Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Havemeyer, William Frederick

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HAVEMEYER, William Frederick (haiv'-my-er), manufacturer, b. in New York city, 12 Feb., 1804; d. there, 30 Nov., 1874. His parents were German, and immigrated to this country in the latter part of the last century. The son received an excellent education in the best schools of the city, and was graduated at Columbia in 1823. He entered the sugar-refinery of his father, acquired a thorough knowledge of the business, and in 1828 succeeded to it, having his cousin as a partner. In 1842 he nominally retired from business with a handsome fortune, but retained an interest as silent partner for some years. From an early age he took a warm interest in politics and public affairs. He was a Democrat of the most uncompromising kind. His admiration and support of President Jackson were followed by friendly relations with President Van Buren, and correspondence passed between the two men in which Mr. Havemeyer vehemently urged the latter to be firm in spite of all popular outcry, and to imitate the example of the hero of New Orleans. While still a young man he became a director of the Merchants' exchange bank, and predicted the collapse of the U. S. bank years before that event occurred, and at a time when the utterance of such a prophecy was considered proof positive that his mind was diseased. In 1851 he was chosen president of the Bank of North America, and held the office for ten years, tiding that institution over the crisis of 1857. In 1844 he was a presidential elector on the Polk and Dallas ticket. In 1845 he was elected mayor of New York by a large majority, and re-elected in 1848. His administration was notable for the scrupulous care that he bestowed on all the business details of his office, the rigid way in which he scrutinized warrants to which his signature was required, and his earnest efforts for honesty and economy in public expenditure. In 1846 Mayor Havemeyer, together with Robert B. Minturn and Gulian C. Verplanck, strove to abolish the abuses practised on immigrants, and as a result of their efforts the board of emigration commissioners was established, of which Mr. Havemeyer was the first president. The present police system of the city was also founded during his mayoralty, night-watchmen before that time having been the only guardians of the peace. In 1859 he was again a candidate for mayor, but was defeated by Fernando Wood. During the war he was thoroughly loyal to the government, and urged the abolition of slavery as a war measure. Though immersed in business, to which he had returned, he found time during the few years after the war to protest most earnestly against the corruption and frauds that were rife in the city. When the reform movement began in earnest in 1871, Mr. Havemeyer was elected vice-president of the committee of seventy, and proved one of the most active members of that body. He assisted in organizing reform associations in all the assembly districts of the city, and his long political experience made him especially valuable in the canvass that resulted in the overthrow of the Tweed ring. He was chosen chairman of the memorable mass reform meeting held at Cooper institute, 4 Sept., 1871, and his speech on that occasion was one of the most fearless and outspoken of any in its denunciation of the official thieves. The meeting was composed of business and professional men who usually took no part in politics. In the autumn of 1872 he was nominated for mayor as representing the reform movement, and elected by a small majority. He assumed office, 1 Jan., 1873, and at his death had a month more to serve. His third term was not successful. The greater part of his time was spent in unseemly wrangles with the aldermen and other city officers; several of his appointments were injudicious, and an application was made to the governor for his removal from office, a step which the executive declined to take. Still, there was no doubt of his integrity. — His son, Henry, b. in New York city, 25 July, 1838; d. near Babylon, L. I., 2 June, 1886, was the fourth of six sons. He became a member of the family sugar-refining firm, which controlled more than half the entire sugar interest of the country. He was also engaged in the tobacco commerce. Although only forty-eight years of age at the time of his death, Mr. Havemeyer had long been a prominent Democrat and intimately associated with Samuel J. Tilden, and was appointed with him as a New York commissioner to the Centennial exhibition. He was at one time president of the Long Island railway, and built the iron pier at Rockaway. He was exceedingly popular, and often gave eccentric banquets at Oak island, off the Long Island coast, which he had purchased for that special purpose. Most of the latter years of his life were spent abroad.