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Daniel Drew

Birthplace: Carmel, Putnam County, New York, United States
Death: September 18, 1879 (82)
New York, New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Gilbert Drew, Sr and Catherine Drew
Husband of Roxanna Ballard Drew
Father of Catherine Drew; Josephine Drew and William Henry Drew
Brother of Thomas Drew
Half brother of William Drew; Hannah Drew; James Drew; Isaac Drew; Samuel Drew, Sr and 3 others

Managed by: Alex Bickle
Last Updated:

About Daniel Drew

Daniel Drew (July 29, 1797 – September 18, 1879) was an American businessman, steamship and railroad developer, and financier. Summarizing his life, Henry Clews wrote: "Of all the great operators of Wall Street ... Daniel Drew furnishes the most remarkable instance of immense and long-continued success, followed by utter failure and hopeless bankruptcy".

Drew was born in Carmel, New York in the family of Gilbert Drew and Catherine Muckleworth. He was poorly educated and saw hardship after his father, who owned a small cattle farm, died when Daniel was fifteen years old. Drew enlisted and drilled, though did not see face to face combat in the War of 1812. After the war, he spent some time with a traveling zoo and then built a successful cattle-droving business.

In 1820, he moved to New York City, where he established himself at the Bull's Head Tavern in the Bowery, a place frequented by drovers and butchers doing business in the city. While running the tavern, he formed a partnership with two other drovers, buying cattle from neighboring counties and bringing them to New York for sale. In 1823, he married Roxanna Mead.

In 1834, he entered the steamboat business, purchasing a share of a boat operating on the Hudson River. Competing with Cornelius Vanderbilt, he ran numerous profitable lines outside of New York City.

Around this time, Drew began to speculate in stocks. He founded the brokerage firm of Drew, Robinson & Company in 1844, which dissolved a decade later with the deaths of his partners. After the firm’s dissolution, he continued to work in the brokerage business as an independent operator. In 1857, Drew became a member of the board of directors of the Erie Railroad and used his position to manipulate the railroad stock price. He joined forces with Vanderbilt to rescue the Erie from bankruptcy, and also became a director of the New York and Harlem Railroad, where he collaborated again with Vanderbilt to prop up that company's finances.

In 1864, Drew once again struggled with Vanderbilt, speculating on the stock of the New York and Harlem. Drew was selling the stock short, but Vanderbilt and his associates bought every share he sold, ultimately causing the stock price to rise from 90 to 285 in five months. Drew lost $500,000.

In 1866 to 1868, Drew engaged in the Erie War, in which Drew conspired along with fellow directors James Fisk and Jay Gould to issue stock to keep Vanderbilt from gaining control of the Erie Railroad. Vanderbilt, unaware of the increase in outstanding shares, kept buying Erie stock and sustained heavy losses, eventually conceding control of the railroad to the trio.

In 1870, Fisk and Gould betrayed Drew, manipulating the stock price of the Erie Railroad and causing him to lose $1.5 million (Fisk was killed in January 1872 by a jealous rival over a mistress; Gould himself would later be swindled out of $1,000,000 worth of Erie railroad stock and never controlled the Erie Railroad). The Panic of 1873 cost him still more, and by 1876, Drew filed for bankruptcy, with debts exceeding a million dollars and no viable assets. He died in 1879, dependent on his son for support.

Daniel Drew left a controversial legacy behind. At the zenith of his career as a financier, when his personal fortune was estimated at $13 million and he was respectfully called "Uncle Daniel" on Wall Street, he was treated with admiration. After his fortunes changed, he was vilified by newspapers, which wrote that Drew "has been one of the curses of the market for years past. If he has now received such a blow as will result in his being driven from the Street altogether, no one will be sorry for him," and "he holds the honest people of the world to be a pack of fools."

A devout Methodist, Drew built churches in Carmel and Brewster, New York, contributed to the founding of Drew Theological Seminary in Madison, New Jersey, which is now part of Drew University, and Drew Seminary for Young Ladies in his home town of Carmel.

Drew Street, in eastern Baltimore, Maryland, is reportedly named after him due to Drew's involvement as an investor in the Baltimore Canton Company, which owned and developed much of the area through the early 1900s.

Drew is popularly credited with introducing what would be called "watered stock" to the Wall Street, to describe company shares that were issued by false means including counterfeit stock certificates and unauthorized stock release, resulting in a dilution of ownership. The term came from his time in the livestock business, when he would have his cattle lick salt and drink water before selling them, to increase their weight. The watered stock tactic was used in the Erie War of the 1860s, when Drew along with James Fisk and Jay Gould blocked arch rival Cornelius Vanderbilt from getting ownership of the Erie Railroad.

Daniel Drew is often credited with the saying on the nature of short selling: "He who sells what isn't his'n, must buy it back or go to pris'n."

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Daniel Drew's Timeline

July 29, 1797
Carmel, Putnam County, New York, United States
May 15, 1836
June 16, 1844
September 18, 1879
Age 82
New York, New York, United States