The Cyclopædia of American Biography/Sorg, Paul John
|The Cyclopædia of American Biography (1918)
Sorg, Paul John
SORG, Paul John, b. in Wheeling, W. Va., 23 Sept., 1840; d. in Middletown, Ohio, 28 May, 1902. He came of that sturdy and enterprising German stock which has left so many landmarks in the history of the state, particularly in Cincinnati, at one time the metropolis of the West. He attended the common schools until the age of twelve, when the family joined the swelling tide of immigration westward settling in Cincinnati. Following the thrifty custom of the average western settler in those days, he was as soon as he grew strong enough put to making his own living and lightening the burdens of the family. He began at the trade of a molder in the large shops of Adams, Peckover and Company. Here he at once began to discover that remarkable intelligence and executive force which afterward made him one of the most influential men of his section, and was advanced rapidly till he finally reached the post of superintendent of the foundry. But his mind was already working in other directions and foreseeing the enormous demand in the great and growing West for tobacco, and being next door to what he foresaw was to become the largest tobacco-growing district in the world, he formed at the early age of twenty-four a partnership with John Aver for the manufacture of plug tobacco. His aim was to produce in immense quantities at the lowest possible price the cheaper grades of home-grown tobacco. The enterprise finally grew to be the largest in Ohio, and exceeded only in size by one other in the United States. Thus by keen foresight and judgment, combined with marvelous executive capacity, were the foundation of his great fortune laid in his early twenties. An important change in the business entailing the addition of needed capital was admission of Robert Wilson to the firm in 1872, the style becoming Wilson, Sorg and Company. The works were removed to Middletown where expenses were less, and the chances of expansion just as good. The concern is called to-day, from its founder, the Paul J. Sorg Tobacco Company, and is a branch of the great Continental Tobacco Company. The size to which the business had grown during his lifetime may be estimated from the fact that its international revenue payments for thirty-five years were stated in terms of millions of dollars. Aside from his business, Paul J. Sorg grew to be the loading spirit of Middletown in every branch of local enterprise, and the town as it stands to-day is a living monument to his memory. He not only built up the community directly by the erection of public buildings, but he was always on the lookout to offer prompt and powerful inducements to manufacturing coneerns to settle in Middletown. The Sherry Drill Works moved thither through his efforts and developed from a small beginning to a nation-wide trade. His keen eye saw the future of the bicycle industry in its earliest beginnings, and he may have even foreseen the great war of the nations which was to come only a few years after his death, for his development of the Miami Cycle Company included, first, the introduction of its wheeled productions into every market, and second, the manufacture of shells and shrapnel which were immediately in demand by the United States government. Fully realizing the vital necessity of railroads to the growth of a western community, he was the chief instrument in securing for Middletown a branch of the great Panhandle System, known as the M. and C. Railroad. He was the good genius of the town at critical periods. When the Merchants' National Bank stood on the verge of failure, he purchased a controlling interest in its stocks and set the wheels in motion again, saving many depositors among his fellow townsmen from serious loss. He financed the Middletown Paper Company, in a period of nation-wide depression that had forced it to close down, and its employees returned to work. He took charge of the affairs of the Middletown Gas Company at a critical period due to poor management, and brought it back to prosperity. In the Middletown Opera House, he gave the town a splendid theater, and in the United States Hotel, a hostelry equal to the best in the state outside of the great cities. All his life long he was an active Democrat, although he never sought political honors — as a result of his prominence in public affairs the honors sought him, and in 1894 he was elected to Congress to fill the unexpired term of George W. Houk, being re-elected the ensuing November for the full term of three years. His Congressional record, like his life at home, was marked by a special desire for helpfulness, and he will be remembered in that body, as well as by hundreds of the men of the Grand Army, for his success in promoting measures of assistance to the old soldiers. He died in Middletown, 28 May, 1902. He was married in 1876, to Jannie Gruver, of Middletown, Butler County, Ohio, who survived him. Two children, Paul Arthur and Ada Gruver Sorg, are the fruits of this union. His son, Paul A. Sorg, was elected president of the Merchants' National Bank, on obtaining his majority, being at that time the youngest national bank president in the United States.