Financial History Issue 125 (Spring 2018) | Page 33
Portrait of John Insley Blair Portrait of Clinton Ledyard Blair Portrait of A.P. Giannini
second son, Dewitt Clinton Blair, gradu-
ated from Princeton in 1856.
In 1864, DeWitt Clinton Blair married
the former Mary Anna Kimball. They had
three children: John Insley Blair, who died
in infancy; Clinton Ledyard Blair, known as
“Ledyard,” who graduated from Princeton
in 1890; and John Insley Blair (also called
Insley), who graduated from Princeton
in 1898. The year Ledyard graduated from
Princeton, he joined his father and grand-
father in organizing Blair & Co., which
managed John I. Blair’s many investments.
Thus, Blair & Co. started its origins as a
family partnership uniting three genera-
tions of the Blair family even though John
I. Blair did not actively participate in the
firm. According to Jeanette Iurato, curator
of the Blairstown Museum, “John I. Blair
had already suffered a stroke after losing
his wife in 1888, and merely gave his name
to the project to help establish his grand-
children’s financial futures.” After DeWitt
Clinton died in 1915, Ledyard became the
head of the firm. His brother, Insley Blair,
also joined the firm, but retired in 1905 and
became well-known as an art collector.
Ledyard Blair’s family had ties to prom-
inent financial families on the East Coast.
Blair and his first wife, the former Flor-
ence Osborne Jennings, married in 1891.
They had four daughters, and in 1919, their
youngest daughter, Marie Louise, married
Pierpont Morgan Hamilton, the grandson
of the late J. Pierpont Morgan. Hamil-
ton was the son of Pierpont Morgan’s daughter, Juliet, and William Pierson
Hamilton, a J.P. Morgan & Co. partner.
On his father’s side, Hamilton was also a
descendant of Alexander Hamilton, the
first Secretary of the Treasury.
After Florence Blair died in 1931, Led-
yard married Harriet Stewart Brown
Tailer in 1936. Harriet’s father, Alexander
Brown, was the head of Alex. Brown &
Sons between 1890 and 1924 and a descen-
dant of Alexander Brown, an Irish immi-
grant who was the founder of the family
firm, a prominent Baltimore investment
bank. According to his descendants and
published media reports, Ledyard appar-
ently spent much of his father’s fortune
within his own lifetime.
During Ledyard’s tenure, Blair & Co.
also went through a significant change.
In 1920, Blair & Co. merged with the
firm of William Salomon & Co. The firm
incorporated and became Blair & Co.,
Inc. The union of Blair & Co. and Wil-
liam Salomon & Co. brought together two
firms founded by families with Revolu-
tionary-era roots. William Salomon was
a native of Mobile, Alabama, and came
from a prominent Jewish American fam-
ily. His paternal great-grandfather was a
banker who had served in the Revolution-
ary Army. William Salomon was educated
in Philadelphia and New York before he
joined the firm of Speyer & Co., which
had been founded in 1845 as Philip Speyer
& Co. by Philip Speyer, the descendant of
a prestigious Frankfurt banking family. Salomon trained briefly in Germany and
London at the Speyer branches in Europe.
He became a Speyer partner before retir-
ing and serving as the chairman of the
board of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.
After he left the B&O, he opened his own
banking house in 1902.
By the time Salomon died in 1919 and
his firm was merged with Blair & Co., Wil-
liam Salomon & Co. was known to be “a
successful house of issue and distribution”
that could complement Blair’s reputation
“as one of the most conservative banking
firms in the street.” Ledyard Blair was
named chairman of the board of directors
and Elisha Walker of William Salomon &
Co., who had been one of the executors of
William Salomon’s estate, became presi-
dent of the new company. The following
year, Ledyard Blair retired from the firm,
and the Blair firm ceased to be a family-led
business. Ledyard died in 1949.
The new head of Blair & Co., Elisha
Walker, was a New York native and a
graduate of Yale University (1900) and
the Massachusetts Institute of Technol-
ogy (1902). His father, Isaac, was an Eng-
lish immigrant and merchant. Walker
joined William Salomon & Co. in 1904
and became a partner in 1910. During his
tenure, Blair & Co. merged with Bancam-
erica Corporation, the securities affiliate of
the Bank of America. In 1929, the firm was
renamed Bancamerica-Blair Corporation
and became the investment banking affili-
ate of the Bank of America. The merger
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