Merchant's Recollections of Old New York Business Men Part I


The late Henry P. Waring, who was formerly a commission merchant with his father, Henry Waring, and afterward became a member of the Naval Board of Trade, was in business over sixty years in the City of New York. He died March 10, 1884, in his 85th year. During last Winter, his memory being remarkable for one of his age, he dictated the following recollections of New York merchants:

Between sixty and seventy years there have been known to me the names of old merchants who have passed away. The only one living at the present time is Charles Oakley, as known by me. He is a bout 95. He was engaged in the tobacco business. Among the most prominent at the commencement of the present century, however, I name John Jacob Astor, who was well known as a merchant philanthropist. He was grandfather of the present John Jacob Astor, and was so well known to the public that I need not go into details.

Isaac Classon

Isaac Classon was engaged in the China trade, and was the architect of his own fortune. Having once been out clamming he lost his hat, and with an oath said he would not buy one until he could afford it. He had many peculiarities. He had a house in Westchester, having a fish pond on the top of it, where his family in Summer resided. It is still standing. His city residence was on Broadway, near Rector street, where now is an express office. He was liberal in his manner of doing business, having once offered a captain of one of his vessels part of a cargo of tea on a credit of several months. Mr. Classon died about seventy years ago.

Robert Lenox

Robert Lenox also stood very high in credit. When the question was asked respecting the mercantile credit of a man, the reply would be a sufficient one: "As good as Robert Lenox." He was very prompt in his method of his doing business. Visiting the Custom House and calling on Mr. Gelston, the Collector, on business, the latter referred him to his deputy. Mr. Lenox replied that the deputy was intoxicated and he must do what he came for with the Collector. Mr. Lenox's death occurred upward of fifty years ago at over 80 years of age.

William Doughty

The next old merchant of note who occurs to me was William Doughty, who was in the lumber business in Cherry street. He was known for his liberality and never turning away a beggar, when applied to. During the embargo in 1807-08 however, he would only give small sums. When the applicant hesitated, expecting a larger one, he would remark. There was once a scarcity of corn in Egypt, and now there is a scarceness of money in the city." He died more than seventy years ago. In his dealings, when he made sales and was over paid, he would refund the excess, being a very religious man. He was a Baptist, Having sold a man a pew in church, which probably was worth about $250, when called upon for a deed he gave the man the pew. The man still saying he must have the deed, Mr. Doughty replied that he might put a dollar as consideration in the deed. He was liberal in many other respects.

Stephen B. Munn

Stephen B. Munn was also a liberal man, but very peculiar, doing business in dry goods in Pearl street. When a certain church collection was about to be made several were appointed to do the collecting, Mr. Munn among the rest. He declined, objecting to doing that kind of business. As they wanted but two or three hundred dollars, Mr. Munn said: "I w3ill give $500; so excuse me from collecting." He offered notes at the bank for discount, which were declined. But he drew his check against them and his account was overdrawn, the notes offered not being discounted. He said that it was his business to furnish good notes, and the bark's to discount them, and that he did not consider his account overdrawn. Having once a clerk in his employ from the country, he inclosed in a letter some notes for discount, and also wrote some letters to his correspondent to be put into the post office. The clerk stupidly put the notes of discount in the post office and the letters in bank. The next day the letters came back from the bank, and the notes from the Post Office, when Mr. Munn remarked: "What an annoyance that was," and ordered the clerk to go and borrow some money for him, as he was short. The clerk went through Pearl street to borrow. Mr. Munn got sufficient, being in good credit. Being waited upon by one of his neighbors, the latter remarked to Mr. Munn that when he wanted money he should come himself, as the clerk could not tell whom he received the money from. In his dealings with the country merchants he would often put in a surplus, which would not be in the bill. When the customer would settle his account he would remark to Mr. Munn that he had sent him more than he ordered. The reply would, "I will send to you again, as I know you are an honest man." He died about forty years ago.

Samuel Jackson

Samuel Jackson, engaged in the Southern commission business in South street, died more than fifty years ago, and was buried from his brother's residence, John Jackson, in Brooklyn. Wine was passed around at the funeral. It was the last occasion I ever drank wine at a funeral, though it was still the custom to have it. A gentleman who was present on this occasion remarked what excellent wine it was, and that Mr. Jackson had saved it for his funeral. In nearly all his business transactions Mr. Jackson was liberal, though in some instances peculiar. He frequently loaned money and without compensation. It was customary in those days for merchants at the end of business hours to ask the question: "Have you had anything over?" and if they had they would lend. When called upon by an acquaintance and asked if he had anything over, and how much, Mr. Jackson showed him the book where was kept his bank account. He had between $5,000 and $6,000 in the bank. The would be borrower only desired $500, and he would not let him have it. Upon another occasion he declined doing this sort of favor; but the applicant's wife coming and asking the favor obtained it for her husband. Mr. Jackson held a mortgage of his brother's, and when called upon by a friend to know the amount of interest due he took the paper from his desk, but would not take any interest, and threw the mortgage into the fire, remarking, "that is the end of that," In those days they did not record bonds and mortgages.

He was remarkable for his stoleal indifference, never suffering anything to trouble him. His nephew, James Jackson, was thrown from his horse on Broadway, and his skull being fractured he soon after died. My father, who went to give the news to Mr. Jackson, found he was at dinner. Upon hearing it, he remarked: "I am sorry, sit down and have a glass of wine." He was crossing in the ferry sailboat, between New York and Brooklyn, and it capsized. He was in the stern of the boat in the water and there were others in the bow of the boat. Mr. Jackson remarked, "I can't swim; you will get ashore all safe; tell my clerk, David Hubbs, I have five punsheons of Jamaica rum in my third loft: I give it to him." He was afterward saved. My father and he were intimate friends. He once told him he was the richest man on Long island, and after Jackson's departure I asked my father how much he thought he was worth in the year 1820. His reply was about $250,000 (which was thought a large sum in those days). He died without a will. I attended a sale at auction of his property at the Merchant's Exchange. It was sold by catalogue by Anthony Bleecker & Co., about 1836. After the sale I added it up and the amount was upward of $999,000.


Website: The History
Article Name: Merchant's Recollections of Old New York Business Men Part I
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


Brooklyn Daily Eagle June 14, 1884
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