Financial History Issue 125 (Spring 2018) - Page 33

Museum 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 www.MoAF.org  |  Spring 2018  |  FINANCIAL HISTORY  31