John Insley Blair
|John Insley Blair|
August 22, 1802|
Foul Rift, New Jersey
|Died||December 2, 1899
Blairstown, New Jersey
|Spouse(s)||Nancy Ann Locke (m. 1826)|
|Children||Emma Elizabeth Blair (1827-1869)
DeWitt Clinton Blair
|Relatives||Charles Scribner I, soninlaw|
John Insley Blair (August 22, 1802 – December 2, 1899) was an American entrepreneur, railroad magnate, philanthropist and one of the 19th century's wealthiest men.
Blair's parents John Blair and Rachel Insley immigrated from Scotland; he was the fourth child of ten children. He was born at Foul Rift, New Jersey, just south of Belvidere, New Jersey, and at the age of two the Blair family moved to a farm near Hope Township, New Jersey. Even as a youth, Blair displayed a keen interest in the acquisition of wealth. At the age of ten, he is reported to have told his mother, "I have seven brothers and three sisters. That's enough in the family to be educated. I am going to get rich."  The young Blair began earning money by trapping wild rabbits and muskrats and selling their skins at a price of sixteen for a dollar. The next year, Blair began working at a general store owned by his cousin John, and at the age of seventeen he founded a store of his own with his cousin as an equal partner, located in the community of Butt's Bridge, New Jersey. On August 25, 1825, the name of the community was changed to Gravel Hill and Blair was appointed postmaster, a position he retained until July, 1851. He married Nancy Ann Locke on September 20, 1826, and the couple had four children: Emma Elizabeth, Marcus Laurence, DeWitt Clinton, and Aurelia Ann. Blair bought out his cousin's share of their store and expanded operations. By 1830, he owned five stores, each one run by one of his brothers.
On January 24, 1839, Gravel Hill was officially renamed Blairstown, New Jersey (2000 Population of 5,747) in Blair's honor. He established Blair, Nebraska by purchasing a 1,075-acre (4.35 km2) tract of land in Nebraska on May 10, 1869 after the Sioux City and Pacific Rail Road chose to cross the Missouri river at that location.
Blair managed his multi-million dollar businesses from rural Blairstown, New Jersey or from his private rail car upon which it was common for him to log 40,000 miles (64,000 km) annually. As president of 16 railroad companies, he amassed a fortune estimated at $70 million. Blair was the largest owner of rail mileage in the world. His religion as a Presbyterian and penchant for philanthropy led him to found more than 100 churches in close proximity to his railroads. In 1873, he was also an investor in the Green Bay and Minnesota Railroad, and the namesake of Blair, Wisconsin.
Holdings and joint holdings
- Lackawanna Coal and Iron Company (1846)
- Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (1852)
- Union Pacific Railroad (1860)
- president, director, or joint in 20+ others.
- Blair Academy Founded (1848).
- Lafayette College Easton, Pennsylvania
- Grinnell College (Grinnell, Iowa)
- Princeton University Princeton, New Jersey
- Endowed a geology professorship, first held by Arnold Henry Guyot. The endowed chair is the second oldest at the school; as of the start of the 2000-01 school year there were 172 such endowed chairs.
- Served as trustee from 1866 until his death. In remarks at his installation as trustee, Blair noted that he had received little formal education and had spent most of his life as a businessman learning addition, but that now "I have come to Princeton to learn subtraction."
- Provided funds to build Blair Hall, which was constructed in 1897 by Cope & Stewardson.
- Emma Elizabeth Blair who married Charles Scribner I
- Marcus Laurence Blair
- Aurelia Ann Blair Mitchell
- DeWitt Clinton Blair continued businesses and expanded his father's philanthropy and had as his son, C. Ledyard Blair
- Bertholf, Jr., Kenneth; Dorflinger, Don (2011). Blairstown and Its Neighbors. Arcadia. p. 7.
- "John Insley Blair Dead". New York Times. December 3, 1899.
- Blair Family Papers: Biographical Sketch of John Insley Blair, accessed December 31, 2006
- "John Insley Blair Dead. Leaves a Name for Philanthropy and Many Millions. Blairstown, His Home, Famous. His Determination to Acquire Wealth. His Vast Railroad, Mining, and Financial Enterprises.", The New York Times, December 3, 1899.
- Blairstown, Past and Present: An Historical Narrative, accessed December 31, 2006[dead link]
- Princeton University: Blair Hall, accessed December 31, 2006
- Edward P. Blair (Spring 1993). Mona Mattingly, ed. "A Place Called Blair: Wisconsin". Blair Family Magazine (Blair Society for Genealogical Research). Retrieved July 1, 2010.
- History of Blair Academy, accessed December 31, 2006
- Endowed professorships, Princeton Weekly Bulletin, accessed December 31, 2006
|Party political offices|
Marcus Lawrence Ward
|Republican Nominee for Governor of New Jersey