PREFACE

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In this volume are presented examples of men who shed lustre upon ordinary pursuits, either by the superior manner in which they exercised them or by the noble use they made of the leisure which success in them usually gives. Such men are the nobility of republics. The American people were fortunate in having at an early period an ideal man of this kind in Benjamin Franklin, who, at the age of forty-two, just mid-way in his life, deliberately relinquished the most read more

AN OLD DRY-GOODS MERCHANT’S RECOLLECTIONS

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Our great cities have a new wonder of late years. I mean those immense dry-goods stores which we see in Paris, London, New York, Vienna, Boston, Cincinnati, Chicago, in which are displayed under one roof almost all the things worn, or used for domestic purposes, by man, woman, or child.

What a splendid and cheering spectacle the interior presents on a fine, bright day! The counters a tossing sea of brilliant fabrics; crowds of ladies moving in all directions; the read more

MARQUIS OF WORCESTER, INVENTOR OF THE STEAM-ENGINE

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In the English county of Monmouthshire, near Wales, a region of coal mines and iron works, there are the ruins of Raglan Castle, about a mile from a village of the same name. To these ruins let pilgrims repair who delight to visit places where great things began; for here once dwelt the Marquis of Worcester, who first made steam work for men. The same family still owns the site; as indeed it does the greater part of the county; the head of the family being now styled read more

SIR MOSES MONTEFIORE

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We still deal strangely with the Jews. While at one end of Europe an Israelite scarcely dares show himself in the streets for fear of being stoned and abused, in other countries of the same continent we see them prime ministers, popular authors, favorite composers of music, capitalists, philanthropists, to whom whole nations pay homage.

Sir Moses Montefiore, though an English baronet, is an Israelite of the Israelites, connected by marriage and business with the read more

SIR JOHN RENNIE, ENGINEER

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One of the most striking city scenes in the world is the view of London as you approach London Bridge in one of the small, low-decked steamers which ply upon the Thames. London stands where navigation for sea-going vessels ceases on this famous stream, which is crossed at London, within a stretch of three or four miles, by about fifteen bridges, of which seven or eight can be seen at one view under the middle arch of London Bridge.

Over all these bridges there is read more

SIR CHRISTOPHER WREN

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Of the out-of-door sights of London, none makes upon the stranger’s mind so lasting an impression as huge St. Paul’s, the great black dome of which often seems to hang over the city poised and still, like a balloon in a calm, while the rest of the edifice is buried out of sight in the fog and smoke. The visitor is continually coming in sight of this dome, standing out in the clearest outline when all lower objects are obscure or hidden. Insensibly he read more

WONDERFUL WALKER

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I have here a good story for hard times. It is of a clergyman and cotton spinner of the Church of England, who, upon an income of twenty-four pounds a year, lived very comfortably to the age of ninety-four years, reared a family of eight children respectably, gave two of his sons a University education, and left an estate worth two thousand pounds.

Every one will admit that this was a good deal to do upon a salary of one hundred and twenty dollars; and some readers, read more

MARIE-ANTOINE CARÈME, FRENCH COOK

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Domestic servants occupy in France a somewhat more elevated position in the social scale than is accorded them in other countries. As a class, too, they are more intelligent, better educated, and more skillful than servants elsewhere. There are several works in the French language designed expressly for their instruction, some of the best of which were written, or professed to have been written, by servants. On the counter of a French bookstore you will sometimes read more

SIR ROWLAND HILL

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The poet Coleridge, on one of his long walks among the English lakes, stopped at a roadside inn for dinner, and while he was there the letter-carrier came in, bringing a letter for the girl who was waiting upon him. The postage was a shilling, nearly twenty-five cents. She looked long and lovingly at the letter, holding it in her hand, and then gave it back to the man, telling him that she could not afford to pay the postage. Coleridge at once offered the shilling, read more

PARIS-DUVERNEY. FRENCH FINANCIER

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Some one has remarked that the old French monarchy was a despotism tempered by epigrams. I take the liberty of adding that if the despotism of the later French kings had not been frequently tempered by something more effectual than epigrams, it would not have lasted as long as it did.

What tempered and saved it was, that, occasionally, by hook or by crook, men of sterling sense and ability rose from the ordinary walks of life to positions of influence and power, read more

PETER COOPER

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On an April morning in 1883 I was seated at breakfast in a room which commanded a view of the tall flag-staff in Gramercy Park in the city of New York. I noticed some men unfolding the flag and raising it on the mast. The flag stopped mid-way and dropped motionless in the still spring morning. The newspapers which were scattered about the room made no mention of the death of any person of note and yet this sign of mourning needed no explanation. For half a lifetime read more

WILLIAM B. ASTOR. HOUSE-OWNER

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In estimating the character and merits of such a man as the late Mr. Astor, we are apt to leave out of view the enormous harm he might have done if he had chosen to do it.

The rich fool who tosses a dollar to a waiter for some trifling service, debases the waiter, injures himself, and wrongs the public. By acting in that manner in all the transactions of life, a rich man diffuses around him an atmosphere of corruption, and raises the scale of expense to a point which read more

CHARLES SUMMERS

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Strangers visiting Melbourne, the chief city of Australia, will not be allowed to overlook four great marble statues which adorn the public library. They are the gift of Mr. W. J. Clark, one of the distinguished public men of that growing empire. These statues represent, in a sitting posture, Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, the Prince of Wales, and the Princess of Wales. They are larger than life, and, according to the Australian press, they are admirable works in every respect.

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SIR HENRY COLE

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He was an „Old Public Functionary” in the service of the British people.

When President Buchanan spoke of himself as an Old Public Functionary he was a good deal laughed at by some of the newspapers, and the phrase has since been frequently used in an opprobrious or satirical sense. This is to be regretted, for there is no character more respectable, and there are few so useful, as an intelligent and patriotic man of long standing in the public service. read more

GEORGE HOPE

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The story of this stalwart and skillful Scotch farmer, George Hope, enables us to understand what agitators mean by the term „landlordism.” It is a very striking case, as the reader will admit.

George Hope, born in 1811, was the son of a tenant farmer of the county of East Lothian, now represented in Parliament by Mr. Gladstone. The farm on which he was born, on which his ancestors had lived, and upon which he spent the greater part of his own life, was read more

THREE JOHN WALTERS, AND THEIR NEWSPAPER

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The reader, perhaps, does not know why the London „Times” is the first journal of Europe. I will tell him.

The starting of this great newspaper ninety-nine years ago was a mere incident in the development of another business. Almost every one who has stood in a printing-office watching compositors set type must have sometimes asked himself, why not have whole words cast together, instead of obliging the printer to pick up each letter separately? Such read more

JAMES GORDON BENNETT, AND HOW HE FOUNDED HIS HERALD

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A cellar in Nassau Street was the first office of the „Herald.” It was a real cellar, not a basement, lighted only from the street, and consequently very dark except near its stone steps. The first furniture of this office, – as I was told by the late Mr. Gowans, who kept a bookstore near by, – consisted of the following articles: –

Item, one wooden chair. Item, two empty flour barrels with a wide, dirty pine board laid upon them, to read more

HORACE GREELEY’S START

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I have seldom been more interested than in hearing Horace Greeley tell the story of his coming to New York in 1831, and gradually working his way into business there.

He was living at the age of twenty years with his parents in a small log-cabin in a new clearing of Western Pennsylvania, about twenty miles from Erie. His father, a Yankee by birth, had recently moved to that region and was trying to raise sheep there, as he had been accustomed to do in Vermont. The wolves were too numerous there.

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JAMES LACKINGTON, SECOND-HAND BOOKSELLER

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It would seem not to be so very difficult a matter to buy an article for fifty cents and sell it for seventy-five. Business men know, however, that to live and thrive by buying and selling requires a special gift, which is about as rare as other special gifts by which men conquer the world. In some instances, it is easier to make a thing than to sell it, and it is not often that a man who excels in the making succeeds equally well in the selling. General George P. Morris used to say: –

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JOHN DUNCAN, WEAVER AND BOTANIST

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Many young men ask nowadays what is the secret of „success.” It were better to inquire also how to do without success, since that is the destiny of most of us, even in the most prosperous communities.

Could there be imagined a more complete „failure” than this John Duncan, a Scottish weaver, always very poor, at last a pauper, short-sighted, bent, shy, unlettered, illegitimate, dishonored in his home, not unfrequently stoned by the boys of read more

ROBERT DICK, BAKER AND NATURALIST

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The most northern county of Scotland is Caithness, a wild region of mountain, marsh, and rock-ribbed headlands, in which the storms of the Atlantic have worn every variety of fantastic indentation. Much of the land has been reclaimed in modern days by rich proprietors. There are manufactures of linen, wool, rope, and straw, besides important fisheries; so that forty thousand people now find habitation and subsistence in the county. There are castles, too, ancient read more

THOMAS EDWARD, COBBLER AND NATURALIST

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The strangest story told for a long time is that of Thomas Edward, shoemaker and naturalist, to whom the Queen of England recently gave a pension of fifty pounds a year. He was not a shoemaker who kept a shop and gave out work to others, but actually worked at the bench from childhood to old age, supporting a very large family on the eight or nine or ten shillings a week that he earned. And yet we find him a member of several societies of naturalists, the Linnæan read more

JOHN BRIGHT. MANUFACTURER

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Forty-five years ago, when John Bright was first elected to the British Parliament, he spoke thus to his constituents: –

„I am a working man as much as you. My father was as poor as any man in this crowd. He was of your own body entirely. He boasts not, nor do I, of birth, nor of great family distinctions. What he has made, he has made by his own industry and successful commerce. What I have comes from him and from my own exertions. I come before you read more

HENRY BESSEMER

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Nervous persons who ride in sleeping-cars are much indebted to Henry Bessemer, to whose inventive genius they owe the beautiful steel rails over which the cars glide so steadily. It was he who so simplified and cheapened the process of making steel that it can be used for rails.

Nine people in ten, I suppose, do not know the chemical difference between iron and steel. Iron is iron; but steel is iron mixed with carbon. But, then, what is carbon? There is no substance read more

RICHARD COBDEN, CALICO PRINTER

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An American citizen presented to the English town of Bradford a marble statue of Richard Cobden. It was formally uncovered by Mr. John Bright, in the presence of the mayor and town council, and a large assembly of spectators. The figure is seven feet in height, and it rests upon a pedestal of Scotch granite polished, which bears the name of COBDEN encircled by an inscription, which summarizes the aims of his public life: –

„FREE TRADE, PEACE AND GOOD WILL AMONG NATIONS.”

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JOHN SMEDLEY, STOCKING-MANUFACTURER

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I wonder men in a factory town should ever have the courage to strike; it brings such woe and desolation upon them all. The first few days, the cessation from labor may be a relief and a pleasure to a large number – a holiday, although a dull and tedious holiday, like a Sunday without any of the alleviations of Sunday – Sunday without Sunday clothes, Sunday bells, Sunday church, Sunday walks and visits. A painful silence reigns in the town. People discover read more

ROBERT OWEN, COTTON-MANUFACTURER

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The agitation of labor questions recalls attention to Robert Owen, who spent a great fortune and a long life in endeavoring to show workingmen how to improve their condition by coöperation. A more benevolent spirit never animated a human form than his; his very failures were more creditable than some of the successes which history vaunts.

At the age of ten years, Robert Owen, the son of a Welsh saddler, arrived in London, consigned to the care of an elder brother, read more

THE FOUNDERS OF LOWELL

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We do not often hear of strikes at Lowell. Some men tell us it is because there are not as many foreigners there as at certain manufacturing centres where strikes are frequent. This cannot be the explanation; for out of a population of seventy-one thousand, there are more than twenty thousand foreign-born inhabitants of Lowell, of whom more than ten thousand are natives of Ireland. To answer the question correctly, we must perhaps go back to the founding of the read more

MYRON HOLLEY, MARKET-GARDENER

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Fifty years ago, this man used to sell vegetables and fruit from door to door in the streets of Rochester, N. Y. He had a small farm a few miles out of town, upon which he raised the produce which he thus disposed of. An anecdote is related of a fine lady who had recently come to Rochester as the wife of one of its most distinguished clergymen. She ran up into her husband’s study one morning, and said to him: –

„Why, Doctor, I’ve just seen read more

FREDERICK TUDOR, ICE EXPORTER

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Edward Everett used to relate a curious anecdote of the time when he was the American minister at London. He was introduced one day to an Eastern prince, who greeted him with a degree of enthusiasm that was altogether unusual and unexpected. The prince launched into eulogium of the United States, and expressed a particular gratitude for the great benefit conferred upon the East Indies by Mr. Everett’s native Massachusetts. The American minister, who was a read more

JOHN BROMFIELD, MERCHANT

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John Bromfield’s monument is more lasting than brass. It was he who left to the city of Newburyport, in Massachusetts, ten thousand dollars for planting and preserving trees in the streets, and keeping the sidewalks in order. The income of this bequest would not go far in any other sort of monument, but it has embowered his native city in beautiful trees. Every spring other trees are planted, and, as long as that bequest is faithfully administered, he cannot be forgotten.

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PETER FORCE

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One of the interesting sights of the city of Washington used to be the library of „Old Peter Force,” as he was familiarly called, – Colonel Peter Force, as he was more properly styled. He was one of the few colonels of that day who had actually held a colonel’s command, having been regularly commissioned by the President of the United States as a colonel of artillery in the District of Columbia. He might, indeed, have been called major-general, read more

GERRIT SMITH

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For many years we were in the habit of hearing, now and then, of a certain Gerrit Smith, a strange gentleman who lived near Lake Ontario, where he possessed whole townships of land, gave away vast quantities of money, and was pretty sure to be found on the unpopular side of all questions, beloved alike by those who agreed with him and those who differed from him. Every one that knew him spoke of the majestic beauty of his form and face, of his joyous demeanor, of read more

PETER H. BURNETT

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When an aged bank president, who began life as a waiter in a backwoods tavern, tells the story of his life, we all like to gather close about him and listen to his tale. Peter H. Burnett, the first Governor of California, and now the President of the Pacific Bank in San Francisco, has recently related his history, or the „Recollections of an Old Pioneer;” and if I were asked by the „intelligent foreigner” we often read about to explain the read more

EDWARD COLES, NOBLEST OF THE PIONEERS, AND HIS GREAT SPEECH

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When James Madison came to the presidency in 1809, he followed the example of his predecessor, Mr. Jefferson, in the selection of his private secretary. Mr. Jefferson chose Captain Meriwether Lewis, the son of one of his Virginia neighbors, whom he had known from his childhood. Mr. Madison gave the appointment to Edward Coles, the son of a family friend of Albermarle County, Va., who had recently died, leaving a large estate in land and slaves to his children.

Edward read more

GEORGE FLOWER. PIONEER

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Travelers from old Europe are surprised to find in Chicago such an institution as an Historical Society. What can a city of yesterday, they ask, find to place in its archives, beyond the names of the first settlers, and the erection of the first elevator? They forget that the newest settlement of civilized men inherits and possesses the whole past of our race, and that no community has so much need to be instructed by History as one which has little of its own. read more

ISRAEL PUTNAM

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It is strange that so straightforward and transparent a character as „Old Put” should have become the subject of controversy. Too much is claimed for him by some disputants, and much too little is conceded to him by others. He was certainly as far from being a rustic booby as he was from being a great general.

Conceive him, first, as a thriving, vigorous, enterprising Connecticut farmer, thirty years of age, cultivating with great success his own farm read more

CAPTAIN PIERRE LACLEDE LIGUEST, PIONEER

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The bridge which springs so lightly and so gracefully over the Mississippi at St. Louis is a truly wonderful structure. It often happens in this world that the work which is done best conceals the merit of the worker. All is finished so thoroughly and smoothly, and fulfills its purpose with so little jar and friction, that the difficulties overcome by the engineer become almost incredible. No one would suppose, while looking down upon the three steel arches of this read more

CHAUNCEY JEROME, YANKEE CLOCK-MAKER

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Poor boys had a hard time of it in New England eighty years ago. Observe, now, how it fared with Chauncey Jerome, – he who founded a celebrated clock business in Connecticut, that turned out six hundred clocks a day, and sent them to foreign countries by the ship-load.

But do not run away with the idea that it was the hardship and loneliness of his boyhood that „made a man of him.” On the contrary, they injured, narrowed, and saddened him. He would read more

PETER FANEUIL, AND THE GREAT HALL HE BUILT

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A story is told of the late Ralph Waldo Emerson’s first lecture, in Cincinnati, forty years ago. A worthy pork-packer, who was observed to listen with close attention to the enigmatic utterances of the sage, was asked by one of his friends what he thought of the performance.

„I liked it very well,” said he, „and I’m glad I went, because I learned from it how the Boston people pronounce Faneuil Hall.”

He was perhaps mistaken, for read more

JOHN HARRISON, EXQUISITE WATCH-MAKER

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He was first a carpenter, and the son of a carpenter, born and reared in English Yorkshire, in a village too insignificant to appear on any but a county map. Faulby is about twenty miles from York, and there John Harrison was born in 1693, when William and Mary reigned in England. He was thirty-five years of age before he was known beyond his own neighborhood. He was noted there, however, for being a most skillful workman. There is, perhaps, no trade in which the read more

GEORGE GRAHAM, CLOCK-MAKER, BURIED IN WESTMINSTER ABBEY

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It is supposed that the oldest clock in existence is one in the ancient castle of Dover, on the southern coast of England, bearing the date, 1848. It has been running, therefore, five hundred and thirty-six years. Other clocks of the same century exist in various parts of Europe, the works of which have but one hand, which points the hour, and require winding every twenty-four hours. From the fact of so many large clocks of that period having been preserved in whole read more

MAJOR ROBERT PIKE, FARMER

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I advise people who desire, above all things, to have a comfortable time in the world to be good conservatives. Do as other people do, think as other people think, swim with the current – that is the way to glide pleasantly down the stream of life. But mark, O you lovers of inglorious ease, the men who are remembered with honor after they are dead do not do so! They sometimes breast read more

MICHAEL REYNOLDS, ENGINE-DRIVER

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Literature in these days throws light into many an out-of-the-way corner. It is rapidly making us all acquainted with one another. A locomotive engineer in England has recently written a book upon his art, in order, as he says, „to communicate that species of knowledge which it is necessary for an engine-driver to possess who aspires to take high rank on the footplate!” He magnifies his office, and evidently regards the position of an engineer as highly enviable.

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ELIHU BURRITT, THE LEARNED BLACKSMITH

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Elihu Burritt, with whom we have all been familiar for many years as the Learned Blacksmith, was born in 1810 at the beautiful town of New Britain, in Connecticut, about ten miles from Hartford. He was the youngest son in an old-fashioned family of ten children. His father owned and cultivated a small farm; but spent the winters at the shoemaker’s bench, according to the rational custom of Connecticut in that day. When Elihu was sixteen years of age, his father read more

ICHABOD WASHBURN, WIRE-MAKER.

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Of all our manufactures few have had a more rapid development than wire-making. During the last thirty years the world has been girdled by telegraphic wires and cables, requiring an immense and continuous supply of the article. In New York alone two hundred pianos a week have been made, each containing miles of wire. There have been years during which a garment composed chiefly of wire was worn by nearly every woman in the land, even by the remotest and poorest.

Who read more

DAVID MAYDOLE, HAMMER-MAKER

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When a young man begins to think of making his fortune, his first notion usually is to go away from home to some very distant place. At present, the favorite spot is Colorado; awhile ago it was California; and old men remember when Buffalo was about as far west as the most enterprising person thought of venturing.

It is not always a foolish thing to go out into the world far beyond the parent nest, as the young birds do in midsummer. But I can tell you, boys, from read more