Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Corning, Erastus

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CORNING, Erastus, merchant, b. in Norwich, Conn., 14 Dec., 1794; d. in Albany, N. Y., 9 April, 1872. At the age of thirteen he settled in Troy, where he served as a clerk in the hardware store of his uncle, Benjamin Smith. In 1814 he removed to Albany and entered the business house of James Spencer, becoming later a member of the firm. After inheriting the greater portion of his uncle's property, he became head of the extensive hardware house of Erastus Corning & Co. He also acquired a large interest in the Albany iron-works, which, under his management, became one of the largest industrial establishments in the United States. His attention was then directed to banking, a business which he followed for many years with success. His greatest work was in connection with the development of the railroad system of New York state. He was made president of the pioneer Albany and Schenectady line, and its extension was largely the results of his efforts. He was the master-spirit of the consolidation that made the great New York Central road, and was president of that corporation for twelve years, continuing as a director until his death. He became prominent in Albany politics, and held the office of mayor. From 1842 till 1845 he was a member of the state senate, and he was elected as a democrat to congress, serving from 7 Dec., 1857, till 3 March, 1859, and again from 4 July, 1861, till 3 March, 1863. He was again re-elected, but resigned on account of failing health. He was a member of the peace congress held in Washington in 1861. He was elected a regent of the University of the State of New York in 1833, and at the time of his death was vice-chancellor of the board. Mr. Corning acquired great wealth, and his estate at the time of his death was estimated at $8,000,000.