Hyland MacGrath.

Encyclopaedia of biography of Illinois (Volume 1) online

. (page 67 of 81)
Online LibraryHyland MacGrathEncyclopaedia of biography of Illinois (Volume 1) → online text (page 67 of 81)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

This was an opportunity of a life-time. Every
faculty was brought into play: every detail was
given that concentration of thought and system


12 I

atic scrutiny, thai has characterized him through
life. Provisions were a staple commodity of life,
and were enhanced in value to the same extent
and ratio that gold was affected by the devasta-
tion of the rebellion. The wide fluctuations in
prices caused by the disappearing clouds of the
Civil War made the firm a fortune. Herman
O. Armour, a brother engaged in tie- grain
commission trade at Chicago, in 1862. This im-
portant point and fast growing business he
entrusted t«> a younger brother, Joseph P.
Armour, in 1865, ami assumed an interest in
as well as the management of the New York
house, then organized under the tirm name of
Armour. Plankinton A- Co. It was to the moneyed
centres of the East that the Milwaukee house
had to turn its attention for the accommodation
necessary for a season's packing. Mi in-over. New-
York was the headquarters for the European buy-
ers of provisions. The house soon became well
established under its efficient management, ami
bi came the Eastern financial agent of the Western
houses then and thereafti r to l»- established. The
tirm of H. 0. Armour & Co. continued at Chicago
until 1870, doing a grain and general commision
business. The packing of provisions was com-
menced at this point in 1868. The name of Ar-
mour A- Company was adopted and identified
with this particular line. In lsTnU.tli branches
of the business were assumed by Armour A- Co..
and have since been so conducted. Tie
the times were quickly recognized in 1871. Cin-
cinnati was fast declining as a packing center.
It was evident that the stock producing power of
the country was moving westward. Hence, with
their usual keen discernment, they inaugurated
at Kansas City. Missouri, the tirm of Plankinton
A Armour, to be conducted under the immediate
supervision of an elder brother. Mr. Simon I; Ar-
mour. This was continued until the fall ol 1883,
when it became known to the trade as the Ar-
mour Packing Company, with Mr. Kirkland B.
Armour as its moving spirit. Physically Joseph
P. Armour was not strong: mentally, he was the
equal of any living Armour. In 1st:., it became
apparent that he required assistance. Milwaukee,
as we have seen, had brains to spare. Philip,
therefore removed to Chicago, and became the
central figure of all the houses. The mariner
governs and directs his barque according to the
variations of the needle, influenced by the mag-
netic north. This truism was applicable to the
established houses at Milwaukee. New York and
Kansas City. Tie y took their bearings from the

California pioneer at Chicago, and were guided tip
fields of prosperity and renown, The business of
the various houses grew to such a magnitude
that it was the marvel of the trade. Their brands
were well ami favorably known in the principal
marts of the world. These words are made sig-
nificant by the fact that the distributive sales of

the Chicago house alone, are in excess of the

gross receipts of any one railway corporation of

the world. With a feeling almost akin to revet
ential affection, he turned once more to the East,
and invited tl ly remaining Armour. Andrew-
Watson, a brother on the old homestead, to be-
come the president of the Armour Bros. Banking
Co.. organized at Kansas City inl879. He brought
to the office of this institution the same unyield-
ing qualifications of mind that had marked the
efforts of all his brothers. The affairs of this in-
stitution were well conducted, and it soon became
a synonym of financial strength and honor. In
taking a retrospective view of a person who has
become so prominent as a merchant, we find that
the success attained in this character is marked
and founded on the industrial faculties of his
mind. When a person follows out literally tin-
instinct of his mind, and that idea is what he be-
lieves to be the great point and cardinal virtue
in the law of mankind — to labor — then man's
achievements an- generallj measured onlj by his
capacity. Hack of this dogma is Mr. Armour's
great endowment of vital force, combined with
clearness of perception. A mind that is a mirror.
b\ which In- instinctively perceives the weak and
strong points of human character, as well as
records indelibly every act and deed bj a reten
tive memory. lb- is at his desk by seven o'clock
every morning. Hen- tin- day is passed surrounded
by the heads of his various departments. Every
item of detail in connection with his extensive
business is here passed in review in a genial and
affable manner. His personality through his long
business career has been closely allied with the
welfare of his employes. He is not a partisan, as
accepted in politics, though generally identified
with tin- highest aims and principles of tie- Re
publican party. He never held a public office
The only digression he ever made on his business
interests was at the request of his life-long friend,
the late Alexander Mitchell, to serve as a director
of the C. M. & St. P. Ry, Mr Armour was mar-
ried at Cincinnati. Ohio, in October. 1862, to Belle
Ogden. the only daughter of Jonathan Ogden.
Tlie underlying principles of economy were as
fixed a tenet in Mrs. Armour's composition as


\),,-\ were hereditary precepts of her husband's.
The grace and simplicity of their home life has
been one characterized by domestic tranquillity,
fraught with joj and contentment. They have
two sons, Jonathan Ogden Armour and Philip
Danforth Armour, jr., both under thirty years of
aye and active business partners of their father.
Quiet and unostentatious in manner, inspired by
the well known name that has preceded their ad-
vent in the commercial world, an analysis of their
methods, application and business tact clearly
demonstrates that their ability to carry their hon-
ors is by no means wanting. Mr. Armour's
travels have been extensive. Wherever time has
found him. it has been among those who were
consumers of his products. His close observation
make him familiar with the wants and require-
ments of the people. The family are attendants
of the Plymouth Congregational Church. Here
Joseph P. Armour attended. Both brothers were
closely identified with the financial history of this
church. In connection with the general work a
small mission was established, which was fre-
quently visited and aided in various ways by
Joseph. It was here that he conceived the idea.
bj which at his death in 1881, he left $100,000 for
the founding of a mission church and school.
By the provisions of his will, Philip was empow-
ered to carry out this munificent bequest and to
this amount he has added a much larger sum.
lie has not only fulfilled his brother's desires in a
magnanimous manner, but has given and contin-
ues to give, a large share of his time. Every
branch of the work receives his critical considera-
tion. The environs of Armour Mission have been
made secure, and nothing has been left undone
to ensure a permanent work for the intellectual
character and moral culture of children and youth
in their midst. The traits, the principles, and
the features here related unite in contributing to
the fame of a man who has not only reached the
zenith of his power and distinction as one of the
first of the world's merchants, but from whose
munificent influence and bequests posterity will
accord the character of a benefactor of mankind.


It is now a well established fact that, among
tie' i .I her great commercial and manufacturing in-
terests of Chicago, that of glass has become one
of the most important. That city has become

the great center of trade in that material, and

( ; ge V. Kimball is in a great measure responsi

ble for the volume of business done and for
the importance the traffic has of late years
assumed. He has been a citizen of Chicago for
about twenty two years and in that time he has
accomplished more than many men do in their
entire careers. This is the more remarkable since
his early training had nothing to do with the
line of business in which he is now engaged. In
fact his entire acquaintance with the glass busi-
ness is confined to the space of a few years. Mr.
Kimball was born at Boston. Massachusetts. Feb-
ruary 23, 1839. His father was Alvah Kimball, a
prominent print manufacturer of Boston. His
mother was Ruth (Woodbury) Kimball, who was
descended from the old Woodbury family, of New-
Hampshire. His early education was received at
the common schools of Boston, and later he be-
came a pupil at Andover College. When sixteen
years of agi young Kimball went to visit an uncle
at Louisville, Kentucky, who was a dry-goods
merchant of that city, and while there he sud-
denly resolved to leave college and begin to earn
his own living. He remained in the Kentucky
city, finding employment in the dry-goods house
of Bent & Duvall, and when only nineteen he had
shown such aptitude, such genuine business capa
bilities that the firm made him their New York
buyer, a position of great responsibility, as the
success of any commercial house depends as much
upon judicious buying as upon the selling of
goods. Mr. Kimball remained with Bent & Du-
vall for five years when, the opportunity offering
itself for securing a business of his own, he formed
a partnership with a Mr. Johnson and carried on
a successful dry-goods business in Louisville,
under the firm name of Johnson & Kimball. In
1861, Mr. Kimball retired from the concern to en-
ter the pay department of the U. S. Army, with
headquarters at Louisville. He held this posi-
tion for a year and was then made chief clerk of
the quartermaster's department under Colonel
Thomas Swords, the headquarters of the assistant
quartermaster general being at Cincinnati. Mr.
Kimball remained in that department until the
close of the war. At its termination he went to
New York City as the solicitor for consignments
for the auction and commission house of Ander-
son & Co., of Louisville. While in the employ of
this concern he came to Chicago in 1869. Mr.
Anderson, of the firm, was the owner of a patent
sash balance and Mr. Kimball's business was in-
troducing this to the trade. In 1871 he made his







first acquaintance with the glass business as an
employe of James II. Bice. He entered this
house ;is chief clerk and remained there eighl
years. Since then he has become his old employ-
er's greatest competitor, hut the relations between
them are of the pleasantest character and they
bold each other in the highest esteem. Mr. Kim-
ball's business is second to none iu the west,
ami he is the largest buyer of American window
glass in the United States. His bold specu-
lations in the glass trade during the past few
years have placed him among the most suc-
cessful young business men of the West. After
severing his connection with Mr. Rice he estab-
lished a business upon his own account in 1879,
and located at 15 and 47 Jackson street. He has
since that time, in twelve years, built up a busi-
ness that would seem phenomena) in any other
city or by any other man. He deals heavily in
German and French mirror, polished plate, andin
dome tic and foreign window glass. The trade,
however, in foreign importations is not what it
used to be; it has fallen off greatly during late
years owing to the competition of American man-
ufacturers. The snobbery which induces ] pie

to pay a high price tor a foreign article is rapidly
dying out and it is now seen that the domestic
glass is as good for every purpose as that manu-
factured abroad. "American g Is for Ameri-
cans," is becoming every year a more popular
idea. There are in the United States, at present,
seven plate glass factories. One is located at
New Albany, live in Pennsylvania near Pittsburg,
and one in Crystal City, Missouri. Of the latter
factory. Mr. Kimball is the sole agent. So popu-
lar has the glass of American manufacture be-
come, that these factories are at present unable
to supply the demand. Should this demand con
tinue to increase in the next few years as it has
in the past, (and there is every reason to believe it
will,) it will take from twenty-five to thirty facto
ries with capacities equal to those already in ex-
ist, to meet the want. Fully three fourths of

all the glass sold in the United States today is
of domestic manufacture. and seven-eighths of the
glass sold in Chicago, which has come to be the
most extensive distributing point in America, is
made in this country. The sale of American
glass had increased fully twenty five per cent an-
nually in Chicago for the four years previous to
Ism;. Since then the percentage has been largely
increased and the time is not far distant when
importation of glass will be wholly abandoned I ,y

Chicago dealers, as the demand for it is growing

less and less each year. Mr. George F. Kimball
has been called a bold young speculator, and in
the term there is nothing meant to which the
most rigid and conservative business man might
object. His speculations have been based upon

purely business principles, ami have I n the

outcome ol keen foresight and of the soundest
judgment. His grand operation in HSJ was a
coup iV etat, ami while it shook the glass trade to
its very foundation, it gained the admiration of
the Napoleons of finance as a brilliant stroke of
business genius. In a sense it was not a specula-
tion, but a shrewd business operation. It was a
bona fide purchase by which he secured a com-
plete corner on the glass market which sent the

price up fifteen per cent. So c prehensive and

wide spread was this manipulation that the ad-
vance quoted, ruled tin' market all over the United
States. It was a bold move mil was only possi
hie to a man with such thorough knowledg of all
the " ins and outs " of the business as he po
It created great excitement and Mr. Kimball was
the subject of press comment from one end of the
nation to the other and extended even to the
journals of foreign countries. Mr. Kimball wed-
ded Mrs. Lydia Taft. of Waukegan, Illinois, in
October. 1ST). Mrs. Taft had one son named
Weston Taft. Mr. Kimball is a prominent man
in social circles and, though not much of a club
man is a member of the Union League and the
Washington Park Club. Some men are born with
careers all planned and laid out for them, while
others are compelled to hew a pathway through
the thick wall of an uncertain future. Such was
i ieorge i\ Kimball's lot. He is still a young man.
with years of bright prospects ami usefulness be-
fore him. and he can point to his past with that
glow of pride any man is entitled to feed who has
made a success of life.

william s. Mccormick.

The characteristics of the late William Sander-
son McCormick arc well described in the words of
a prominent Chicago gentleman who knew him
long and intimately, and whose opinion is of high
value. Of Mr. McCormick this authority says:
'• I knew him intimately for several years. In every
respect he was a superior man. He was always
ready to receive suggestions and quick to act upon
them when they commended themselves to his
judgment. He was keenly appreciative of therea-



sons i'ii both sides of any controversy in which he
might I"' engaged. In shorthewas eminently
just and honorable in every way." Mr. McCor-
mirk was born in Rockbridge county, Virginia,
November 2, 1815. He was the son of Robert and
Marj Ann (Hall) McCormick, and a brother
of Leander J. and the late Cyrus II. McCormick,
of Chicago. Mr. McCormick's father was an ex-
trusive farmer ami his early years were passed
amid the surroundings of an agricultural life.
His father was not only the owner of several
large Earms and closely occupied in their manage-
ment, hut was a man of remarkable mechanical
genius, ami for many years gave a large por-
tion of his time t<> the development of the reaper,
and various other of his inventions. William
S. McCormick, the subject of this sketch, was
able at an early age to relieve his father of
1 1 1 ; 1 1 1 \ .it' the details of farm management, and prac
tically operated five or six farms. In 1837 his
father met with serious financial reverses through
tin- mismanagement of a partner in a large iron
business, and the success of the family in regaining
prosperity was in no small degree due to William's
judicious and progressive handling of the agricul-
tural interests. He was an earnest and intelligent
worker in whatever he undertook. He was never
satisfied with any thing less than the best of machin-
ery and methods, and his farming operations were
conducted with the same precision and regularity
that in after years marked his wise financial man-
agement of the enormous and pro fit able reaper busi-
ness which he assisted in building up in Chicago,
and in which he was interested to the extent of
one-fourth. On the death of his father in 1846,
Mr. McCormick inherited the homestead, which
he conducted successfully until 1849. when he re-
moved to Chicago and united with his brothers in
the manufactureof reapers. Much of the surpris-
ing success which attended this great business
enterprise up to the time of his death, is due to
the executive ability, sagacity and untiring energy
and skill of William S. McCormick. Mr. McCor-
miek was married in June. 1846, to Mary Ann
Qrigsby, a daughter of Reuben Grigsby, Esq., one
of the most prominent planters of Rockbridge
county, Virginia, 'the ( Irigsby estate, then known
as Hickory Hill, was situated between Lexington
and lie' Natural Bridge, and wasone of the hand-
somest farm properties in Virginia. Twosonsand

three daughters were born to Mr. and Mrs.

McCormick. The eldest Bon, Robert S., married
Katherine Medill, daughter of Hon. Joseph Me-
dill, of ( 'lii, -ago. The second son. William G„

married Eleanor Brooks, daughter of Walter
Brooks, Esq., of Baltimore. The eldest daughter,
Emma Louise, is the wife of Perry II. Smith, Jr.,
son of the late Hon. Perry H. Smith, of Chicago.
Anna R., the second i laughter, is the wife of Ed
ward Blair, son of William Blair, Esq., of Chicago.
The third daughter, Lucy Virginia, married Sam-
uel R. Jewett, son of Hon. John N. Jewett, of
Chicago. The death of Mr. McCormick, which
occurred September '27, 1865, was the indirect re-
sult of a too laborious and sustained application
to business. He was incessant in his supervision
of the details of the great and growing interests
in his care, and was subjected to intense nervous
strain. He held up under it until early in 1865,
when the pressure became too great, and he sought
relief in retirement from business cares. He was
Hun badly broken down, but it was hoped that
rest and recreation might restore his health. He
improved for a time, but the relief, however, came
too late, and in the fall of the same year In- passed
away, sincerely mourned by his family and by a
large number of friends and acquaintances.


SIDNEY ALBERT KENT, one of the most
successful business men of Chicago, whose enter-
prise in various fields has given him wide reputa-
tion,— more especially in the Northwestern and
Western States, was born in Suffield, Hartford
county, Connecticut, July 1(1, 1834. He is a son of
Albert Kent and Lucinda Gillette, his wife, also
natives of Connecticut, whose respective families
date back to a very early period in the history of
the New England colonics. It is known that the
founders of the American branch of the Kent
family came to this country from England about
the year 1630, being among the first English set-
tins to follow •■the Pilgrim Fathers" to the shores
of the New World. The Gillettes, who are likewise
of English origin, arrived in America at a some-
what later date. Albert Kent was a farmer, and
his son. Sidney, grew up amid rural surroundings,
aiding in the labor on the home farm, upon
which he remained until he was nineteen years of
age. At the district schools and in the Suffield

Academy he secured a g 1 English education.

and before leaving home was amply qualified to

Intake the instruction of pupils in the usual

grammar-grade studies. Actuated, probably, by





3 2 5

that larger hope which has been such an effective
factor in peopling and developing the western sec-
tion of the country, young Kent, at the age of
nineteen, left home to seek his fortune. His oh
jeetive point was the state of Illinois, which then
had a population of about one million, many of
whom were pioneers, or the children of pioneers,
who had left comfortable homes in the Eastern
and Middle states to reap the golden advantages
which its virgin and fertile soil, its abundant
mines and rapidly growing business opportunities
held out to the industrious and enterprising.
Having friends in Kane county he proceeded
thither and, while awaiting employment more in
consonance with his ambitious spirit, he taught
school for a briaf period. F.arh m IS A. his dili-
gent efforts to engage in mercantile affairs secured

him ;i minor clerkship in the wholesale dry -g Is

house of Savage, Case & Co., of Chicago. This
city then had a population not greatlyin excess..!'
fifty thousand, and as it had increased more rap
idly in trade and importance than any other place
in "the fiir west" it was universally regarded as
onenf the best localities in that region for making
a start in life. Thus, certainly, it was regarded by
young Kent, who, in the spring <>f 1854, took up
his residence in the city to enter upon a career,
which, through his pluck and energy, was to lead
to distinguished business success and large for-
tune. In 1856, Mr. Kent having readily adapted
himself to his new circumstances, cut loose from
subordinate employment and in a modest way en-
gaged in a general commission business. Pushing
his infant enterprise with an energy which never
abated, he was soon in a condition to enlarge his
operations, and in a very short time lie had
achieved a standing among the more prominent
commission merchants of the city. The possibili-
ties of profit in the fur trade speedily attracted
his attention and he boldly engaged in it, making
somewhat extensive trips through the Western
country, buying furs in considerable quantities
and shipping them to a New York dealer with
whom he had established business relations. For
about four years of the period he was thus en-
gaged, his elder brother, A. E. Kent, now of Chi-
cago, was associated with him in the enterprise,
which brought satisfactory pecuniary results
to both. In 1859, Mr. Kent, in connection with
his brother, established a beef and pork pack-
ing establishment in' Chicago, the firm taking
the style of A. E. Kent & Co This business grew
to large proportions and in 1872 was re-organized
as a stock company under the title of the Chicago

Packing and Provision Company, of which Mr.
Sidney A. Kent was chosen president. This cor-
poration is to-day one of the largest in the pack-
ing business in Chicago, and has an extensive
foreign, as well as domestic trade. Mr. Kent re-
tained the presidency of it until 188S, when, owing
to the pressure upon him of other duties, he resigned
this position and accepted that of vice-president,
the executive duties of which are largely nominal.
( Ither similar enterprises with which he has been
prominently connected are the Merchants" and
Traders" Packing and Provision Company, largely
interested in Nebraska; and the East St. Louis
Packing and Provision Company, established in
1872. Mr.Kent became identified with the grain and
corn business as far back as 1856, since which time
he has been engaged in it as a broker and shipper.

His name has I n prominent in this tiel.l for

many years, and during the last decade or two he
has been a leader in some of those stupendous opera-
tions in the grain market, for which the city of
Chicago is noted. Since L856, too, he has been a
member of the Chicago Hoard of Trade and has
served many years in its directory. In 1869, in
association with Mr. B. P. Hutchinson, he organ-
ize. 1 the Corn Exchange Bank, which went
into operation with a capital of $500,000. He
served as president of it during the early years of
its existence, ami later took the vice-presidency,
which he resigned only recently. Under his ad-

Online LibraryHyland MacGrathEncyclopaedia of biography of Illinois (Volume 1) → online text (page 67 of 81)