Anson Greene Phelps

Anson Greene Phelps

Male 1781 - 1853  (72 years)    Has more than 250 ancestors and 43 descendants in this family tree.

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  • Name Anson Greene Phelps 
    Relationshipwith Francis Fox
    Born 1781 
    Gender Male 
    Died 1853 
    Person ID I363749  Geneagraphie
    Last Modified 21 Jan 2002 

    Father Lt. Thomas Phelps 
    Mother Dorothy Lamb Woodbridge 
    Siblings 1 sibling 
    Family ID F144312  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Olivia Eggleston,   b. 1784,   d. 1859  (Age 75 years) 
    Married 1806 
     1. Elizabeth Woodbridge Phelps,   b. 1807,   d. 1847  (Age 40 years)
     2. Melissa Phelps,   b. 1809,   d. 1903  (Age 94 years)
    +3. Caroline Phelps,   b. 1812,   d. 1881  (Age 69 years)
     4. Harriet Phelps,   b. 1812,   d. 1881  (Age 69 years)
     5. Anson Phelps, Jr.,   b. 1818,   d. 1859  (Age 41 years)
     6. Olivia Egleston Phelps,   b. 1821,   d. 1894  (Age 73 years)
    Last Modified 20 Jan 2002 
    Family ID F144133  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Photos
    Anson Greene Phelps
    Anson Greene Phelps

  • Notes 
    • Fortune : 2,500,000E $ (1855)
      2,000,000 $ 1850
      250,000 $ 1825
      Activity : Metals
      Main property: Phelps, Dodge & Co
      Other activities: manufacturing, real estate
      Associated properties : Ansonia NJ : largest US copper works established.

      The actual founder of what would become the Phelps-Dodge dynasty, metal traders and builders of a mining company which is still part of the Fortune’s 500 largest industrial corporations today.

      was orphaned at age ten and after a short education by a minister in Simsbury Connecticut, he was apprenticed to a tanner in Hartford. Gifted with exceptional mercantile talents, Anson Phelps built a successful business, exporting saddles to Charleston South Carolina, from where he brought cotton to New York and there exchanged the proceeds for general merchandise, he sold in his store in Hartford.

      In Hartford, the Phelpses got acquainted with David Low Dodge and his wife, the former Sarah Cleveland, whose son would marry a Phelps daughter and found the famous Dodge branch of the family.
      The Jefferson embargo and the war of 1812 slowed international trade to the extent that many merchants sought fortune in new activities. For Anson Phelps, this first meant to move his business to New York City, where he was closer to the pulse of the economy. In New York, Phelps started a new business in association with a fellow Connecticut merchant, Elisha Peck. Phelps & Peck, metal traders, in New York and Liverpool, was the nucleus of the firm that would once become the great Phelps Dodge Corporation. Phelps handled the New York end of the business, importing tin plate, copper and other metals, and exporting American cotton to Liverpool, where Peck supplied the mighty Lancashire textile industry and bought the metals from Leeds and other industrial centers. Through his connection with the Charleston Ship Line, Anson Greene Phelps further increased his metal trading business and had a privileged access to cotton from the South.
      Phelps and Peck grew to become the leading metal trading company in America. The firm early developed connected industrial activities, as it established a foundry at Haverstraw, on the Hudson river. Phelps & Peck built a six story warehouse and store at the corner of Fulton and Cliff streets which was a landmark of mercantile New York, until it collapsed in 1832, an accident which also caused death of three of the firm's promising young clerks, Thomas Goddard, Alfred Seymour and Josiah Stokes. The latter had been engaged to Caroline Phelps, a daughter of Anson, who later married Josiah's older brother James Stokes.
      The event also marked the end of the Phelps and Peck partnership, which was dissolved, with Elisha Peck's getting 175'000 $ for his share as well as the Haverstraw foundry, which he developed in association with his son. Anson Phelps kept the New York and Liverpool properties and took in two of his sons-in-law as partners, William Earl Dodge in New York and Daniel James in Liverpool. Thus in 1834 was formed Phelps, Dodge & Company, with Anson Greene Phelps still holding two thirds of the shares and his sons-in-law one sixth each. This firm was ruled by the famous co-partnership agreements, in which the Dodge, James and for some time also the Stokes families shared the profits and risks in proportion of their involvement within the firm.
      Phelps Dodge and Company prospered in New York as did Phelps James & Co in Liverpool. Yet ever growing metal and cotton trading did not prevent the partners, to engage in many other economic activities, such as industries, banking and railroad promotion. The wealthy Phelps Dodge partners became the typical mercantile capitalists of the nineteenth century. These merchant capitalists planted the seeds of the industrial and economic expansion which would characterize the Gilded Age and make the United States of America the first economic power in the world.

      Anson Phelps differed little from other wealthy merchants of New York as he invested his surplus profits into city real estate and bought shares in the emerging banks and insurance companies. Yet his investing soon took a decidedly more focused approach, which would be followed by his younger partners and shape Phelps Dodge & Co into the mining and metals giant it is today. After the Haverstraw foundry was left to the Pecks, Anson G. Phelps took a share in the Wolcottville Brass Company, his first investment in this line of business which had developed along the Naugatuck river in Connecticut. Two years later, in 1836, he formed a partnership with Sheldon B. Smith to establish a copper mill at Birmingham Ct. Anson Phelps later bought out Smith and became the principal owner of the Birmingham Copper Mills, which manufactured sheet copper and copper wire. Phelps put his nephew Peter Phelps in charge of his Birmingham properties which were outstandingly profitable, weathering the crisis of 1837 even better than Phelps, Dodge & Co.
      The property Anson Phelps had bought from Smith in 1843 also included land tracts and water rights and consequently Phelps planned to convert Birmingham into an industrial community. As he was thwarted by a land speculator, he moved two miles farther up the Naugatuck river and founded Ansonia, where he subsequently built a rolling mill, a battery mill and laid the foundation of the Ansonia Brass and Battery Company, which was formed in 1854 and took over the equipment from the Birmingham mills. Ansonia stands as a monument to its founder, whose mercantile and industrial vision had shaped it along the lines of the typical 19th century industrial communities, which emerged in so many places in New England and other regions of America. The Naugatuck valley was specialized in the copper and brass industries of which Connecticut long had a virtual monopoly and still produced 76% of the Nation's output in 1880. Ansonia and the Phelps Dodge copper and brass industries were principal suppliers to the clock industry as well as to the US army and navy arsenals. In these days the market for copper and brass products was closely regulated by voluntary price-fixing and production-limiting agreements which assured the main plants good price levels and growing profits. With their close control on the metal import trade and the extensive Ansonia Brass & Battery Co, Phelps Dodge & Co played a foremost part in the pools which ruled the metal trade in the period previous to the rise of the great trusts. Other members of these pools included the Revere Copper Company of Canton and the Crocker Brothers of Taunton, Massachsetts.
      Although Phelps Dodge & Company and Ansonia were his most important properties, Anson Greene Phelps had investments in many other fields. He owned coal and iron ore properties in Pennsylvania and Missouri, shared in the lumbering operations of William E. Dodge in Pennsylvania and Michigan, was a director of the New York & Erie railroad and also owned selected real estate in New York City, a controlling interest in the Union Bank of Dover as well as shares in many companies. When he died in 1853, his estate comprised real estate worth 1'069'650 $ (374 lots in New York , Ansonia and a total of 500'000 acres in various states), his then 47 ½ % share of Phelps Dodge & Co which his widow sold to for 689'600 $ to the other partners and a long list of securities, including 100'000 $ in shares of the Union Bank of Dover, and large stakes in the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad, the Lackawanna Iron & Coal Company and other manufacturing concerns. His overall estate was estimated at 2'500'000 $ by Moses Yale Beach in his pamphlet "The Wealthy Citizens of New York". In 1835, he purchased from Mrs Hosack, the widow of old Henry A. Coster, a stately mansion at Kip's Bay on the banks of the East River.

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