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Abram Stevens Hewitt

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Abram Stevens Hewitt (1822-1903)


1903 Obituary [1]

ABRAM STEVENS HEWITT was born in a log cabin. His father was sent to the States in 1790 by Boulton and Watt, and the mechanic, for such he was, helped to set up the first engine used in America. . .

. . . . In 1843 he was the acting-professor of mathematics at Columbia, and in 1845 he was admitted to the Bar. In that year the son of Peter Cooper, the great philanthropist, was in the graduating class at Columbia, but because of his delicate physical condition he did not keep up with his class. Peter Cooper engaged Hewitt to take his son on a tour abroad, and to act thereon as his tutor. Afterwards each of those young men became Mayor of New York.

On the return voyage the two young men were shipwrecked, and spent a day in an open boat on the high seas. This experience, in which Hewitt showed his devotion to his charge and to duty, set a seal on the intimacy of the men; and on their return, when Peter Cooper was about to embark his son in business, Hewitt was asked if he would accept a partnership in the concern. Peter Cooper was then, as he was for years after, in the glue business. He had, however, a small rolling mill near an iron mine he owned in what is now the town of Trenton, New Jersey. The new firm of Cooper, Hewitt and Company was formed of Edward Cooper, Abram S. Hewitt and Peter Cooper. The young men took charge of the works at Trenton, and Mr. Hewitt gave special attention to the making of steel, in which industry he became one of the first experts of the United States. The firm was the first to manufacture iron girders and supports to be used in fireproof buildings and bridges, and was the first to install a Bessemer converter. . . .

... He was married in 1855 to Sarah A. Cooper, the only daughter of Peter Cooper, and was the father of six children, of whom Peter Cooper Hewitt, the eldest son, is the discoverer of the Hewitt electric light and static converter....[more]


1903 Obituary [2]

ABRAM STEVENS HEWITT, who died in New York on January 18, 1903, in his eighty-first year, was a man whose long life, varied activities, and many services to industry and to the public earned him a great and enviable reputation.

He was born in Haverstraw, New York, in 1822, and was the son of an Englishman who went to America in 1790 as representative of the English firm of Boulton & Watt, and later assisted in putting up the first steam-engine works in the United States.

He passed a portion of his early days on a farm in Rockland County, but as he grew older he attended the New York public schools, and after passing through Columbia College he graduated in 1842, supporting himself while at college by teaching and by other work. After graduating he served for a couple of years as an instructor in the college, but was obliged to abandon this work on account of trouble with his eyesight.

In 1844 he made a visit to Europe, accompanied by his intimate friend, Edward Cooper. On the return voyage they were shipwrecked, and Mr. Hewitt reached New York in an almost penniless condition. He, however, resumed the study of law, which he had begun while still connected with the college, and was admitted to the bar in 1845. He did not practice, for at that time he was persuaded to enter into a business partnership with Edward Cooper; and Peter Cooper turned over to the new firm the iron branch of his business, which was not then in a very prosperous condition. The firm of Cooper & Hewitt then formed has continued to exist ever since, and was a pioneer in the establishment of many branches of iron manufacture in America. It was the first firm to manufacture iron girders and shapes, and the first to introduce the open hearth steel process. The firm, at a later period, controlled the Ringwood Mines and blast-furnaces, the Pequest furnaces in New Jersey, and the rolling-mills at Trenton and Durham, and had at one time as many as 5000 employees. From the first the firm was progressive, always ready to adopt improvements and to launch out into new branches of business, and its members assisted in some of the most important developments of the iron trade. During the American Civil War the firm of Cooper & Hewitt rendered essential services to the Government by the manufacture of gun and mortar carriages and other work for the army, and in 1862 Mr. Hewitt made a special visit to Europe to study the manufacture of gun-barrel iron, which was afterwards carried on at Isis works during the war.

In 1867 he was appointed one of the United States Commissioners to the Paris Exposition, and had special charge of the subject of iron and steel. His report to the Government, on the progress of the manufacture of that metal, was a document of great value, and was translated into many European languages. In 1855 he married a daughter of Mr. Peter Cooper, and from that time he was closely associated with Mr. Cooper in his philanthropic and educational schemes. He joined the American Institute of Mining Engineers very soon after its inauguration, and in 1876 he served as its president. His retiring address on "A Century of Mining and Metallurgy in the United States" attracted great attention. He served as president of the Institute a second time in 1889.

Although not a railroad man, he was interested in some railroad ventures. After the collapse of the New York & Oswego Midland in 1874, he was appointed receiver of the road, and helped in its reorganisation as the present New York, Ontario 34 Western. He also reorganised the Montclair Railroad, in which he was directly interested through its connection with his Ringwood property. He had some mining interests in Colorado; while in Montana he was one of the original owners of the Great Falls Smelter, afterwards consolidated with the East Helena Works. He was also interested in the Missouri River Power Company, which built the electric plant at Canyon Ferry in Montana, from which power is transmitted to Butte and other points. In recent years he received many honourable recognitions of his work. Is 1901 the Chamber of Commerce of New York presented him with a gold medal in recognition of his services to the city, in connection with public improvements, especially the rapid transit system. On his eightieth birthday he received many testimonials, and many eminent citizens joined in doing him honour, in a way seldom accorded to a living man.

In 1887 he was elected an honorary member of the Iron and Steel Institute, and on the occasion of the visit of the members of the Iron and Steel Institute to America in 1900 his services in the improvement of iron and steel manufacture and the admirable work he had done were recognised by the award of the Bessemer Gold Medal.


1903 Obituary [3]



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