Elias and his wife, Flora
February 6, 1859|
Bluevale, Ontario, Canada
|Died||September 13, 1941
Hollywood, California, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Flora Call (1888–1938) (her death)|
|Children||Walter Elias Disney
Herbert Arthur Disney
Roy Oliver Disney
Raymond Arnold Disney
Ruth Flora Disney
|Parents||Kepple Elias Disney (1832–1891) and Mary Richardson (1838–1909)|
Disney was born at 41338A Jamestown Road close to the rural village of Bluevale, Ontario, Canada, to Irish immigrants Kepple Elias Disney (1832-1891) and Mary Richardson (1838-1909). Both parents had immigrated from Ireland to Canada as children, accompanying their parents.
He became a farmer and a businessman with little success. He moved to California with his father in 1878 in hopes of finding gold. Instead, Kepple was convinced by an agent of the Union Pacific Railroad to buy 200 acres (81 ha) of land near Ellis, Kansas. Disney was an ardent socialist and a supporter of Eugene Debs.
In Ellis, Elias attempted to live as an orange grower and failed.
Disney worked on his father's new farm until 1884, when he left to find another job. He was hired in a railroad machine shop (one of his co-workers was Walter Chrysler), then he joined the railroad crew building the Union Pacific line through Colorado. After the railroad contract was over, he became a professional fiddle player in Denver. Again he was unsuccessful, and he returned to his father's farm. He also worked for a short time as a mailman in Kissimmee, Florida, close to the eventual site of Walt Disney World.
He was a construction worker for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, an event which author Erik Larson cites as a source of inspiration for his son Walt and the Disney kingdom he would eventually create. He bought shares of O-Zell Company, a jelly-canning factory that also produced apple juice in Chicago, where his son Walt Disney worked before he joined the Red Cross Ambulance Corps in WWI.
Disney married Flora Call on January 1, 1888, in Kismet, Florida, 50 miles from the land on which Walt Disney World would eventually be built and lived for a short time in adjoining Acron, Florida. She was the daughter of his father's neighbors.
Soon after marriage, the Disneys moved to Chicago, Illinois, where Elias met and befriended Walter Parr, St. Paul Congregational Church's preacher for whom the Disneys' fourth son, Walt, was named.
The couple had five children:
- Herbert Arthur Disney, born on December 8, 1888 – January 29, 1961. (72)
- Raymond Arnold Disney, born on December 30, 1890 – May 24, 1989. (98)
- Roy Oliver Disney, born on June 24, 1893 – December 20, 1971. (78)
- Walter "Walt" Elias Disney, born on December 5, 1901 – December 15, 1966. (65)
- Ruth Flora Disney born on December 6, 1903 – April 7, 1995. (91)
By 1890, the Disneys lived at 3515 South Vernon Avenue in the Fourth Ward. Elias worked as a carpenter. On October 31, 1891, Elias bought a lot at 1249 Tripp. By 1892 he built a house on it. The neighborhood was called Hermosa and had been settled by Scottish, German, and Scandinavian immigrants. Their younger three children were born there.
By the turn of the century, Elias had become an active building contractor. He built houses which he owned and then resold. He also built the Saint Paul Congregational Church, a building dedicated on October 14, 1900. Elias was one of the church's trustees, while his wife was its treasurer.
According to some sources, Disney worried about the rising criminality of the city. A neighboring family had two adolescent children involved in a car barn robbery, and Elias feared that crime would taint his own children. In 1906 he moved with his family to a farm near Marceline, Missouri. Elias and his family settled there in April, 1906. On March 5, he bought a forty-acre farm. Its previous owner William E. Crane had died in November, 1905. Crane was a veteran of the American Civil War and his house predated the foundation of Marceline. He bought the farm at a price of 3,000 dollars or 75 dollars per acre. On April 3, Elias bough an adjoining tract of about 5 acres from Crane's widow. He paid an additional 450 dollars.
Marceline was probably chosen for being accessible from Chicago, for its rural setting, and because his younger brother Robert owned a 440-acres farm to the west of the city. The Crane Farm had orchards of apples, peaches, and plums, and fields of grain. The farm animals included pigs, chickens, horses, and cows. The Disneys had a telephone connection by 1907. Herbert and Raymond Disney never liked life in the farm. They moved out around the fall of 1908, heading back to Chicago. They found work as clerks.
In 1907, Elias convinced some of his fellow farmers to join the American Society of Equity, a farmer's union aiming to consolidate the members' buying power.
The family sold the farm on November 28, 1910, as Elias fell ill. He was suffering from typhoid fever, followed by pneumonia. The Disneys lived in a rented house in Marceline, probably at 508 North Kansas Avenue. Until 1911, when they moved to Kansas City, Missouri. They lived in a rented house at 2706 East Thirty-first Street. They stayed there until they bought their own modest in September,1914. It was situated at 3028 Bellefontaine Street.
On July 1, 1911, Elias purchased a newspaper delivery route for The Kansas City Star. It extended from the Twenty-seventh Street to the Thirty-first Street, and from Prospect Avenue to Indiana Avenue. Roy and Walt were put to work delivering the newspapers. The Disneys delivered the morning newspaper Kansas City Times to about 700 customers and the evening and Sunday Star to more than 600. Their customers increased with time. Elias also delivered butter and eggs to his newspaper customers. They were imported from a dairy farm in Marceline.
Elias sold the paper route on March 17, 1917. He had been investing in the O-Zell Company of Chicago since 1912 and moved back to the city in 1917 to take an active role in its management. The Disneys rented a flat at 1523 Ogden Avenue.
He retired from management work in 1920 and moved back to Kansas City. He was again listed as a carpenter. He moved to Portland, Oregon by the fall of 1921. His son Herbert had earlier moved to this city.
Elias Disney was a religious and strict man, with a sense of honesty and decency. He never drank alcoholic beverages and rarely smoked. According to biographical accounts, Disney was a stern man who could have a strong temper at times, and would take the money his sons earned for "safekeeping", considering them too young to know the value of money.
Elias would talk socialism with strange characters and bring them home. He was a fiddler himself and would bring home anyone else who could play an instrument.
- Barrier, J. Michael. (2007), "The Pet in the Family: On the Farm and in the City, 1901-1923", The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney, University of California Press, ISBN 978-0520241176
- Barrier (2007), p. 12
- Schlosser. Fast Food Nation. pg. 36
- Barrier (2007), p. 13
- Larson, Erik. "The Devil In The White City". Random House. Retrieved 2009-12-19.
- Barrier, Michael (2007). The Animated Man - A life of Walt Disney. Los Angeles: University of Los Angeles Press. pp. 19–22. ISBN 978-0-520-24117-6.
- Walt Disney by Neal Gabler - eBook - Random House at www.randomhouse.com
- Barrier (2007), p. 9-10
- Barrier (2007), p. 11
- Barrier (2007), p. 14
- Barrier (2007), p. 16-17
- Barrier (2007), p. 18
- Barrier (2007), p. 19-20
- Barrier (2007), p. 21
- Barrier (2007), p. 27-28
- Barrier (2007), p. 29-30
- Barrier (2007), p. 15