A Classification of American Wealth
History and genealogy of the wealthy families of America - Sponsors

 Part 1 : Colonial and Mercantile America  Part 2 : America in the Gilded Age
 Part 3 : America in the Twentieth Century  Encyclopedia of American Wealth

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Chronicles of American Wealth / Nr 2 / July 4, 2001

  Content :

Now Online : Chapter 5 “Early Industrialists”
Introducing : Anson Greene Phelps - mercantile capitalist
How Connecticut became the armory of the Nation

Now Online : Chapter 5 “Early Industrialists

The long awaited Chapter 5 “Early Industrialists” rounds up part I of “A Classification of American Wealth” as it marks the doorstep between Mercantile America and The Gilded Age, the period which was characterized by fast growth and industrialization of our Nation and the building of huge fortunes in the process. Our early industrialists were before all merchants and patriots. In the Naval War of 1812, Britain used the full strength of its naval force to constraint American trade and show its former colony that it could never compete in the World markets. Yet, just by doing so, the British planted the seeds that would bring more emancipation to their former colony than any of the wars fought by our brave soldiers : industrialization. American merchants had to turn towards our own resources during the War of 1812 and thus the textile mills of New England, technically made possible by the photographic memory of immigrant Samuel Slater, became economical and proved the industrial vocation of the USA. The war also fuelled the mechanical industries of Connecticut, as thousands of muskets had to be produced, using methods which replaced workmen’s skills with technology. These seeds made America far richer and more powerful than Britain and any country in the world. Read just how it all began in Chapter 5 of A Classification of American Wealth.

 2. Introducing : Anson Greene Phelps – mercantile capitalist

Of an old Connecticut family. Orphaned at age ten, Anson Green Phelps (1781-1853) was apprenticed to a saddlemaker and later set himself up in business in Hartfort as a merchant. He traded saddles against cotton from Charleston SC which in turn he sold in New York and bought there the drygoods he marketed in his store. After the war of 1812, Anson Phelps moved to New York, where he associated himself to fellow Connecticut trader Elisha Peck, to form Phelps & Peck. The firm prospered and became New York's largest metal importer, with Phelps selling the metals in New York and buying cotton in the South which he exported to England. Peck handled the English end of the business in Liverpool. After the collapse of their new six story store at Cliff Street, the partnership was dissolved and Phelps took two of his sons-in-laws as partners to for Phelps, Dodge & Co in New York and Phelps, James & Co in Liverpool. Starting in 1834, Anson Greene Phelps involved himself in the brass industry which emerged in the Naugatuck valley in Connecticut. By the time of his death, some twenty years later, Phelps was one of the main factors in the copper and brass business, at the same time as Phelps Dodge & Co was the dominant metal importer. Ansonia, the industrial township he founded, stands as a monument to Phelps' enterprising spirit. Like other merchant capitalists, Anson Phelps had many other interests, including railroads, notably the New York & Erie, and banking. He owned a controlling interest in the Bank of Dover New Jersey, which was managed by his friend Thomas B. Segur. When he died in 1853, he left an estate exceeding $ 2 million, of which half was real estate in New York City and Ansonia. From his marriage to Olivia Eggleston, he had six daughters and one son Anson Phelps jr., who married but had no children. Three of his sons-in-law (Wiliam Earl Dodge, Daniel James and James Stokes) joined Phelps Dodge & Co and fathered one of New York's most renowned merchant dynasty. Read more about the famous Phelps-Dodge dynasty or browse through the profiles of other wealthy Americans of the past at Encyclopaedia of American Wealth.

 3. How Connecticut became the Armory of the Nation

The United States of America were born in a war, thus it is easy to understand that our founding fathers, notably George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, strongly favored the establishment of an armory industry. It’s location in Connecticut is historically due to establishment in this State “the Arsenal” at Springfield, strategically located on a hill. There, the Springfield Armory produced generations of firearms for 170 years, attracting the talented mechanics who grew the reputation of Connecticut’s tools shops. But it was through the achievements of the private entrepreneurs, Eli Whitney, Eliphalet Remington and later Samuel Colt and Oliver Winchester, that Connecticut gained its position as Armory of the Nation and tools-shop of America. Closely interrelated with the establishment of the mechanical mills was the copper and brass industry that developed in the Naugatuck valley, notably at Ansonia, where Anson Phelps established his own model town, easily recognized the “Lowell” of metal smelting. Read more about these pioneer armorers of our nation in chapter 5 of A Classification of American Wealth …  


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