Enoch Pratt

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Enoch Pratt
Born (1808-09-10)September 10, 1808
Middleborough, Massachusetts, US
Died September 17, 1896(1896-09-17) (aged 88)
Baltimore, Maryland, US
Resting place
Green Mount Cemetery, Greenmount and East North Avenues, Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.
Occupation Business magnate, Philanthropist
Net worth $2.5 million[1]
Religion Unitarian[1]
Spouse(s) Maria Louisa Hyde

Enoch Pratt (September 10, 1808 — September 17, 1896-[2]) was an American businessman in Baltimore, Maryland. Pratt was also a committed active Unitarian, and a philanthropist. He is best known for his donations to establish the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore and expanding the former Sheppard Asylum to become the The Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital, (now known as the Sheppard-Pratt Hospital for mental health and psychiatric research), located north of the city in western Towson, county seat of Baltimore County. Born and raised in [[Massachusetts], he moved south to the Chesapeake Bay area and became devoted to the civic interests of the city of Baltimore. He earned his fortune as an owner of business interests beginning in the 1830's originally as a hardware wholesaler, and later expanding into railroads, banking and finance, iron works, and steamship lines and other transportation companies.

Early life[edit]

Born in Middleborough, Massachusetts, Enoch Pratt was the second of eight children born to Isaac and Naomi (née Keith) Pratt.[2] A successful businessman, Isaac Pratt managed several businesses, including a sawmill, general store, wholesale hardware.[1] The young Enoch was educated at the former Bridgewater Academy in the neighboring town of Bridgewater, Massachusetts's Town Common.[2] After graduating, at the age of 15, Enoch Pratt began his first job in business as a clerk in a Boston hardware.[1][2]

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, between East Baltimore and German (now Redwood) Streets.[3] The business proved successful, and six years later, Pratt married Maria Louisa Hyde (1818–1913), the daughter of Samuel G. and Catherine Hyde, whom he met at his church on August 1, 1837.[2][4] Their marriage was happy, but they were unable to have children.[1]

Business career[edit]

With his successful hardware business, Pratt became involved in other businesses as vice president of the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad, who built their southern terminal in 1849-1850 at the President Street Station, at President and Fleet Streets, east of the harbor "basin" (today's "Inner Harbor"). He also served as president of the National Farmers’ and Planters’ Bank of Baltimore, and was the controlling stockholder in the Maryland Steamboat Company.[1] In 1851, Pratt and his partner invested in western Maryland coal mines and iron yards in the expanding and developing industrial and commercial 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.[citation needed] He was also a director for three other railroads, including the famous Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. He was a contemporary and associate of philanthropist Thomas Kelso. They served together on the board of the P.W. & B. Railroad Company.[5]


During his early years as a businessman, Pratt's philanthropy started with donations to his church, the First Independent Church of Baltimore (later the First Unitarian Church (Unitarian and Universalist), at North Charles and West Franklin Streets, where he served as a trustee for over 40 years. He paid off several of the congregation's large debts, bought a new organ, and financed significant remodeling of the church in the 1890's. Other early philanthropy included his patronage of the artist Edward Sheffield Bartholomew,[6] Pratt commissioned many public sculptures and memorials throughout Baltimore, including the statue of George Washington erected in the city's new first and largest park of Druid Hill Park, acquired by the city in 1860.[1]

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, and opened in 1866, in the presence of its benefactor, fellow Bay Stater and friend, George Peabody, (1795-1869), who also formerly made his original fortune in "The Monumental City" during the 20 years of his first business, 1815-1835, at the time was the wealthiest man in the Americas. The new Institute's various cultural programs that were established of an art gallery, reference library, series of educational lectures, a music conservatory, and system of scholarship honors (monetary prizes with gold or silver medals) for honored graduates of the city's new public high schools ("Peabody Prizes"). A decade later, nine years after his death, the east wing of the Institute withy its noted gallery of cast-iron balconies for the book stacks, ceiling skylight and impressive architecture by Edmund G. Lind for its scholarly non-circulating library, (now known as The George Peabody Library) was constructed in 1878. This act of philanthropy further inspired Pratt, by his friend and fellow Massachusetts-born and Baltimore industrialist/financier George Peabody, [1795-1869].[1] He founded the "House of Reformation and Instruction for Colored Children" at Cheltenham (in Prince George's County),[1] and the Maryland School for the Deaf and Dumb located at Frederick on South Market Street.[citation needed] In 1865, he donated a free school and public library to his hometown of Middleborough in Massachusetts.[1]

Enoch Pratt Free Library[edit]

The interior of the Enoch Pratt Free Library

Pratt is best known for his establishment of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. On January 21, 1882, in a letter addressed to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, Pratt offered a gift of a central library, four branch libraries (with two additional ones shortly thereafter), and a financial endowment of (U.S.) $1,058,333. Further, he requested that to Mayor William Pinkney Whyte and the Council continue an annual appropriation to the new library system and support it in the years to come to supplement the interest and benefits accumulating from the principal of his bequest. 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/referendum on October 25, 1882.[7]

Sheppard Asylum[edit]

Upon his death in 1896 at his summer residence "Tivoli",[8] Pratt left the vast majority of his wealth ($2 million of his $2.5 million) to the The Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital, (as it was later renamed, today it is titled the "Sheppard-Pratt Hospital", giving equal weight to both generous co-founders). Pratt was impressed by the trustees' frugal handling of the original Moses Sheppard, (1771-1857), endowment. “They are the only Board of Trustees in Baltimore,” said Pratt, “who have carried out exactly the directions of the founder.”[1] Pratt's bequest was used to complete construction of the old Moses Sheppard Asylum, enlarge the facility to house 200 additional patients, serve the indigent.[citation needed]

Maryland Historical Society[edit]

Enoch Pratt's city townhouse/mansion located at 201 West Monument Street, at the southwest corner with Park Avenue in Mount Vernon-Belvedere which he purchased in 1847, has served as the home of the Maryland Historical Society since 1919, when it moved from the old "Athenaeum" building, (the second to bear the name) at the northwest corner of St. Paul Street and East Saratoga Street, across from and down the hill from Old St. Paul's Episcopal Church on North Charles Street. The Athenaeum, which the Society had occupied since the 1840s, also briefly held the collections of the old Library Company of Baltimore and the Mercantile Library Association, of which libraries were merged with the Society's in the 1850s. It later briefly served as the office for the new-fangled for the horse and carriages, the state Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, then unfortunately was razed for a parking garage. Today the site is occupied by a glass skyscraper for the Commercial Credit Corporation. The Pratt mansion was occupied by his wife until her death. The house was then gifted to the society by Mary Washington Keyser, whose husband was a longtime Md.H.S. 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.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Barbic, Kari. "Enoch Pratt". The Philanthropy Roundtable. Retrieved 26 January 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Johnson, Rossiter, and John Howard Brown (1904). "Section 5: Pratt". The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans 8. The Biographical Society. 
  3. ^ "Who is Enoch Pratt?". Enoch Pratt Free Library. Retrieved 26 January 2014. 
  4. ^ Browne, William Hand, and Louis Henry Dielman, ed. (1955). Maryland Historical Magazine 50. Maryland Historical Society. p. 327. 
  5. ^ American railroad journal - Volume 27, J.H. Schultz, 1854, pg. 62
  6. ^ "History of Our Church and Organs". History. First Unitarian Church of Baltimore. 2008-07-22. 
  7. ^ History of the Library – Enoch Pratt Free Library.
  8. ^ "Maryland Historical Trust". Tivoli, Baltimore City. Maryland Historical Trust. 2008-11-21.