Philip Danforth Armour

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Philip Danforth Armour
Philip Danforth Armour.jpg
Born (1832-05-16)May 16, 1832
Stockbridge, New York
Died January 6, 1901(1901-01-06) (aged 68)
Chicago, Illinois
Spouse(s) Malvina Bell Ogden
Children J. Ogden Armour (1863-1927)
Philip Danforth Armour, Jr. (1869-1900)
Relatives Herman Ossian Armour (brother)
A refrigerator car of the Armour Refrigerator Line (ARL), circa 1917
A Pullman-built "shorty" reefer bearing the Armour Packing Co. - Kansas City logo, circa 1885. Note that the name of the "patentee" was displayed on the car's exterior, a practice intended to "...impress the shipper and intimidate the competition..."

Philip Danforth Armour, Sr. (16 May 1832 – 6 January 1901) was an American meatpacking industrialist who founded the Chicago based firm of Armour & Company. He is often considered one of America's robber barons of the Industrial Revolution.

Life and career[edit]

Armour was born in Stockbridge, New York to Danforth Armour and Juliana Ann Brooks. He was one of eight children and grew up on his family's farm. Armour was descended from colonial settlers of Scottish and English origin, with his surname originating in Scotland. He was educated at Cazenovia Academy in New York until the school expelled him for taking a ride in a buggy with a girl.[1] Among his first jobs was that of Driver on upstate New York's Chenango Canal which ran through Madison County at that time and would have been a busy thoroughfare. At the age of 19, Armour left New York with about 30 other people for California, joining the great California gold rush. Before the journey, Armour “had received several hundred dollars from his parents,” making him, for the most part, “the financier of the party,” according to biographer Edward N. Wentworth.[2] In California, Armour eventually started his own business, employing out-of-work miners to construct sluices, which controlled the waters that flowed through the mined rivers. In only a few years, Armour had turned his business into a profitable enterprise, earning himself about $8,000 by the time he had turned 24.[3]

With his sizable fortune in hand, Armour then moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, starting a wholesale grocery business. In Milwaukee, Armour formed business partnerships with Frederick Miles in the grain business in 1859. He worked with Miles for three years before he partnered with John Plankinton in the meatpacking industry, creating the company Plankinton, Armour & Company. It was also during this period when Armour married Malvina Belle Ogden in 1862.[4] Although the company was a relatively modest endeavor at its start, Armour demonstrated his uncanny ability as a young businessman by taking advantage of changing meat prices during and after the Civil War. According to Deborah S. Ing, author of Philip Armour’s biography in the American National Biography Online, “the most important business coup of Armour's early career occurred near the end of the Civil War when he predicted heavy Confederate losses and thus the dropping of pork prices…he made contracts with buyers at $40 per barrel before prices plummeted to $18 when the war ended in a Union victory. This deal netted him a profit of $22 per barrel or an alleged total of $1 million to $2 million.”[4] Armour’s savvy decision catapulted Plankinton, Armour & Co. into a new stratosphere of American business, allowing the corporation to expand into other cities such as Kansas City, Missouri. Later on, with his brother, Herman, he again entered the grain business and built several meat packing plants in the Menomonee River Valley. Together they formed Armour and Company in 1867, which soon became the world's largest food processing and chemical manufacturing enterprise, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Armour & Co. was the first company to produce canned meat and also one of the first to employ an "assembly-line" technique in its factories.

In order to get his meat products to market Armour followed the lead of rival Gustavus Swift when he established the Armour Refrigerator Line in 1883. Armour's endeavor soon became the largest private refrigerator car fleet in the U.S., which by 1900 listed over 12,000 units on its roster, all built in Armour's own car plant. The General American Transportation Corporation would assume ownership of the line in 1932.

His meat packing plants pioneered new principles of large-scale organization and refrigeration to the industry. Firstly, Armour implemented the assembly line in order to speed up production. Additionally, Armour was one of the first to take action to reduce the tremendous waste inherent in the slaughtering of hogs and to take advantage of the resale value of what had been waste products. It was reported that the company used every possible part of the animals to make products other than canned meat, such as fertilizer, glue and pepsin. Armour famously declared that he made use of "everything but the squeal". By developing these profitable manufacturing innovations and expanding the reach of his company, Armour & Co. became one of the largest meatpacking firms in America by the 1890s, bringing in an estimated $110 million in 1893 and establishing Armour’s position as one of the great industrialists of the Gilded Age.[5]

Since the end of the Civil War, labor activists in Chicago had been struggling for better pay, as well as the eight-hour day, safer working conditions, and the right to form unions.[6] At a time when the living wage for a five member family was $15.40 a week, the workers at Armour and Company had only earned about $9.50 a week.[3] After Armour's butchers had publicly called for better pay and improved job security in the early 1880s, Armour kicked out the union workers and blacklisted the leaders of the strike.[7] In the weeks before the Haymarket bombing of May 4, 1886, Armour had even encouraged his colleagues to equip a militia to suppress future labor actions. In the book Death in the Haymarket, historian James Green notes that the supplies included “'a good machine gun, to be used by them in case of trouble.'”[8] Over the course of his career, Armour had broken three major strikes that had directly concerned his factories, blacklisting all of the union leaders involved.[3] Nevertheless, the New York Times managed to emphasize in its reporting how greatly Armour “cares for his labor” without any sense of irony.[9] “Although his workers lived and worked in squalid conditions,” the PBS series American Experience reports, “Armour was known as a philanthropist”.[3]

The company's reputation was further tarnished by the scandal of 1898–99 in which it was charged with selling tainted beef. This event provided fodder for the muckraking novel by Upton Sinclair entitled The Jungle, which was published in February 1906 and became a bestseller.

In 1893, Armour donated $1 million to found the Armour Institute of Technology (a privately endowed coeducational college), which merged with the Lewis Institute to become Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in 1940. He also created the Armour Mission, an educational and healthcare center. In 1900 his oldest son, Philip D. Armour, Jr., died.[10]

Malvina Belle Ogden, wife of Armour

Armour died on January 6, 1901 of pneumonia at his Chicago home.[11] He was survived by his wife, Malvina Belle Ogden whom he had married in 1862, and by one son, J. Ogden Armour.

Legacy[edit]

The town of Armour, South Dakota was named for him in 1885, and the town of Armourdale, Kansas (now the district of Armourdale in Kansas City, Kansas) in 1881. Streets in Cudahy, Wisconsin (a Milwaukee suburb founded by meat packing magnate Patrick Cudahy) as well as Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, where the Armour family had a summer estate, also bears his name. The streets of North Redondo Beach, CA are named after prominent American businessmen of the industrial revolution. Armour Lane is one of them.

The Union Pacific Railroad has as one of its official colors, Armour Yellow, which is the same color used by Armour refrigerated cars in the early 20th Century.[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ PBS; American Experience, Chicago: City of the Century 
  2. ^ Wentworth, Edward N. (1920). Biographical Catalog of the Portrait Gallery of the Saddle and Sirloin Club. Chicago, IL: Union Stock Yards. p. 178. 
  3. ^ a b c d PBS; American Experience, People & Events: Philip Danforth Armour (1832-1901) 
  4. ^ a b Ing, Deborah. "Philip Danforth Armour". American National Biography Online. 
  5. ^ Ing, Deborah. "Philip Danforth Armour". Britannica.com. 
  6. ^ Green, James (2006). Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement and the Bombing That Divided Gilded Age America. New York: Pantheon Books. 
  7. ^ Green, James (2006). Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement and the Bombing That Divided Gilded Age America. New York: Pantheon Books. p. 104. 
  8. ^ Green, James (2006). Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement and the Bombing That Divided Gilded Age America. New York: Pantheon Books. p. 159. 
  9. ^ "Armour and His Men". New York Times. March 18, 1899. 
  10. ^ "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 Philip D. Armour, Jr., at Montecito, near Santa Barbara. Young Armour was ill but ..." 
  11. ^ "Philip D. Armour Is Dead. Chicago Millionaire Passes Away After Two Years' Illness. Sought Health at Home and Abroad. Began to Sink with the Commencement of Winter. His Wealth Estimated as High as $50,000,000". New York Times. January 7, 1901. Retrieved 2009-07-31. "Philip Danforth Armour -- philanthropist, financier, and multi-millionaire, head of the vast commercial establishment that bears his name -- died at his ..." 
  12. ^ http://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?1,171472

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]


Preceded by
Creator
President of Armour and Company
1867–1901
Succeeded by
J. Ogden Armour