CHAPTER III. ALEXANDER T. STEWART.
In the year 1818, a European vessel anchored in the harbor of New York, after a long and weary voyage from the Old World. She brought many passengers to the young metropolis, the majority of whom came with the intention of seeking fortunes in this land of promise.
Among them was a young Irishman who had left his home in his native land to seek in America the means of bettering his condition. This was Alexander T. Stewart. He was the son of Scotch-Irish parents, and was born in Belfast in 1802. Being only three years old when his father died, his grandfather took charge of him, and proved a kind and judicious guardian. As he was designed for the ministry by his relative, and as his own tastes inclined him to that profession, he was given a good common school education, and placed at college, where he made favorable progress in his class. He was particularly successful in the classics, and is said to retain his relish for them at the present day.
During his second term his grandfather died, and he was by this event obliged to leave college. Abandoning the idea of entering the ministry, he embarked for America, determined to make a fortune in the New World. He came sufficiently supplied with ready money to insure him against immediate want, and with letters of introduction which at once secured him an excellent social position.
After trying in vain for some time to secure employment in a business house, he obtained a position as assistant in a commercial school. This he soon resigned for a similar place in a more celebrated school. His salary here was $300, which was considered ample compensation in those days.
Not wishing to continue in this career, however, he opened a small retail dry goods store in New York, and began business on a humble scale. Here he remained until the age of twenty-one, manifesting no extraordinary business capacity, and in no way distinguished from the many small dealers around him. Upon reaching his majority he returned to Ireland, to look after the inheritance left him by his grandfather. The amount which thus came to him was nearly one thousand pounds, and the greater part of this he invested in "insertions" and "scollop trimmings," which he shipped to America by the vessel in which he returned. He rented a little store, on his return, at 283 Broadway, and there displayed his stock, which met with a ready sale at a fair profit.
Without mercantile experience, and possessing little advantage, save his own Scotch-Irish energy and courage, Mr. Stewart started boldly on what proved the road to fortune. No young merchant ever worked harder than he. From fourteen to eighteen hours each day were given to his business. He was his own book-keeper, salesman, and porter. He could not afford to employ help. Credit was hard to obtain in those days, and young merchants were not favorites with those who had such favors to bestow. Mr. Stewart was one of the least favored, inasmuch as he was almost a total stranger to the business community in which he lived. He kept a small stock of goods on hand, which he purchased for cash chiefly at the auction sales. He was a regular attendant at these sales, and his purchases were invariably "sample lots"—that is, collections of small quantities of various articles thrown together in confusion, and sold in heaps for what they would bring. He had these purchases conveyed to his store, and after the business of the day was over, he and his wife would take these "sample lots," and by carefully assorting them, bring order out of the confusion. Every article was patiently gone over. Gloves were redressed and smoothed out, laces pressed free from the creases which careless bidders had twisted into them, and hose made to look as fresh as if they had never been handled. Each article being good in itself, was thus restored to its original excellence. The goods were then arranged in their proper places on the shelves of the store, and by being offered at a lower price than that charged by retail dealers elsewhere in the city, met with a ready sale. Even at this low price the profit was great, since they had been purchased for a mere trifle. For six years Mr. Stewart continued to conduct his business in this way, acquiring every day a larger and more profitable trade. Here he laid down those principles of business and personal integrity from which he has never departed, and which have led-him to the honorable position he now holds.
"His first rule was honesty between seller and buyer. His career is a perfect exemplification of Poor Richard's maxim: 'Honesty is the best policy,' and of the poet's declaration: 'Nothing can need a lie,' His interest consorted with his inclination, his policy with his principles, and the business with the man, when he determined that the truth should be told over his counter, and that no misrepresentation of his goods should be made. He never asked, he never would suffer, a clerk to misrepresent the quality of his merchandise. Clerks who had been educated at other stores to cheat customers, and then to laugh off the transaction as 'cuteness,' or defend it as 'diamond cut diamond,' found no such slipshod morality at Stewart's little store, and learned frankness and fairness in representation at the peril of dismissal. Their employer asked no gain from deceit in trade. On his part, too, in buying, he rarely gave a seller a second opportunity to misrepresent goods to him.
"A second innovation of the young dry goods dealer was selling at one price—a custom which has also lasted without interruption, and which has spread to all the great houses. He fixed his price, after careful consideration, at what he thought the goods could and would bring, and would not deviate from it for any haggling, or to suit individual cases. Of course, he followed the fluctuations of the market, and marked his goods up or down in accordance with it; but no difference in the price was made to different people. Perhaps those who had some art in 'beating down' prices were offended, but people in general were pleased.
"The third principle he adopted was that of cash on delivery. It is said that his own early experience of buying on credit, and selling on credit, drove him to this rule.
"A fourth principle with him was to conduct business as business—not as sentiment. His aim was honorable profit, and he had no purpose of confusing it by extraneous considerations."
While still engaged in his first struggles in his little store, Mr. Stewart found himself called on to make arrangements to pay a note which would soon become due. It was for a considerable sum, and he had neither the money nor the means of borrowing it. It was a time when the mercantile community of New York regarded a failure to pay a note as a crime, and when such a failure was sure to bring ruin to any new man. Mr. Stewart knew this, and felt that he must act with greater resolution and daring than he had ever before exhibited, if he would save himself from dishonor. To meet the crisis he adopted a bold and skillful maneuver. He marked down every article in his store far below the wholesale price. This done, he had a number of handbills printed, announcing that he would sell off his entire stock of goods below cost, within a given time. He scattered these handbills broadcast through the city, and it was not long before purchasers began to flock to his store to secure the great bargains which his advertisements offered them. His terms were "cash," and he had little difficulty in selling. Purchasers found that they thus secured the best goods in the market at a lower figure than they had ever been offered before in New York, and each one was prompt to advise relatives and friends to avail themselves of the favorable opportunity. Customers were plentiful; the little Broadway store was thronged all day, and long before the expiration of the period he had fixed for the duration of his sales, Mr. Stewart found his shelves empty and his treasury full. He paid his note with a part of the money he had thus received, and with the rest laid in a fresh stock of goods. He was fortunate in his purchases at this time, for, as the market was extremely dull and ready money scarce, he, by paying cash, bought his goods at very low prices.
The energy, industry, patience, and business tact displayed by Mr. Stewart during these first years of his commercial life brought him their sure reward, and in 1828, just six years after commencing business, he found his little store too small and humble for the large and fashionable trade which had come to him. Three new stores had just been erected on Broadway, between Chambers and Warren Streets, and he leased the smallest of these and moved into it. It was a modest building, only three stories high and but thirty feet deep, but it was a great improvement on his original place. He was enabled to fill it with a larger and more attractive stock of goods, and his business was greatly benefited by the change. He remained in this store for four years, and in 1832 removed to a two-story building located on Broadway, between Murray and Warren Streets. Soon after occupying it, he was compelled, by the growth of his business, to add twenty feet to the depth of the store and a third story to the building. A year or two later a fourth story was added, and in 1837 a fifth story, so rapidly did he prosper.
His trade was now with the wealthy and fashionable class of the city. He had surmounted all his early difficulties, and laid the foundation of that splendid fortune which he has since won. The majority of his customers were ladies, and he now resolved upon an expedient for increasing their number. He had noticed that the ladies, in "shopping," were given to the habit of gossiping, and even flirting with the clerks, and he adopted the expedient of employing as his salesmen the handsomest men he could procure, a practice which has since become common. The plan was successful from the first. Women came to his store in greater numbers than before, and "Stewart's nice young men" were the talk of the town.
The great crisis of 1837 found Mr. Stewart a prosperous and rising man, and that terrible financial storm which wrecked so many of the best of the city firms did not so much as leave its mark on him. Indeed, while other men were failing all around him, he was coining money. It had always been his habit to watch the market closely, in order to profit by any sudden change in it, and his keen sagacity enabled him to see the approach of the storm long before it broke, and to prepare for it.
He at once marked down all his goods as low as possible, and began to "sell for cost," originating the system which is now so popular. The prices were very low, and the goods of the best quality. Every body complained of the hard times, and all were glad to save money by availing themselves of "Stewart's bargains." In this way he carried on a retail cash trade of five thousand dollars per day in the midst of the most terrible crisis the country has ever seen. Other merchants were reduced to every possible expedient, and were compelled to send their goods to auction to be sold for what they would bring, so great was their need of ready money. Stewart attended all these auctions regularly, and purchased the goods thus offered. These he sold rapidly by means of his "cost system," realizing an average profit of forty per cent. It is said that he purchased fifty thousand dollars worth of silks in this way, and sold the whole lot in a few days, making a profit of twenty thousand dollars on the transaction. Thus he not only passed through the "crisis," but made a fortune in the midst of it.
From that time to the present day his march to fortune has been uninterrupted. Nearly a quarter of a century ago he purchased the property which is now the site of his wholesale store, and commenced to erect the splendid marble warehouse which he still occupies. His friends were surprised at his temerity. They told him it was too far up town, and on the wrong side of Broadway, but he quietly informed them that a few years would vindicate his wisdom, and see his store the center of the most flourishing business neighborhood of New York. His predictions have been more than realized.
He moved into his new store in 1846, and continued to expand and enlarge his business every year. Some years ago he purchased the old Ninth-Street Dutch Church and the lots adjacent to it, comprising the entire block lying between Ninth and Tenth Streets, Broadway and Fourth Avenue. When he found the retail trade going up town, and deserting its old haunts below Canal Street, he erected a fine iron building at the corner of Broadway and Tenth Street, to which he removed the retail department of his business, continuing his wholesale trade at his old store on Chambers Street. This new "upper store" has increased with the business. The building now covers the entire block upon which it is erected, and is the largest, most complete, and magnificent establishment of its kind in the world.
Though he took no active part in politics, he was too much interested in public affairs, by reason of his immense wealth, not to watch them closely. He was satisfied, some time before our late troubles began, that war must come, and quietly made contracts with nearly all the manufacturers for all their productions for a considerable period of time. Accordingly, when the war did come, it was found that nearly all the articles of clothing, blankets, etc., needed for the army had been monopolized by him. His profits on these transactions amounted to many millions of dollars, though it should be remarked that his dealings with the Government were characterized by an unusual degree of liberality. The gains thus realized by him more than counterbalanced the losses he sustained by the sudden cessation of his Southern trade.
Fifty years have now passed away since the young school-teacher landed in New York, and he stands to-day at the head of the mercantile interests of the New World. In the half-century which has elapsed since then, he has won a fortune which is variously estimated at from twenty-five to forty millions of dollars. He has gained all this wealth fairly, not by trickery and deceit, or even by a questionable honesty, but by a series of mercantile transactions the minutest of which bears the impress of his sterling integrity, and by a patience, energy, tact, and genius of which few men are possessed. Surely, then, it must be a proud thought to him that he has done all this himself, by his own unaided efforts, and that amid all his wonderful success there does not rest one single stain upon his good name as a man or a merchant.
It is said that Mr. Stewart regards himself as a "lucky man," rather than as one who has risen by the force of his own genius. A writer in the New York Herald relates the following incident, as illustrative of the superstition which this feeling of "luck" has given rise to with him: "When he kept his store on Broadway, between Murray and Warren Streets, there sat on the sidewalk before it, on an orange box, an old woman, whose ostensible occupation was the selling of apples. This business was, however, merely a pretense; the main object being beggary. As years rolled on, Mr. Stewart became impressed with the idea that the old dame was his guardian angel of good luck, and this impression took so firm a hold upon his mind that when he removed to Chambers Street, he, in person, took up the old woman's box, and removed her to the front of his new establishment. In further illustration of Mr. Stewart's faith in the Irish traditional belief in 'lucky' and 'unlucky' persons, it may be mentioned that, after the completion of the St. Nicholas Hotel in this city, an undertaking in which he was largely interested, and when the building was just about to be opened for the reception of guests, the millionaire, standing in the drawing-room, ejaculated, 'It is now finished; I hope its first visitors may be lucky people.'
"A gentleman present, who had heard of Mr. Stewart's care for the aged apple vendor, remarked, 'I presume, sir, you do not in reality care about lucky or unlucky persons;' to which he immediately replied, 'Indeed, I do. There are persons who are unlucky. I sometimes open a case of goods, and sell the first from it to some person who is unlucky, and lose on it to the end. I frequently see persons to whom I would not sell if I could avoid it.'"
The first incident, if true, doubtless illustrates the quiet kindness with which Mr. Stewart watches over the poor that he takes under his care—and they are many. He has won his success too fairly to be a believer in mere luck. There is no such thing as chance in this world. Men are the architects of their own fortunes.
One of the principal reasons of his success is the rigid system with which he conducts his business. He has a place for every thing, and a time for every duty, and requires the same regularity from his subordinates. His salesmen and managers are thoroughly versed in their duties, and the more important of them are selected with great care. Every thing works smoothly under the master's eye, and there is a penalty for each and every delinquency, which is rigidly exacted.
Mr. Stewart is one of the hardest workers in his establishment. His partners relieve him of the details, but the general management of his immense business he trusts to no other hands. His eye is on every thing. He is familiar with every detail, though he does not take upon himself its direction. He goes to his business between nine and ten in the morning, stopping first at his upper store. He makes a brief but thorough inspection here, and learns the general progress of the day, and then repairs to his lower or wholesale store, where he remains during business hours, and returns home between five and six in the afternoon, stopping again at the upper store. He works hard, and is never absent from his post unless detained by sickness.
His time is valuable, and he is not willing to waste it.
Many persons endeavor to see him merely to gratify their impertinent curiosity, and others wish to intrude upon him for purposes which would simply consume his time. To protect himself, he has been compelled to resort to the following expedient: A gentleman is kept on guard near the main door of the store, whose duty is to inquire the business of visitors. If the visitor wishes to see Mr. Stewart, the "sentinel" informs him that he must first state his business to him. If the visitor urges that it is private, he is told that Mr. Stewart has no private business. If his errand meets the approval of the gentleman on guard, he is allowed to go up stairs, where he is met by the confidential agent of the great merchant, to whom he must repeat the object of his visit. If this gentleman is satisfied, or can not get rid of the visitor, he enters the private office of his employer and lays the case before him. If the business of the visitor is urgent he is admitted, otherwise, he is refused an interview. If admitted, the conference is brief and to the point. There is no time lost. Matters are dispatched with a method and promptitude which astonish strangers. If the visitor attempts to draw the merchant into a friendly conversation, or indulges in useless complimentary phrases, after the matter on which he came is settled, Mr. Stewart's manner instantly becomes cold and repelling, and troublesome persons are sometimes given a hint which hastens their departure. This is his working time, and it is precious to him. He can not afford to waste it upon idlers. In social life he is said to be exceedingly affable.
The greater portion of Mr. Stewart's immense fortune is invested in real estate. Besides his two stores on Broadway, he owns the Metropolitan Hotel and the New York Theater, also on Broadway; nearly all of Bleecker Street from Broadway to Depauw Row, several churches, a number of buildings, and many valuable lots. He resides at the north-east corner of the Fifth Avenue and Thirty-fourth Street. Immediately opposite he is building one of the finest residences in the world, and the most superb in America. He owns more real estate than any man in America except William B. Astor, and is the most successful merchant in the world.
Mr. Stewart is said to be extremely liberal in his donations to objects which meet with his sympathy. The majority of these donations are quietly made, as he has a repugnance to public charities. He gave liberally to the cause of the Union during the war. During that struggle he sent a cargo of provisions to Ireland, where much distress existed, and then invited as many emigrants as the vessel would carry to take passage to America in her, free of charge. One hundred and thirty-nine persons availed themselves of his offer, and upon reaching America were all provided with good situations by him. At present he is engaged in erecting on the Fourth Avenue a large building, in which homes will be provided for poor working females, at a small expense to them. It is said that this noble project will require an outlay of several millions of dollars. His friends—and he has many—speak of him as exceedingly kind and liberal, and seem much attached to him.
As I have said before, Mr. Stewart has not cared for political distinction, but has rather shunned it. He was a member of the Union Defense Committee during the war, and in 1866 was one of the signers of the Saratoga address, calling on the people of the country to sustain the policy of President Johnson. His warm friendship for General Grant caused him to be one of the earliest advocates of the election of the latter to the Presidency. He was a candidate for Presidential Elector on the Republican ticket for the State of New York, but was defeated, with his associates, by the Democracy.
His intimate relations with General Grant, together with his vast financial experience, induced many persons to believe that he would be offered a place in the Cabinet of the new President. These expectations were realized by his nomination to the post of Secretary of the Treasury, on the 5th of March, 1869, and his immediate and unanimous confirmation by the Senate. He was about to enter upon his new duties, when it was discovered that there existed an old and almost forgotten law forbidding any merchant from becoming the head of the Treasury Department. As soon as this discovery was made, Mr. Stewart expressed his desire to withdraw from the position, and thus relieve the President of all embarrassment upon the subject, but the latter, wishing, if possible, to retain him in the Cabinet, urged him to delay his action, with the hope that the difficulty might be obviated. Willing to oblige his friend, and anxious to serve the country, Mr. Stewart consented to do this, but finding that certain persons were seeking to make his nomination a source of trouble to the Administration, offered either to resign the place or to relinquish his entire interest in his business during the period of his Secretaryship, and to donate his immense profits for that time to the poor of the city of New York. This sacrifice, he hoped, would render him eligible; but the President was unwilling to accept the princely offer—the noblest ever made by any man—and Mr. Stewart finally withdrew from the contest.
There can be no doubt that he would have been the best Secretary that could have been placed at the head of the Treasury. His great financial experience and his unquestioned ability were better qualifications than those possessed by any politician in the land. Perhaps the best proof of the satisfaction which his appointment produced in the minds of the thinking men of the country is the manner in which the news affected the money market. Gold fell as soon as the announcement was made.
Few strangers ever come to New York and depart without visiting Stewart's famous store at the corner of Tenth Street and Broadway. The lower, or wholesale store, is far more important to its owner; but it conducts its operations exclusively with dealers, and in such a quiet and systematic way that it seems to attract but little attention among the masses. It is the upper or retail store that is the wonder of the great city in which it is located.
It is constructed of iron, in the style of arcade upon arcade, and is lighted by numerous windows. It fronts two hundred feet on Broadway, and three hundred feet on Ninth and Tenth Streets. It covers an area of about two acres, is five stories and an attic in height, and has two cellars underneath. It is warmed by steam, and contains several steam-engines for hoisting goods, running the machines employed in the manufacturing department, and forcing water into the immense tank at the top of the building. Six elevators and several handsome stairways connect the various floors. Three of the elevators are used for conveying customers up and down, and the others for hoisting and lowering goods. The building is lighted by several thousand gas jets, which are all set aflame simultaneously by electricity.
The various floors, with the exception of the first, are broken only by a rotunda, which extends to the roof, and is inclosed at each floor by a massive iron balustrade. Leaning over one of these balustrades, and looking up or down, the sight is brilliant and attractive. Thousands of persons are scattered about the floors making purchases. Hundreds of clerks, salesmen, and cash boys are busy serving them, and the buzz and hum of human voices under the vast roof sounds like the droning of a hive of bees.
The service of this immense establishment is arranged as follows: There is one general superintendent, with nineteen assistants, each of whom is at the head of a department. Nine cashiers receive and pay out money; twenty-five book-keepers keep the record of the day; thirty ushers direct purchasers to the department they seek; two hundred cash boys receive the money and bring back the change of purchasers; four hundred and seventy clerks, a few of whom are females, make the sales of the day; fifty porters do the heavy work, and nine hundred seamstresses are employed in the manufacturing department. Besides these, there are usually about five hundred other persons employed about the establishment in various capacities, bringing the total strength of the personelle of the house to twenty-two hundred.
The accounts of each department are kept separate, and the sales of each for
the day constitute a separate return. These sales will average something like
the following figures:
The total daily receipts average $60,000, and have been known to amount to $87,000.
Salaries of subordinate clerks range from $5 to $25 per week. The cash boys receive $5 per week. If not fined for misconduct they receive a reward of $1 per month, and a further reward of $5 at the end of each half year. They are promoted as fast as their conduct and vacancies in the force of salesmen will allow. The number of employés being so large, the proprietor is compelled to keep them under the constant espionage of two experienced detectives, and each evening when they leave the store they are required to do so through a private door on Ninth Street, where the detectives are stationed to see that none of them carry away articles which do not belong to them.
The number of visitors to the establishment in the busy season is very large. On special occasions, such as opening days, it is said to have reached fifty thousand, but the general average is placed at fifteen thousand, and they represent every grade in life. Rich and poor mingle here freely.
The floors are arranged simply, and with regard to business rather than for show, but every thing is elegant and tasteful. The sub-cellar is used as a store-room for goods in cases. Here the fabrics are opened and sent to their departments. The cellar is the carpet sales-room. The first floor is the general sales-room, and is the most attractive place in the building. It is three hundred feet long by two hundred wide, and is provided with one hundred counters, each fifty feet in length. Behind these counters the goods are arranged, with no effort at display, on the shelves, which rise but a few feet above the counters. There is an abundance of light in all parts of the house, especially over the silk counters, which are just under the rotunda. The second floor is taken up with ladies' suits, shawls, curtain goods, etc., and the next floor is devoted to the same purpose. The fourth floor is used as a manufactory for making up the suits, etc., placed on sale or ordered by customers; on the fifth is the fur-room and upholstery manufactory; and the sixth is occupied as a laundry. The most perfect order is maintained in every part of the establishment, the mere direction of which requires administrative ability of a very high character.
As fast as the sales are made, the articles, unless taken away by the purchaser, are sent to the parcel desk, which is located in the cellar. This is the busiest department in the house, and one of the most important. Each order is accompanied by a ticket stating the quality and amount of the goods, the price, and the address of the purchaser. It is remeasured and examined here, so that any error on the part of the salesman may be detected and repaired. Errors of this kind, however, are rare, and the burden of the labor in this department consists of making the goods up into secure packages and sending them to their destinations. The tickets delivered at the parcel desk are then sent to the checking desk, which is also in the basement, where they are compared with those delivered by the salesmen to the cashiers, and if no error is discovered, the goods are sent to the wagons for delivery.
The wagon department constitutes a very important branch of the business. The vehicles and horses are accommodated in a fine stable on Amity Street, near Broadway. The building was formerly a Baptist church, and was presided over by the Rev. Dr. Williams. When the congregation went higher up town, they sold the old church, which found a purchaser in Mr. Stewart. He converted it into a stable, and has since more than doubled its size. The floor was taken up, a sewer built to carry off the waste water, and the place paved with brick and cement. It is now one of the best stables in the city. It contains over forty horses, and five grooms are on hand to attend to them. There are eight wagons employed at the up-town store to deliver parcels to purchasers, while thirteen single wagons are used by the lower store to cart single cases around town. In addition to these, there are ten double trucks to haul heavy goods. Twenty-seven drivers are employed, and thirteen hundred bushels of oats and fifty tons of hay are fed out during a year. The place is in charge of a watchman at night, and during the day is managed by a superintendent. At half-past eight the trucks report at the down-town store, and remain there all day. At the same moment one of the light wagons is dispatched to the retail store, and at once takes out the early sales. In an hour another wagon follows it, and this course is pursued all day until six o'clock, when the last wagon takes the last sales. By this system purchasers receive their parcels with dispatch, and the immense business of the day is entirely finished. Every week the superintendent of the stables makes a report of the condition of the horses and wagons, and this "stable report" is carefully inspected at head-quarters. In case of sickness or stubborn lameness, the horses are sent to the country to recruit.
Mr. Stewart has a farm at Tuckahoe, where the invalid horses are kept, and where much of their provender is raised. This farm is noted for the valuable marble quarry which furnished the stone from which his new mansion on Fifth Avenue is built.
The retail store contains fabrics of every description and price. The wife of a millionaire can gratify her fancy here to its utmost limit, while the poor sewing-girl can obtain her simple necessities at the same price which is demanded for them from the rich. In the shawl department, there are "wraps" worth as much as $4,500, but not more than one or two find a purchaser in the course of a year. Shawls at $3,000 find a sale of about twenty a year, and the number of purchasers increases as the price diminishes. The wealthy ladies of New York deal here extensively. One of the clerks of the establishment recently made a statement that a fashionable lady ran up a bill of $20,000 here in two months.
Mr. Stewart, though leaving the details of the retail business in the hands of Mr. Tuller, the general superintendent, yet keeps himself thoroughly informed respecting it, and exercises over it a general supervision, to which its increasing success is due. He knows exactly what is in the house, how much is on hand, and how it is selling. He fixes the prices himself, and keeps them always at a popular figure. He is said to have an aversion to keeping goods over from one season to another, and would rather sacrifice them than do so. He has no dead stock on hand. His knowledge of the popular taste and its variations is intuitive, and his great experience enables him to anticipate its changes.
"There can not be so much selling without proportionate buying, and Stewart is as systematic in the latter as the former. Of late he has not acted personally in making purchases, but has trusted to the system which he organized some years ago, and which he has found to admirably answer as his substitute. He has branch establishments exercising purchasing functions only in Boston and Philadelphia, in the United States; in Manchester, England; and in Paris and Lyons, France. But while these are his agencies, his buyers haunt the marts of the whole world. There is no center of commerce or manufacture of the wide range of articles in which he deals, on either of the continents, where he is not always present by deputy to seize upon favorable fluctuations of the market, or pounce upon some exceptionally excellent productions. He owns entire the manufactory of the celebrated Alexandre kid-glove. He has a body of men in Persia, organized under the inevitable superintendent, chasing down the Astrachan goat heavy with young, from which the unborn kids are taken and stripped of their skins, thus sacrificing two animals for every skin obtained. He rifles Lyons of its choicest silks, the famous productions of Bonnet and Ponson. Holland and Ireland yield him the first fruits of their looms. Belgium contributes the rarest of her laces, and the North sends down the finest of its Russian sables. All the looms of France, England, Belgium, and the United States are closely watched, and the finest fabrics in dress goods, muslins, carpets, and calicoes are caught up the moment the workmen put on the finishing touches. He buys for cash the world over, and is a customer every-where so recognized as desirable that he has his choice of industrial productions, and on more advantageous terms than his rivals can purchase what he leaves. He has been so long in the business, and has become so thoroughly versed in the productions of different looms in different countries, that it is now his practice to select certain mills noted for excellence of work, and take their entire supply, and thus it happens that there are many looms in the busiest haunts of the Old and New Worlds that toil unceasingly on his account.
"By buying thus largely in foreign lands, he is, of course, the largest importer in the nation, and his duties average $30,000 gold per day. Every year his business steadily increases, and there is apparently no practical limit at which it will stop. As prudent in vast affairs as other men are in small, he insures liberally, and has policies renewed every third day throughout the year. But, while leaning upon the insurance companies, he is utterly independent of the banks; he has never asked one of them to 'carry' him through a crisis, and should such a contingency arise, there is no bank in the world competent to the task."
Mr. Stewart is now sixty-eight years old, but looks much younger, being still as vigorous and active, both mentally and physically, as most men of forty-five. He is of the medium size, has light-brown hair and beard, which are closely trimmed. His features are sharp, well cut, his eye bright, and his general expression calm and thoughtful. His manner is reserved, and to all but his intimate friends cold. He dresses with great simplicity, but with taste, and in the style of the day. His habits are simple, and he avoids publicity in all things. Standing as he does at the head of the mercantile interests of the country, he affords a fine example of the calm and dignified manner in which a man of true merit may enjoy his legitimate success, and of the good use he may make of its fruits.