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Biography of Samuel M. Van Santvoord

SAMUEL M. VAN SANTVOORD IN the exhibition of those qualities which go to form a popular and successful merchant and a true and useful citizen, we have a notable example in the career of Mr. Samuel M. Van Santvoord, who for the past twenty-seven years has been a prominent figure in Albany. He is a self-made man in the mercantile line, who has gained a most enviable reputation, reflecting honor upon himself and the useful occupation which he early chose for a life-long pursuit. From a humble origin, and amidst difficulties before which many a young heart would have quailed, he succeeded in laying a solid foundation as a business man, showing what opportunities our country affords to those who, well grounded in correct principles, set out in life’s pathway with a determination to rise in the world. Born in the city of Schenectady on the 2d of October, 1819, he is a descendant of the old Hollanders, many of whom came to this county long before the revolutionary era, in the interests of trade, religion and human progress, settling in dense forests, which, under their industrious hands, were finally turned into fruitful fields. Schenectady and the rich valley of the Mohawk were favorite places for the settlement of those sturdy old Dutch pioneers. Among these early settlers was the Van Santvoord family of Schenectady – a family noted in the old history of that place for many sterling qualities. Samuel M. Van Santvoord, the subject of this sketch, is a son of Zeger Van Santvoord, who was born on the 21st of June, 1783, and who died on...

Biography of Howard Van Rensselaer

HOWARD VAN RENSSELAER AMONG the rising young men of our city, one whose fine tastes, cultured manners, general and professional intelligence, have brought him into favorable notice among a large circle of friends, is Dr. Howard Van Rensselaer, of 94 Columbia street. He was born in Albany on the 26th of June, 1858, and spent his earliest years in the old Dutch city, in which his forefathers, many generations ago, took such a prominent part in its history and development, as well as in that of the surrounding country. Many an interesting and eventful page have they furnished for our municipal and county annals. But they have almost all passed away to the silent land, and new generations of various nationalities have come to take their place, showing the mutability of human affairs and the ever-occurring changes of life. As we have already in the sketch of William Bayard Van Rensselaer, the brother of our present subject, given a succinct account of the ancestry of the Van Rensselaer family, we need only refer the reader to that memoir for information on this point. Howard Van Rensselaer is a son of Bayard Van Rensselaer, a native Albanian, whose earthly career was closed in 1859, when the boy was but nine months old. Thus early deprived of a father’s watchful care and love he was tenderly nursed and reared by his mother, a woman of many virtues, whose maiden name was Laura Reynolds, daughter of the celebrated Marcus Tullius Reynolds, who in his day was one of the brightest stars in the legal profession in Albany. This estimable lady still lives...

Biography of Andrew Sloan Draper

ANDREW SLOAN DRAPER ONE of the foremost men in the promotion of the cause of education in our country to day, is the Hon. Andrew S. Draper, the present Superintendent of Public Instruction of the state of New York. His career is especially note-worthy and interesting as affording encouragement and inspiration to the youth of our land, who are seeking higher educational advantages. Born at Westford, Otsego County, N. Y., on the 21st of June, 1848, the first seven years of his life were passed under watchful parental care, at his native place. The first school he attended was in the primitive cross-roads red school-house. In 1855 his parents removed to Albany, soon after which he was sent to the district schools of this city – a city which was to become his permanent residence. Winning a prize scholarship in the Albany Academy, when about fifteen years old, he became a pupil in that institution, from which after a thorough course of instruction he graduated in the summer of 1866. From his youth up he was of studious habits and active life. After graduation at the academy he taught in that institution and others for four years, during which time he also read law, and in the fall of 1870 he entered the Albany law school, from which excellent institution he was graduated in the summer of 1871, being admitted to practice at the general term of the Supreme Court in May of that year. It will be interesting to remark here, as indicating his early tastes and talents for public speaking, that in the presidential campaign of Grant...

Biography of Melvil Dewey

MELVIL DEWEY AMONG the noted librarians of our country who have shown great efficiency, untiring devotion and unusual progressiveness in their calling, stands in the front rank Melvil Dewey, director of the state library and secretary of the University of the State of New York. Born December 10, 1851, in the rural village of Adams Center, Jefferson county, New York, he is the youngest son of Joel and Eliza Green Dewey. His love of books – a love which has never forsaken him – began as soon as he was able to read. His greatest delight was to be among books, arranging and classifying them to suit his juvenile ideas. He loved also to call them his own. Like Dr. Isaac Watts when a child, he would say when money was given to him: “A book, a book; buy a book.” When, in 1864, the present edition of Webster’s unabridged dictionary came out, this incipient librarian went ten miles to the book store in Watertown, and brought home the coveted volume for which he paid $12 of his own childish savings, the largest coin of which was a five-cent piece. In 1865, when the collegiate institute was opened at Adams, three miles away, our boy was, of course, there as a pupil on the day of opening, and in 1867 he was one of the last students to leave its burning building. In 1868, in his 17th year, he began his work in education by teaching a district school in the town of Rodman. In the spring of ’69 he followed the old principal of the Adams institute to...

Biography of Elliot Danforth

ELLIOT DANFORTH AMONG the notable men connected with the service of the state in an official relation, is the Hon. Elliot Danforth, state treasurer. Born at Middleburg, Schoharie County, N. Y., on the 6th of March, 1850, he spent his earliest years amidst the rural scenes of his native place, and under the care of loving parents. He is the youngest son of Judge Peter S. Danforth of Middleburg, who was born on the 19th of June, 1816, in the village of Middleburg, and who in his declining life is enjoying the happy consciousness of having served his country faithfully in civil, educational and religious matters. He was fitted for college at the Kinderhook academy, N. Y., where he won a prize for proficiency in the classics when only fourteen years old. In 1837 he was graduated from Union college, under the presidency of Dr. Eliphalet Nott, who was then in the zenith of his fame and usefulness as an educator. He studied law in the office of the Hon. Robert McClellan, at that time member of congress from Schoharie county; and also in the office of Marcus T. Reynolds of Albany, one of the most eminent lawyers of this city. He formed a partnership with Judge Lyman Sanford of Schoharie, which existed for fourteen years. Among the offices he has held are those of district attorney for Schoharie County in 1845; state senator from Delaware and Schoharie in 1853; judge-advocate of the 18th brigade for fourteen years, and a justice of the Supreme Court, a position to which he was appointed in 1872, by Governor Hoffman. The father...

Biography of Edgar Cotrell

EDGAR COTRELL AN Albanian, widely and favorably known as a representative man, who has contributed largely toward the development of a special industry in our city, is Edgar Cotrell of the firm of Cotrell & Leonard, extensive wholesale and retail dealers in furs and kindred goods. It is always interesting to trace the ancestry and personal career of any one whom, by earnest, persevering and honorable efforts, has obtained marked and permanent success in some useful calling or profession in life. In the subject of the present sketch we have an illustration of some of the more striking characteristics of New England men and their descendants. He is a son of the late Joshua G. Cotrell, a native of Massachusetts, who was born in 1804, and who, in 1836, married Cornelia, daughter of Dr. Jabez Wilkinson. Joshua G. Cotrell was a man of great pluck, enterprise and high character, who at the age of twenty-two came to Albany and established, on a small scale, the business which is now so largely and successfully carried on by his son Edgar and the Messrs. Leonard. His death, which occurred in 1878, was deeply lamented, while his name is still highly cherished by many of our citizens. The grandfather of Edgar Cotrell, on his father’s side, was Oliver Cotrell, of Hancock, Berkshire County, Mass., who married Mary, daughter of Nathaniel Gardner, a descendant of Samuel Sewall, the companion and friend of Miles Standish. His great-grandfather was Joseph Cotrell, of Wickford, R. I., who married Hannah, daughter of Judge Nichols, a resident of Newport, R. I., during the revolutionary war, in 1780, and...

Biography of Frederick Cook

FREDERICK COOK A MAN who has reflected great honor upon American institutions, is the Hon. Frederick Cook, ex-secretary of state of New York. He is a striking representative of the best type of a German citizen whose leading traits of character have been fully developed upon American soil. He was born on the 2nd of December, 1833, at Wildbad, Germany, a noted watering place in the famous Black Forest district. His father was a contractor, a man who intended to have given his son Frederick the advantages of a thorough collegiate course. The boy was placed at the best school in the neighborhood, and his youthful years were earnestly devoted to the elementary branches of learning. The industrious young student was increasing rapidly in knowledge from year to year, with the brightest prospects before him, when suddenly a dark cloud overshadowed his opening literary career and dashed to the ground his hopes of obtaining a complete collegiate education. When he had reached his twelfth year, his excellent father, who had taken so deep an interest in the instruction of his promising son, died, leaving a family of eight children. By this irreparable loss the happy home was broken up and the children scattered abroad. Without a father’s watchful care, Frederick was left at this tender age almost entirely to his own resources. But with a brave heart and an indomitable will, he faced the storm of life until the sunshine of success and prosperity came to gladden his pathway. He turned his eyes towards America, as the chosen field for his future activity and work, and so, bidding adieu...

Biography of William L. Learned

WILLIAM L. LEARNED AN ALBANY jurist whose long and interesting career has reflected no little credit upon himself as well as upon the city of his adoption, is the Hon. William Law Learned, of the supreme court. He was born on the 24th of July, 1821, at New London, Connecticut, and is the son of Ebenezer Learned and Lydia Coit, his second wife. His ancestry is of English origin. His ancestors emigrated to this country at an early day, and settled in Charlestown, Mass. The first admission to the First church of Charlestown was that of his ancestor, William Learned, in 1632. Both his grandfathers, Amasa Learned and Joshua Coit, were men of excellent character, learning and ability in their day; and both of them were members of congress about the beginning of the present century. The father of the present judge was for many years a practicing lawyer, and later in life became a cashier in one of the state banks of Connecticut. He was a man of sound and excellent judgment, and of the purest integrity. At an early age he was graduated from Yale College, and after teaching school for a few years he entered in the practice of his profession at New London. In the pleasant town of New London, William L. Learned spent his earliest years, under the careful and tender instruction of intelligent and loving parents. He early manifested a strong taste for learning, and the highest ambition of his boyhood was to become, like his father, a good lawyer. He first attended the union school at New London, where he enjoyed the...

Biography of George W. Kirchwey

GEORGE W. KIRCHWEY AMONG the younger members of the Albany bar, whose attainments, not only in his special profession, but also in the wide range of general literature, have already gained for him distinction and honor, is George W. Kirchwey, of the law firm of Eaton & Kirchwey, and dean of the Albany Law School. Born on the 3d day of July, 1855, in the city of Detroit, Mich., he is the oldest child of honored parents who are still living in our midst. He was reared in an atmosphere of ideas, and does not remember the time when he did not have a book in his hands. He would have been a dull boy if he had not been something of a philosopher even in childhood. But he was not a dull boy and he made good use of the advantages which were thus afforded him. Home education in Detroit was followed by regular instruction in the schools of Chicago, to which city Mr. Kirchwey removed with his family soon after the outbreak of the civil war, in 1862. Nine years later, in the fall of 1871, the family removed to Albany, which has proved to be its permanent home. After arriving in Albany George spent a year in one of the public schools and then entered the high school, where he received his preparation for college. He was then a bright, active, thoughtful boy of sixteen, and from the testimony of his teachers and fellow-pupils, was a faithful and successful student, taking the highest stand in his classes and distinguishing himself particularly in his literary work and...

Biography of William H. Keeler

WILLIAM H. KEELER IN THE development of a particular branch of industry in Albany one of the most striking and successful examples is presented in the career of William H. Keeler, the founder of the well known and popular oyster-house of this city. While many other Albanians have attained distinction in literature, science and art, or secured the emoluments belonging to some of the learned professions or the laurels of the successful politician, it has been his chief aim in life to cultivate and master an important branch of physical science which will always be popular while the world exists; and that is the art of properly preparing delicious food for the hungry. He is, therefore, a representative Albanian, standing at the head of the caterers of the day, whose name is familiar as a household word to our citizens as well as to thousands all over the land, and who has supplied more of the wants of ” the inner man ” than almost any one else in the same line of business. From an humble origin and small beginning, like many of the successful men of our time in different vocations and professions, he has steadily advanced to the front rank of restaurateurs and hotel-keepers of the land. The career of such a man is notable from the fact that it shows a large amount of executive ability, untiring perseverance, and a singleness of purpose that cannot be turned aside from the one great object to be obtained. Onward – onward and upward is the motto of such men, as they march on till they attain the...
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