The Cyclopædia of American Biography/Sulzberger, Ferdinand

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The Cyclopædia of American Biography  (1918) 
James E. Homans, editor
Sulzberger, Ferdinand

SULZBERGER, Ferdinand, meat packer, b. in Obergrombach, Grand Duchy of Baden, Germany, in February, 1842; d. in Constance, Germany, 6 Aug., 1915, son of Moses and Theresa (Schrag) Sulzberger, and a descendant of the Sulzberger family, which came from the town of Sulzberg, in Bavaria. He spent his early life on his father's farm, attending the public and high schools. He had intended to fit himself for a teacher, but later decided upon a business career, and entered the office of a mercantile firm in Frankfort, Germany. Upon attaining his majority, in 1863, he came to America, settling in New York City. For a short time after his arrival he worked as a clerk. He then entered a small slaughtering business that had been established some ten years before by Joseph Schwarzschild, forming the partnership of Schwarzschild and Sulzberger, and began the building of the great business now conducted by Sulzberger and Sons Company. When Mr. Sulzberger entered the business the slaughtering by it of fifty cattle per week was considered a large output. Under his energetic management the growth of the business was rapid and permanent, and he lived to see the results of his untiring labors in the form of one of the largest packing industries in the world, with large packing plants in New York, Chicago, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, and Buenos Aires, distributing their products by means of branch houses throughout the United States, as well as in British North America, Cuba, Porto Rico, England, and on the continent of Europe. Mr. Sulzberger's ambition was to build up a great business, and he lived to see that ambition realized. In 1892 the business of the firm of Schwarzschild and Sulzberger had outgrown the capacity of the New York plant, and the firm was compelled to seek a plant in the West. Negotiations were conducted during the latter part of 1892, and very early in 1893, which resulted in the formation in the latter year of a corporation under the name of Schwarzschild and Sulzberger Company, and the acquisition by it of the plant and business of the partnership of Schwarzschild and Sulzberger, and the property and business formerly of the Phoenix Packing Company, which consisted of a packing plant at Kansas City, Mo., with a few distributing branches in the East, and a refrigerator car line known as “Cold Blast Transportation Company.” The Kansas City plant immediately upon its acquisition by the new corporation was enlarged to several times its original capacity. New machinery and facilities of the most modern kinds were added, and in a very short time the business, both domestic and foreign, began to assume enormous proportions. Branches were rapidly established in various sections of this country, and the export business was greatly increased. So great was the success of the business that, in 1900, the demands for its products exceeded the capacity of its two plants, and in that year it constructed the great Chicago plant, which is conceded by many to be the finest packing plant in the world. With the new Chicago plant were added new branches in this country and abroad. From that date the growth has been rapid. In 1910 the business was extended by the construction of a packing plant at Oklahoma City, again in 1911 by the acquisition of a plant in Los Angeles, and during the past year it has begun the operation of a large plant at Buenos Aires. In September, 1910, the business of Schwarzschild and Sulzberger Company was merged into Sulzberger and Sons Company, which Mr. Sulzberger shortly before had caused to be organized under the laws of New York. During these years of business expansion the controlling personality had made itself known and the name of Ferdinand Sulzberger ranked high in the business community, having risen from the ranks by the sheer superiority of his intellect, by his unbounded energies and labor, and by his notable fairness to all. His was that rare combination of strength and sympathy. He was personally acquainted with a large number of his employees and was held in the highest esteem by them all. Always simple and modest, he was ever ready to assist the less fortunate. Mr. Sulzberger's ambition was not alone to build up a big business; he desired that the business be permanent. Two of his sons, Max J. and Germon F., entered the business upon graduation from college, and have grown up in it under the watchful eye of their father, whose aim it was to train and equip them in every branch of the business, in order that they might not only help to build it up during his lifetime, but might continue it without any interruption or change of policy when the time should come for him to lay down the reins. With this aim in view during the last few years of his life, Mr. Sulzberger gradually turned over to these sons the executive management of the business, he acting as counselor, and during the last two years such management was almost entirely in their hands. The result is that Mr. Sulzberger's death will not have any detrimental effect upon the business of the company, and that his policies will be continued in the business without interruption. The development of the packing industry is said to be due to his genius for organization and initiative. No one is said to have done more to establish the modern methods of handling meat products; his plant was the first to show that the success of the abattoir business depended largely on the utilization of by-products. Some time before his death he turned over to his sons, Max J. and Germon F., the control of the voting stock of the company and provided for the other members of his family by trusts and gifts covering very substantial properties. Mr. Sulzberger followed the same policy in regard to charities. He personally distributed many gifts to the poor. He was a director of the Montefiore Home for many years, and contributed large sums to that and many other benevolent institutions. He gave $50,000 to the Montefiore Home for the building of the private hospital for chronic invalids, and with Jacob H. Schiff, president of the home, and Sol. R. Guggenheim and Samuel Sachs, fellow directors, he raised the $200,000 necessary to build the hospital.


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