Chicago and Its Resources Twenty Years After, 1871-1891/Edward Burgess Butler
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Edward B. Butler, of Butler Brothers, wholesale dealers in department store supplies, at 17 Adams Street, was born in Lewiston, Maine, December 6, 1853. When five years of age he removed with his father's family to Boston, Mass. He received his education in the grammar and high schools of that city. His father was engaged in the retail grocery business; and young Butler early acquired a taste for mercantile pursuits, by aiding his father in the store. At sixteen years of age he secured a position with a wholesale dry goods and notion house as bundle boy, and remained with this establishment for a few years. He was gradually advanced from one position to another until he reached that of traveling salesman. For five years Mr. Butler sold goods throughout the New England States and Canada. In 1877 he, in connection with his brother, engaged in business in Boston under the firm name of Butler Brothers. The firm did a modest business at first in notions and small ware. In 1878 it inaugurated among the retailers of America the "five cent" counter plan, which in a short time became very popular with merchants everywhere; and the business of Butler Brothers increased very rapidly as a result; they being the only house in the country carrying a line of goods suited to this class of trade. Another original idea of this firm was the issuing of a comprehensive catalogue, sending it out to its customers instead of employing traveling salesman. It still issues this catalogue, and has improved it in various ways until it is the most elaborate and comprehensive publication of its kind in America. Some idea of the circulation of this publication may be had, when it is stated that last year forty thousand dollars was paid for stamps for mailing the catalogue of the Chicago house alone. The two houses, that in New York and the one in Chicago employ about three hundred men. Mr. E.B. Butler, the senior partner of the firm, and the only member of the original firm now living, is a resident of Chicago, President of the company, and in full charge of the business here. He is also a director in one of the prominent banks, trustee in four different public institutions, and one of the directors of the World's Columbian Exposition. He is one of Chicago's most charitable wealthy men; one of his most prominent acts in a charitable way was the erection of a building containing a picture gallery, a reading room, and a branch of the public library, donating it to the Hull House settlement, which is located in the midst of Chicago's poor in the southwestern portion of the city. Mr. Butler was married in 1880 to Miss Jennie Holly, of Norwalk, Connecticut. They reside in an elegant home at 3420 Michigan Avenue."