Financial History Issue 125 (Spring 2018) | Page 32

Blair & Co., Inc. By Susie J. Pak John Insley Blair, a New Jersey native of Scotch-Irish background, was said by numerous contemporary sources to be a relation of Rev. John Blair, an Irish immi- grant who became president of the College of New Jersey in 1766. Other sources state definitively, however, that John Insley’s paternal grandfather, John Blair Sr., was born in Scotland, immigrated to New Jersey and fought in the American Revo- lution. What is known is that John Insley’s father, James Blair, was a farmer born in New Jersey. When he was 10 years old, John Insley Blair reportedly told his mother, “Mother, I have seven brothers and three sisters. That’s enough in the family to be educated. I am going to get rich.” He soon began working at the general store of his cousin, Judge Blair. He later opened a general country store with a cousin, also named John Blair, before going into business for himself in 1821. With the assistance of his brothers and brothers-in-law, Blair’s busi- ness interests grew to five general stores and four flour mills by the time he was 28. Blair also expanded into the manufacture of cotton, mining and railroads. In 1825, he was appointed the postmaster of Gravel Hill, New Jersey, which was renamed Blairstown in 1839 to acknowledge his standing and achievements. When he died 30    FINANCIAL HISTORY  |  Spring 2018  | in 1899, his estate was reportedly worth $70 million. John Insley Blair’s wife, Ann Locke, was the daughter of a Revolutionary War sol- dier killed in the War of 1812. Their oldest daughter, Emma Elizabeth Blair, married Charles Scribner, the founder of the Scrib- ner publishing house, in 1848. Their oldest son, Marcus L. Blair, predeceased his par- ents and did not marry. Aurelia Ann Blair, the youngest daughter, was married to Clarence Green Mitchell, a lawyer. Their John Insley Blair (center) outside the Blair home with his nephew John Davis Vail and his family. Photograph circa 1892–1894. WHERE ARE THEY NOW?