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Henry Hobart Taylor

Author Photo
By Lorin E. Bixler

156 West High Street, New Concord, Ohio 43762

HENRY HOBART TAYLOR

Next to Cornelius Aultman the most important personage in the
founding of the Aultman & Taylor Manufacturing Company located
in Mansfield, Ohio was Henry Hobart Taylor. Upon the mention of
Henry Taylor he is usually recognized as having been an agent for
C. Aultman & Co. and Nichols, Shepard and Company. While this
is in fact true yet in and of itself fails to do justice to the man
for he was involved in numerous other areas of business and
industry. Little has been written about him and unfortunately much
of it is erroneous so for this reason he is not as well known as is
Aultman and many of the other men who were engaged in the
manufacture and sale of threshing machinery. Consequently it is all
the more important and in fact imperative that a more accurate and
complete biographical sketch of this illustrious man should be
presented. 1

Henry Hobart Taylor was born in Durhamsville near Oneida Creek,
New York in the year of 1835. His father and family moved to
Chicago in 1845 and engaged in merchandizing. Henry was ten years
of age when the family moved to Chicago and he entered the public
schools of that city. However at an early age he became a clerk in
his father’s store where through that experience received a
business education and was initiated into the mercantile experience
of the growing busy city of Chicago.

In 1854 the family moved to Freeport, Illinois. At that time Mr.
Taylor was eighteen years of age and launched out for himself. He
began his self-support although he had only one dollar in his
pocket. He journeyed to Cincinnati, Ohio where he became employed
by a druggist for the purpose of learning pharmacy. In that day it
was common practice for a young man who wished to become a doctor,
lawyer or a pharmacist to study, read and work with one of the
older men as he practiced his profession. At the conclusion of an
apprenticeship the young man was either declared competent to
practice his profession or after passing an examination was
licensed and accorded the right to follow his chosen profession.
Mr. Taylor spent learning to become a pharmacist and mastered the
art, but made no use of his knowledge of pharmacy during the rest
of his life.

In 1856 he returned to Freeport, Illinois and at that time took
out an agency for C. Aultman & Co. of Canton, Ohio. Thus there
began an association which endured for a period of nineteen years.
This could well be termed the turning point in his career for with
the cultivation of the prairies his business increased rapidly.

In 1864 he became associated with Nichols, Shepard and Company
of Battle creek, Michigan and also became a stockholder in that
Company. In order to handle the increase in his business he
established an agency in Chicago for the distribution of machinery
manufactured by C. Aultman & Co. and Nichols, Shepard and
Company of which he assumed personal responsibility. His business
was extended throughout the northwestern states as well as to the
Pacific coast and grew to large proportions. 2

He was a remarkable business man being active in several
business enterprises in Chicago and its environs. Typical of this
interest was his connection with the Elgin National Watch Company
of Elgin, Illinois. He was one of the founders of that Company and
was a member of the Board of Directors from 1867 until his death on
November 9, 1875. It was he who placed the Elgin watch on the
London market within one month’s time. 3

The Seventy-fifth Anniversary issue of the Elgin Watch-Word
reports that,

‘The first death of a member of the Board in the office of
the directory was that of Henry H. Taylor who died in November of
1875. Mr. Taylor joined the Board in 1867, although a comparatively
young man, had from the first taken rank as to ability and industry
in the services of the Company.’ 4

In this connection an interesting sidelight is provided in a
personal letter written by one of the present officials of the
Elgin Watch Company. This official states that during the early
year3 the Elgin Company manufactured models which were given the
name of ‘Taylor’. It was a common practice then to name
watches in honor of important people who were associated with the
Company. This official is of the opinion that those early models
were named in honor of Mr. Taylor who was then a member of the
Board of Directors. 5

It is enlightening at this point to recall the financial and
economic conditions of Chicago during the time that Henry H. Taylor
was a citizen of that city. With a population of 29,000 in 1850 by
1855 it had grown to 80,000 and in 1860 it stood at 100,000. In
other words this was more than a sixty percent increase in
population during that ten year period. In 1860 the city was astir
growing more rapidly than it could care for its needs. It became
known as the city of enterprise and already had become the great
railroad center of the country. The northwest was opening up and
thousands of immigrants were moving in to claim the land. Hogs,
cattle, corn and wheat were pouring into the city in huge
quantities. Steamboats on the lakes and freight cars standing in
the railroad yards were filled to overflowing with products from
the farms and ranches. Chicago shipped thousands of bushels of
grain in 1860. 6 Due in part to the war between the states, prices
were greatly inflated. The value of property and real estate
increased seventeen percent during the four years of the war and
stood at $37,063,512. By the close of the war, property values had
increased seventy percent. In brief, Chicago was in the midst of
unprecedented, phenomenal and rapid growth. These then were the
financial and economic conditions which prevailed in the city of
Chicago during the time that Henry H. Taylor was one of its
prominent citizens. 7

Possessed as he was with unusual business acumen and foresight,
there is little wonder that he made investments in real estate at
comparatively low prices. With the rapid growth of the city already
depicted, real estate prices skyrocketed and Mr. Taylor was able to
realize enormous profits from those investments which in the end
brought him a fortune. One must remember too that this was long
before the day of income and inheritance taxes and so his fortune
was not thereby reduced.

In still another way he allied himself with the financial
interests of the community. With enlargement of his financial
resources he joined in the establishment of the Commercial National
Bank of which he was a Director for many years. He was one of the
Directors of the American Insurance Company with offices in the
city of Chicago. 8

In at least one respect he was unlike Aultman, Nichols, Shepard
and others associated with him. While those men were knowledgeable
in the affairs of business, they were at the same time competent
mechanics and inventors. On the other hand, Taylor was primarily an
astute, shrewd and competent business man who was able to make
decisions at opportune times. He was uncanny in his sensitiveness
to the appropriateness of a product for a given time. Thus he was
interested in the Vibrator separator not primarily as an inventor
but rather as a significant business opportunity. Obviously, to be
the successful business man and salesman that he was required a
thorough understanding and knowledge of the machines which were
manufactured. To this end he devoted his energies with great
zeal.

While it is true that he was a most successful salesman which
enabled him to build some capital, yet it is a fact that his
fortune was accumulated not primarily as an agent for C. Aultman
& Co. and Nichols, Shepard and Company nor as the co-founder of
the Aultman & Taylor Manufacturing Company but rather as a
result of wise investments in real estate in the city of Chicago of
which he was able to dispose at an opportune time. Upon his death
he left his only son, H. C. Chatfield Taylor, an inheritance of
approximately two million dollars. 9

In 1864 Mr. Taylor was married to Adelaide Chatfield who was a
native of Orriskany, New York. To this union was born one son, H.
C. Chatfield Taylor, who became a well known literature in the city
of Chicago.

Mr. Taylor did not enjoy the advantages of higher education, but
he was a great reader of books and became a most versatile person
in the several fields of literature and also became knowledgeable
in the various fields of science of that day. Through diligent
study he acquired great precision in the use of language and was
extremely refined in the use of words. He was particular and
meticulous in his demeanor and in every respect a modest and
unassuming person. All in all he was a learned, cultured and
refined gentleman without doubt influenced immeasurably by his New
England heritage.

He maintained numerous interests outside of the area of
business. He was a Republican in polities, although he was not a
narrow partisan. He was a member of the Masonic Fraternity and had
attained the rank of Knight Templar. He made several trips to
Europe, doubtless for business purposes as well as for social and
cultural pursuits. He was generous in his gifts to charitable
organizations and his contributions were made without regard to
creed. His gifts went to the Bethel Home, Chicago Relief Society,
Old Ladies Home and other similar charities. His contributions were
always large, but they were never made with ostentation and he
never permitted his name to go before the public as a giver. His
gifts were made without public recognition or acclaim which was
typical of the man.

According to the Chicago Directories of 1872 and 1873 the family
residence was located at 226 W. Washington Street in Chicago. The
address today in 909 Washington Boulevard. The Directories also
listed Mr. Taylor’s occupation as ‘Agricultural
Machinery’.

For three years prior to his death Mr. Taylor suffered from a
complication of diseases and during the last month of his life
became totally blind. Yet in spite of those handicaps with
indomitable courage and energy he attended to his business until
the day of his death. The cause of his death was due to Kidney and
Bright’s disease. Interment was made in the Graceland cemetery
in Chicago. 10

As already mentioned Henry Taylor’s death occurred on Nov.
9, 1875. He was forty years of age and his death preceded that of
Aultman by nine years, he having died at the age of fifty-seven. So
both were relatively young men especially when compared with
today’s lengthened span of life. Neither of them approached the
biblical three score and ten.

Two writers describe the grief and disappointment of the
citizens of Chicago in the following paragraph.

‘He had only reached the age of forty years, when men are
usually at the meridian of their powers. Why men gifted with such
natural endowments, and possessing so many accomplishments fitting
them for years of usefulness and honor, should be cut off in their
early prime is one of the inscrutable mysteries of life! It is
certain that in the early death of Mr. Taylor Chicago lost a most
worthy and estimable citizen and one who contributed not a little
to her growth ‘. 11

The above experience is not an unusual one for the last low
whispers of the dead have often brought frustration and dismay to
countless numbers. So this has been one of the ever persistent
queries down through the weary march of the ages, the answer to
which each must give in his own way.

In the chill of death the following resolution adopted by the
Directors of the Commercial National Bank perhaps epitomizes the
grief of the citizens of Chicago and withal their admiration of the
high qualities and generosity of the man.

‘Whereas, it has seemed good to an all-wise Providence to
remove from our midst our friend and associate, Henry H. Taylor,
for many years, a Director of this bank; Resolved, that we
sincerely deplore the loss of one whom we have been so long and so
intimately associated, and for whom we have ever cherished the
strongest feelings of general regard; a citizen honored and
respected in all relations of life; a man whose influence and
generosity were felt in every good work, and one whose business
ability, sound judgement, and high character contributed much to
the prosperity of this institution. Resolved, that we extend to the
family of Mr. Taylor the assurance of our heartfelt sorrow and
earnest sympathy in their affliction. Resolved, that, as a mark of
respect for the character of Mr. Taylor, the doors of this bank be
closed on the afternoon of the 11th inst. at which time we will
attend the funeral in a body, and that these resolutions be entered
on the record of the bank, and a copy of the same, properly
engrossed, be transmitted to the family of the deceased’.
12

This then is a sketch of the life of Henry Hobart Taylor. Viewed
in retrospect it was all too brief, yet his accomplishments as well
as his contributions were many and what he was as a man speaks for
itself. There is little to add but to reiterate that he was a
competent business man and one who was highly respected by all who
knew him a modest, cultured and unassuming person. His life
although too brief was a record of ‘a well-filled past’ and
‘well worth a life to hold in fee’. 13

Mr. Taylor’s will provided that his son was to receive
$50,000.00 and the remainder of his estate was to go to charities.
However, the son was not satisfied with his father’s will and
so in the quietest and most gentlemanly manner possible importuned
the other legatees that his father’s disposition of his wealth
was not fair. So without a lawsuit or even a vigorous protest they
acceded to his request and permitted Hobart to take the entire
estate.

His name was Hobart Chatfield Taylor. Upon the death of his
uncle Wayne Chatfield his will provided that Hobart was to receive
his fortune of $3,500,000.00 with the proviso that he would take
his uncle’s name. This he did and his name became Hobart
Chatfield Chatfield-Taylor. He was one of the first Americans to
acquire a hyphenated name. At this time he was twenty-eight years
of age. He graduated from Cornell University in 1886 and later
married the youngest daughter of ex-senator and millionaire,
Charles B. Farwell. The two fortunes which he inherited amounted to
approximately four and a half million dollars. This was exclusive
of his wife’s inheritance. One of the newspaper accounts stated
that he was very wealthy and did not dissipate in any hurtful
way.

In addition to being a well known literature in the city of
Chicago, he was for several years the Spanish Consul in that city.
He also had the dubious reputation in Chicago and elsewhere of
being the arbiter in the Elegancies. The Chicago Herald described
his speciality as follows:

‘Consul Chatfield-Taylor’s strongest point in his
strict observance of the proprieties. He would sooner die than be
seen in a costume not in consonance with the time of day or the
event then transpiring. Since he has been his own master, there has
not been a day when mortal man has seen him in other than evening
dress after 6 o’clock p.m., except when he is traveling or in a
section of the country whose dress suits were unknown or not
tolerated. So keen is his sense of fitness of things that he has
his own coach fitted up as a dressing room and there he keeps
several suits of clothes and other articles of apparel. Under one
seat is a wash-bowl, with a water can near by. In case he is out
calling in the afternoon and has not time to get home in season to
dress at 6 o’clock he simply lets down the curtains of his
carriage, disrobes, attends to the duties of the toilet, and
arraying himself in evening dress is ready when the bells chime 6
to sit down to dinner’. 14

By the sheer fortuitous circumstance of birth those huge
fortunes were lavished upon one individual who made no contribution
to their accumulation. While Henry H. Taylor did not acquire the
bulk of his fortune through the sale of threshing machinery, yet in
truth it was the beginning and one source of his wealth. Here is a
case of one individual who in part at least was the beneficiary of
the toil of thousands of threshermen, farmers as well as those who
labored in the factories which in the end made possible the
accumulation of the huge fortune.

Following the death of Henry Taylor, Cornelius Aultman purchased
his holdings in the Company. That transaction placed Aultman in the
position of having the controlling interest in the Company. Then
when he died his daughter Elizabeth Harter fell heir to the bulk of
her father’s estate which made her in turn the controlling
stockholder in the Company. That interest she held in the Company
until it was liquidated in 1923. 15

NOTES & REFERENCES

1. John Moses and Joseph Kirk-land: History of Illinois, pp.
651-652, 1895.

2. Ibid. pp. 651-652.

3. The Watch-Word, Elgin, Illinois, 1921.

4. Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Issue of the Watch-Word,
1864-1939, Elgin, Illinois.

5. Letter to the author dated March 11, 1968 by D. W.
Leverez, Director Technical Trade Relations, Elgin National Watch
Company, Elgin, Illinois.

6. Lloyd Lewis and Henry Justin Smith: Chicago: The History of
Its Reputation, Part I, p. 79, Blue Ribbon Books, Inc. New York
City.

7. Ibid. p. 79.

8. The Chicago Tribune, November 11, 1875.

9. A. J. Baughman, Editor: Centennial Biographical History of
Richland County, Ohio, p. 609, The Lewis Publishing Company,
Chicago, Illinois, 1901.

10. Report of Death, County Clerk’s Office, Vital
Statistics Department, 130 North Wells Street, Chicago, 6,
Illinois, Edward J. Barrett, County Clerk. October 22, 1968.

11. Chicago Tribune, p. 8, November 11, 1875.

12. Ibid.

13.  James Russell Lowell: The Heritage.

14. The Sunday Shield, Mansfield. Ohio, July 2, 1893.

15. Quintin Alexander: Unpublished Thesis, University of
Pa.

Published on Nov 1, 1975

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