Henry Huttleston Rogers (1840 - 1909) MP

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Birthplace: Mattapoisett, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, United States
Death: Died in New York City, New York County, New York, United States
Cause of death: Stroke
Occupation: businessman; philanthropist
Managed by: Thomas Vehus
Last Updated:

About Henry Huttleston Rogers

Henry Huttleston Rogers was a United States capitalist, businessman, industrialist, financier, and philanthropist. He made his fortune in the oil refinery business, becoming a leader at Standard Oil.

Born on January 29, 1840 in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, the son of Rowland Rogers, a former ship captain, bookkeeper, and grocer, and Mary Eldredge Huttleston Rogers. Both parents were descended from the Pilgrims who arrived in the 17th century aboard the Mayflower. His mother's family had earlier used the spelling "Huddleston" rather than "Huttleston." (Consequently, Henry Rogers' name is often misspelled.)

He was brought up at Fairhaven, near by, where in boyhood he carried newspapers and delivered groceries. He later served for a time as a railroad brakeman and baggageman. He was twenty-one when the newly discovered oil fields in Pennsylvania drew fortune seekers to that region. Rogers and a friend, Charles P. Ellis, went together to the Oil City district, each having about $600 in savings. They presently built a small refinery at a cost of $1,800, borrowing the additional funds necessary. On a visit to his home town in 1862, Rogers was married to Abbie Palmer Gifford. In Pennsylvania he met several men destined to become leaders in the oil industry, among them Charles Pratt who in 1866 asked Rogers to become associated with him in his refinery business in Brooklyn. There Rogers devised the machinery by which naphtha was first successfully separated from the crude oil-an epochal invention for the industry (Current Literature, July 1909). A patent (No.120,-539) was granted on Oct. 31, 1871.

When the Rockefellers organized the Standard Oil Company in 1874, they took over the Pratt business and with it Rogers, now recognized as both an expert oil man and an able executive with a genius for organization. He was made chairman of the manufacturing committee of the new corporation, a little later a trustee, and before 1890 he was vice-president. He conceived the idea of long pipe lines for transporting oil, and organized the National Transit Company, the first corporation with such an object. This was his favorite promotion, and he remained president of the company long after the actual technical management of the oil business itself had been given over by him to others so that he and William Rockefeller [q.v.] might devote their time to the operation of the huge financial machine known to Wall Street as '"Standard Oil." Either personally or in behalf of this trust, Rogers was interested in several businesses other than oil-gas, copper, steel, banking, and railroads. In 1884 with associates he formed the Consolidated Gas Company, and thereafter for several years he was instrumental in gaining control of great city plants, fighting terrific battles with rivals for some of them, as in the case of Boston. Almost the whole story of his gas interests was one of warfare, as was his connection with copper. During the '90'S, when he was virtually the directing head of Standard Oil, he became interested in Anaconda and other copper properties. In 1899 he formed the first $75,000,000 section of the gigantic trust, Amalgamated Copper, which was the subject of such acrid criticism then and for years after-ward. In the building of this great trust, some of the most ruthless strokes in modern business history were dealt-the $38,000,000 "watering of the stock of the first corporation, its subsequent manipulation, the seizure of the copper property of the Butte & Boston Consolidated Mining Company, the using it as a weapon against the Boston & Montana Consolidated Copper and Silver Mining Company, the guerrilla warfare against certain private interests, the wrecking of the Globe Bank of Boston. Standard Oil's interest in steel properties led to Rogers' becoming one of the directors of the United States Steel Corporation when it was organized in 1901. He was long the transportation magnate of Staten Island, being the principal owner of its railroads, traction lines, and ferries. He was a director of the Santa Fe, St. Paul, Lackawanna, Union Pacific, and several other railroads. He was a close associate of E. H. Harriman in the latter's extensive railroad operations, and when Harriman became interested in the insurance business, Rogers, who had long been a trustee of the Mutual Life, was drawn with him into the scandal and governmental investigation of 1905, but as usual emerged almost unruffled. He sustained his worst tactical defeat, however, in an ouster suit brought by the State of Missouri in 1905, in which he, at first defiant, was forced to testify and admit the Standard's secret ownership of certain subsidiary oil companies (218 Missouri Reports, I; 116 Southwestern Reporter, 902; see also 224 United States, 270). His last great individual enterprise was the building of the remarkable, low-grade Virginian Railway from the West Virginia coal fields to Norfolk. It was an achievement unique in business annals for one man to build a $40,000,000 railroad on his own resources and credit, and that, too, partly in a time of financial stress, the panic of 1907. But the strain of doing it proved fatal to him. He was at his desk on May 18, 1909, but the next morning, in New York City, suddenly died of an apoplectic stroke.

Rogers was a tall, handsome man of distinguished presence and a curious duality of nature. In business he was known as a man of cold steel; away from business lie was democratic, a faithful friend, a wit and raconteur. Even the bitterest of his enemies testified to the almost hypnotic charm of his presence when he chose to exercise it. To the end of his life some of the humblest of the citizens of his boyhood home remained his intimate friends and called him "Hen." His summer home was there, and there at week-ends he found his happiest relaxation. He paved Fairhaven's streets, he gave it a town hall, grammar and high school buildings, a handsome public library, a Masonic lodge building, a costly Unitarian church and parsonage. There he founded the Atlas Tack Company, the largest concern of its kind in America. His fondness for Mark Twain's writings led to an acquaintance with the humorist, and finding the latter in difficulties because of the failure of his publishers, Rogers practically took charge of his affairs and remained his business manager and counselor until death.

Marriage and Family

While vacationing in Fairhaven in 1862, Rogers married his childhood sweetheart, Abbie Palmer Gifford, who was also of Mayflower lineage. She returned with him to the oil fields where they lived in a one-room shack along Oil Creek where her young husband and Ellis worked the Wamsutta Oil Refinery. While they lived in Pennsylvania, their first daughter, Anne Engle, was born in 1865. They had five surviving children together, four girls and a boy. Another son died at birth.

After the young family moved to New York in 1866, Cara Leland Rogers was born in Fairhaven in 1867, Millicent was born in 1873, followed by Mary (a.k.a. Mai) in 1875. Their son, Henry Huttleston Rogers Jr., was born in 1879, and was known as Harry.

Abbie Palmer Gifford Rogers died unexpectedly on May 21, 1894. Her childhood home, a two-story, gable-end frame house built in the Greek Revival style, has been preserved. It is made available for tours of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, where she and her husband grew up.

In 1896, the widower Rogers remarried, to Emelie Augusta Randel Hart, a divorcée and New York socialite. They had no children.

Sources: Millicent Library, Wikipedia

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Henry Huttleston Rogers's Timeline

1840
January 29, 1840
Mattapoisett, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, United States
1865
February 5, 1865
Age 25
1867
1867
Age 26
1873
1873
Age 32
1875
1875
Age 34
Fairhaven, Massachusetts, USA
1879
December 28, 1879
Age 39
New York, New York, New York, United States
1896
1896
Age 55
1909
May 19, 1909
Age 69
New York City, New York County, New York, United States
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Fairhaven, Bristol County, Massachusetts, United States