September 10, 1808|
Middleborough, Massachusetts, US
|Died||September 17, 1896
Baltimore, Maryland, US
|Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland, US|
|Occupation||Business magnate, Philanthropist|
|Net worth||$2.5 million|
|Spouse(s)||Maria Louisa Hyde|
Enoch Pratt (September 10, 1808 — September 17, 1896-) was an American businessman in Baltimore, Maryland, a Unitarian, and a philanthropist. He is best known for his donations to establish the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore and expand The Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital. He earned his fortune as an owner of business interests in railroads, iron works, banks, and transportation companies.
Born in Middleborough, Massachusetts, Enoch Pratt was the second of eight children born to Isaac and Naomi (née Keith) Pratt. A successful businessman, Isaac Pratt managed several businesses, including a sawmill, general store, wholesale hardware. The young Enoch was educated at Bridgewater Academy in neighboring Bridgewater, Massachusetts's Town Common. After graduating, at the age of 15, Enoch Pratt began his first job in business as a clerk in a Boston hardware.
In 1831, Pratt moved to Baltimore with $150 to launch his own wholesale iron hardware business, Enoch Pratt & Brothers at 23-25 South Charles Street. The business proved successful, and six years later, Pratt married Maria Louisa Hyde (1818–1913), the daughter of Samuel G. and Catherine Hyde, on August 1, 1837. Their marriage was happy, but they were unable to have children.
With his successful hardware business, Pratt became involved in other businesses as vice president of the Philadelphia, Wilmington, & Baltimore Railroad, president of the National Farmers’ and Planters’ bank of Baltimore, and controlling stockholder in the Maryland Steamboat Company. In 1851, Pratt and his partner invested in western Maryland coal mines and iron yards in the Baltimore neighborhood of Canton. They made their own merchandise, thereby ending their dependence on northern manufacturers. From 1860 until his death in 1896, he was the president of the National Farmers' and Planters' Bank of Baltimore. Pratt also became president of the Baltimore Clearing House and the Maryland Bankers' Association, in addition to establishing a role in several transportation companies. He was also a director for three other railroads. He was a contemporary and associate of philanthropist Thomas Kelso. They served together on the board of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad company.
During his early years as a businessman, Pratt's philanthropy started with donations to his church, the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore (Unitarian and Universalist), where he served as a trustee for over 40 years. He paid off large debts, bought a new organ, and financed significant remodeling of the church. Other early philanthropy included his patronage of Edward Sheffield Bartholomew, Pratt commissioned many public sculptures and memorials throughout Baltimore, including the statute of George Washington in Druid Hill Park.
Pratt gave much of his time and wealth to Baltimore’s cultural and charitable institutions. He served as a trustee of the Peabody Institute (founded in 1857 by fellow Massachusetts-born and Baltimore industrialist/financier George Peabody, [1795-1869]. He founded the House of Reformation and Instruction for Colored Children at Cheltenham (in Prince George's County), and the Maryland School for the Deaf and Dumb at Frederick. In 1865, he donated a free school and public library to his hometown of Middleborough in Massachusetts.
Enoch Pratt Free Library
Pratt is best known for his establishment of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. On January 21, 1882, Pratt offered a gift of a central library, four branch libraries (with two additional shortly thereafter), and a financial endowment of US $1,058,333 to Mayor William Pinkney Whyte and the City Council of Baltimore. His intention was to establish a library that "shall be for all, rich and poor without distinction of race or color, who, when properly accredited, can take out the books if they will handle them carefully and return them." The grant was accepted by the municipal government and approved by the voters later that year in an election on October 25.
Upon his death in 1896 at his summer residence "Tivoli", Pratt left the vast majority of his wealth ($2 million of his $2.5 million) to the The Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital. Pratt was impressed by the trustees' handling of the original Sheppard endowment. “They are the only Board of Trustees in Baltimore,” said Pratt, “who have carried out exactly the directions of the founder.” Pratt's bequest was used to complete construction of the old Sheppard Asylum, enlarge the facility to house 200 additional patients, serve the indigent.
Maryland Historical Society
Enoch Pratt's city townhouse/mansion located at 201 West Monument Street in Mount Vernon-Belvedere has served as the home of the Maryland Historical Society since 1919. The house was occupied by his wife until her death. The house was gifted to the society by Mary Washington Keyser, whose husband was a longtime society member.
Famous steel industrialist and millionaire Andrew Carnegie, said when he began his philanthropy of millions of dollars in the early 20th Century giving away his fortune especially to build public library buildings throughout the United States, said that "Pratt was my guide and inspiration" remembering the time of several days that he spent in Baltimore at Mr. Pratt's house touring the new Free Library and conversing with Mr. Pratt about their mutual ideas in the late 1880s.
- Barbic, Kari. "Enoch Pratt". The Philanthropy Roundtable. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
- Johnson, Rossiter, and John Howard Brown (1904). "Section 5: Pratt". The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans 8. The Biographical Society.
- "Who is Enoch Pratt?". Enoch Pratt Free Library. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
- Browne, William Hand, and Louis Henry Dielman, ed. (1955). Maryland Historical Magazine 50. Maryland Historical Society. p. 327.
- American railroad journal - Volume 27, J.H. Schultz, 1854, pg. 62
- "History of Our Church and Organs". History. First Unitarian Church of Baltimore. 2008-07-22.
- History of the Library – Enoch Pratt Free Library.
- "Maryland Historical Trust". Tivoli, Baltimore City. Maryland Historical Trust. 2008-11-21.