Charles Pratt (1830 - 1891)

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Birthplace: Watertown, MA, USA
Death: Died
Managed by: Natalie Tan
Last Updated:

About Charles Pratt

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Pratt

Charles Pratt was a United States capitalist, businessman and philanthropist.

Pratt was a pioneer of the U.S. petroleum industry, and established his kerosene refinery Astral Oil Works in Brooklyn, New York. Pratt's product later gave rise to the slogan, "The holy lamps of Tibet are primed with Astral Oil." He recruited Henry H. Rogers into his business, forming Charles Pratt and Company in 1867, which became part of John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil in 1874.

Pratt became an advocate of education, and founded and endowed the Pratt Institute which bears his name. He and his children built mansions in Glen Cove, NY in what would become the Gold Coast of Long Island, New York. In 1916, Standard Oil had a steamship tanker, S.S. Charles Pratt, first of its class, built at Newport News, Virginia.

Charles Pratt was born in Watertown, Massachusetts, one of eleven children. His father, Asa Pratt, was a carpenter. He spent three winters as a student at Wesleyan Academy (Now Wilbraham & Monson Academy), and is said to have lived on a dollar a week at times.

In nearby Boston, Massachusetts, Pratt joined a company specializing in paints and whale oil products. In 1850 or 1851, he came to New York City, where he worked for a similar company.

Pratt recognized the potential replacement of whale oil with petroleum ("natural oil") distillates for lighting purposes, and he became a pioneer of the petroleum industry as new wells were established in western Pennsylvania in the 1860s. He soon established his kerosene refinery Astral Oil Works in Brooklyn, New York. Pratt's product later gave rise to the slogan, "The holy lamps of Tibet are primed with Astral Oil."

In the mid-1860s, Pratt met two aspiring young men, Charles Ellis and Henry H. Rogers in the area of the new oil fields of Venango County in western Pennsylvania. Previously, Pratt had bought whale oil from Charles Ellis in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, the young men's coastal hometown. They struck a deal and pre sold the entire output of their small venture, Wamsutta Oil Refinery, at McClintocksville near Oil City to Pratt's company at a fixed price.

However, a flaw in the arrangement was that Ellis and Rogers had no wells and were dependent upon purchasing crude oil to refine and sell to Pratt. A few months later, crude oil prices suddenly increased due to manipulation by speculators. The young entrepreneurs struggled to try to live up to their fixed price contract with Pratt, but soon their surplus of funds was wiped out. Before long, they were heavily in debt to Pratt.

Charles Ellis gave up, but in 1866, Henry Rogers went to Pratt in New York City and told him he would take personal responsibility for the entire debt. This so impressed Pratt that he immediately hired him for his own organization. Pratt made Rogers foreman of his Brooklyn refinery, with a promise of a partnership if sales ran over fifty thousand dollars a year. Rogers, his wife Abbie, and their baby Anne moved to the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, New York.

The Rogers family continued to live frugally and young Henry worked very hard. Abbie brought his meals to the "works", and often he would sleep but three hours a night rolled up in a blanket by the side of a still. Rogers moved steadily from foreman to manager, and then superintendent of Pratt's Astral Oil Refinery. True to his word, Pratt soon gave Rogers an interest in the business. In 1867, with Henry Rogers as a partner, he established the firm of Charles Pratt and Company. In the next few year Rogers became, in the words of Elbert Hubbard, Pratt's "hands and feet and eyes and ears" (Little Journeys to the Homes of Great Businessmen, 1909).

In the early 1870s, Pratt and Rogers became involved in conflicts with John D. Rockefeller's infamous South Improvement Company, which was basically a scheme to obtain favorable net rates from the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) and other railroads through a secret system of rebates. Rockefeller and the South Improvement Company scheme outraged independent oil producers in western Pennsylvania and refineries there and afar alike.

The opposition to the South Improvement Company scheme among the New York refiners was led by Rogers. The New York interests formed an association, and about the middle of March 1872, sent a committee of three, with Rogers, of Charles Pratt and Company, as head, to Oil City to consult with the Oil Producers' Union there. Their arrival in the oil regions was a matter of great satisfaction.

Working with the Pennsylvania independents, Rogers and his associates managed to forge an agreement with the PRR and other railroads whose leaders eventually agreed to open rates to all and promised to end their shady dealings with South Improvement. The oil men were most exultant, but their joy was to be short-lived, for Rockefeller had already begun forming his Standard Oil organization and was busy trying another approach, which included frequently buying-up opposing interests.

A short time later, Rockefeller approached Charles Pratt with his plans of cooperation and consolidation. Pratt talked it over with Rogers, and they decided that the combination would benefit them. Rogers formulated terms which guaranteed financial security and jobs for Pratt and himself. John D. Rockefeller quietly accepted the offer on Rogers' exact terms. Charles Pratt and Company (including Astral Oil) became one of the important formerly independent refiners to join Rockefeller's organization, and it was to become part of the Standard Oil Trust in 1874. Pratt's eldest son, Charles Millard Pratt (1855–1935) became Secretary of Standard Oil.

Although the merger deal made him a wealthy man, as a member of the board of directors of Standard Oil, Pratt was a frequent critic of Rockefeller, who was always respectful to him. With Pratt's death in 1891, Rockefeller's position as the most powerful man in the oil industry, already well established, became unassailable.

Pratt's former protégé, Henry H. Rogers soon rose to become one of the key men of Standard Oil, and was a Vice-President by 1890. Rogers, who kept his residence in New York City after moving there at Pratt's request, also invested outside of Standard Oil, and became one of the wealthiest men in the world. He had interests in oil, gas, steel, copper, coal, and railroads, and eventually founded and built the Virginian Railway, completed in 1909 at the end of his own career.

-------------------- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Pratt

Charles Pratt (October 2, 1830 – May 4, 1891) was a United States capitalist, businessman and philanthropist.

Pratt was a pioneer of the U.S. petroleum industry, and established his kerosene refinery Astral Oil Works in Brooklyn, New York. An advertising slogan was "The holy lamps of Tibet are primed with Astral Oil." He recruited Henry H. Rogers into his business, forming Charles Pratt and Company in 1867. Seven years later, it became part of John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil.

An advocate of education, Pratt founded and endowed the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, now a renowned art college. He and his children built mansions in Glen Cove, New York, part of what was called the Gold Coast on the North Shore of Long Island. In 1916, Standard Oil had a steamship tanker, S.S. Charles Pratt, first of its class, built at Newport News, Virginia. He lived in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.

Early life and education

Charles Pratt was born in Watertown, Massachusetts, one of eleven children. His father, Asa Pratt, was a carpenter. He spent three winters as a student at Wesleyan Academy (now Wilbraham & Monson Academy).

Career

Whale oil, petroleum, Astral Oil

In nearby Boston, Massachusetts, Pratt joined a company specializing in paints and whale oil products. In 1850 or 1851, he came to New York City, where he worked for a similar company.

Pratt recognized the potential for replacement of whale oil with petroleum ("natural oil") distillates for lighting purposes. He became a pioneer of the petroleum industry as new wells were established in western Pennsylvania in the 1860s. He soon established his kerosene refinery Astral Oil Works in Brooklyn, New York. Pratt's product later gave rise to the slogan, "The holy lamps of Tibet are primed with Astral Oil."

Henry H. Rogers, Charles Pratt and Company

In the mid-1860s, Pratt met two aspiring young men, Charles Ellis and Henry H. Rogers, in the area of the new oil fields of Venango County in western Pennsylvania. Previously, Pratt had bought whale oil from Charles Ellis in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, the young men's coastal hometown. They struck a deal and pre-sold the entire output of their small venture, Wamsutta Oil Refinery, at McClintocksville near Oil City to Pratt's company at a fixed price. But, a flaw in the deal was that Ellis and Rogers had no wells and were dependent upon purchasing crude oil to refine and sell to Pratt. A few months later, crude oil prices suddenly increased due to manipulation by speculators. The young entrepreneurs struggled to try to live up to their fixed-price contract with Pratt, but soon their surplus of funds was wiped out. Before long, they were heavily in debt to Pratt.

Charles Ellis gave up, but in 1866, Henry Rogers went to Pratt in New York City and told him he would take personal responsibility for the entire debt. This so impressed Pratt that he immediately hired Rogers for his own organization. Pratt made Rogers foreman of his Brooklyn refinery, with a promise of a partnership if sales ran over $50,000 annually. Rogers, his wife Abbie, and their baby Anne moved to the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, New York. The Rogers family lived frugally and young Henry worked hard. Abbie brought his meals to the "works", and often he would sleep there. Rogers moved steadily from foreman to manager, and then superintendent of Pratt's Astral Oil Refinery. Pratt soon gave Rogers an interest in the business. In 1867, with Rogers as a partner, he established the firm of Charles Pratt and Company. In the next few year Rogers became, in the words of Elbert Hubbard, Pratt's "hands and feet and eyes and ears" (Little Journeys to the Homes of Great Businessmen, 1909).

Standard Oil

In the early 1870s, Pratt and Rogers became involved in conflicts with John D. Rockefeller's South Improvement Company, designed to obtain favorable net rates from the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) and other railroads through a secret system of rebates. Rockefeller and the South Improvement Company scheme outraged independent oil producers and refineries in western Pennsylvania and other areas. Rogers led the opposition to the South Improvement Company scheme among the New York refiners. The New York interests formed an association, and about the middle of March 1872, sent a committee of three, with Rogers as head, to Oil City to consult with the Oil Producers' Union there.

Working with the Pennsylvania independents, Rogers and his associates forged an agreement with the PRR and other railroads whose leaders eventually agreed to open rates to all and promised to end their special dealings with South Improvement. The oil men felt victorious, but Rockefeller had already begun to form his Standard Oil organization and was busy buying-up opposing interests.

A short time later, Rockefeller approached Charles Pratt with plans for cooperation and consolidation. Pratt talked it over with Rogers, and they decided that the combination would benefit them. Rogers formulated terms which guaranteed financial security and jobs for Pratt and him. Rockefeller accepted the offer on Rogers' exact terms. Charles Pratt and Company(including Astral Oil) became one of the important former independent refiners to join Rockefeller's organization; it became part of the Standard Oil Trust in 1874. Pratt's eldest son, Charles Millard Pratt (1855–1935), became Secretary of Standard Oil.

Although the merger made Pratt a wealthy man, as a member of the board of directors of Standard Oil, he frequently criticized Rockefeller, who was always respectful to him. With Pratt's death in 1891, Rockefeller's position as the most powerful man in the oil industry, already well established, became unassailable.

Pratt's former protégé, Henry H. Rogers, rose to become one of the key men of Standard Oil, and was a Vice-President by 1890. Rogers, who maintained his residence in New York City after moving there at Pratt's request, also invested outside of Standard Oil. He became one of the wealthiest men in the world. He had interests in oil, gas, steel, copper, coal, and railroads, and eventually founded and built the Virginian Railway, completed in 1909 at the end of his own career.

Legacy and honors

Charles Pratt is credited with recognizing the growing need for trained industrial workers in a changing economy. In 1886, he founded and endowed the Pratt Institute, which opened in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn in 1887.

Marriage and family children

In 1854, Charles Pratt married Lydia Ann Richardson (1835–1861). They had two children: Charles Millard Pratt (1855–1913) and Lydia Richardson Pratt (1857–1904), who married Frank Lusk Babbott.

After his wife Lydia's early death, Pratt married her younger sister Mary Helen Richardson in September 1863. They had six children:

1.Frederic B. Pratt (1865–1945);

2.Helen Pratt (1867–1949);

3.George Dupont Pratt (1869–1935);

4.Herbert L. Pratt (1871–1945);

5.John Teele Pratt (1873–1927) and

6.Harold I. Pratt (1877–1939)

Long Island Gold Coast mansions

Pratt settled in Glen Cove, New York about 1890. To provide for his children, he purchased large tracts of land surrounding his estate, totaling 1,100 acres (4.5 km²). He died the next year, aged 60, in New York City.

Charles Pratt's six sons and two daughters later built their own homes at Glen Cove. As of 2004, most of the extant Pratt mansions along the Gold Coast are still in use:

Welwyn, originally the home of Harold I. Pratt, is now owned by the Nassau County Museum.

The Braes, originally owned by Herbert L. Pratt, is now the Webb Institute of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering.

The Manor House, built for John Teele Pratt, is now the Glen Cove Mansion Hotel & Conference Center.

Poplar Hill, the Frederic B. Pratt house, is now owned by Glengariff Nursing Home.

Killenworth, originally the house of George Dupont Pratt, is now the retreat for the Russian Delegation to the United Nations.

Other notable Pratt family members

Charles Pratt's great-grandson Andy Pratt (born 1947 in Boston), whose father Edwin H Baker Pratt was headmaster of the school Buckingham Browne & Nichols, is a singer-songwriter.

Herbert Pratt was a guitar-playing adventurer and eccentric much admired by Henry James, who met him in Italy and may have used him as the model for the character "Gabriel Nash" in The Tragic Muse.

Charle's Pratt's granddaughter Phyllis Pratt (daughter of John Teele Pratt) was married to arms-control negotiator Paul Nitze.

Charles Pratt II, Charles Pratt's grandson, was a notable photographer, publishing several books of photographs and prose including The Garden and the Wilderness, Here on the Island, Edge of the City, The Rocky Coast, and a children's book called At Night. He was Rachel Carson's photographer for Silent Spring and A Sense of Wonder.

Suzanne Pratt, a great-great-granddaughter of Charles Pratt, is a correspondent for the public television program, Nightly Business Report, in New York.

Noni Pratt, a great-granddaughter of Charles Pratt, helped found Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts. in 1978. Today she is an artist known for her large-scale installation and performance-related work in a long-term collaboration with Merry Conway.

Zachary Pratt Remsen, a great-great-great grandson of Charles Pratt, is a former President of the Student Government Association of the Robins School of Business at the University of Richmond.

Steamship tanker S.S. Charles Pratt

In March 1916, Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company launched the S.S. Charles Pratt, a tanker of 8,807 tons with a capacity of 119,410 barrels (18,985 m3) of oil. It became the first ship of the Pratt class, and was joined by the S.S. H.H. Rogers in May, 1916.

After 1939, both ships were operated by Panama Transport Co., a subsidiary of Standard Oil of New Jersey. At the beginning of World War II, on December 21, 1940, the S.S. Charles Pratt was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat in the Indian Ocean 220 miles (350 km) off the coast of Africa while en route from Aruba to Freetown, Sierra Leone. Of the American crew of 42, only two men died.

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Charles Pratt's Timeline

1830
October 2, 1830
Watertown, MA, USA
1855
November 2, 1855
Age 25
1857
1857
Age 26
1865
1865
Age 34
1867
1867
Age 36
1869
August 16, 1869
Age 38
Brooklyn, NY, USA
1871
November 21, 1871
Age 41
Brooklyn, NY, USA
1873
December 25, 1873
Age 43
Brooklyn, NY, USA
1877
February 1, 1877
Age 46
Brooklyn, Kings, NY, USA
1891
May 4, 1891
Age 60