THE ROMANCE AND TRAGEDY
THE ROMANCE AND TRAGEDY
WILLIAM INGRAHAM RUSSELL
TO MY WIFE
Who after more than forty years of married life
is still my sweetheart
TO MY READERS
A true story of a life I give you; not in its completion for it
is still unfinished. The romance of youth has lingered through all
the later years and the tragedy of these years could not destroy
it. In the manuscript tears have fallen on some pages smiles
on others and still others have been scorched with the fire of
Why is it written? To bear testimony to the love and devotion of a
noble woman; to set straight before the world certain matters now
misunderstood; to give evidence of the insincerity of friendship
that comes to one in prosperity only to vanish in adversity; and
also in the hope that an appreciative public will buy the book.
Not all the names used are fictitious and where they are so no
effort has been made to conceal identity.
No spirit of malice has animated the writer. Although his wounds
have been deep he knows now no feeling save sorrow and regret that
they should have been inflicted by his "_friends_"
WILLIAM INGRAHAM RUSSELL.
February 1 1905.
AUTHOR'S NOTE TO SECOND EDITION
This narrative first published in an author's autograph edition
limited to one thousand copies was privately circulated the entire
edition having been sold by the author through correspondence.
A second edition is now offered to the public. The original narrative
except for the correction of a few minor errors is unchanged and
added to it are two chapters disclosing a remarkable sequel and
also setting forth a lesson for the younger generation of business
men showing clearly how different would have been the conditions
had my wisdom come before my experience.
This latter chapter was written at the suggestion of an eminently
successful New York business man president of one of the largest
and oldest concerns in the United States.
WILLIAM INGRAHAM RUSSELL.
February 15th 1907.
AUTHOR'S NOTE TO THIRD EDITION
Why is it published?
The second Edition--long out of print still orders that could not
be filled were continually received. These have come from nearly
every State in the Union and as the book has never been advertised
other than by press reviews and the favorable comment of readers
this demand means something.
Perhaps if you read the narrative you will discover the answer.
WILLIAM INGRAHAM RUSSELL
August 23rd 1913.
I The First Round of the Ladder
II I Meet My Affinity
III A Co-Partnership Dissolved
IV And the Answer Was "Yes"
V Wedding Bells
VI A First Reverse of Fortune
VII The Coming of the Stork
VIII The New Partner
IX Suburban Life
X My Partner Retires
XI A Year of Sunshine
XII An Ideal Life
XIII Prosperous Days
XIV Near the Dark Valley
XV A Successful Maneuver
XVII Our Neighbors
XVIII An Uneventful Year
XIX The Stream Broadens
XXI The Dam Gives Way
XXII The Calm Before the Storm
XXIII "A Few Weak French Speculators"
XXIV Exciting Times
XXV "Come and Dance in the Barn"
XXVI An Importer and Dealer
XXVII Sad Hearts at Knollwood
XXVIII New Faces
XXIX A Short Year and a Merry One
XXX A Voucher
XXXI Two Sides to the Question
XXXII The Panic of Ninety-Three
XXXIII Farewell to "Redstone"
XXXIV A Summer on the Sound
XXXV Monmouth Beach
XXXVI The Ship Founders
XXXVII The Family and Friends
XXXVIII "W. E. Stowe & Co. Incorporated"
XXXIX The Struggle Commenced
XL The Struggle Continued
XLI Darkness Before the Dawn
XLII Brighter Days
XLIII Smooth Sailing Into Rough Waters
XLIV The Tyranny of the Jury Law
XLV Bitter Trials
XLVI At the Brink of the Grave
XLVII Again at the Helm
XLVIII A Nightmare
L A Dream
LI "From God and the King"
LII A Foundation Principle
Off for a drive
Eighty-sixth Street and West End Avenue
[ILLUSTRATION: The Author]
THE FIRST ROUND OF THE LADDER
NEW YORK February 23 1866.
"Master Walter E. Stowe:
"If you have not yet procured a situation please call at my office
45 Duane Street and oblige.
"Per T. E. D."
This letter came to me in response to my application for a
situation as an office-boy. I had replied to the advertisement in
the _Herald_ without consulting my parents knowing they would
raise objections to my leaving school.
My father one of New York's old-time shipping merchants running
a line of packets to Cuban ports had failed in business as a result
of losses during the war the crowding out of sailing vessels by
steamers and unfortunate outside investments.
It did not require great discernment to see the necessity of my
giving up all idea of going to Columbia College for which I was
preparing and thus before I was sixteen years of age I commenced
as an office-boy at a salary of three dollars per week. The position
in those days was vastly different from what it is to-day. The
work now done by janitors and porters fell to the office-boy and
my duties included sweeping and dusting the office cleaning windows
and in winter making fires.
This work menial and distasteful as it was to the boy brought up
in luxury was cheerfully undertaken and it is only referred to
here to show that my start was from the first round of the ladder.
My employer a north of Ireland man though frequently brusque with
others often to the detriment of his own interest always treated
me with consideration and probably my life at the office ran as
smoothly as that of any lad in similar position. The only other
employee was a younger brother of Mr. Derham who was taken in as
a limited partner shortly after I was employed. The firm carried on
a brokerage business requiring no capital and stood in the trade
as well and perhaps a little better than any of its competitors
of which there were but few.
Much of the business done by the firm consisted in the execution
of orders for out-of-town dealers and consumers but by far the
greater volume comprised the negotiations carried on between the
different importers and dealers of New York.
The entire business of the United States in their line of trade
was practically controlled by these importers and dealers. The
characteristics of the trade as they existed then exist to-day.
A few of the old firms have gone out of existence through failure
or liquidation and some accessions have been made chiefly of
foreign blood but most of the old concerns remain and though the
personality of these has changed through the departure of many on
the long journey and the taking of their places by their successors
the same spirit that was in evidence in the years immediately
following the war animates the trade to-day.
Admitting that sentiment has no place in business and brotherly
love is not to be expected amongst business competitors I feel
safe in saying that in no other trade has jealous rivalry so nearly
approached to personal animosity.
Preeminent in the trade stands a firm with name unchanged for
three generations of world-wide reputation for its wealth and the
philanthropy of its individual members past and present all of
whom have been prominent in New York's religious and social life.
Another firm only a few years ago discontinued a custom of hanging
on the walls of its offices scriptural texts. Of still another
firm the most active member is a leader of Brooklyn's annual
Sunday-school processions though he prides himself on his cold
blood and before leaving his home in the morning to go to his office
replaces his heart with a paving-stone. But why go on? Suffice it
to say that the trade is eminently respectable and rich in some
instances possessed of enormous wealth and this is the trade in
which I began my career.
My office life for the first two years was routine and devoid of
excitement except for occasional strenuous experiences the result
of Mr. Derham's brusqueness and quickness to resent anything that
he deemed an attempt to take advantage of or put a slight upon him.
He was the sort of man that makes a steadfast friend or a bitter
enemy with no room for anything in between.
"Walter take this contract to Winter and bring me his acceptance"
said Mr. Derham on one occasion when having made what in those
days was considered a large sale he was feeling particularly
good-natured over it.
"Yes sir" I replied and was off at once little knowing the
reception awaiting me in the Beaver Street office of Rudolph C.
On entering the office I approached Mr. Winter's desk and handed
him the contract. He glanced at it and then all the nervous
irritability for which that individual was noted came to the surface
at once. Springing up from his desk upsetting the chair in his
haste and rushing toward me he shouted:
"Here! take this back to Mr. Derham; tell him I won't have it!
I didn't sell it; get out!" And pushing me across the office he
opened the door and thrust me into the street throwing after me
my hat which had been knocked from my hand.
It did not take me long to get back to Mr. Derham and give him an
account of what had occurred.
In a fury he put on his hat and saying "come with me" we walked
rapidly to Winter's office. Entering the door with blood in his
eye Mr. Derham stepped up to the still wrathful merchant.
"Winter I understand you decline to accept this contract."
"But" began Winter when down on the desk came Mr. Derham's clenched
"No explanations now; sign first and then after you have apologized
to my messenger who is my representative when I send him to you
perhaps I'll listen and I am not sure I will not give you a good
The fury of Winter disappeared and in its place there was a very
mild spring. He signed the contract told me he was sorry he had
been so hasty and when I left them he was trying to pacify Mr.
On another occasion Mr. Brightman of Brightman & Smart a dignified
gentleman at that time acting as consul for the Netherlands called
at the office.
It appeared he had made a sale which he regretted and he called to
have it cancelled claiming that he had been induced to make the
sale through the alleged misrepresentation by Mr. Thomas Derham
of certain features of the market.
The argument became heated and Brightman called Thomas a liar.
His brother looked at him in silence for a moment long enough
to discover that he was lacking either in pluck or inclination to
resent the insult then springing at Brightman he literally threw
him out of the office.
These scenes though not of daily occurrence were frequent enough
to relieve the monotony of office life and at the same time to give
me a wholesome fear of incurring my employer's displeasure.
In the summer of 1868 Mr. Thomas Derham was married. For some
reason unknown to me his brother did not approve and a little
later differences arose between them the friction increasing until
finally a separation of their business interests was agreed upon.
Mr. Thomas Derham launched out on his own account and the competition
between the brothers became a bitter warfare all personal intercourse
At this time my salary was seven dollars per week and Mr. Derham
after the dissolution of partnership with his brother advanced it
to ten dollars.
As he was my only employer and there were no further advances later
this is the largest salary I was ever paid.
How large it looked to me then I remember well and although matters
had gone from bad to worse at home and most of my earnings had to
contribute to keep the pot boiling it seemed to me as if I were
rich the first Saturday night I carried home the ten-dollar bill.
From this time my position in the office became more dignified. A
woman was employed to do the cleaning and Mr. Derham delegated to
me the placing of many of the smaller orders and occasionally sent
me on business trips to near-by cities.
I worked hard and faithfully to make my services valuable.
I kept the books made collections attended to a portion of the
correspondence and it was not long before I had acquired a thorough
knowledge of the methods of doing the business and was able to carry
out transactions to a finish without having to consult my employer.
In October 1870 Mr. Derham told me he had decided to give up the
business and accept an offer which had been made him by one of the
large importing firms to go to England as its foreign representative.
He proposed that I take his business paying him for the good-will
twenty-five per cent of the profits for three years.
As I was not yet twenty years of age he thought me too young to
assume the business alone and advised a partnership on equal terms
with a Mr. Bulkley then doing a brokerage business in a line that
would work in well with ours it being his idea to combine the two.
Adam Bulkley a tall handsome fellow of thirty-five was a personal
friend of Mr. Derham. He was a captain in the Seventh Regiment
and had seen service. A man of attractive personality he had many
friends and had married the daughter of one of the wealthiest hide
and leather brokers in the "swamp."
I do not know why but in my first interview with this man I took
an aversion to him. I tried to convince Mr. Derham that I could
do better without a partner but he thought otherwise and not
unnaturally under the circumstances I allowed matters to take
their course as he planned them and the partnership was made for
a period of three years.
Early in November Mr. Derham sailed for England leaving as his
successor the firm of Bulkley & Stowe.
I MEET MY AFFINITY
My home was in Brooklyn. On my mother's side the family came from
the old Dutch settlers of that section of Greater New York. My
mother's father was a commissioned officer in the war of 1812. My
father came from Connecticut of English ancestry. I used to tell
my mother the only thing I could never forgive her was that I was
born in Brooklyn and I have never gotten over my dislike for the
place though it is nearly thirty years since I left there.
The family for generations back have been Episcopalians and from
earliest childhood I was accustomed to attend regularly Sunday-school
and church services.
After my father's failure we moved into a house on St. James Place
and our church home was old St. Luke's on Clinton avenue. Doctor
Diller the rector who lost his life in the burning of a steamboat
on the East River was a life-long friend of the family and my
social intercourse was chiefly with the young people of his church.
Mr. Sherman the treasurer and senior warden of the church and
superintendent of the Sunday-school a fine old gentleman now
gathered to his fathers was one of Hon. Seth Low's "Cabinet" when
he was Mayor of Brooklyn. Seth Low by the way is the same age as
myself and we were schoolmates at the Polytechnic Institute.
As librarian of the Sunday-school and one of the committee in charge
of the social meetings of the young people I became intimate with
Mr. Sherman and his family.
On December 20th 1870 the first sociable of the season was held
and I had looked forward to it with considerable interest owing
to the fact that a niece of Mr. Sherman residing in Chicago and
then visiting him for the winter was to be present. I had heard
the young lady spoken of in such glowing terms that I anticipated
much pleasure in meeting her.
When the evening came and I met Miss Wilson I must confess I was
not deeply impressed and I have since learned that the lady who
had heard much of me from her cousin Miss Sherman regarded me