Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer.

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

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in his particular field. He was born January 18, 1867, a son of William W.
Frazier and a grandson of George Harrison. In his youthful days he became
a pupil in the Episcopal Academy and afterward attended the University of
Pennsylvania, from which he was graduated in 1887.

The following year he started in business life with the Franklin Sugar Re-
fining Company and after two years became its secretary. In 1892 the Ameri-
can Sugar Refining Company acquired the stock of the Franklin Sugar Re-
fining Company, also of the Spreckles and the Knight Sugar Companies of
Philadelphia. Of the amalgamated companies Mr. Frazier became secretary
and later treasurer and business manager, thus reaching an important executive
position in control of one of the most extensive corporate interests of the east.
His active connection with banking began in 1897 when he entered the house
of Brown Brothers & Company of Philadelphia, becoming a partner therein
in 1899. The same year he became a member of the firm of Brown, Shipley &
Company of London. His interests are now of varied character and of great
commercial and financial importance. He is the president of the United States
Sugar Refining Company, treasurer of the Franklin Sugar Refining Company
and of the Spreckles Sugar Refining Company and a director of the American
Sugar Refining Company, the Franklin National Bank, the Philadelphia Na-
tional Bank, the Pennsylvania Company for Insurances on Lives and Granting of
Annuities, the United States Casualty Company of New York, the Philadelphia
Company of Pittsburg and the Schuylkill River & East Side Railroad.

The business ability of Mr. Frazier has also been called forth in connection
with the management of educational and benevolent interests and he is now



HISTORY OF PHILADELPHIA 607

treasurer of the HospitJ of the Protestant Episcopal church in Philadelphia
and of the Philadelphia City Institute and is a trustee of the University of
Pennsylvania. His remarkable business insight and powers of concentration are
shown in his successful management of varied interests and the readiness with
which he dispatches the doubt or solves the question nearest at hand. Capable
of managing mammoth concerns, he is also ready to give his attention to details
when necessary and it is this thorough understanding of every phase of a busi-
ness situation that has contributed in so large a measure to his success.



WILLIAM POTTER.



William Potter, a citizen of the wider world of thought and knowledge, en-
joying that success which permits of intellectual liberty, is withal a most prac-
tical man of affairs, his efforts proving resultant factors at the bar and in the
field of government service, of education and of organized charity. Born in
Philadelphia, on the 17th of April, 1852, he is a son of Thomas and Adaline
Coleman (Bower) Potter, of whom mention is made elsewhere in this volume.
He was reared amid refining influences that produced a character molded along
the broadest lines and received a thorough collegiate education in private schools.
He entered the University of Pennsylvania in the class of 1874 but, owing to
the illness of his father, was obliged to leave college before his graduation in
order to devote his attention to the manufacturing business which was estab-
lished by his father in 1838 and is now conducted under the name of Thomas
Potter, Sons & Company, Inc., of Philadelphia and New York. With this com-
pany he has since been more or less actively connected and is now a director and
solicitor. For many years he served as vice president of the company, display-
ing in the management of its affairs an administrative ability which from time
to time has been sought for the benefit of various other enterprises of both a
public and private nature. In the meantime he supplemented his university
course by the study of law and political science, which eminently fitted him for
the public career to which he was soon to be called. In 1896 he was admitted
to the Philadelphia bar but has confined his law work almost exclusively to the
solution of problems relative to the management of his important financial and
corporation interests.

Mr. Potter first came into national prominence through his appointment in
1890 as special commissioner to visit London, Paris and Berlin on behalf of
the United States and its postoffice departments. While abroad he success-
fully negotiated the present system of marine postofiices. In December, 1890,
in conjunction with the superintendent of foreign mails, he was appointed a
delegate to the fourth congress of the Universal Postal Union held at Vienna
in 1 891. They were given plenipotentiary powers and signed for their gov-
ernment a new treaty. This instrument, which was immediately approved by
Postmaster General Wanamaker and President Harrison, went into effect Oc-
tober I, 1892, and was among the most important achievements of that admin-
istration. In 1892 President Harrison appointed Mr. Potter minister to Italy,



608 HISTORY OF PHILADELPHIA

which post he held until April, 1894, when he was succeeded by Wayne Mc-
Veagh of Philadelphia. His tenure of office included the delicate period of the
settlement of the New Orleans massacre. In March, 1897, he was tendered the
appointment of ambassador to Germany by President McKinley, but was obliged
to decline on account of personal reasons. Mr. Potter was tendered by the late
king of Siam the office of foreign adviser to the Siamese government, and
though unable to accept was instrumental in securing this important post for
the late Professor Straehel, of Harvard University. Mr. Straehel died a few
years ago in Siam and his successor was an American. The present king of
Siam is a warm, personal friend of Mr. Potter and while crown prince visited
him at his residence in Chestnut Hill.

In recognition of his distinguished service to his country Mr. Potter was
elected an honorary member of the Society of the Cincinnati of the state of
New Jersey on February 22, 1895. As a private citizen he received in 1897
from Umberto, king of Italy, the decoration of the order S. S. Maurigio e
Lazzaro, a special mark of appreciation from the Italian government. In Jan-
uary, 1908, he further received from Victor Emanuel III, king of Italy, the
decoration of the order of the Crown of Italy as a renewed mark of the af-
fection and esteem in which he is held by the House of Savoy.

While Mr. Potter has so often been called upon to contribute of his time,
efforts and influence in the promotion of affairs of a national and international
character, he has at the same time continued to manifest a wide and wholesome
interest in the promotion of all measures calculated to advance the material and
moral welfare of the city of his birth. He has been especially active in municipal
reform movements. He was chairman of the advisory board of citizens called
to advise Mayor Weaver during 1905 and in January, 1907, he was nominated
on a uniform primary ticket by both the democratic and city parties for the
office of mayor of Philadelphia and received in the general election ninety-seven
thousand, eight hundred and fifty-two votes against one hundred and thirty
thousand, six hundred and fifty-three given the regular republican organization.
Besides being an officer or director in several private enterprises, Mr. Potter
is actively identified with a number of public institutions. He is a member of
the board of city trusts, which has oversight of Girard College; the Willis
Eye Hospital; the Benjamin Franklin fund; and all other trusts bequeathed to
the city of Philadelphia. For several years he has been president of the Jeffer-
son Medical College and Hospital, which under his able and energetic manage-
ment has grown from a four hundred thousand dollar property to be the largest
and best equipped institution of .its kind in the country today, with a property
valuation of over two million dollars. He is also a manager of the Pennsyl-
vania Institute for the Deaf and Dumb and is a member of the permanent relief
committee of Philadelphia, while in 1898 he served on the national relief com-
mission to Porto Rico during the Spanish-American war.

Mr. Potter for a number of years was a director and secretary of the Union
League. He is a counselor of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, a mem-
ber of the Sons of the Revolution and of the War of 1812 and of various clubs
of Philadelphia and New York. For many years he has been an ardent student
of archjeology and during his residence in Rome was vice president of the



HISTORY OF PHILADELPHIA 609

British and American Archaeological Society of that city and is at the present
one of the committee of the American School at Rome for the Study of Arch-
a;ology.

Mr. Potter has been married twice. At Chestnut Hill, on the 25th of April,
1878, he married Jane Kennedy \'anuxem, a daughter of Frederick W. and
Elizabeth (Kennedy) Vanuxem. Her death occurred January 17, 1897, and
on the i6th of May, 1899, Mr. Potter was married to Hetty Vanuxem, a sister
of his first wife. She, too, has passed away, her death occurring August 12,
1901. Of the four children of the family Frederick Vanuxem, the eldest, died
April 3, 1885. Adaline Coleman is the wife of Joseph Walker Wear, of St.
Louis, Missouri. Elizabeth Vanuxem is the wife of William E. Goodman, Jr.
Alice \'anuxem Potter, the youngest, died April 14, 1908. There are now three
grandchildren, two boys and a girl. The family residence is at Chestnut Hill.

Mr. Potter's career has been an exceptional one in the character of its use-
fulness and few men possess the peculiar order of ability which has enabled
him in addition to the superior management of his individual interests to so
materially promote affairs of vital importance to the public at large. He be-
longs to many social organizations but takes but slight interest in club life. He
regards the spiritual, sociological and economical questions as matters of the
deepest concern and to make his aspirations and talents subserve the demands
which these conditions impose is his determinate purpose in life.



JOHN BACH McMASTER, Litt. D., LL. D.

John Bach McMaster was born in Brooklyn, New York, on June 29, 1852,
was educated in the public schools of New York and graduated from the Col-
lege of the City of New York with the class of 1872. For a year after gradua-
tion Mr. McMaster was a fellow in English but in 1873 took up the profession
of civil engineer, and from time to time made mathematical contributions to
the scientific papers and magazines. In 1877 he was appointed instructor in
civil engineering in Princeton University, a position which he held until 1883.

About 1879 Mr. McMaster took up in earnest a work which he had planned
while a fellow in the City College — A History of the People of the United
States from the Revolution to the Civil War. When the first volume was fin-
ished several publishers rejected the manuscript, but it was accepted by D.
Appleton & Company and the volume when issued in 1883 went rapidly into a
third edition. Eight volumes complete the work, which from start to finish
covered a period of thirty-four years spent in gathering material and compo-
sition. Besides the history, Mr. McMaster is the author of a volume entitled
Benjamin Franklin as a Man of Letters, 1887; With the Fathers, Studies in
American History, 1896; Origin, Meaning and Application of the Monroe Doc-
trine: A School History of the United States, 1897; A Primary History of the
United States, 1901 ; A Brief History of the United States, 1907; Daniel Web-
ster, 1902 ; and chapters nine, ten and eleven of the Cambridge Modern His-
tory, \''olume 7, 1903.



610 HISTORY OF PHILADELPHIA

Mr. McMaster is a member of the Pennsylvania Historical Society, an hon-
orary member of the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Minnesota His-
torical Society, a member of the American Antiquarian Society, the New
England Historical Genealogical Society and the Delaware Historical Society,
and in 1905 was president of the American Historical Association. In 1883 he
was appointed professor of American history in the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1894 he received the degree of Litt. D. from the University of Pennsylvania;
in 1901 that of LL. D. from Washington and Jefferson College; and in 1907
that of LL. D. from the University of Toronto, Canada.



ALFRED LODOR WANAMAKER.

The name Wanamaker at once suggests to the public mind extensive and
important mercantile interests because of the long association of John Wana-
maker with the retail trade of Philadelphia and New York. In connection with
the profession of law, however, the name has also come to have weight and
stands as a synonym for efficient service and superior ability in connection with
corporation matters because of the activities of Alfred Lodor Wanamaker,
nephew of the well known merchant. He is one of the younger representatives
of the legal profession in Philadelphia, but since opening an office for himself
and entering independent practice he has made rapid strides toward prominence
and notable success. One of Philadelphia's native sons, he was born Septem-
ber 4, 1873, his parents being F. Marion and Ida M. (Lodor) Wanamaker.
The public schools gave him his early education and he was graduated from
the Central high school with the degree of Bachelor of Arts. His professional
course was pursued in the University Law School, from which he received the
degree of LL. B.

In 1892 he was a student in the office of P. F. Rothermel, ex-district attor-
ney, and after his admission to the bar remained with Mr. Rothermel until
1905, when he opened an office by himself in the Real Estate Trust building.
In his practice he confines his attention principally to corporations and has
handled many important cases in that field of jurisprudence. He is solicitor for
several building associations, general counsel for the International Lumber &
Development Company, and has among his clients many names of well known
business concerns. He was one of the officials of the company which organized
the company out of which grew the Peoples Trust Company.

On the 19th day of March, 1902, Mr. Wanamaker was married to Miss
Amelie Gerhard, a daughter of Abraham S. Gerhard, of Philadelphia, and they
have a son, Alfred L., Jr., born in 1905. The fact that the Wanamakers have
long been socially prominent in Philadelphia needs no comment here. Mr.
Wanamaker has attained high rank in Masonry, belonging to Rising Star Lodge,
No. 126, F. & A. M., and through the different bodies of the Scottish Rite has
received the thirty-second degree. He also belongs to the Mystic Shrine and
is affiliated with Lu Lu Temple ; is a member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles
and is actively connected with the Veteran Athletes Association. He has al-



HISTORY OF PHILADELPHIA 611

ways been interested in athletics, is fond of outdoor sports and thus keei)s in
excellent physical condition so that health forms a solid basis for his intellectual
activity, upon which there is constantly greater and greater demand in the con-
duct of the increasing business intrusted to his care, some of the most important
companies of Philadelphia.



SAMUEL GODSCHALK DENNISSON.

In the field of banking Samuel Godschalk Dennisson won for himself a
prominent position. Honored and respected by all, no one has occupied a more
enviable place in financial circles, owing not only to the success which he
achieved but also to the straightforward, progressive and reliable principles
which he ever followed. An initiative spirit enabled him to pass beyond the
bound that others had reached and to put forth effort along original lines re-
sulting in the development and substantial growth of the bank with which he
was so long connected. Pie was born Januaiy i6, 1833, in this city, a son of
Andrew and Frances (Godschalk) Dennisson. The father, a native of Burks
county, Pennslyvania, was a son of a Revolutionary soldier and as a boy came
to Philadelphia, where he was engaged first in the grocery business and later
in the coal business. His wife was a sister of William Godschalk, who at one
time represented Burks county in the national congress.

Samuel G. Dennisson was educated in the public schools of Philadelphia,
passing through consecutive grades to his graduation from the high school when
but fifteen and a half years of age. Throughout his business career he was
identified with financial interests. In 1854 he accepted a clerkship in the Bank
of Northern Liberties, where he continued until he entered the Tradesman
National Bank, there occupying the position of paying teller for many years.
In 1895 he was chosen president of the Savings Fund Society of Germantown
and thereafter devoted his attention entirely to the upbuilding of that institu-
tion, which under his management has had a remarkable growth and developed
into one of the strongest financial enterprises of Philadelphia. Since 1895 'ts
deposits have been increased from three to nearly nine million dollars and the
number of depositors has grown from thirteen thousand to twenty-five thousand.
Largely through his influence and advice additional frontage was purchased and
a new building erected in conjunction with the old, doubling the capacity of the
bank, which is now one of the finest in the city, equipped with the most modem
safes and fire-proof and burglar-proof vaults.

On the 27th of May, 1856, in Philadelphia, Mr. Dennisson was married to
Miss Margaretta B. Bechtel, a daughter of Peter and Margaret Bechtel. Her
father was one of the first paper manufacturers, owning and operating a mill
on Cresheim Creek founded by his father. He was not only prominent in busi-
ness circles but also took an active and helpful part in promoting moral progress
and for a long period served as the senior elder of the First Presbyterian church
of Germantown. By her marriage Mrs. Bechtel became the mother of one son,
Walter, residing with his mother at No. 5530 Greene street in Germantown.



612 HISTORY OF PHILADELPHIA

Mr. Dennisson was a man of quiet and unostentatious manner, very domestic
in his habits and fond of his home. Not greatly interested in public affairs or
social life in the usually accepted terms, yet he was loyal in citizenship and en-
joyed the companionship of those of similar tastes and interests. His time out-
side of his business was devoted to church work. For a quarter of a century
he was treasurer of the First Presbyterian church of Germantown which posi-
tion he resigned about a year prior to his death on account of ill health. He
was also an elder of the church for twenty years and was clerk of the session
for the last ten years of his life. He also acted as a trustee up to the time of
his death and for many years was chairman of the music committee. He con-
stantly practiced a quiet and unostentatious charity, of which only his wife knew.
No good work done in the name of charity or religion, however, sought his aid
in vain and his heart went out in ready sympathy to those who needed aid.

While spending the summer at Eaglesmere he suffered an attack of pneu-
monia in August, 1910, from which he never fully recovered. However, upon
his return to the city he resumed his business duties in connection with the bank,
devoting his time thereto until a few days prior to his death, when illness forced
him to remain at home. Heart failure terminated his life on the 19th of Octo-
ber, 1910, and he was laid to rest in South Laurel Hill cemetery on the 22d.
To him had been allotted more than the Psalmist's span of three score years
and ten. He had passed the seventy-seventh milestone on life's journey and
the record which he left is one of usefulness and honor. Men came to regard
his name as a synonym for business integrity as well as enterprise and the sup-
port of Mr. Dennisson given to any movement seemed an assurance that it was
worth the patronage or the cooperation of others.



GEORGE HORATIO BURGIN, M. D.

Dr. George Horatio Burgin, who was born in Bridgeton, Cumberland county,
New Jersey, October 7, 1793, and died in Philadelphia on the 23d of October,
1870, was the son of Reuben Burgin. The latter was born on his father's farm
in Cumberland county, New Jersey, September 27, 1763, and died in Bridgeton,
that county, July 15, 1803. His wife, who bore the maiden name of Deborah
Bowen and whose birth occurred in Cumberland county on the 25th of
December, 1766, died on the 9th of June, 1844, at what was then No. 175
South Fifth street, Philadelphia. She was the daughter of Captain Seth Bowen,
of the New Jersey Continental Line in the war of the Revolution. He was
born in Cumberland county on the 21st of July, 1748, and died in Bridgeton,
August 31, 1815. Captain Bowen served through the entire war from the date
of his first commission as second lieutenant on November 29, 1775, taking part
shortly after in the disastrous campaign of 1775-6 for the conquest of Canada,
until the close of hostilities, when he was a quartermaster (with the rank of
captain) in the quartermaster general's department of New Jersey. He became
at the end of the war a member of the New Jersey State Society Cincinnati.



HISTORY OF PHILADELPHIA 613

Reuben Burgin, after his marriage on Xoveniber 28, 1787, resided in Bridge-
ton until his death. He held various public oiifices, more particularly that of
high sheritT from 1793 until 1796, dying when not yet forty years of age and
leaving to his widow the care of five children, the eldest of whom, John, was
not twelve years old. The young family, however, were fortunate in having a
sensible and judicious mother and, in the person of their father's brother George,
at that time unquestionably the leading man in the community in which they
lived, a wise guide and adviser.

The young George Horatio was, in his sixth year, sent to a "Dame's School "
and afterward and up to 1805 Rev. John Jones and James McClong were his
teachers. In that year he went to live with his uncle George, at that time sur-
rogate of the county, his teacher then becoming David Shute, a graduate of the
University of Pennsylvania and a teacher of some repute, having been a tutor
in his alma mater in 1790-1. Mr. Shute instructed his young pupil, who in the
interval of his studies was employed in his uncle's office, in English, mathe-
matics and Latin. In 1807 his schoolmaster was Martin D. Lewis and in the
following year he was given lessons in the French language by Colonel Jean
Foncin, the French officer of engineers who afterward lived in Philadelphia
and who, on his return to France in September, 1814, was tendered a vote of
thanks by the committee of defense of Philadelphia for his superintendence of
the defensive works erected at and in the neighborhood of that city in anticipa-
tion of a possible attack by the British troops.

During the four succeeding years young Burgin continued his studies with
David Shute and his employment in his uncle's office until June, 1812, when,
in company with this uncle, he took a trip by horseback, stage and steamboat
through the states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York up to the Ca-
nadian line, covering in his journeyings more than a thousand miles and re-
turning home in September. After his return home, during the year 1813 and
the early part of 1814, he taught school at Cedarville until March of the latter
year, when he began the study of medicine with Drs. Samuel Moore Shute and
William Elmer, visiting with them their patients and treating those who were
ill in the county almshouse. At the same time he continued his studies with
David Shute in Latin, Greek, mathematics and surveying and acted as clerk of
the board of chosen freeholders, having been elected to that position in May,
1814.

Having determined upon the study of medicine, he, having settled his affairs
in Bridgeton, decided to make his residence in Philadelphia. His mother's
household goods having been placed on board the sloop Plough-boy, he, with
his mother, sisters and an attendant, embarked on the sloop to make the trip
through the Cohansey river to the Delaware and up that river to Philadelphia,
arriving here on the 4th of October, 181 5. The family removed their household
furnishings to a house that had been rented at what was then No. 94 North
Eighth street.

Having now become a resident of Philadelphia, the young student selected
Dr. Joseph Parrish as his preceptor and entered himself for the courses at the
university. Whilst pursuing his studies, in July, 1816, he entered into partner-



Online LibraryEllis Paxson OberholtzerPhiladelphia; a history of the city and its people, a record of 225 years (Volume 4) → online text (page 60 of 62)