John Insley Blair

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John Insley Blair

Birthdate: (97)
Birthplace: Belvidere, Warren County, New Jersey, United States
Death: December 2, 1899 (97)
Blairstown Township, Warren County, New Jersey, United States
Place of Burial: Blairstown, Warren County, New Jersey, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of James Blair and Rachel Blair
Husband of Nancy Ann Blair
Father of Emma Elizabeth L. Scribner and DeWitt Clinton Blair
Brother of Samuel Blair; William Blair; Mary Blair; Robert Blair; James Blair and 4 others

Occupation: a capitalist prominent in railroading
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About John Insley Blair

Wikepedia: 12/8/2012

John Insley Blair (August 22, 1802 – December 2, 1899) was an American entrepreneur, railroad magnate, philanthropist and one of the 19th century's wealthiest men.


Blair's parents John Blair and Rachel Insley immigrated from Scotland; he was the fourth child of ten children. He was born at Foul Rift, just south of Belvidere, New Jersey, and at the age of two the Blair family moved to a farm near Hope Township, New Jersey. Even as a youth, Blair displayed a keen interest in the acquisition of wealth. At the age of ten, he is reported to have told his mother, "I have seven brothers and three sisters. That's enough in the family to be educated. I am going to get rich." The young Blair began earning money by trapping wild rabbits and muskrats and selling their skins at a price of sixteen for a dollar. The next year, Blair began working at a general store owned by his cousin John, and at the age of seventeen he founded a store of his own with his cousin as an equal partner, located in the community of Butt's Bridge, New Jersey. On August 25, 1825, the name of the community was changed to Gravel Hill and Blair was appointed postmaster, a position he retained until July, 1851. He married Nancy Ann Locke on September 20, 1826, and the couple had four children: Emma Elizabeth, Marcus Laurence, DeWitt Clinton, and Aurelia Ann. Blair bought out his cousin's share of their store and expanded operations. By 1830, he owned five stores, each one run by one of his brothers.

On January 24, 1839, Gravel Hill was officially renamed Blairstown, New Jersey (2000 Population of 5,747) in Blair's honor. He established Blair, Nebraska by purchasing a 1,075-acre (4.35 km2) tract of land in Nebraska on May 10, 1869 after the Sioux City and Pacific Rail Road chose to cross the Missouri river at that location.

Blair managed his multi-million dollar businesses from rural Blairstown, New Jersey or from his private rail car upon which it was common for him to log 40,000 miles (64,000 km) annually. As president of 16 railroad companies, he amassed a fortune estimated at $70 million. Blair was the largest owner of rail mileage in the world. His religion as a Presbyterian and penchant for philanthropy led him to found more than 100 churches in close proximity to his railroads. In 1873, he was also an investor in the Green Bay and Minnesota Railroad, and the namesake of Blair, Wisconsin.

He died in Blairstown, New Jersey.

Holdings and joint holdings

Lackawanna Coal and Iron Company (1846)

Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (1852)

Union Pacific Railroad (1860)

president, director, or joint in 20+ others.

Notable philanthropy

Blair Academy Founded (1848).

Lafayette College Easton, Pennsylvania

Grinnell College (Grinnell, Iowa)

Princeton University Princeton, New Jersey

Endowed a geology professorship, first held by Arnold Henry Guyot. The endowed chair is the second oldest at the school; as of the start of the 2000-01 school year there were 172 such endowed chairs. Served as trustee from 1866 until his death. In remarks at his installation as trustee, Blair noted that he had received little formal education and had spent most of his life as a businessman learning addition, but that now "I have come to Princeton to learn subtraction."

Provided funds to build Blair Hall, which was constructed in 1897 by Cope & Stewardson.

Descendants of John Insley Blair - Nancy Ann Locke

DeWitt Clinton Blair Son Continued businesses and expanded his father's philanthropy Princeton University trustee (1900-1909)

C. Ledyard Blair Son of DeWitt Clinton Blair Grandson of John I Blair founded Blair & Company investment bankers (1 Wall Street, New York, NY)

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John Insley Blair's Timeline

August 22, 1802
Belvidere, Warren County, New Jersey, United States
Age 24
Warren County, New Jersey, United States
Age 30
December 2, 1899
Age 97
Blairstown Township, Warren County, New Jersey, United States
Blairstown, Warren County, New Jersey, United States