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About Daniel James
Daniel James (born 1801) was one of the three founder partners of Phelps, Dodge & Co., a New York trading organization established in 1833/4, exporting cotton to England and importing manufactured goods in return such as tin, tin plate, iron and copper. James was born in America but was to live in Liverpool for forty seven years running the British side of the business called Phelps, James & Co. The company was to dominate the export market of tinplate from the United Kingdom for three-quarters of a century at a time when Wales was the centre of world production.
Daniel James (born in Hartford, Connecticut) was a wholesale grocer who in 1829 married Elizabeth Woodbridge Phelps (b. 1807) daughter of merchant Anson Greene Phelps (b. 1781). In 1831, Daniel moved to Liverpool with his wife to replace Anson Phelps's existing partner - Elisha Peck - who had spent fifteen years in the job and wanted to return to America.
The Phelps, Peck & Co partnership ended in 1833 when the building housing their New York warehouse collapsed. To revive the business Phelps set up the partnership with his two son-in-laws Daniel James and William Earle Dodge, Sr.- forming Phelps, Dodge & Co. in the USA and Phelps, James & Co. in England. Phelps was the senior partner in this arrangement with a two thirds interest and the remainder split between the son-in-laws.
In 1837 Phelps's daughter Caroline (b. 1812 d.1881), whose fiancé - Josiah Stokes - had been killed in the building collapse, married his brother James and he would eventually (in 1847) be the third son-in-law of Anson G Phelps to join the organisation as a partner with a 15% share. He would leave in 1878 to enter the banking business.
The American side of the business was to remain in family control into the next century, although in Britain Daniel James made his assistant - Thomas Morris Banks (b 1796) - a partner in Phelps, James & Co.
When their father-in-law Phelps died in 1853, Daniel James and William Earle Dodge Sr. purchased his holdings and absorbed his son's share when he died some years later. James would continue to live in England but was said to have gone frequently to America for extended holidays and consultation with his partners.
Life in Liverpool
In the first few years of business Daniel James faced difficult times in Liverpool. A recession that started in 1837 in both America and Britain brought the company to the point of ruin and lasted several years. His wife was to die in 1847 and his eldest son was killed in a carriage accident. Daniel was to remarry in 1849 to Sophia Hitchcock. At this time his surviving son - Daniel Willis James - moved to America to further his education and become a member of Phelps, Dodge & Co.
Daniel and Sofia had three children: Frank Linsly (b. 1851 d.1890), John Arthur (b. 1853 d.1917) and William Dodge (b. 1854 d.1912) who all grew up and were educated in Britain. Linsly became an explorer and was killed in Africa by a wounded elephant in 1890. Both Arthur and William married into British society and lived in English country houses on the inherited wealth of their father.
Sophia Hall Hitchcock died in 1870 and in 1871, Daniel James married his children’s former governess Ruth Lancaster Dickinson (b. 1824-d.1907).
In 1866 Daniel James took British citizenship in order to buy the house that became his final home - Beaconsfield, Woolton, Liverpool.
During the recession that started in 1837, Daniel James was faced with insolvency in England whilst his partners were investing in lumber and metal manufacturing in American. He wrote to his brother-in-law that "a merchant ought not to be a manufacturer". Again in 1857 a similar situation arose and this time his son expressed concern: “The place for all the Capital we have is in the business, and not in pine lands, factories, Lackawanna R R or Iron concerns”. Daniel James was a worrier and unlike his partners did not have the inclination or temperament for risk taking. However, he was suited to be a merchant and a very good one. From 1833 to 1873 his Liverpool end of the business procured and exported over $300,000,000 worth of metal to America, he also imported and sold cotton to the mills in Lancashire. In 1859 his long term friend and business partner in Liverpool - Thomas Banks - died.
Phelps, James & Co. dominated the export of tinplate from the UK. In America the imported tinplate was used for manufacturing such things as roofing, tools, machinery, cans, culery, skillets, pots, pans, pitchers, plates, washing boards, bathtubs, etc.
Daniel James would continued to run the business until his death in 1876 leaving a solid foundation from which the next generation would build, paradoxically not in mercantile. During the 1880s and beyond his son and William E Dodge Jr. developed vast copper mining enterprises in Arizona and extending railroads to meet the growing demands from an expanding USA.
Two years after Daniel James died, his partner William E Dodge Sr. retired and the Stokes family left the business. On the 31 December 1878 the existing Phelps, James & Co partnership officially 'expired'. Charles Berjew Brooke became the representative in the UK for Phelps James & Co for the final 25 years of its existence. and the business was eventually closed on the 31 December 1906.
Daniel James like his partners was a religious man. He met preacher Charles Grandison Finney in New York during the 1830s. Daniel's father-in-law - Anson G Phelps - had also supported Finney by renting a vacant church building on Vandewater Street New York and then purchasing a church in Prince St., near Broadway for him. Finney records in his memoirs that when he visited England in 1857 he stayed with Daniel James in Liverpool. Legacies in Daniel James's will included sums for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and London Missionary Society.