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Success in this age of marked business activity and competition depends upon wide knowledge of the line to which one directs his energy, combined with unfaltering diligence. There is no one more competent to speak with authority upon the question of varnish in the entire United States than James E. Bush., who has long occupied a position as traveling salesman in that connection and is now vice president of the Chicago Varnish Company. He is among the native sons of Racine County whose business records reflect credit upon the district which gave them birth. Mr. Bush was born at Ives Grove. March 5, 1850, a son of John and Charlotte N. (Ives) Bush, the latter a daughter of Roland Ives, who came to Racine County in the period of its pioneer development and was the founder of the town of Ives Grove. In the east he had engaged in business as a manufacturer of whips and after removing to the west became identified with agricultural interests and was classed with the capitalists of this section. John Bush was born at -Westfield, Massachusetts, and came to this County in the early ’40s, bringing with him the first fine horses owned in this locality. He had racing stock and he raised Bellfounder, one of the first high bred trotting horses in the west, and he was also owner of Angeline. Tie became well known all over the United States as a breeder of fine horses, his stables being particularly noteworthy. His political allegiance was given to the Democratic Party. In 1855 he removed with his family to California, but in 1860 returned to this County, where he continued his residence until his death, which occurred about 1880. His widow long survived him, dying in 1903 at the age of eighty-three years.
James E. Bush supplemented his public school training by a course in the Commercial College of Racine, from which he was graduated. He started to earn his living as a sailor on the lakes, was advanced to the position of mate and was offered the command of a vessel, but decided to abandon marine life, and took up the work of a traveling salesman. He also became interested in the Bee-Bee Cart Company of Racine and likewise engaged in the manufacture of textiles. At a subsequent date this business wets merged into the Mitchell Motor Car Company.
Mr. Bush’s experience as a traveling salesman has been broad and has brought him to a foremost position as a representative of the varnish trade in the country. In 1889 he began traveling for the Chicago Varnish Company, which he has since represented, and as the years have passed he has acquired stock in the organization and in 1911 was elected its vice president. He has sold more varnish than any two men in the United States, his sales having averaged over two hundred and fifty thousand dollars per year. Such a record is one of which he has every reason to be proud, for it is indeed something worthy of pride when one has reached the topmost position in any line of trade or useful activity. He is also interested in orange and grapefruit groves in Florida and his business investments have been wisely and judiciously made, bringing him substantial return.
Mr. Bush has been married twice, his first wife bearing the maiden name of Anna Belle Addis, of Massachusetts, and passing away in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. For his second wife he chose Emma (Stevens) Hathaway, of Connecticut. By the first marriage there were three children: Walter J., a broker, who in recent years has resided in Florida on account of his health; James Irving, who studied mechanical engineering at the Wisconsin State University, is on the board of the Second Ward Savings Bank of Milwaukee and is now manager of the Branch office in Chicago, of the Guarantee Trust Company of New York city; and Charlotte Eleanor, at home. The second son made a wonderful record in athletics during his college days, establishing records in many-athletic sports and becoming famous as an all-round athlete. The daughter is a graduate of the Penn Hall College of Pennsylvania and has advanced far in musical studies. The family attends the Baptist church, and in social circles of the city occupies a very prominent and enviable position.
Fraternally Mr. Bush is identified with the Masons, having attained the thirty-second degree of the Scottish Rite and belonging to the blue lodge, chapter, commandery and Mystic Shrine. He is likewise a charter member of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks and a life member of the Knights of Pythias. In organizations of a more strictly social nature he is identified with the Country Club and he also belongs to the Illinois Athletic Club of Chicago. He is widely known in the metropolis as well as in the city and his residence through his business and social connections, and nature has well qualified him for leadership for mentally alert, he has developed his powers and adds to his ability geniality, unfeigned cordiality and ready appreciation for the rights, privileges and the excellent qualities of others.