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OCT I - 1941


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Successful Men of Affairs

An Encyclopedia of Contemporaneous Biography


Vol. I.









This encyclopedia of biographies of "America's Successful Men of
Affairs" is the only work of its class ever published. Thoroughly national,
covering every part of the United States, it presents sketches of the lives
of the most conspicuous of those who have been active in business since
the Civil War and have attained the most marked success. While nearly
all of the men, whose biographies appear in these volumes are or have
been persons of large possessions, they have not been included solely be-
cause of their wealth. Works of American biography have so far dealt
mainly with the lives of government officials, clergymen, poets, teachers,
soldiers, editors, authors, explorers, and other members of professions, who
while accomplishing a great work and exercising a useful influence, have
done comparatively little directly for the material welfare of their fellow
men or the actual development of their country. It is a singular fact that
these works have, with a single exception, almost absolutely ignored the
business men of the country, whether living or dead.

It would seem, however, as if the lives of the great pioneers, merchants,
manufacturers, railroad builders and other practical men of a nation like
America, constituted as important a part of the country's history as those
of any other class. In the field of purely material effort, it is these men
who have brought the wild lands under cultivation, developed the mines,
forests and farms, built the railroads, steamboat lines and canals, set afloat
and managed the shipping, organized the corporations, and introduced the
new processes in science and mechanics, which have so greatly reduced the
cost and promoted the comfort of living while contributing to the power
and prestige of the nation itself. They have dotted the surface of nearly
every State with manufactories and provided employment, wages and
homes for millions of their countrymen. The great cities are largely their
creation. In the realm of education, science and art, these men are the
pillars upon which the whole structure rests. It is by them that the col-
leges, schools, churches and philanthropic institutions are built and main-
tained. They found the great museums, provide the means for monu-
ments, statues, libraries, reading rooms and researches in science, publish
the books, buy the paintings, pay the larger part of the taxes, sustain the
political campaigns, and in general provide the subsistence and a stage for
the activities of the whole aggregation of other men, to whose lives exist-
ing works of biography are generally devoted.


The failure to consider the lives of men of affairs as of historical im-
portance is a curious feature of a great many otherwise excellent volumes
of biography. It is to remedy, in a measure, a serious omission in the
literature of the times that this compilation has been undertaken.

The majority of men whose lives are presented in this work are yet
active in affairs. These volumes are, therefore, almost wholly devoted to
contemporary biography. In this respect they are unique. When John F.
Slater, Daniel Hand and Seth Low each gave $1,000,000 to the cause of
education, and John D. Rockefeller and Daniel B. Fayerweather gave yet
larger sums, existing works could be searched in vain for the story of their
lives. From time to time, the attention and gratitude of the people of
America are powerfully awakened by the princely gift, personal achieve-
ment or public spirited labors of some fellow citizen, whose name may pos-
sibly be known outside of the circle of his immediate acquaintance but of
whose career there is no public record. A laudable curiosity is felt in such
a case concerning the new benefactor of his race. It is hoped that the
present work will meet in this respect a public want.

The biographies of prominent business men are of general interest.
All are full of instruction, some are replete with romance. One fact to
which they call renewed attention is that the vast majority of successful
men have made their own way in life, beginning with no capital beyond
their own good health, sound common sense and weekly wages in the store,
shop, mine, or mill, or on the farm or railroad; They illustrate the encour-
aging fact that America is a land in which a man can start from the lowest
level of poverty and obscurity and rise, honestly, by his own exertions, to
influence and fortune, if he is capable of self sacrifice, untiring labor and
intelligent effort. Men born upon the farm or in the country village,
orphaned when young, compelled to face the hardships of existence while
not yet of age, and forced into the arena with no other education than that
of the country school, have been able to educate themselves, to initiate
great movements, found institutions of learning and charity, exercise a
beneficent influence in the highest social circles, and sway the destinies of
a people by their talents in the field of practical affairs. These biographies
should teach a lesson of courage and hope to all young men who are start-
ing in life under inauspicious circumstances.

Volume I. is devoted to that cluster of communities known popularly
under the name of the Greater New York.



HENRY EUGENE ABBEY, dramatic manager, descends from Connecticut ancestry,
and was born in Akron, O. , June 27, 1846. A student in the public schools of Akron
during boyhood, he began life as clerk in his father's jewelry store. He rose to
partnership, and in 1873, succeeded to the business. In 1869, he leased the Akron
Theatre, which he managed with so much success, that in 1876 he leased the Park
Theatre in New York city, and from that time forward devoted his energies entirely
to dramatic affairs. He is now the manager of Abbey's Theatre, at 1402 Broadway,
and the Metropolitan Opera House, 1415 Broadway, and, in Boston, of the Tremont
Theatre. Mr. Abbey was married in 1876 to Miss Kate Kingsley of Northampton,
Mass., who died in 1883. In 1886, he married Florence Gerard of Boston. His one
daughter is Kate Kingsland Abbey. Mr. Abbey has been elected to membership in
the New York, Manhattan, New York Yacht and Larchmont Yacht clubs, and the
Ohio Society.

ABRAHAM ABRAHAfl, a leading dry goods merchant of Brooklyn, was born in
New York city, March 9, 1843. His father, Judah Abraham, a native of Bavaria, one of
the earliest German settlers in this city, emigrated hither in 1835. The young man
learned the dry goods trade in Newark, N. J., as an apprentice, beginning at the age
of fourteen. Later he aided his father in a wholesale dry goods store, and then in 1865
formed a partnership with Joseph Wechsler, under the title of Wechsler & Abraham,
and started a small retail dry goods store on Fulton street in Brooklyn, with a few
employes. The partners were practical and extremely industrious, and their success
led to repeated enlargements, culminating in the erection of a large store at 422 Fulton
street. The interest of Mr. Wechsler was finally bought by Nathan and Isidor Straus,
and Mr. Abraham became senior partner of the present firm of Abraham & Straus.
He is an excellent merchant and his store is now the leading bazaar of Brooklyn,
employing more than 2,000 persons, and covering about thirty city lots. A large addi-
tion is now contemplated. Mr. Abraham is married and has four children, three girls


and one boy. He is president of Temple Israel, vice-president of the Hebrew Orphan
Asylum, Brooklyn, and director in The Brooklyn Society for Prevention of Cruelty to
Children, The Kings County Trust Co. and The Long Island Bank, and member of
Chamber of Commerce of New York, the Union League, Brooklyn, Oxford, and Law-
rence clubs of Brooklyn, and the Harmonic club of New York, as well as of numerous
charitable and other societies in both cities.

DAVID DEPEYSTER ACKER, founder and head of the house of Acker, Merrall &
Condit, merchants of fine groceries, one of the most active, capable and energetic men
of his day and an excellent representative of the last generation of the "merchant
princes" of New York, was born in Bergen county, N. J., June 13, 1822, and died
March 23, 1888. Successful in his plans, the soul of honor in every transaction, kindly
in every impulse, and unassuming in manner, his long and honorable record was free
from the slightest blemish, and he won the unqualified respect of all with whom he
came in contact.

He was fortunate enough to be the son of a farmer, and in the healthful open air
life of the country he gained, during his boyhood days, the vigorous health which fitted
him for the arduous labors of later life. He was of Dutch descent, his ancestors having
emigrated to America in the early part of the seventeenth century. The family
possessed high character but their means were limited, and David was compelled to
face the stern realities of life at an unusually early age. He came to New York city
in 1833 seeking employment, and found it in the little old store of T. & A. S. Hope,
afterwards Thomas Hope & Co., grocers, who then occupied the first floor and base-
ment of the Franklin House, on the corner of Chambers street and College Place. At
that period the homes of many cultivated people occupied the streets adjacent to this
corner, and the brothers Hope enjoyed a large trade among the highest class of patrons.
Their new clerk, even in the first years of his connection with the house, gave promise
of future usefulness He was honest, thorough, attentive to details, and obliging, and
soon rose into the confidence of the firm. He remained with the house for twenty-four
years, and became intimately identified with its business, and in time practically the
manager. His opportunity came in 1857, when the senior partner retired. Mr. Hope
transferred to Mr. Acker the business, which the latter had done so much to build up, '
taking his promises to pay, and Mr. Acker, in partnership with William J. Merrall and
John W. Condit, both of whom had been his fellow clerks in the old firm, now organ-
ized the new house of Acker, Merrall & Condit, which under the management of the
head of the concern, entered upon a career of great prosperity. Mr. Acker was the
inspiring element from the first. While the business was systematized and divided into
departments, Mr. Acker pervaded every part of the store and directed all of the firm's

In 1867, under the firm name of Acker, Edgar & Co., a branch store was opened
in Yonkers on the Hudson, with a local partner, an undertaking, which, in part, grew
- out of the annual exodus of society from New York city to summer homes along the
Hudson river. In 1871, the up town movement of population in the city led the
firm to establish a local branch at No. 1,472 Broadway, on the corner of 42d street.
Another large store was also opened at No. 1010 Sixth avenue, each one supplying a
special part of the best residence section of the city with the finest class of groceries.
Both to ensure the excellence of their goods and to be in a position to take proper


advantage of the markets, Mr. Acker established a purchasing agency in Paris in 1874.
These were all judicious ventures and every one of them was prospered.

The growth of the business finally compelled Mr. Acker to enlarge the wholesale
store down town, and in 1887 the old building on Chambers street was reinforced with
the addition of another twice its size. The firm were then employing 300 men, 125
horses, and 60 wagons in their flourishing trade.

For many years, Mr. Acker was a prominent figure among the guests at Saratoga.
He visited the springs every summer. He was always fond of the country, and he
spent every spring and fall at his beautiful country seat of Fairlawn, near Paterson,
N. J. During the last few years of his life, he spent the month of March in Florida.

While taking a lively interest in public affairs, he was never allured by public posi-
tion, and he refused positively to accept a nomination for Congress, which was once
tendered him by his neighbors in New Jersey.

Although closely devoted to the business of his firm, he found time to participate
in the management of The National Exchange Bank, of which he was vice-president,
and he was an interested member of the Produce Exchange and the Chamber of Com-
merce. He also belonged to The Holland Society, deriving his eligibility from his
ancestry. He was a devoted Episcopalian, and attended worship regularly at St.
Thomas's church in New York and St. Paul's church in Paterson. He died March 23,
1888, leaving his large fortune to his wife and seven children. Two of them, Charles
L. Acker and Franklin Acker were at the time members of the firm. His son,
CHARLES LIVINGSTON ACKER, born in New York city, Oct. 13, 1846, died here May
26, 1891. He was a young man of great promise, received a sound education, and
at the age of seventeen entered the wholesale and retail grocery store of Acker,
Merrall & Condit. A thorough apprenticeship made him a good merchant, and
when he attained his majority he became junior partner in the firm. When the branch
store on Broadway at the corner of 42d street was opened in 1869, he was placed in
entire charge thereof. Of sturdy physique and exceptionally good health, he succeeded
in his management and had never been detained from businessa single day on account
of sickness until he contracted the malady which ended his life. Sept. 2, 1868, he was
married to Helena, daughter of the Hon. James J. Brinkerhoff, of New Jersey, and left
a son, Charles L. Acker, Jr., and three daughters. He was vice-president of The
Hudson River Bank, treasurer of several other corporations, and member of The
Holland Society. FRANKLIN ACKER, merchant, son of the late David D. Acker, born
in New York city, Feb. 16, 1853, received his education at the public schools and in
Weston, Conn. He first engaged in business in 1870, with Acker, Merrall & Condit,
and having mastered thoroughly every detail of the business, became a member of the
firm in 1888. In 1892 his interest was sold to W. J. Merrall. Nov. 12, 1884, Mr. Acker
married Emma, daughter of ex-State Senator James J. Brinkerhoff, of New Jersey. His
family consists of two sons, David D. and Irving Fairchild Acker. He is a director of
The David D. Acker Co. of this city and The Fiberite Co. of Mechanicville, N. Y., and
a member of The Holland Society and Colonial and Hardware clubs.

WARREN ACKERMAN, manufacturer, born in 1826, died in Scotch Plains, N. J.,
Aug. 26, 1893. He began life modestly, possessed of sound character, a clear head,
and a worthy desire to succeed. During the Civil War he sold rubber goods, and filled
some profitable contracts for the Government. Later he became interested in the


manufacture of hydraulic cement, as president and principal stockholder of The Law-
renceville Cement Co. In 1876, he married a daughter of Isaac L. Platt, one of the
founders of The Chemical National Bank. He retired from business several years
before his death, and devoted his time to a large estate, which included the beautiful
Glenside Park, or Feltville.

EDWARD DEAN ADAHS, banker, a man of special gifts and remarkable power of
organization, was born in Boston, Mass., April 9, 1846. His father, Adoniram Judson
Adams, a merchant, sprang from Puritan ancestry. Edward began his education as a
student at Chauncey Hall in Boston, and fitted there for college. He graduated from
Norwich University in Northfield, Vt., in the class of 1864, with the degree of
Bachelor of Science, and added to the scholarly equipment thus attained by two years
mainly spent in travel in Europe. Possessing excellent powers of observation and a
studious and retentive mind, Mr. Adams gained greatly by these travels; and the
knowledge thus acquired has since been regularly and extensively cultivated by travel
in later years both abroad and to all parts of North America, more particularly in the
United States, with all sections of which Mr. Adams is now intimately acqiiainted

The young man wished to become a banker, and gained his first lessons in the
requirements of this occupation by service, from 1866 to 1870, as bookkeeper and
cashier for a Boston firm of bankers and brokers. In 1870 he assisted in organizing
the banking house of Richardson, Hill & Co. , of Boston, which is yet in existence and
has always enjoyed a high repute. He remained a partner until 1878. He then
removed to New York city to accept a partnership in the old banking house of Wins-
low, Lanier & Co., famous for conservative and honorable methods and its relations
with important corporate interests. He was successfully occupied with the financial
operations of this house until 1893, when he retired to devote his time to various large
properties, in which in the meantime he had become deeply interested. During the
fifteen years of his partnership in Messrs. Winslow, Lanier & Co. , he participated in
many of the government, railway and municipal negotiations of that active period.
He was especially occupied with construction and reorganization enterprises, into all of
which his personality entered as a moving and controlling factor, and for which he was
responsible. Some of the more noteworthy of these may be referred to.

In 1882-83, ne organized The Northern Pacific Terminal Co., was elected president
thereof, provided the funds and constructed the terminal plant in Portland, Oregon,
which was afterwards successfully leased to The Northern Pacific Railroad and other

In 1883, he organized The St. Paul & Northern Pacific Railway Co., provided the
capital, and, as vice-president, supervised the acquisition and construction of the ter-
minal facilities at Minneapolis and Saint Paul, now leased to the Northern Pacific Rail-
road Co.

In 1885, he organized and constructed The New Jersey Junction Railroad Co., now
leased to The New York Central & Hudson River Railroad Co.

The same year, he prepared a plan for the reorganization of The New York, West
Shore & Buffalo Railway, The New York, Ontario & Western Railway, and The West
Shore & Ontario Terminal Co., and their allied properties, which plan was carried out
in 1886, with hardly any variation from the programme as first submitted by him to
Messrs. Morgan and Vanderbilt in 1885. The efficiency of his services in this undertak-


ing was officially recognized by The New York Central Railroad Co. He received a
graceful letter of thanks from Mr. Depew, president of The New York Central ; and
Drexel, Morgan & Co., in their circular to The West Shore bond-holders, made special
acknowledgment to Edward D. Adams, "who, for nearly a year past, has devoted
almost his whole time to perfecting and carrying out the plan which has resulted in
entire success. But for his activity and valued assistance, based on information which
he alone possessed, the difficulties of the situation would have been greatly enhanced."
T. Pierpont Morgan also made a generous and manly acknowledgment upon the success
of the great work in reorganizing The West Shore Railroad, which he declared due to
the special knowledge and personal devotion of Mr. Adams.

The rescue of The Central Railroad of New Jersey in 1887 from its receivership
was accomplished upon a plan, conceived by Mr. Adams and worked out by him with
infinite care and close regard for all the interests involved, as chairman of its Finance

Modest, caring nothing for public recognition, but delighting in the solution of
intricate problems and the successful execution of carefully concerted plans, Mr. Adams
brings to labors of this class a power of analysis, specially his own, and an energy and
capacity for work, which bear the unmistakable stamp of genius.

In 1888, he rendered an important service to The Philadelphia & Reading Railroad
in the marketing of the new bonds of the company. The financial world places so much
reliance in the judgment and integrity of Mr. Adams that in an enterprise like this, he
succeeds where others are likely to fail. The directors of the company expressed their
gratitude to Mr. Adams for the service he had performed in their behalf, by a special
and expressive resolution of thanks.

In 1890 he undertook a work, which gave new proof of his abilities. The
American Cotton Oil Trust was then on the verge of bankruptcy. Mr. Adams entered
upon a close, careful and extended investigation, and, as a result, reorganized the com-
pany upon lines laid down and through channels and men selected by himself. He has
enforced a severely economical administration and placed in positions of responsibility
the men best fitted for their respective duties by natural gifts and experience, and con-
tinues to this date to direct the business of the organization as chairman of the board of
directors.. He exercises a daily scrutiny of the smallest details, and has rescued the
company, by his energetic and untiring labors, from the calamities which threatened to
engulf it in ruin.

The Cataract Construction Co. , at Niagara Falls, has been fortunate in enlisting
his co-operation. Of the two great engineering works of the present age, which, while
practicable, are tasks of difficulty, and which are destined to bring a distinct fame to
those who achieve them, one is the utilization of the enormous water power of Niagara
Falls for the purposes of productive industry. In 1890, Mr. Adams was elected
president of the company, which is developing the water power of Niagara, and has
successfully directed the engineering operations there to the present moment. The
Bachelor of Science has in this enterprise shown himself a master not only of science
but of finance.

In 1893, he accepted the proposals of a group of German bankers to represent
their interests in America, and formed the Reorganization Committee of The Northern
Pacific Railroad Co. , of which committee he is chairman. The fact that Mr. Adams


has accepted a responsible relation with a scheme of this class at once gains the public
attention, inspires confidence in the property, and supplies a guarantee of success.

Mr. Adams is now occupied as chairman of the directors of The American Cotton

011 Co., and president of its most important allied organizations; president of The Cat-
aract Construction Co., and its associate corporations; vice-president of The Central &
South American Telegraph Co., and director of The West Shore Railroad and The
Central Railroad of New Jersey and its subordinate companies.

He is very happy in his family life. His wife is Fannie A., daughter of William
E. Gutterson of Boston, to whom he was married in 1872. His children are Ernest
Kempton Adams, now an engineering student in Yale University, and Ruth, a young

A gentleman of cultivated mind and agreeable manners, well informed, and of
spotless integrity, he is as much respected in the social world as in financial circles. His
resources for diversion are indicated by the following positions that he holds : Fellow
in Perpetuity of the National Academy of Design; patron (with right of succession in
perpetuity) of The American Museum of Natural History; trustee of The Metropolitan
Museum of Art and the Gift Fund of The American Fine Arts Society; and fellow of
The American Society of Civil Engineers. He is also a member of many of the lead-
ing clubs, including the Metropolitan, City, Union League, Players', Lawyers', Tuxedo,
Riding and Grolier, The New England Society of this city and the Chicago club of

GEORGE TOWNSEND ADEE, merchant and banker, was born in Albany, N. Y.,
April 7, 1804, and died in New York city, Nov. 20, 1884. He was of English-French
descent and son of William Adee, of Westchester. His mother was Clarissa Townsend
of Albany. His great-grandfather, John Adee, came from England to Providence
Plantations in the early part of the eighteenth century, and thence to Portchester, in

Online LibraryHenry HallAmerica's successful men of affairs. An encyclopedia of contemporaneous biography (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 101)