CHAPTER X. DANIEL DREW.
The name of Daniel Drew has so long been familiar in the financial circles of the country, that it is surprising that the history of his life is not more generally known.
He was born at Carmel, in Putnam County, New York, on the 29th of July, 1797. His father was a small farmer, with limited means, and had to work hard to provide his family with food and clothing. Young Daniel was brought up to work on the farm, and at such times as he could be spared from this work, was sent to the country school in the neighborhood, where he acquired but a meager stock of learning. When he was fifteen years old, his father died, leaving his family in an almost helpless condition. Young Daniel remained on the farm three years longer, and in 1815, being then eighteen years old, stared out to try and earn a living for himself.
He came to New York in search of employment, but the country, just then, was in too depressed a condition to afford him a chance in any regular business. After looking around for awhile, he at length became a cattle drover. He spent five years in driving cattle from Putnam County to New York for sale, but failed to make any money at the business.
In 1820, he removed to New York, and established his headquarters at the famous Bull's Head Tavern, in the Bowery, which was the great resort of the butchers and drovers doing business in the city. He kept this tavern a part of the time, and found it quite a profitable investment. He soon formed a partnership with two other drovers, and commenced buying cattle in the adjoining counties and bringing them to New York for sale.
FOUNDING A GREAT FORTUNE
These ventures were so successful that the operations of the firm were extended into Pennsylvania, and finally into Ohio and the other States of the great West. Mr. Drew and his partners brought over the mountains the first drove of cattle that ever came from the West into New York city. The cattle, two thousand in number, were collected into droves of one hundred each, and were driven by experienced and careful men. The journey occupied two months, and the total cost of the purchase and trip was twenty-four dollars per head. The profit on the venture was very large.
Mr. Drew continued in this business for fourteen years, slowly and carefully laying the foundations of that immense fortune which has made him so conspicuous, an example to others who have entered upon the life-struggle since then.
In 1834, an event occurred which changed the whole tenor of his career. In that year, the steamer "General Jackson," owned by Jacob Vanderbilt (a brother of the famous Commodore), and plying between New York and Peekskill, blew up at Grassy Point. A friend of Mr. Drew at once put a boat called the "Water Witch" in her place, and Mr. Drew, to oblige his friend, advanced one thousand dollars toward the enterprise. Commodore Vanderbilt was not willing that any rival should contest the river trade with him, and built a steamer called the "Cinderella," with which he ran a sharp opposition to Mr. Drew. The contest was so sharp that fares and freights were lowered to a ridiculous figure, and both parties lost heavily. At the end of the season, the owner of the "Water Witch" found himself ten thousand dollars in debt, and sold his boat to Drew, Kelly & Richards for twenty thousand dollars.
Finding that Mr. Drew was not frightened off by his opposition, Commodore Vanderbilt urged him to withdraw from his attempt, telling him he knew nothing of the management of steamboats. Mr. Drew refused to be intimidated; however, and continued his efforts. Since then, there have been fifty attempts to run him off the river, but all alike have failed of success.
In 1836, the "Water Witch" was replaced by a fine steamer called the "Westchester," which was subsequently run as a day boat to Hartford, Connecticut. The "Westchester" was run against the Hudson River Line, from New York to Albany. The Hudson River Line at that time owned the "De Witt Clinton," the "North America," and others—the finest steamboats then afloat—and it seemed at first foolhardiness for any one to attempt to oppose so popular a company. Mr. Drew and his partners bought the "Bright Emerald," for which they gave twenty-six thousand dollars, and ran her as a night boat between New York and Albany, reducing the fare from three dollars to one dollar. During the season, they bought the "Rochester" for fifty thousand dollars, and also bought out the Hudson River Line, after which they restored the fare to three dollars.
Several years later, Isaac Newton, who was largely interested in the towing business of the Hudson, built two splendid passenger steamers called the "North America" and the "South America." In 1840, Mr. Drew formed a partnership with Mr. Newton, and the celebrated "People's Line" was organized, which purchased all the passenger steamers owned by Drew and Newton. Mr. Drew was the largest stockholder in this company, which, to-day, after a lapse of nearly thirty years, still owns the most magnificent and popular steamers in the world. Soon after its organization, the company built the "Isaac Newton," the first of those floating palaces for which the Hudson is famed. Since then, it has built the "New World," the "St. John," the "Dean Richmond," and the "Drew," the last two of which cost over seven' hundred thousand dollars each. Repeated efforts have been made to drive this line from the river, but it has been conducted so judiciously and energetically, that, for nearly thirty years, it has held the first place in the public favor.
In 1847, George Law and Daniel Drew formed a partnership, and established a line of steamers between New York and Stonington, for the purpose of connecting with the railroad from the latter place to Boston. The "Oregon" and the "Knickerbocker" were placed on the route, and the enterprise proved a success. Mr. Drew and Commodore Vanderbilt secured a sufficient amount of stock in the railroad to give them a controlling interest in it, and by the year 1850 the Stonington Steamboat Line was firmly established.
When the Hudson River Railroad was opened, in 1852, it was confidently expected that the steamboat trade on the river would be destroyed, and the friends and enemies of Mr. Drew alike declared that he might as well lay up his boats, as he would find it impossible to compete with the faster time of the railroad. He was not dismayed, however, for he was satisfied that the land route could not afford to carry freight and passengers as cheap as they could be transported by water. He knew that it would only be necessary to reduce his passenger and freight rates below those of the railroad, to continue in the enjoyment of his immense business, and his faith in the steady expansion of the trade of the city induced him to believe that the time was close at hand when railroad and steamers would all have as much as they could do to accommodate it. His views were well founded, and his hopes have been more than realized. The river trade has steadily increased, while the Hudson River Railroad is taxed to its utmost capacity to accommodate its immense traffic.
In 1849, Mr. Drew, in connection with other parties, bought out the Champlain Transportation Company. This corporation had a capital of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and ran a line of five steamers from White Hall to the Canada end of the lake. The new proprietors ran the line seven years, and in 1856 sold out to the Saratoga and White Hall Railroad Company.
As a steamboat manager, Daniel Drew has few equals and no superiors. His ventures on the water have all been crowned with success, a result due entirely to his judicious and liberal management His employés are chosen with the greatest care, and generally remain with him during their lives. He is very liberal in his dealings with those who serve him faithfully, but will not tolerate a single careless or incompetent man, however unimportant may be his position. The steamers owned by him are almost entirely free from accidents, and such misfortunes as have befallen them have been those against which no skill or foresight could guard. He refuses to insure his boats, holding that care and prudence are the best safeguards against accidents, and thus saves half a million dollars. When the "Dean Richmond" was run down by the "Vanderbilt," a year or two ago, he lost nearly three hundred thousand dollars. He paid every claim presented by shippers and passengers, as soon as made, without submitting one of them to the adjudication of the courts.
In 1836, Mr. Drew entered the banking business in Wall Street, and in 1840 established the widely-known firm of Drew, Robinson & Co. This house engaged largely in the financial operations of the day, and became known as one of the most uniformly successful in its dealings of any in the city. Mr. Drew remained at the head of it for thirteen years, but in 1855 withdrew to make room for his son-in-law, Mr. Kelley. This gentleman died soon after his connection with the firm, and Mr. Drew resumed his old place.
Having succeeded so well in all his ventures, Mr. Drew now determined to enter another field. Railroad stocks were very profitable, and might be made to yield him an immense return for his investments, and he decided to invest a considerable part of his fortune in them. In 1855, he endorsed the acceptances of the Erie Railroad Company for five hundred thousand dollars. This was the first decided evidence the public had received of his immense wealth, and in 1857 another was given by his endorsement of a fresh lot of Erie acceptances amounting to a million and a half of dollars. This last indorsement was made in the midst of the great financial panic of 1857, and occasioned no little comment. Men could admire, though they could not understand, the sublime confidence which enabled Mr. Drew to risk a million and a half of dollars in the midst of such a terrible crisis. Some one asked him if he could sleep quietly at night with such large interests at stake. "Sir," he replied, calmly, "I have never lost a night's rest on account of business in my life."
In 1857, Mr. Drew was elected a director of the Erie Railroad Company, a position he held until recently. He was subsequently elected treasurer of the company, and is one of the principal holders of Erie stock. He is also one of the principal creditors of the company. The recent proceedings in the New York courts to prevent the Erie Road from issuing the new stock necessary to complete its broad-gauge connections with the West, are too fresh in the mind of the reader to need a recital of them here. It was proposed to issue ten millions of dollars worth of new stock, and Mr. Drew was to guarantee the bonds. After a tedious and costly suit, in which the New York Central Road endeavored to prevent the issue of the stock, in the hope of keeping the Erie Road from forming through connections with the West, the New York Legislature legalized the new issue, and a compromise was effected between Mr. Drew, in behalf of the Erie Road, and Commodore Vanderbilt, who represented the New York Central.
Mr. Drew still continues his operations in Wall Street, where he is known as one of the boldest and most extensive, as well as one of the most successful, of all the operators in railroad stocks. Though losing heavily at times, he has nevertheless been one of fortune's favorites. His efforts have not been confined to the Erie Road. He owns stock in other roads, and, together with Commodore Vanderbilt, took up the floating debt of over half a million of dollars which weighed down the Harlem Road, and placed it in its present prosperous condition.
He owns a fine grazing farm on the Harlem Railroad, about fifty miles from New York. It is situated in Carmel, in Putnam County; is nearly one thousand acres in extent, and includes the old farm on which he was born. He has made it one of the finest and most profitable in the State, and, it is said, values it above all his other possessions. He has improved and beautified it upon an extensive scale, and near the old grave-yard, where his parents lie sleeping, he has built one of the most beautiful churches in the land.
In 1811, Mr. Drew became a member of the Methodist Church, but for twenty-five years this connection was merely nominal. During all the years of his drover's life he kept himself free from the sins of intemperance and swearing. Once while riding out in a buggy with a friend, to look at some cattle, a thunder-storm came on, and his horse was killed in the shafts by lightning. This narrow escape from death made a deep impression on his mind, and in 1841 he united with the Mulberry Street Methodist Church, of which he became an active member and a trustee. The elegant marble structure now standing at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Twenty-second Street attests his liberality to this congregation. He is a trustee in the Wesleyan University, and has largely endowed that institution; and within the past few years has contributed several hundred thousand dollars for the endowment of the Drew Theological Seminary, which has been established at Madison, New Jersey, for the education of candidates for the Methodist ministry. He gives largely in aid of missionary work, and is one of the most liberal men in his denomination. It is said that he gives away at least one hundred thousand dollars annually in private charities, besides the large donations with which the public are familiar. He selects his own charities, and refuses promptly to aid those which do not commend themselves to him.
His property is estimated at twenty millions of dollars, and he is said to earn at least half a million of dollars every year. He has two children, a son and a daughter, the latter of whom is the wife of a clergyman of the Baptist Church.
Mr. Drew is about five feet ten inches high, and slenderly made. He is very active and vigorous for his age, and looks a much younger man than he is. His expression is firm, but withal pleasant. His features are regular, but dark and deeply marked, while his black hair is still unstreaked with gray. He is courteous and friendly in his intercourse, and is very much liked by his acquaintances.