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 in the rural village of Bluevale, Ontario, Canada, to Irish immigrants of English descent, Kepple Elias Disney and Mary Richardson. 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.
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.Larson, Erik. "The Devil In The White City". Random House. Retrieved 2009-12-19.He bought shares of O-Zell Company, a factory producing 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.
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)
According to some sources, Disney worried about the rising criminality of the city. In 1906 he moved with his family to a farm near Marceline, Missouri. The family sold the farm in 1909 and lived in a rented house until 1911, when they moved to Kansas City, Missouri.
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.