamped his intensely practical ideas upon the work with
which he became identified in his boyhood. The possibilities of high position
afi^orded in the United States to industry and fidelity were never better illus-
trated than in the history of Mr. Cummings. He started with comparatively
nothing; he has today almost everything that men covet as of value and he has
won it all by his own unaided exertions. It is well that so successful a life has
also found time for the finer things the self-made men are so prone to over-

Vr.l. n'— 2.5


look — aid in money and personal attention to progressive public movements,
the collection of rare objects of beauty from all over the world and the artistic
adornment of his city and his home.


An enumeration of the men of the present generation who have conferred
honor upon the state and its people who have honored him would be incomplete
and unsatisfactory were there failure to make extended mention of General
Henry H. Bingham. Without invidious distinction he may be termed one of
the foremost men not only of Philadelphia but of the nation, having for almost
a third of a century represented his district in congress, while his work in the
national halls of legislation constitutes many an important chapter on its rec-
ords. There are other chapters equally creditable in his life record, other
tangible evidences of his progressive and patriotic citizenship, not the least of
which covers his connection with the Union army in the Civil war.

One of Philadelphia's native sons, Henry H. Bingham, was born on Ninth
street between Market and Arch streets, on the 4th of December, 1841. He
comes of Scotch-Irish ancestry. His grandfather Thomas Bingham was a na-
tive of County Tyrone, Ireland, and wedded Margaret Cameron, a cousin of
General Simon Cameron, so conspicuously identified with the political history
of Pennsylvania. His father, James Bingham, in the early '40s was a senior
member of the firm of Bingham & Dock, engaged in a general freighting and
railroad transportation business between Pittsburg and New York. Provided
with liberal educational advantages, he matriculated in Jefferson College in
1858 when a youth of sixteen and on his graduation in 1862 received the degree
of Bachelor of Arts. Five years later the honorary degree of Master of Arts
was conferred upon him and in 1902 he received from the Washington and
Jefferson College the degree of Doctor of Laws.

At the time of his graduation the Civil war was in progress and immediately
upon the completion of his school year Henry H. Bingham enlisted in a com-
pany of volunteers, which was being raised in the college town of Cannonsburg,
his professor of mathematics being chosen captain, while he was elected first
lieutenant. At the organization camp at Harrisburg the company was attached
to the One Hundred and Fortieth Regiment, which was largely recruited in the
western part of the state. Professor Frazier at that time was promoted to the
rank of lieutenant colonel of the regiment and Lieutenant Bingham succeeded
him as captain of the company. He was then a young man of but twenty years
and of slight build, weighing only a hundred and nine pounds. In 1863 he,
having come under the personal attention of the general advocate of the First
Division, judge advocate of the First Division of the Second Army Corps, was
made judge advocate of the First Division of the Second Army Corps, and
later, when Hancock became the commander of the Second Army Corps, Gen-
eral Bingham was promoted and commissioned by the war department as judge


advocate of the Second Army Corps. lie participated in all tlie campaigns and
battles with that division of the army save when incapacitated for active duty
by wounds sustained on the field. He was struck by an enemy's bullet at Get-
tysburg in 1863, at Spottsylvania in 1864, and was again wounded at Farmville
in 1865, just two days before the close of the war. He was also captured at
the battle of Boydton Plank Road in 1864 but escaped during the night. In
every official report of the leading engagements in which he participated with-
out a single exception he was mentioned for distinguished services. Special
gallantry in action won him the brevet of lieutenant colonel, colonel and brigadier
general, and in recognition of the exceptional valor which he displayed in the
Wilderness fight he was awarded a congressional medal of honor. One who
knew him when he was numbered with the officers of the Union army serving
on the staff of General Winfield Scott Hancock, called the "Superb," recalls
him as he appeared at Gettysburg, recounting tlie incidents in the following
words :

"It was on July 3, 1863, when preceding the charge of Pickett's Division, of
eighteen thousand men, on the line held by Hancock and the Second Corps, one
hundred and twenty-seven Confederates played on that line from one until
three o'clock, men and horses were torn to atoms, cannon dismounted and am-
munition chests one after the other blown up. The smoke of the artillery
shrouded the battlefield, the roar of the batteries shaking the earth and reechoing
through the mountains of the Blue Ridge. It was a scene of wild tumultuous
war, such as our country or the world seldom sees. In the midst of the stonn,
coming through the battle smoke, riding through our batteries that covered the
ridge on which the Second Corps was formed, the flag of the Second Corps
was seen and around was grouped half a dozen of the bravest and best of the
army: Hancock the "Superb," commander of the corps and of the whole left
of the Union line; Captain William Mitchell, his adjutant general; Captain
E. P. Bronson ; Captain Isaac Parker, and Captain Henry H. Bingham, the
corps' flag flying and borne aloft by James Wells of the Sixth New York Cav-
alry. The little group with Hancock at their head rode the entire length of
the Second Corps line, from Ziegler's woods on the right to the extreme left,
near Little Round Top. Slowly the little party rode along the terrible crest,
while shot and shell roared and crashed around them. Every once in a while
as they passed along, winding through the masked batteries, Hancock would
pause, say a word of encouragement to the men who were waiting to receive the
attack of Pickett's thousands and win the victoiy that marked the end of the
war. And so from the extreme right to the extreme left of his command, nearly
a mile, and back again under the fire of one hundred and twenty-seven guns
rode the little group. The sight of the flag and of Hancock and his staff, calm,
fearless and confident, did much to nerve the stout hearts of the men of the
Second Corps and aid them in winning an hour later the most important victory
of the century. The official record of Companion Bingham tells how he won
his congress medal on another occasion.

" 'At the battle of the Wilderness, May 6, 1864, he rallied and led into action
a portion of the troops who had given away under the fierce assaults of the
enemy.' True he earned well and truly his medal on that day, but not more


gallantly than on July 3, 1863, at Gettysburg. Hancock, Mitchell, Bronson,
Parker, Bingham and the color bearer, Wells, should every one have had a con-
gress medal — that afternoon ride along the ridge at Gettysburg, when every
step was marked by the death of martyrs and every foot of ground was crim-
soned by the blood of heroes. Hancock and every member of that noble band
with one exception has long since crossed to the further shore. His companions
rejoice that General Henry H. Bingham is still spared and let us hope may
remain for years to come an honored citizen and survivor of the great war of

"By recommendation of congress several medals of honor were awarded
General Bingham for meritorious service."

More than a year after the actual close of hostilities General Bingham re-
signed from the army on the 2d of July, 1866, and again taking up his abode
in Philadelphia entered upon the study of law with Benjamin Harris Brewster,
afterward attorney general of the United States, as his preceptor. While he
has never engaged in active practice, his knowledge of the law has been of the
utmost benefit to him in the manifold official duties which he has been called
upon to discharge. In 1867 Andrew Johnson appointed him postmaster of
Philadelphia upon the joint recommendations of Generals Meade and Hancock
as a partial reward for his remarkable services during the war. President Grant
commissioned him to the same office, which he continued to fill until 1872, when
he was elected upon the republican ticket to the office of clerk of the quarter
session court, receiving a majority of ten thousand, seven hundred and seventy-
one over his democratic opponent, William D. Kendrick. His administration
as postmaster of Philadelphia stands out in the history of the city as one of
the most notable and efficient. It is characteristic of General Bingham that in
every public office he has filled he has labored for the adoption of high stand-
ards and he made Philadelphia's one of the model offices of the United States.
He gave equally efficient and commendable service as clerk of the quarter ses-
sions and near the close of his term his friends urged his nomination for con-
gress. A constantly increasing reputation had made him widely known and he
had come to rank with Sheridan of New Orleans and General Adam E. King
of Baltimore as one of the most brilliant campaign speakers of the country.
Events, however, so shaped themselves that it seemed necessary that General
Bingham should again become the candidate for clerk of the quarter sessions
if the republican party won success at that election. The democrats were mak-
ing a fight on a most firm and united stand to secure the election of their can-
didate and it was the personal popularity and the previous splendid record of
General Bingham that won him success as the republican candidate with a
majority of six thousand, six hundred and eighty-nine. At the close of his
second term the republicans of the first district demanded of the city leaders
that he be made the congressional nominee and he contested the election with
General William McCandless as a democratic candidate and Maxwell Steven-

Online LibraryEllis Paxson OberholtzerPhiladelphia; a history of the city and its people, a record of 225 years (Volume 4) → online text (page 52 of 62)