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FREDERIC GREGORY MATHER
AN ALBANIAN whose name shines with no dim lustre in the republic of letters, is Frederic G. Mather. Born in the city of Cleveland, Ohio, on the nth day of August, 1844, he is a son of Samuel Holmes Mather, LL. D., of that city. This cultured gentleman was born in Jj 1813, at Washington, N. H.; his father was Dr. Ozias Mather of fl East Haddam, Conn. In 1835, a year after his graduation from Dartmouth College, Samuel H. Mather removed to Cleveland, when the city was a village of only four thousand inhabitants, today it is a city with a population of two hundred and fifty thousand. In 1849, he established the Society for Savings, the first institution west of the Hudson River, on the plan of savings banks in New England and New York. It is now the largest institution of its kind in the west, the deposits aggregating over $20,000,000. He also organized the public library of Cleveland; and, besides being still an honored member of the Cleveland bar, he has for many years been president of the institution which he took such pride in establishing. In 1889, Dartmouth College gave him the degree of LL.D. His only brother, now deceased, was Henry Brainard Mather, who was for many years, a partner of the late Hon. Amos A. Lawrence, in Boston, under the firm name of Lawrence & Co. Both of the brothers were intimate friends of Hon. John P. Healy of that city.
The ancestors of the subject of this sketch, on his father’s side, were professional men for two hundred and fifty years, in an unbroken line. They were a long-lived race from the north of England and partly from Scotland. He is a descendant of the Rev. Richard Mather, the father of Increase Mather, and the grandfather of Cotton Mather. In 1635, Richard Mather left his old English home, and settling in Boston, Mass., became the founder of the Mather family in America. He married for his second wife, Sarah (Story) Cotton, widow of the Rev. John Cotton of Boston.
The maiden name of Frederic G. Mather’s mother was Emily Worthington Gregory. She is a granddaughter of Col. John Ely of Saybrook, Conn., who was well known in the American Revolution. He was also the grandfather of Samuel G. Goodrich (” Peter Parley “‘). She is related to the Worthingtons, Griswolds, Marvins and other old families of Connecticut.
In the Cleveland high school Frederic G. Mather received his earliest training in the walks of literature. No youth, perhaps, ever attended more faithfully to his studies – a literary course being the highest ambition of his boyhood days. Consequently he made most satisfactory progress toward a thorough preparation for college.
In 1863, he entered Dartmouth College, from which venerable institution he was graduated with honor in 1867. His college days, so diligently improved, were among the most pleasant and profitable periods of his earlier career; and, even then, he devoted his leisure to literary subjects, with a view of entering the field of letters as a life-long work.
Among his classmates at Dartmouth, with whom he formed close and lasting friendships, were the Hon. John N. Irwin, appointed governor of Idaho, in 1882, by President Arthur; Rev. Dr. Robert G. McNiece, of Salt Lake City, and Hon. E. B. Maynard, late mayor of Springfield, Mass.
For some time after leaving college Mr. Mather was employed in commercial pursuits in Cleveland, carrying on at the same time the study of the law, until he was ready for admission to the Ohio bar. He soon found, however, that business and law were distasteful to him, and so relinquished both to find a far more congenial occupation in literary and scientific pursuits.
In 1873 he became managing editor of the Binghamton (N. Y.) Times – a morning paper, which during that period, in its separate existence, was a leading advocate of the principles of the Republican Party in the southern part of the state. While carrying on his editorial work at Binghamton, he was appointed a commissioner by the national bureau of education in the winters of 1873 and 1874 to visit and inspect the educational institutions of the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. This was a work just suited to his taste, and he accomplished it in a faithful and successful manner, obtaining for the bureau exchanges of documents which had never before come into possession of the United States, and receiving the special commendation of Hon. John Eaton, the head of the bureau. Mr. Mather’s reports were printed in the annual reports of the commissioner of education.
In 1875 Mr. Mather purchased an interest in the Binghamton Republican and became its editor-in-chief; when, afterward, the Times and Republican were united he retained his interest and management of the same. Relinquishing his newspaper work at Binghamton in 1879, made a tour of the state of New York, as political correspondent of the New York Tribune, and in December of the same year he was sent by that paper to Montreal and Ottawa to look after the coming of Lord Lome as governor-general of Canada.
While in Binghamton Mr. Mather took an active part in the public library of that city and in its educational affairs. In 1880 he wrote editorials for the Albany Evening Journal, and he has since made his home in this city.
At his residence, No. 120 Lancaster Street, Mr. Mather carries on his literary work in a most systematic manner, especially through the colder months of the year. There, in his favorite workshop, familiarly known by his many personal friends in Albany and elsewhere, as the ” den ” – though very much unlike old John Bunyan’s gloomy ” den ” on Bedford bridge – he has carefully arranged in numerous cases, ” cabinets ” of valuable information, consisting of old documents and fugitive literary subject-matter, all so completely indexed that any paper may be found at once. To aid him in accomplishing his literary tasks he uses stenography, type-writing, and other labor-saving appliances.
On the return of the genial days of summer and autumn Mr. Mather leaves his ” workshop ” in the city, and resorts to the northern lakes and woods, there to enjoy the beauties and sublimities of nature and to secure that relaxation so beneficial to hard literary workers, as well as to replenish by his pencil and photography his stores of materials for the illustrated magazines. He loves with a perfect love that outdoor life which affords so much gratification to persons of highly imaginative minds and exquisite tastes – such as boating, yachting, rambling amidst verdant meadows and shady groves, listening to the melody of birds in the softness and stillness of evening, admiring the grandeur of lofty mountains and romantic landscapes, and the gorgeous, variegated scenes of an autumn day in northern New York. Mr. Mather wields a facile and versatile pen. He is equally at home in historical, biographical and scientific subjects. His style is simple, direct and perspicuous. He seizes upon the leading points in his subject-matter and presents them in clear, bold, glowing colors. Mr. Mather has written largely for the leading magazines and reviews of the day, among which are Harper’s Monthly, Scribner’s Magazine, Wide Awake, St. Nicholas, Magazine of American History, Outing, Princeton Review, Harper’s Weekly, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly, Scientific American, Lippincott’s Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, North American Review, Popular Science Monthly, Boys’ Book of Sports, Andover Review, Dartmouth Literary Monthly., etc. The titles of some of the able and elaborate articles which his prolific pen has furnished for such periodical publications are: “On the Border Line,” a sketch of adventures along the border between Canada and Vermont; ” Playthings and Amusements of an Old Fashioned Boy;” “Water Routes from the Great Northwest;” “Hindrances to Annexation ;” “Slavery in the Colony and State of New York;” a series of ” Historic Homes;” ” The Evolution of Canoeing ;” ” The Armanents of Europe ;” ” Popular Songs of the Eighteenth Century ;” ” Muster Day in New England;” “Vagaries of Western Architecture;” ” Memories of the Old Singing-School;” “A Day with the Ottawa Chantiermen ;” ” Summer Days along Champlain ;” ” State and Society in Ottawa ;” ” The City of Albany, 200 Years of Progress ;” ” Winter Sports in Canada ;” ” Sham Legislation ;” and ” The Recurrence of Riots.”
Mr. Mather is also the author of the following articles in The Civil Service of the State of New York: “Banking and Currency ;” “Insurance,” (in part); ” The Port of New York City;” ” Historical Review.” In Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography he wrote the articles on “The Various Branches of the Mather Family of New England;” and also many other articles. For Appleton s Annual Cyclopaedia he furnished from 1885 to 1889, from ten to fifteen articles each year; and for the Cyclopaedia Americana (4 vols.) the American supplement to the Cyclopaedia Britannica, he wrote about thirty articles.
Mr. Mather is a member of the following clubs: The Fort Orange, Camera, Mohican Canoe and Ridgefield Athletic. In 1889 he was elected a curator of the library of the Young Men’s association by the largest majority any candidate had had for many years.
During the bi-centennial celebration in Albany, in 1886, he took a great interest in the loan exhibition, and prepared, with great expenditure of time, the catalogue of the same,
Mr. Mather has been twice married. His first wife was Cornelia H. Olcott of New York city; his present wife was Alice E. Yager of Oneonta, N. Y. He has one daughter. His sister is the widow of Prof. Richard H. Mather of Amherst College.
Beside being engaged in his great magazine labors, Mr. Mather is at present the Albany correspondent for about twenty newspapers, two-thirds of which are published outside of the state of New York.
Of a tall, slender figure, possessing some of the Scottish traits of character, logical and methodical in his writings, with a thoughtful and studious countenance and no little urbanity, pursuing the ” even tenor of his way,” unruffled by the tumults of political life, he exhibits in a high degree those marked characteristics which belong to a true literary-gentleman, whose heart and hands are fully engaged in his work, and whose sole ambition is still to plan and execute some new undertaking in the world of letters and of science.