1805 - 1883 (78 years)
Has 4 ancestors and 23 descendants in this family tree.
|William Earl Dodge
|This person is also William E. Dodge at Wikipedia
|24 Apr 2017
- launched his career on the remains of his father's as he took over the dry goods store in New York, when the latter retired. His partner in this venture was the son of a Connecticut merchant named Huntington. Yet it was his marriage to Melissa Phelps which eventually brought William Earl Dodge the opportunity of his lifetime, a partnership in New York's leading metal trading concern.
After the disastrous collapse of their new six story store at 21 and 23 Cliff Street, Phelps & Peck, leading metal importers in New York, were dissolved and Anson G. Phelps was looking for new partners. In 1834, the firm of Phelps Dodge & Co was formed and William Earl Dodge was given a one sixth interest. An equal share was given to Phelps other son-in-law, Daniel James, who moved to Liverpool and took over the English end of the business. William E. Dodge was an accomplished merchant who soon knew more about the metal trade than any other man in New York. He also actively participated in the many other business ventures, Anson Phelps promoted. Like Phelps, he invested the proceeds of his share in the firm into the burgeoning new industries that rose in America. Whereas Phelps promoted the copper and brass industry and his industrial township Ansonia in the Naugatuck valley, Dodge focused on the lumber business in Pennsylvania and later in Michigan and also invested in iron and copper mines, as well as in railroads. Phelps Dodge & Company always took a share in these ventures, so that the partners shared in their various businesses.
Next to metals and mining, lumber was the most extensive industry in which Anson Phelps, William E. Dodge and the Phelps Dodge Company branched out. If Anson Greene Phelps was the spirit behind the copper and brass smelting industry in the Naugatuck valley, the Pennsylvania lumber yards were clearly William Dodge's enterprising initiative. Having received a thousand acres of Pine creek forest partly as payment for a debt, W.E.Dodge followed an advertisement for the sale of valuable tracts of timber land in Tioga County Pa. This journey would set the pace for the extensive Phelps Dodge lumber barony in Pennsylvania and the even larger operations of William Earl Dodge and four of his seven sons in Michigan, Canada and Georgia.
Starting in 1836 with 100'000 $ for the purchase of the Stowell & Dickinson operations in Manchester on the Pine Creek Pennsylvania, Phelps Dodge & Co and its leading partners sustained sizeable investments in the lumber business. The Stowell & Dickinson properties included four saw mills, a gristmill and 25'000 acres of timberland. They were completed by a substantial gang saw mill, Hezekiah Stowell built at Marsh Creek Mills, and for which he accepted subsequent contracts with Phelps and Dodge to saw and raft 500'000 feet of lumber per year. Stowell managed the Manchester Mills until 1851, when he retired to a farm, selling his remaining properties to Phelps Dodge for 12'000 $. Peter Dickinson became Phelps Dodge's leading lumber agent and executive until he left the firm in 1848, to establish his own boom and mill site near Lock Haven, from which he still supplied his former employers. During his tenure Peter Dickinson established a large lumber yard in Baltimore, where most of Phelps Dodge lumber was sold in the wholesale market, or shipped to Washington, Richmond, Norfolk or other East Shore cities. Dickinson also instigated lucrative lumber exports to Galveston Texas, the West Indies and South America. He was joined in 1842 by Henry James, the younger brother of Daniel James, who soon took over the Baltimore lumberyard and devoted his entire career to this business.
In 1847 a boom (harbor) was built near Jersey Shore, where Pine Creek joined the Susquehanna river. There, two large saw mills were built and a few years later extended by a steam sawmill to manufacture boards and shingles, with a total capacity of 8'000'000 feet a year. These mills, known as Phelps Mills, operated until 1871 and supplied millions of feet of Pennsylvania lumber, mostly sold through the company's lumberyard in Baltimore. During most of this time, the Phelps Mills were managed by E.D. Campbell who was later put in charge of the huge Dodge Mills at Williamsport, then the most important lumber town on the Susquehanna. Campbell was an outstanding lumberman, as witnessed by his reconstruction of the Phelps Mills along with the relocation of the Manchester mills after a great flood destroyed everything in 1853. Despite the floods, Campbell managed to turn over 6.5 million feet of lumber during that same year. Other Phelps Dodge lumber agents in Pennsylvania included Peter Dickinson's brothers, Samuel and John, George W. Babb and Samuel Herrick, who developed their properties on the Sinnemahoning Creek, Robert L. Fleming and H.T. Beardsley of Lock Haven, who owned 100'000 acres in Clinton, Elk and Clearfield counties.
Much in the same way as in their Ansonia brass smelting center, Phelps Dodge built up local lumbering communities, where they acted as principal suppliers as well as employers of their hundreds of toiling workers. Along with their sawmills, they owned flour mills and licensed general stores, neglecting no activity which could increase profits. Through the size of their activities, Phelps Dodge had the power to lower wages and control prices, which they doubtlessly did in many ways. They carefully disguised their ownership of associated firms, such as Stowell & Son and Dickinson Brothers, to leave an illusion of competition in the lumber regions. These were widespread practices in America's infant industries, which were little regulated and allowed the early capitalists to build large fortunes, whereas the common workers rarely managed to save much of their income.
After Anson Phelps died in 1853, William Earl Dodge completely took over the management of the Phelps Dodge lumber operations in Pennsylvania, until he handed it to his son Anson G.P. Dodge, ten years later. William E. Dodge invested in timber lands in many other states, including Michigan, where he acquired over 230'000 acres, along with fellow New Yorkers Thomas Mason and George B. Satterlee. He also invested in Canada, starting with four large sawmills at Waubaushene, Georgian Bay, which his son Anson parlayed into a leading Canadian lumber firm and a seat in Parliament. After Civil War, Dodge participated in the reconstruction of the South and acquired huge forests in Georgia and Texas. He launched his younger sons Norman, George and Arthur Dodge in the lumber business and bailed out Anson, whose Canadian operation was bankrupted, following overextension and the crisis of 1873. When he died, his lumber properties were among his principal assets, as alone his Canadian estate was worth over 900'000 $.
As leading metal importers of America, bankers and large scale industrial entrepreneurs in Connecticut brass and Pennsylvania lumber, Anson Greene Phelps and William Earl Dodge were at the pulse of economic development in the burgeoning nation. Thus, were naturally drawn towards the financing and promotion of railroads, and thereby to the emerging iron and steel industry. Anson Phelps was a director in the New York & Erie Railroad for just a year, but his son-in-law, William E. Dodge served in this position for twelve years, starting in 1845. He served on the finance committee and was instrumental in raising the needed funds for completion of the railroad to Dunkirk, on the Lake Erie. He was a large stock and bond holder of the Erie until 1857, when he resigned from the Board and sold his stock, apparently because he resented the company's operation on Sundays.
The railroad went bankrupt just two years later and subsequently became the favorite playground of stock speculator Daniel Drew. In the late 1860's the Erie railroad became the object of a raging railroad war staged by Drew, and his young associates Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, on one side; mighty Cornelius Vanderbilt, on the other side. By that time, William E. Dodge still had interests in railroads, but these were the more conservative and lucrative coal carriers of Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
In his position on the Board of Directors of the New York & Erie Railroad, W.E. Dodge came across the Scranton brothers in 1846, who were then operating a struggling iron works and nail factory. Although inexperienced in the field, the Scrantons applied for a contract to supply rails for the Erie railroad. Until then, rails were imported from England and no American factory had dared to manufacture them. Work on the Erie was delayed and George Scranton claimed that from their location in Slocum Hollow, the Scranton ironworks were ideally located to supply the rails and warrant the progress of the railway.
To support their claim, the Scrantons proposed to deliver the rails for just 46 $ a ton, about half the price the imported products cost. They convinced Dodge and in a manner which was typical throughout his business career, Dodge not only convinced the Erie Board to grant the firm a contract for 12'000 tons of T rails, but also gathered 100'000 $ among his friends and business partners, which were lent to the Scrantons to equip their mills adequately for the project. This transaction was the beginning of business relation that would last over thirty years and firmly launch William Earl Dodge in the railroad, iron and coal business in Eastern Pennsylvania.
George Whitefield Scranton (1811-1861)and Selden Theophilus Scranton (1814-1884) started their careers in the iron industry, operating the Oxford Iron Works in Warren County New Jersey, which was founded in 1743, the oldest still in operation in the United States in 1860. It was Selden Scranton's father-in-law, William Henry, who brought the brothers to the Lackawanna Valley and convinced them to start an integrated iron industry there. Anthracite coal was abundant in the region and some iron ore was also present, though of inferior quality. Limestone turned out to be scarce. The main problem however was the lack of transportation ways to the main markets. In their early enthusiasm, the Scrantons brought in other members of their family, including their brother-in-law Joseph C. Platt and their first cousin Joseph H. Scranton. They extended the original blast furnace with a nail factory, in a vain effort to find products that would be easier to transport and market. The low grade ore affected the quality of their nails and they sold poorly. Thus, their application for the rail contract of the New York & Erie was pretty much their last resource.
From this first important rail contract in America emerged the Lackawanna Iron & Coal Company, with Selden T. Scranton as president and his cousin Joseph Hand Scranton the general superintendent. William Earl Dodge, Anson G. Phelps, Benjamin Loder, James and John Insley Blair were directors and large shareholders. The firm met its challenge and supplied the Erie rails in time, setting the pace for a development which would make it one of the largest iron and steelworks in the world by 1880. The company specialized in the manufacturing of T rails, of which it turned out over 200'000 tons until 1864. During the boom years of railroad construction following Civil War, yearly profits exceeded 1'000'000 $. Bessemer technology was introduced and capacity increased to 500'000 tons of steel rails and 150'000 tons of pig iron.
By that time, Selden Scranton had resigned and returned to the Oxford Iron Works in New Jersey, which he extended at great expense until the company failed in 1871 and after a few other failures, Scranton was bankrupt. His position at the helm of the Lackawanna Iron and Coal Company was taken by his cousin Joseph Hand Scranton, who kept it until he died in 1872. Joseph Scranton's son William Walker Scranton developed the Scranton Gas & Water Co into a large utility and left it to his son Worthington, who further expanded it and sold it for $ 25 million in 1928. Worthington Scranton left a son William Warren Scranton, who became governor of Pennsylvania in 1963-67 and US ambassador to the United Nations in 1976.
Selden's brother, George W. Scranton participated in the considerable industrial and other economic developments that followed the creation of the Lackawanna, Iron and Coal Co, including the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad, the First National Bank of Scranton and the Scranton Gas & Water Company. Through his participation in these various industries, George Scranton acquired wealth but got entangled during the crisis of 1857 and had to sell valuable shares of the Delaware Lackawanna & Western Railroad low. George Whitefield Scranton was elected to the US Congress as a representative for Eastern Pennsylvania in 1859 and served until he died in 1861.
Through their enterprising spirit, the Scranton brothers created an industrial city which grew to 45'000 inhabitants by 1880 and from there trebled again within forty years. Had they been able to keep their early investments, their families would doubtlessly have possessed millions by this time. Yet instead, the fruits were reaped by their financial backers, including the Blairs, New York City banker Moses Taylor and of course William Earl Dodge. Others benefited from the development of Scranton, like Dr Banjamin Throop, a physician who made 10'000'000 $ from his speculative investments in Scranton real estate or John Jermyn, an immigrant who started to work for the Scrantons in 1847 and later set himself in the coal business, becoming the largest coal operator in the region and a multi-millionaire.
The Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad was the most important and only lasting railroad investment, William Earl Dodge had. He was a director and large stockholder and even got exposed to the attacks of the railroads second president, George D. Phelps, when the latter resigned and charged his fellow directors with graft. Yet the story of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western better belongs to the chapter about railroads and the details to the career of another great capitalist, railroad builder John Insley Blair. William E. Dodge had investments in many other railroads, including the Erie, the Central Railroad Co of New Jersey and the Union Pacific, but he sold most of these stakes because these companies operated on Sundays. Incidentally his choice to sell always happened before the stocks crashed, saving him a fortune and raising the question whether behind his religious motivation, there was not the spirit of a ruthless robber baron in this solid merchant of New York.
Until the end of Civil War, William Earl Dodge, and his partners of Phelps Dodge and Company had concentrated their investments in New York and its neighboring states, mostly Connecticut and Pennsylvania. After the demise of the Confederation, a program of post war reconstruction brought considerable opportunities for Northern capitalists to
grow their wealth by investments in the South. William Earl Dodge seized such opportunities and in 1868, he founded the Georgia Land and Lumber Company, of which he was president and the largest shareholder. The company acquired the largest holdings of forest properties the Dodges had ever owned, totaling 300'000 acres and comprising most of Dodge (named for William Earl), Laurens, Pulanski Telfair and Montgomery counties in Georgia. Dodge brought four of his sons into this company and the lumber business : Norman, George Eggleston and Arthur Murray Dodge, as well as Anson G.P. Dodge, after his bankruptcy in Canada. Georgia Land and Lumber became the second largest asset in the estate of William Earl Dodge and his family after their stake in Phelps Dodge & Co, which was by then transferred to William Dodge jr.
Aside the vast Georgia timber lands, the reconstruction of the South also brought William Earl Dodge his only presidency in a railroad company. In 1868, New York capitalists, including Moses Taylor, John J. Cisco and William E. Dodge took control of the Houston & Texas Central Railroad. Dodge became president in 1871 and kept the office until 1877, when the railroad was threatened with receivership. Steamship magnate Charles Morgan of New York then stepped in and took control, investing $ 3 million. William Earl Dodge had other investments in Texas, including the International & Great Northern Railroad and the New York and Texas Land Company, which was organized in 1880 by William Walter Phelps, who was also the largest stockholder. The company acquired several million acres of land to redeem second mortgage bonds the partners held in the International & Great Northern railway. Together with his associates, which included John Insley Blair and Moses Taylor, William Earl Dodge was also involved in Western railroad development. He was a director of the Green Bay & Minnesota Railroad, the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Minnesota and the Rome Watertown & Ogdensburg; and he owned shares in many other railroads.
William E. Dodge was a devoted protestant and a generous philanthropist. He gave much during his lifetime and left large bequest in his will. His estate was estimated at 10'000'000 $, which seemed little compared to other tycoons of the time. Yet much of his fortune was already in the hands of several sons, who were all set comfortably in business.
The eldest, William Earl Dodge shared the family's metal trading firm, Phelps Dodge & Co with his cousin, Daniel Willis James.
Anson, Norman, George and Arthur Dodge managed the vast lumber operations and Charles Cleveland Dodge manufactured tin plate, long the firm's principal import.
Fortune : 10,000,000 $ (1883)
500,000 $ 1850
7,500,000 $ 1875
Activity : Metals
Main property: Phelps, Dodge & Co