Success Of Great Men

MEN are great in what they are, but this can only be known by what they do. During the last hundred years an army of men have come to the surface on Manhattan, whose directness, probity, indefatigable activity, and success have demonstrated their title to real greatness in their respective spheres. Most of them began poor, were born in rural retreats, or in foreign lands, enjoyed very inadequate facilities of culture, and were unsupported by friends, or great names.

 More than one of them entered New York carrying his entire effects in a pocket handkerchief. They are eminently deserving of all the credit the world is disposed to accord them. To their comprehensive genius we are indebted for the facilities of our world-wide commerce, the roar and rush of our long-drawn railroads, the speed and magnificence of our river, lake, and ocean steamers, the number and magnitude of our manufactories and printing-presses, the stability of our national finances, and the founding of many of our great educational, benevolent, and religious establishments.

Many of them have been at times severely criticized, because of their relations to commerce, banks, railroad stocks, etc. ; and without attempting an apology for any of them, we only remark, that without their genius and money, their critics would have plodded the moors on foot, and died in profound ignorance of many of the comforts of this age. Some of these men have not been personally religious, though most of them have shown a deference for sacred things. Starting with a purpose to win by diligence, frugality, and integrity, they have unflinchingly held to first principles, and demonstrated that honesty is beyond all question the best policy.

One of the first representatives of this class among New York merchants is Alexander T. Stewart. Born in a humble home in Ireland, he early immigrated to New York, and at length opened a small store on Broadway, near Chambers street, doing all his own work, and toiling sixteen hours per day. His wife lived in a single room over the store, doing all her own work. Forced to raise money to meet his engagements or speedily become a bankrupt, to which he would not consent, he filled the neighborhood with handbills offering his goods at cost. His stock was soon sold, and as its quality was unsurpassed, his reputation was established.

His noble resolve to sacrifice his goods and pay his debts was the key to his later success and world-wide fame. At the age of eighty years, and among the largest and richest merchants of the world, he attends to the minutest matters of his business, never leaving the store at night until the last stroke of the pen is made, and everything adjusted.

Among the steamboat and railroad men of Manhattan, we could scarcely select a fitter representative than Cornelius Vanderbilt. A penniless youth, he began his marvelous career by paddling his own canoe between Staten Island and New York, from which he soon rose to the captaincy of a North-river steamboat. Some years later he commenced running opposition with half the old lines of travel leading to New York, at first with chartered, but finally with purchased and well-constructed boats. From steamboat lines he advanced to the control of railroads, and is likely to die the acknowledged railroad king of the western continent. Whatever may be said of his bargains, his business has throughout been conducted on the cash system, paying every man the precise sum promised without any delay. He is now over eighty years of age, and lives in a plain brick dwelling with his second wife, to whom he was recently married.

Another class of successful New Yorkers began life religiously, or became so quite early in their business career. While these have been quite as active and powerful in extending commerce, building railroads, and developing the city, as those above mentioned, they have also formed the pillars in the churches, and have sent out their money in waves of blessedness to gladden the desolate plains of the whole world.

John Jacob Astor was an elder in the Lutheran church, and gave freely to many charitable enterprises. He was the wealthiest man in America at his death, His son, William B. Astor, is not only one of the richest, but one of the safest business men in New York, investing his enormous income almost wholly in real estate. With twice the wealth of his father, he has less than half his liberality. lie is, however, an honest man, and an honorable landlord. His income-tax during 1870 exceeded that paid by the whole State of Vermont.

Among the wealthy iron merchants of New York, no man has run a more useful and brilliant career than William W. Cornell. Beginning life in the city a penniless boy at the anvil, he not only consecrated to God his heart, but his money, giving half of the first hundred dollars he was allowed to call his own to the missionary cause. Possessing a vigorous and well-balanced mind, he early rose from obscurity, making his business a power which brought him in contact with the leading men of the metropolis. "While pressing with marvelous capacity an immense business, he found time for wide religious labors, identifying his name and money with every struggling enterprise of his denomination, and fell in middle life, ripe in every good work, and universally lamented by all who knew him.

Of Daniel Drew, William E. Dodge, James Lennox, Andrew V.Stout, Robert L. Stewart, H. J. Baker, William A. Booth, A. R. Wetmore, and many others, we cannot particularly speak. They not only rank among the most successful men in business, but are among the most honored and generous in their respective denominations. May they long live and prosper, reaping many a golden harvest for Christ and humanity, demonstrating that integrity, benevolence, and genuine piety may have their finest development in the rush and whirl of the metropolis. We conclude this chapter by adding that while it is true that the chances of failure are more numerous, and the trials of principle more severe than in a smaller town, the metropolis still affords to true, energetic, and well-balanced men the richest field for the development of all their noblest faculties, and for the accumulation of great wealth. But any young man hoping for great success in New York must expect to toil harder, live closer, and die earlier, after bearing through life an immensely
greater strain, both of head and heart, than in any other portion of the American continent.


Website: The History
Article Name: Success Of Great Men
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: New York and Its Institutions, 1609-1873 by J.F. Richmond, Publisher: E.B. Treat-New York 1872
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