Friday, March 14, 2014

George Peabody roots of success started in Newburyport



George Peabody was an American-British entrepreneur and philanthropist who founded the Peabody Trust in Britain and the Peabody Institute and George Peabody Library in Baltimore, and was responsible for many other charitable initiatives.  
History of Essex County, Massachusetts: With Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men, Volume 2 George Peabody, of London began his business career in Newburyport. He was born February 18, 1795, in that part of Danvers which in 1855 was incorporated as South Danvers and in 1868 named Peabody. He there received his early education, and in 1811, at the age of sixteen, left school and entered as clerk the store of his uncle, David Peabody, in Newburyport. His companions there in social life were Charles Storey, Abner Caldwell and Francis B. Somerby, and it was on the evening of the last of May, 1811, that these young men started for home from Hart’s tavern, where they had been bowling, and young Peabody, leaving Storey and Caldwell near the foot of Kent Street and Somerby at Market Street, proceeded on alone. On reaching Inn Street he saw flames bursting out from Lawrence’s stable and gave the alarm. This was the beginning of the great fire, as it is always called, which swept over sixteen and a. half acres of the most compactly built and the busiest part of the town. More than two hundred buildings were consumed between half-past nine o’clock in the evening and sunrise the next morning. Nearly all the shops for the sale of dry-goods, four printing-ofiices, the custom-house, the post-oilice, two insurance ofiices, four book-stores, one meeting-house and a hundred dwellings were consumed, and suffering and privation ensued which the warm-hearted liberality of Boston and other towns only partially alleviated.
From Mr. Peabody at the Essex County Fair
Date: Saturday, October 4, 1856
Paper: Daily Atlas (Boston, MA) Volume: XXV Issue: 81 Page: 2


Mr. Peabody remained with his uncle until some time after the fire, when he made arrangements to go into business in Baltimore. So well had he performed his duties as clerk, that he obtained from his uncle and Prescott Spalding and others a joint letter to James Reed, a large wholesale dry-goods dealer in Boston, offering to be security for Peabody in the aggregate sum of $2500 for goods which Mr. Reed might furnish to establish his store. The signers of the letter were all customers of Mr. Reed, who believing that he could trust the person in whom they put their faith, told him that $2500 would be rather a small amount to start a dry-goods store in Baltimore, and offered him goods to the amount of $2500 more to sell on commission for him, so that not only did Mr. Peabody learn his first business lessons in Newburyport, but to the merchants of that town he owed also that timely aid without which that career of prosperity and wealth upon which he afterwards entered may never have been begun.

Not long after he became a partner of Elisha Riggs in the dry-goods trade in New York, and afterwards ‘ again in Baltimore. During all this period he made occasional visits to Newburyport, and always remembered with pleasure his old friends in that town. A writer in the Newburyport Herald remembers hearing Frank Somerby on a morning in the summer of 1826 shout to Spalding, “ Here comes George Peabody.” “I looked,” says the writer, “and saw coming down the street a tall, fresh-looking, well-dressed man of about thirty years of age. He was swinging his right arm and shouting, ‘Hello! Frank.’ In a few moments there were a. dozen old friends gathered about him, and the warmth of the greeting gave ample evidence of the estimation in which he was held." This was his first visit to Newburyport since he left it twelve or thirteen years before.


In 1843, Riggs and Peabody separated, and their business, which had expanded and largely changed its character, was divided. Riggs took the Baltimore business, Peabody the London and Mr. Corcoran, who had been some time also a partner, took the Washington. His career in London is too well known to be restated. Out of his abundant wealth, without waiting for that separation from his riches which death must eventually cause, he preferred the bestowment of benefactions during his life. In 1852 he gave to his native town $20,000 for the foundation of an institute, and afterwards increased the amount to $200,000. He contributed $10,000 to the first Grinnell Arctic Expedition, and in 1857 gave $300,000 to found an institute of science, literature and the fine arts in Baltimore, afterwards increasing it to $1,400,000. For the benefit of the poor of London he gave in 1862 £500,000, in recognition of which the Queen presented him with her portrait, and the city of London presented him with the freedom of the city in a gold box, and after his death the citizens erected a statue to his memory. In 1866 he gave to Harvard College $150,000 to establish a museum and professorship of American Archaeology and Ethnology, and afterwards $150,000 to found a geological professorship in Yale College, and $2,000,000 to the Southern Educational Fund.

On the 20th of February, 1867, two years before his death, he gave to “ Edward Mosely, Caleb Cushing, Henry C. Perkins, Eben F. Stone and Joshua Hale, and their successors, the sum of $15,000 to be held by them in trust and kept permanently invested, and the income thereof used and applied in their discretion to the enlargement of the public library of the city of Newburyport."

Ebenezer Moseley From Clipper Heritage Trail

Moses Davenport
During the mayoralty of Moses Davenport he again visited Newburyport and-was introduced by him to the people. Among the crowd was a gray-haired veteran who, on taking him by the hand, said : “You do not remember me, Mr. Peabody." He at once replied : “You are Prescott Spaulding, and were a clerk in the store next to ours at the time of the fire in 1811, which drove me away from this good old town.” An old lady said: “Let me shake hands with you, Mr. Peabody ; you do not certainly remember me.” “Yes, I do,” said be, after a moment; “ I think you are Rebecca Tracy, and I am glad to see you. We will not tell these gentlemen about our playing whist forty years ago.”

Mr. Peabody was said to have had a love-affair in Newburyport, and it was further said that the father of the lady said: “ George is a very good young man, but he has no money and can never support you in the style you must live in." He died in London, November 4, l869.

Read a great tidbit about Peabody paying his tab at a tavern in Concord NH 




From  Monday, July 28, 1851 Paper: Salem Register (Salem, MA) Page: 2


 Dedication of the Danvers Archival Center at Memorial Hall, Spring of 1973.

From  Wednesday, January 7, 1857 Paper: Boston Evening Transcript (Boston, MA)



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