J. Ogden Armour

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J. Ogden Armour
J.Ogden.Armour.jpg
Born Jonathan Ogden Armour
November 11, 1863
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Died August 16, 1927(1927-08-16) (aged 63)
London, England
Nationality American
Alma mater Yale University
Occupation Businessman
Religion Episcopalian
Spouse(s) Lola Sheldon Armour
Parents

Philip Danforth Armour

Malvina Bell Ogden

Jonathan Ogden Armour (November 11, 1863 – August 16, 1927) was an American meatpacking magnate and only surviving son of Civil War-era industrialist Philip Danforth Armour. He became owner and president of Armour & Company following the death of his father in 1901. During his tenure as president, Armour and Co. expanded nationwide and overseas, growing from a mid-sized regional meatpacker to the largest food products company in the United States.

Biography[edit]

He was born on November 11, 1863, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Philip Danforth Armour, Sr. and Malvina Ogden. He was the couple's first child; a brother, Philip Danforth Armour, Jr., followed. The year he was born, his father became a partner in the meatpacking firm of Plakington & Armour. The family moved to Chicago in 1865. In 1867, Armour's father decided to move the company's primary meatpacking operations from Milwaukee to Chicago. His business partner disagreed, and sold his interest in the company to the senior Armour. The firm moved, and changed its name to Armour & Co.[1]

Armour attended Yale University, but dropped out during his senior year in order to assist his father with the family company. He became a partner in the firm in 1884.[1]

J. Ogden Armour

He met the former Lola Sheldon in 1891. They married in Mexico in 1892, and had one daughter, also named Lola.[1]

As his father's health declined, he took over more and more responsibility for the direction of Armour & Co. His younger brother, Philip, Jr., died in 1900.[2] J. Ogden Armour took over as company president in 1901.[1] During his tenure, sales skyrocketed from $200 million to $1 billion.

In July 1904, the Amalgamated Meat Cutters struck all meatpackers in Chicago. Armour and the other employers broke the union by hiring thousands of unemployed African American strikebreakers. The hiring of the strikebreakers provoked a riot involving 4,000 union members and their families on August 19, 1904. The strike collapsed in mid-September. Social reformer Jane Addams met personally with Armour to secure a contract which helped the union survive.[3]

In 1911, Armour and nine other meatpackers were sued by the federal government for violations of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Armour convinced the other owners to let the case go to the jury without offering a defense; Armour and the other meatpackers were acquitted.[1]

To finance the company's growth during World War I, Armour sold $60 million in bonds to the public in 1917. These bonds were converted to stock in 1919, making Armour & Co. one of the first publicly traded meatpacking firms.[1]

In the post-war slump, Armour & Co. sales collapsed and the company went $144 million in debt. Armour lost most of his family fortune—at $100 million (about $1.47 billion in 2010 dollars), then the second-largest in the world[4]—in the downturn. The company lost $125 million between 1919 and 1921. Armour, owner of $100 million in stock, suffered the most.[1] During the worst period, Armour lost a million dollars a day for 130 days.[5] He was unable to reinvigorate the company, and was ousted as president in 1923. His successor was F. Edson White.[6]

Armour and Co. stock yards, Chicago

Death[edit]

In the summer of 1927, Amour traveled to London, England, and fell ill with typhoid and then pneumonia. As his condition worsened, he was attended by Lord Dawson of Penn, personal physician to King George V. Armour died of heart failure at 4:30 p.m. London time on August 16, 1927. He had less than $25,000 in cash in his accounts, although his stock holdings in the Universal Oil Products Company were estimated at $3 million (about $37 million in 2010 dollars).[5][4] Years later this "worthless Stock" became valuable and his widow became wealthy

Other interests[edit]

Armour also owned the Kansas City Power & Light Company and the Metropolitan Street Railway, also of Kansas City. He sold his interests in both companies in 1923. He was also a significant investor in the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway and the Illinois Central Railroad.[1]

He was a co-owner of the Armour Grain Company. During a market panic on the Chicago Board of Trade in August 1914, he helped avoid a spike in wheat prices by selling hundreds of thousands of bushels of grain.[1]

In 1901, the same year he took over Armour & Co., Armour donated $1 million to the Armour Institute, the college his father had founded. Additionally, he was a founding director of the South Shore Country Club in Chicago.[7]

Armour's Lake Forest mansion

In 1909 he was silent partner for Frederick Gilmer Bonfils and Harry Heye Tammen in the purchase of the Kansas City Post.[8]

Armour played a role in aviation history when he bankrolled the pioneering transcontinental flight of Cal Rodgers. Armour used the flight to promote the introduction of a grape-flavored soda called Vin Fiz. The plane, and its accompanying railroad cars, were painted with Vin Fiz logos.[9]

Armour built an Italian-style estate on 1,200 acres (1.85 mi2) of farmland, called "Mellody Farms" at Lake Forest, Illinois in 1908. The estate was designed for his daughter, who was crippled as a child.[4] This former estate is now part of the campus of Lake Forest Academy.[10]

In 1916 he became a part owner of the Chicago cubs Baseball team with William Wrigley until he was forced to give up due to business reserves.

J. Ogden Armour wrote two books: The Packers, the Private Car Lines, and the People in 1906 and Business Problems of the War in 1917.

In popular culture[edit]

Armour was the inspiration for one of the meatpacking plant owners in Upton Sinclair's classic novel, The Jungle. The 1904 strike against Armour & Co. figures in the novel's plot.

Armour and Mellody Farms appear (under pseudonyms) in Arthur Meeker, Jr.'s1949 social satire Prairie Avenue. The novel is about the foibles of wealthy Chicagoans and their move away from Chicago's South Side.

Quotes[edit]

  • "I lost money so fast, I didn't think it was possible."[1]
  • "I have had some of the finest friendships any man ever had, although mine probably have been the most expensive friends anyone ever enjoyed. My friends have cost me a great deal of money, yet there is not one of them whom I can hate for it."[5]
  • "I don't suppose I shall ever be happy. Perhaps no one ever is. But the thing that would make me happiest just now would be to know that I could get roaring drunk and wander about the loop for two days without anyone paying any attention to me."[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Mather, "Armour A Leader In Vast Growth of Meat Packing," Chicago Daily Tribune, August 17, 1927.
  2. ^ "Philip D. Armour, Jr., Dead. Younger Son of Chicago's Millionaire Packer Stricken with Congestion of the Lungs in California". New York Times. January 28, 1900. Retrieved 2010-12-09. "News has been received of the sudden death of Phil D. Armour, Jr., at Montecito, near Santa Barbara. Young Armour was ill but ..." 
  3. ^ Barrett, Work and Community in the Jungle: Chicago's Packing-House Workers, 1894-1922, 1990.
  4. ^ a b c Steele, "J. Ogden Armour, Dead in London, to Be Buried Here," Chicago Daily Tribune, August 17, 1927.
  5. ^ a b c d "Death of Armour". Time magazine. August 29, 1927. Retrieved 2010-12-09. "At the peak of his reverses, he lost a million dollars a day for 130 days." 
  6. ^ "Stockyards Meeting," Time, September 11, 1933.
  7. ^ Downey, "Old Glory," Chicago Magazine, April 2006.
  8. ^ Bonfils Building, 1200 Grand, National Register Application - July 1982
  9. ^ Lebow, Cal Rodgers and the Vin Fiz: The First Transcontinental Flight, 1989.
  10. ^ Coventry, Meyer, and Miller, Classic Country Estates of Lake Forest: Architecture and Landscape Design 1856-1940, 2003.

Further reading[edit]

  • Barrett, James R. Work and Community in the Jungle: Chicago's Packing-House Workers, 1894-1922. Champaign, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1990. ISBN 0-252-01378-6
  • Coventry, Kim; Meyer, Daniel; and Miller, Arthur H. Classic Country Estates of Lake Forest: Architecture and Landscape Design 1856-1940. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003. ISBN 0-393-73099-9
  • "Death of Armour." Time. August 29, 1927.
  • Downey, Sarah. "Old Glory." Chicago Magazine. April 2006.
  • Lebow, Eileen F. Cal Rodgers and the Vin Fiz: The First Transcontinental Flight. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989. ISBN 0-87474-704-X
  • Leech, Harper. Armour and His Times. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1971. ISBN 0-8369-6657-0
  • Mather, O.A. "Armour A Leader In Vast Growth of Meat Packing." Chicago Daily Tribune. August 17, 1927.
  • Meeker, Arthur. Prairie Avenue. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1949.
  • Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle. New Sub ed. (uncensored original edition). Tucson, Ariz.: Sharp Press, 2003. ISBN 1-884365-30-2
  • Steele, John. "J. Ogden Armour, Dead in London, to Be Buried Here." Chicago Daily Tribune. August 17, 1927.
  • "Stockyards Meeting." Time. September 11, 1933.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Philip Danforth Armour
President of Armour and Company
1901-1923
Succeeded by
F. Edson White