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Daniel Drew


IT would seem probable to an abstract reasoner that men whose early advantages for education were very limited, but who by their enterprise and native capacity for business have amassed large fortunes, would not bestow any considerable portion of their hard earned wealth on educational institutions, however charitable might be their disposition toward other objects. Experience proves this deduction incorrect. The largest benefactors to education, in the present age certainly, have been men who not only never received instruction within college walls, but had but a scanty share even of the ordinary advantages of the district school. Peabody, Vassar, Cornell, Packer, Jay Cooke, are all examples of this, and the subject of our present sketch is not less remarkable in this respect than the others.

DANIEL DREW was born at Carmel, Putnam county, New York, July 29th 1797. His early years were passed on his father's farm, and his education in youth was only such as a country district school in that rocky farming county afforded. When fifteen years old his father died, leaving him to carve a fortune for himself. He directed his attention chiefly to the 
personal driving of cattle to market, and selling them, until 1829, when he made New York city his permanent residence, and there continued the cattle trade by establishing a depot, and purchasing largely through agents and partners. In 1834, Mr. Drew was induced to take a pecuniary interest in a steamboat enterprise. From that time his history is identified with the inception and growth of the steamboat passenger trade on the Hudson river. By shrewd management, low rates of fare and good accommodations, the line which Drew promoted grew in favor with the travelling community, notwithstanding the powerful opposition brought to bear on it by other steamboat men, among whom was Commodore Vanderbilt. Competition ran so high, that at one time the steamboat Waterwitch, in which Drew had invested his first venture, carried passengers to Albany for a shilling each.

In 1840, Mr. Isaac Newton formed a joint stock company, in which Drew became the largest stockholder. This was the origin of the famous "People's Line," which commenced business by running new, large, and elegantly fitted-up steamboats, and from time to time added new and improved vessels to their running stock. When the Hudson river railroad was opened in 1852, it was confidently expected by many that the steamboat interest was doomed. Drew thought otherwise, and refused to accept the advice of his friends, who admonished him to sell his boats and withdraw from a business about to fail. The event justified his course. The railroad served but to increase travel, and rendered the steamboats more popular than ever.  

The large steamers now attached to the "People's Line," which command the admiration of every visitor and traveler on account of their superb decorations, and the extent and comfortable character of their accommodations, attest the prosperity attendant upon the management, a leading spirit of which Mr. Drew has been from the beginning. The Dean Richmond, St. John, and Drew are unsurpassed for model, machinery, speed, and finish, by any river steamboats in the wide world.

Mr. Drew has not only boldly adventured in "steamboating," but has won reputation and wealth in the much more uncertain sphere of stock-brokerage. In 1840 he formed a co-partnership with Mr. Nelson Taylor and Mr. Kelly, his son-in-law, in that business, which was carried on with marked success for more than ten years. Both these partners, although much younger than Mr. Drew, are sleeping in the tomb, while he is still employing some of his large capital in the same line through confidential hands. He has been for some years past an active director and very large stockholder in the Erie and several other of our trunk railroads, and his transactions in the stocks and bonds of these roads have been very large.

The noble deed which has brought him into special prominence, and rendered his name, like those of Cornell and Peabody, a synonym for active benevolence; is the founding of the 
Drew Theological Seminary, at Madison, Morris county, New Jersey. To this end Mr. Drew, at the recent centennial of Methodism, offered half a million dollars. The property purchased for the seminary is pleasantly situated in one of the most thriving towns, and in the midst of some of the finest scenery in northern New Jersey. Its distance from New York city is only twenty-eight miles. Besides this large benefaction, Mr. Drew has contributed extensively to various religious and educational institutions, among which the Wesleyan University and the Concord Biblical Institute are prominent. To these institutions he has given in all about $150,000.

In Putnam county he owns upward of a thousand acres of land, on which large numbers of cattle are raised for the market. The pursuits of his early manhood have for him still 
strong attractions, but here again his management is marked by a generous spirit. On this estate he has been chiefly instrumental in the building of a church and school-house.  In the latter, the advantages of a good education are afforded gratuitously to the children of the place. He has also established and endowed with about two hundred and fifty thousand dollars an excellent female seminary at Carmel, the county scat of this county, intended for the higher education of young women of the Methodist Church, to which he has recently made over this princely gift.

In form and physiognomy Mr. Drew is not especially impressive. His height is about six feet, his person slender, and his general expression and manner unassuming and mild, but firm.  He stands before us as an example of the persevering, energetic, shrewd, and successful business man, and not only so, but also as an example of the practical workings of an earnest and sincere philanthropy.

Source: Men of Our Day; or Biographical Sketches of Patriots, Orators, Statesmen, Generals, Reformers, Financiers and Merchants, Now on the state of Action: Including Those Who in Military, Political, Business and Social Life, are the Prominent Leaders of the Time in This Country, by L. P. Brockett, M. D., Published by Ziegler and McCurdy, Philadelphia Penna; Springfield, Mass; Cincinnati, Ohio; St. Louis, Mo., 1872 

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