Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer.

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

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son as a labor candidate, winning with a vote of thirteen thousand, seven hun-
dred and fifty-one against six thousand, three hundred and twenty-four cast
for McCandless and four thousand, two hundred and twenty-three for Steven-
son. This was in 1878 and, entering the forty-sixth congress he has continu-


ously represented his district to the present lime, having heen reelected in 1909.
He became not only an active working member in committees but also on the
floor of the house and his gift of oratory combined with a keen, analytical mind
enabled him to present with remarkable clearness and strength each cause which
he chamj)ioncd. In the forty-seventh congress he was the chairman of the
committee on postoffices and post roads. While he sat as a member of the
forty-eighth, forty-ninth and fiftieth congresses the democrats were then in a
majority, but when the republicans again came into power in the fifty-first con-
gress he was once more made chairman of the postoffice and post roads com-
mittee. In no general terms is the history of General Bingham's congressional
career written. His labors have taken on tangible shape in support of measures
of national value, not the least of which was the reduction of letter postage from
three cents for a half ounce to two cents for one ounce. Every progressive
step awakens the opposition of the ultra-conservative, but General Bingham
persevered in the contest until the result was achieved. He also succeeded in
securing the reduction of postage rate on newspapers and periodicals from two
cents a pound to one cent a pound and was instrumental in bringing about many
other noteworthy and valuable changes in the postal department.

Through the fifty-second and fifty-third congresses the democratic party
was in power, but the republicans again secured the majority in the fifty-fourth
congress and General Bingham was offered the chairmanship of his old com-
mittee, that of postoflice and post roads when Thomas B. Reed was elected
speaker. He declined the proiTered position, however, for the reason that he
had been assigned in the fifty-second congress to the more powerful and im-
portant committee on appropriations which gave him an opportunity to more
greatly promote his home interests and this he deemed outweighed the dignities
and comforts of a chairmanship. For fourteen years he has served on the
committee of appropriations and is now its ranking member. Wise in his legis-
lative work and politic in action, his position, however, is never an equivocal
one on the discussion or support of any vital question, and his record has ever
been his best recommendation for the congressional honors which have been
continuously conferred upon him by an appreciative public for more than three
decades. In all the conventions in which he has received nomination with one
exception there has never been a single vote of a delegate cast against him, a
record which stands unparalleled in the history of any public man living or
dead through the same length of service. He is popular with his fellow men-
bers of congress, for in manner he is genial and approachable, possessing that
true democratic spirit which recognizes the abilities as well as the rights of
others and yet does not approach nor permit familiarity.

Aside from his congressional service General Bingham has done much po-
litical work in conventions and as a party organizer. In 1872 he was made the
permanent secretary of the republican national convention which met in Phila-
delphia and resulted in the nomination of Grant and Wilson. In 1884 he was
selected to second the nomination of Chester A. Arthur, his personal friend,
for the presidency. He has been five times chairman of the committee on
rules and order of business of the republican national conventions since 1872.
General Bingham has many times been chosen delegate to the republican state


conventions and is usually made chairman of the committee on resolutions, it
falling to his lot to write the party platforms. No resident of Pennsylvania has
continued in active and influential relations with the politics of the state and
nation for as long a period as General Bingham and the American people
acknowledge the value of his service and honor him for the course that he has
pursued in furthering the interests of the nation.

General Bingham is again and again called upon to address assemblies be-
cause of his well known gifts of oratory and his comprehensive understanding
of the questions which are of widespread interest. He was the orator on the
occasion of the transfer of more than eighty monuments erected to the memory
of the Pennsylvania regiments on the battlefield of Gettysburg in 1889. A
participant in that ever memorable engagement he made the second and third
days of that engagement the theme of his discourse. He was chosen as the
speaker on the occasion of the dedication of the magnificent equestrian monu-
ment of General Hancock, unveiled at Gettysburg, June 5, 1896. Having served
on the staff of that gallant officer and enjoying his confidence and love, his
selection as orator of the day was a most fitting one. That national organiza-
tion of Union soldiers known as the Grand Army of the Republic sprang into
existence largely through the aid and cooperation of General Bingham. He
was the first commander of the lower half of Philadelphia in 1866 and aided in
the organization of the well known George G. Meade Post No. i, and was its
second commander. In the first national encampment of the Grand Army of
the Republic he conducted the fight and was the acknowledged leader of the
element that demanded the preservation of the order for comradeship, friend-
ship and loyalty as against the organization becoming a political body of sol-
diers for partisan purposes. He is the exemplification of that spirit of Ameri-
can citizenship which recognizes the equality of all, yet the nation numbers him
among her distinguished sons, upon whom honors have been conferred almost
without number. At times he has put these aside to take up work which would
not bring him so prominently before the public, but at all times the majority
of the people have recognized his preeminence not in one field alone but in the
various departments of state and national government, in political management
and in military service wherein he has put forth his efforts.


Washington Atlee Burpee has distanced all competitors in the mail-order
seed business not only in America but in the world, and the colossal enterprise
which he has built up had its beginning in a business of tiny scope but of gigan-
tic possibilities. It may be a trite but nevertheless it is a most fitting simile to
compare his business in its inception to one of the tiny seeds which he handles
that contains within its outward casing that germ of life whch grows and ex-
pands into something mammoth compared with its beginning and carrying with
it also the characteristics either of usefulness or beauty or perhaps both. Per-
severance, determination and initiative spirit resulting in carefully formulated






and well executed plans have nurtured the little seed of business which Wash-
ington A. Burpee planted and which today has expanded into the foremost
undertaking of the kind in the world. Laudable ambition on his part has been
supplemented by an aptitude for successful management, by close application
and an unfaltering determination and the result today constitutes a most im-
portant chapter in the commercial history of Philadelphia.

Mr. Burpee was born at Sheffield, New Brunswick, April 5, 1858, a son of
David and Ann C. (Atlee) Burpee and a grandson of Dr. Washington L. At-
lee, of Philadelphia. In his childhood days he came to this city with his parents
and after acquiring his preliminary education in the Friends' Central school
continued his studies in the University of Pennsylvania. He was a young man
of eighteen years when, in 1876, he became connected with the seed business,
having at the time two partners. The experience which he gained during the
ensuing two years and the knowledge which he acquired through practical effort
and broad reading well qualified him for the conduct of an independent under-
taking when, in 1878, he withdrew from the partnership to establish a business
on his own account under the name of W. Atlee Burpee & Company. For
thirty-five years this business has been conducted and its growth has been con-
tinuous. It is true, as in the growth of a plant, there have been periods when
progress has not been as noticeable as at other times. With the plant it is a
period of rest. In the business it has been an interval when new plans and ideas
have been formed and are being carried into execution, the result being shown
a little later. At the outset Mr. Burpee determined that the excellence of the
product should constitute the source of the growth of his business, recognizing
the fact that satisfied patrons are the best advertisement. He therefore placed
upon the market only the seeds of highest quality, most carefully selected and
arranged, and it was not long before his trade was growing and his business
was reaching out far beyond Philadelphia and its adjacent territory and even
beyond the borders of the state into the furthermost parts of the Union. Then,
too, the Atlantic proved no bar to the extension of the trade and today the seeds
of the Burpee house are shipped to every country on the face of the globe. Mr.
Burpee has no travelng salesmen. This is distinctively a mail order house and
judicious advertising has brought him into contact with patrons. Each year
tests and trials of seeds are made on his three large farms, Fordhook, near
Doylestown, Pennsylvania; Sunnybrook, in the southern part of New Jersey;
and Floradale, in Lompoc Valley, California. His knowledge and his enthusiasm
are responsible for every sale. The products which he handles are made known
to the public through a splendid catalog which finds its way to half a million
homes every spring. The Burpee farms naturally do not produce a hundredth
part of the seeds sold by the firm. Contracts for the growing of seeds are
given out two or three years ahead of selling dates and these crops, located in
diliferent parts of the world where the finest results are obtainable, are care-
fully watched by the Burpee house and reports made of their condition and
development. Unless they are fully up to the high standard which Mr. Burpee
has ever insisted upon, the entire crop is rejected and even after the seeds are
delivered in bulk to the warehouse, thorough tests are made before packing
for wholesale and retail distribution. At the same time this particular seed has


been given a number and this number appears on every package sold. A sample
of each lot of seed thus produced is shipped to the Burpee farms and thus the
firm makes personal trial of its value. The crop must be pure, sturdy, full of
vitality, true to the strain, and nine times out of ten results confirm the original
growers statement. Something of the volume of business done is indicated in
the fact that each day's mail brings betvifeen three and seven thousand orders.
A rule of the business rarely broken, is that an order must be shipped within
twenty-four hours of its receipt. Only the most expert packers are employed
in the foreign shipping department lest the seeds, bulbs or potatoes be ruined
in transit and, moreover, they must be protected against climatic changes. Im-
proved machinery has been installed which does much of the work automat-
ically, the machine for measurements being of the utmost delicacy as regards
the accuracy of the work done. A printing establishment is conducted, contain-
ing four presses which are constantly busy on small work, making millions of
impressions yearly.

The mammoth establishment in which the largest mail-order seed business
in the world is carried on shows not only every facility for the handling of the
business but also most adequate provision for the comfort and well being of the
employes. On the third floor of that portion of the building facing on three
streets is a large dining and rest room, all airy and bright for women employes.
At tables that seat four and six the girls dine in comfort with splendid service
and prices just at cost. Then there are commodious rest rooms containing rock-
ing chairs and couches, tables with newspapers and magazines, and writing
desks. There is even an immense closet in which are found one hundred or
more umbrellas to be loaned in case of an unexpected storm. There are smok-
ing and rest rooms also for the men employes and, best of all, is the just and
kindly consideration ever manifest by the Burpee Company to those in their ser-
vice. Mr. Burpee's standing in business circles to which his labors have been
specifically devoted is indicated in the fact that he was formerly president of
the American Seed Trade Association, has been a director of the Wholesale
Seedsmen's League since its foundation, is president of the National Sweet
Pea Society of America, and vice president of the National Sweet Pea Society
of Great Britain.

Mr. Burpee is also a director of the Market Street National Bank and the
Northern Trust Company of Philadelphia. He is likewise a member of the
Chamber of Commerce and the Philadelphia Board of Trade, and beyond his
connections with interests bearing in any way upon business, he is a trustee of
the Howard Hospital, the Sanitarium Association and the National Farm
School. He is also president of the Canadian Society of Philadelphia, is a life
member of the Royal Horticultural Society of Great Britain and of the Societe
Nationale d'Horticulture de France.

In Philadelphia, in 1892, Mr. Burpee was united in marriage to Miss Blanche
Simons, a daughter of the late George W. Simons, and they have three chil-
dren : David, born in 1893; Washington Atlee, Jr., born in 1894; and Stuart
Alexander, born in 1900. The family residence is at Fordhook Farms,


The interests of Mr. Burpee are too broad and his activity too varied to
allow him to be classed as a representative of a single community. America
claims him as her foremost seedsman and different cities are pleased to class
him with the leading representatives of their social life. He is a member of the
Union Leagaie of Philadelphia, the Art, University, Racquet, City, Bachelors
Barge and Poor Richard Clubs, all of Philadeljjhia, the Menon Cricket Club
and the Country Club of Lansdovvne, Pennsylvania, and the National Arts and
the City Clubs of New York city. In these different connections he has won
many warm friends, but it is his business life that has made his name a house-
hold word from ocean to ocean, and his record should serve as an inspiration
to all. His intellect early grasped the eternal truth that industry wins, and in-
dustry became the beacon light of his life. In America opportunity lies before
all, yet opportunities slip away from the sluggard and tauntingly play before
the dreamer. But they surrender to the individual with a high purpose, un-
daunted courage and indefatigable determination, and thus it is that W. Atlee
Burpee has reached the position of leadership which he now occupies in the
broad field of labor which he has chosen as his life work.


The genealogical records of the Babcock family give the direct ancestry of
Dr. William Wayne Babcock back to the year 1612 — the natal year of James
Babcock, who was born in Essex county, England, and died June 12, 1679. His
wife Sarah died in 1665, or later. James Babcock was admitted an inhabitant
of the town of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, February 25, 1642, according to a
custom then in vogue before one was allowed to build or do any planting there.
At the town meeting, held on the 5th of October, that year, ten acres were or-
dered laid out to James Babcock. He was made a freeman July 10, 1648, and
appointed a member of a large committee "for the tryall of the general officers."
December 28th it was granted to have four acres added to his "house lot." He
was chosen a juryman November 21, 1649, June, 1653, August 11, 1656, March
2, 1657, and October, 1661. He was chosen an assessor February 19, 1650, and
in 1655 his name appears in the "Roule of ye Freemen" at Portsmouth. In
these and other connections James Babcock was closely identified with public
affairs of various kinds — in politics, as administrator, constable and as member
of committees to settle important issues with Indians, to combat with them in
time of war, and in fact in almost every one of the honorable ways that were
presented in those early days for a heroic spirited man to serve his fellow towns-
men and his country. About 1669 he removed to Westerly, after which time,
although he was again and again in public view, we hear not quite so much of
him. He had three sons, James, John and Job.

Of these, John Babcock was born in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, in 1644.
He wedded Mary, daughter of George and Elizabeth (Hazard) Lawton, of
Portsmouth. They settled on the east bank of the Pawtucket river on Massa-
tuxet Cove, near what is now Avondale in the town of Westerly, Rhode Island.


The land upon which he built his first home is still owned and occupied by a
member of the family. When King Phillip's war broke out, John Babcock
volunteered with the Connecticut Militia and was in the great "swamp fight"
that took place in 1675 and later was one to receive a bounty of land from the
colony of Connecticut for this service. He was admitted a freeman in 1676 and
in 1678 was elected by the general court of Rhode Island as conservator of
peace of Westerly. He was also admitted to the colonial legislature in 1682
and 1684 and it is said he died in May or June of 1685. At his death the in-
ventory of his personal property amounted to seven hundred and ninety pounds
and three shillings, which was the largest recorded in that town for many years.

When the will of James Babcock, Sr., was written June 12, 1679, the first
syllable of the name was, and had at all previous times, been spelled Bad, but
six years later when the will of John Babcock was written it was spelled Bab,
which form has since been maintained.

Robert Babcock, son of John and Mary (Lawton) Babcock, was bom in
Westerly in 1678. He married Lydia Crandall, a daughter of Rev. Joseph
Crandall. Robert and Lydia Babcock were in 1712 members of the S. D. B.
church of Westerly, now known as the First Hopkinton S. D. B. church, located
at Ashaway, Rhode Island. On the 4th of March, 1699, Robert Babcock was
made a freeman. He bought land in Westerly and Job Babcock, Jr., in 1710,
with others, bought from Rhode Island the Maxon purchase. His death, which
occurred August 27, 1719, was caused by a murderous attack committed by one
John Ross. Robert and Lydia Babcock had ten children: Mary, Lydia, Robert,
Elihu, Sarah, Patience, Simeon, Ezekiel, Joseph and Remember.

Of this family Ezekiel Babcock was bom in Westerly, June 22, 1716, and
was married October 26, 1740, to Eunice Billings, daughter of James and Mary
(Hewitt) Billings. They had five children: Elihu, Mary, David, Martha and

David Babcock, the second son of Ezekiel and Eunice Babcock, was bom
in Stonington, Connecticut, February 2, 1745. With his family and two broth-
ers he removed from Stonington to Worcester, Otsego county. New York. He
was a Revolutionary war soldier in Captain Samuel Prentice's Stonington com-
pany of Colonel Parson's Sixth Connecticut Continental Regiment. He died at
Worcester, November 6, 1820. His wife, whom he had wedded March 12,
1767, bore the maiden name of Mary Hinckley, and they had eleven children:
Darius, David Jr., Henry, Robert, Gurdon, Polly, Dudley, Frederick, Merritt,
Fanny and Franklin.

Robert Babcock, fourth son of David and Mary (Hinckley) Babcock, was
born in Stonington, Connecticut, July 3, 1773, and died at Decatur, New York,
April 4, 1862. His wife was Sally Gallup, of Gallupville, New York, and they
had seven children : Silas, Sally, Hannah, Maria, Lois, Elias and Nathan.

Elias Babcock, second son of Robert and Sallay Babcock, was born in Berne,
New York, May 22, 1812, and died in East Worcester, New York, September
27, 1890. He was married in East Worcester, October i, 1840, to Jane A.,
daughter of Samuel and Elizabeth (Hull) Thurber, and their children were
as follows : William Wayne, Maria Josephine, Julian, Mary Elizabeth, Robert
David, Charles and Cora Lois.


The eldest of this family, William Wayne Babcock, was born in Decatur,
New York, January ii, 1842, and pursued his education in the select school of
Westford, New York. After putting aside his text-books he went to New
York city, where he occupied a position as bookkeeper for about three years.
Returning to East Worcester, New York, in partnership with a relative he pur-
chased a general store, in which he continued for several years. During his
stay here he was captain of the town militia. He removed to Binghamton, New
York, that his two children might have better educational advantages to be
there secured and for some years he was engaged in the conduct of a retail
mercantile enterprise at that place.

William W. Babcock was for many years a prominent Mason and held all
of the offices in that order in New York up to and including that of lieutenant
grand commander of the state, being treasurer and secretary for many years.
He now makes his home with his daughter. Miss Maud May Babcock, who is
professor of physical education and dramatic art in the University of Utah, at
Salt Lake City. Th'e mother of Dr. Babcock bore the maiden name of Sarah J.
Butler and was born in Cherry Valley, Otsego county. New York, January 21,
1843. She is a great-granddaughter of John Butler of Cherry Valley, who
served in the French and Indian war, in the war of the Revolution and the
war of 1812. He figured prominently in Cherry Y^alley at the time of the In-
dian massacre there and died at that place January 19, 1824. Mrs. Babcock's
maternal grandfather, Nathaniel Elliott, of Cairo, Greene county. New York,
served as captain in Knox and Gridley's Artillery during the Revolutionary
war. Mrs. Babcock was married April 25, 1865. She is a member of the
Quaker City Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, of the
Quaker City Ladies Motor Club and of the Civic Club of Philadelphia. She
is also very active in the Episcopal church and for several years had a class in
St. Simon's Episcopal church. She makes her home with her son. Dr. Bab-
cock, and is a particularly active woman.

Dr. William Wayne Babcock was born at East Worcester, New York, June
10, 1872, and in 1893 was graduated as M. D., receiving the second prize (a
gold medal) at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Baltimore, Maryland.
He was also a student at Harvard University in the summer session in the de-
partment of physical education in that year and in 1893-4 was resident physi-
cian of St. Mark's Hospital at Salt Lake City. The following year he was
graduated M. D. with honor from the University of Pennsylvania, receiving a
prize for the best examination in therapeutics, and from September of that
year until September, 1896, was resident physician in the Polyclinic and College
for Graduates in Medicine. In October, 1895, he passed the state board of
regents (Medical) New York "with honor," and from 1896 until 1898 was
house surgeon to the Kensington Hospital for Women. In October, 1896. he
became demonstrator and later was made lecturer on pathology and bacteriology
in the Medico-Chirurgical College, serving until 1903. During that period he
was curator to the Pathological Society of Philadelphia for three years, assist-
ant pathologist to the Philadelphia (Blockley) Hospital for two years and pa-
thologist to the Kensington Hospital for Women. In July, 1898, he passed the
state board for medical examiners of Pennsylvania with the highest average


received by an applicant up to that time. In the same year he pubhshed an
Outline of First and Second Year Patholog}', and in the intervening years has
written largely for leading medical journals and for independent publication.
In 1903 he was joint author of Volume V, Prophylaxis in Cohen's System of

Online LibraryEllis Paxson OberholtzerPhiladelphia; a history of the city and its people, a record of 225 years (Volume 4) → online text (page 53 of 62)