Tuesday, December 14, 2010

WV Phillips, Gilded Age Tycoon

There seems to be a rumor that W V Phillips was growing impoverished in the 1890's. In fact, he was agressively looking for deals. My best guess is that WVP believed in the velocity of money. Money in a bank was for common people - he should have known, as he was a banker off and on from the 1850's.

I do not recall that I released this bit of detail before, in the blog, but here we have WVP buying into a very technological innovation. This was cutting edge stuff, almost science fiction. Rapid mail movement was the future, and WVP was not one to rest - he wanted to build and create. In the process, he was very Gilded Age, it was about getting money and making it work. I'm sure he also believed that progress was the future.

In 1891, WVP was a vigorpus 58 years old, and still had a large cash reserve from building the popular fringing device. He had just been in the Bruneau River valley on 10 October 1891 to insure the rebuilding of the dam was under way (Charles Wing had announced this on 11 July 1891). I'm pretty sure AJ Wiley was already employed to do the work out west.

Yet, WVP did not stand still. Read the article below. I have no clue how he met these people, but I suspect that at this time there was a bit of a Foster RI gang that was totally plugged into the burgeoning Washington scene, most likely through Sen. Aldrich. That is sheer speculation though. Other researchers will have to determine the veracity of this. WVP was a former postmaster, and it seems very likely that he was let in on this "information" as a sure investment.

There was a competing US Portelectric Co, and later I believe they merged together. There is no way to ascertain if WVP profited on this technology, though.

I tracked only two of the figures involved. WVP was not constrained to work within the New England worldview. This deal was made in West Virginia, and I know he had dealings with a Minnesota bank, as well as his Idaho work for gold and irrigation. Often, Edwin was used as a front for some dealings, and a wicked court case where Edwin gave some damaging testimony may have contributed to them parting company for a significant period. That is the other thing rarely known about WVP. He was litigious - as were all the Phillips clan. I have found court cases stretching years, some of them the foundation for modern case law. When he thought he was right, he had no fear going to court. Neither did other Phillips clan members.

OK, enough for now. Read the article below, and marvel at Phillips' tenacity in business.

Thomas Lemuel James was born in Utica, NY, 29 March 1831. He joined the Republican party at its inception, and under Fremont's campaign, was editor of the Madison County Journal. When Lincoln was inaugurated (1861) he was appointed inspector of customs, later became postmaster of New York City (1877). Garfield appointed him Postmaster General in March 1881, and he retired January 1882 to become president of Lincoln National Bank in New York City.

Col. Henry Huss, a Civil War hero (d. 1906) was from New York.

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