Adrian Iselin

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Adrian Iselin
BornJanuary 17, 1818
DiedMarch 28, 1905(1905-03-28) (aged 87)
Resting placeWoodlawn Cemetery
Alma materColumbia College (1837)
Occupation(s)Merchant, banker, financial investor
Eleanora O'Donnell
(m. 1845; died 1897)
Children7, including Eleanora, Columbus, Charles
Parent(s)Isaac Iselin
Aimee Jeanne Roulet

Adrian Georg Iselin (January 17, 1818 – March 28, 1905)[1] was a New York financier who invested in and developed real estate, railroads, and mining operations. For many years during his early business career he was engaged in importing with his brother, William Iselin, being one of the most successful merchants of New York in the middle of the century. After retiring from the importing trade, he established the banking house of Adrian Iselin & Co. He is considered the founder of the Iselin family in the United States.[2]

Early life[edit]

Iselin was born in Scotland on January 17, 1818, while his parents were making a tour of the British Isles.[1] He was fifth of eleven children born to Isaac Iselin (1783–1841), who was born in Basel, Switzerland and emigrated to the United States in 1801, and Aimee Jeanne (née Roulet) Iselin (1792–1873), a Swiss-French daughter of John Roulet.[1][3]

In Switzerland, the Iselin family had been merchants, public officials, and military and professional men since the 14th century. Adrian's father Isaac, who began his career in New York at Gouverneur & Kemble and later at LeRoy, Bayard and McEvers,[3] amassed a large fortune in the importing business which was passed down to him and his siblings.[3]

Iselin was educated abroad in Switzerland.[1] However, he is also shown to have been matriculated at one point at Columbia College with the class of 1837 but did not graduate, according to official documents.[4]


Iselin first joined the New York dry goods company of Messers, Cattenet, Barbey and Co., shortly thereafter going independent and in 1840 forming Moran & Iselin, an imported dry goods firm that expanded to become involved with banking.[3] When Moran retired in 1854, Iselin reorganized and continued the banking arm of the business under A. Iselin and Co. at his office located at 36 Wall Street.[3]

Iselin was one of the directors of the Sioux City and St. Paul Railroad Company in Minnesota. The town of Adrian, Minnesota, which developed after completion of the rail lines, was named after his mother, Mrs. Adrian Iselin.[5][6] In 1881, Iselin formed the Pittsburgh and State Line Railroad after Rochester and State Line Railroad was put into receivership.[3]

Iselin eventually became the chief investor in the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal and Iron Company.[a] At the outbreak of the Civil War, his firm was so strong that it helped to finance the United States Government.[1] In 1885, the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal and Iron Company constructed the world's longest string of coke ovens in Walston, Pennsylvania, with 475 ovens over a length of 2 km (1.25 miles). Their output reached 22,000 tons per month.[7]

At his death, he left the management of his investments and companies to two of his sons, Adrian Jr. and Columbus. Adrian Jr., who joined the firm in 1868,[8] was responsible for the expansion of the Company into Indiana County, Pennsylvania. Ernest Iselin, son of Adrian Jr., was director of the company from 1929 to 1934 and chairman of the board from 1936 to 1954.[9] The firm was in existence until 1936 when it was merged with Dominick & Dominick,[8] an investment and merchant banking firm that exists to this day.[3]

Later life[edit]

An avid yachtsman, Adrian was drawn to the Long Island Sound shore community of New Rochelle, New York in 1858 as the site of his country estate All View. Over forty years he transformed the farms along the New Rochelle waterfront and Davenport Neck peninsula into extraordinary waterfront estates for each of his children.[10]

When he retired from business in 1878, Iselin decided to focus much of his attention on improving conditions within his community of New Rochelle. Using the family's large expanses of farm land in the northern end of town, he constructed a reservoir system which became the area's first water company.[11] He also established the first City Savings Bank and built a fully equipped "gymnasium" for the resident public to use. Adrian and his wife, and subsequently their daughters Miss Georgine and Mrs. Elenora (Delancey Kane) were major funders of Catholic causes, establishing Saint Gabriel's Roman Catholic Church and its parochial school, as well as New Rochelle Hospital.[12] Sons Adrian, Jr., William E., Columbus O'Donnell, and Charles Oliver were all successful businessmen. Adrian and Columbus bought extensive property in the community and developed the Residence, Neptune, Homestead and Sycamore "residence park" neighborhoods.

Personal life[edit]

Mrs. Adrian Iselin (née Eleanora O'Donnell), John Singer Sargent, 1888

On December 11, 1845, married Eleanora O'Donnell (1821–1897),[13] the daughter of General Columbus O'Donnell and his wife Eleanora (née Pascault) O'Donnell, in Baltimore, Maryland.[1] Eleanora was related to John Carroll, the first Roman Catholic bishop in the United States and the founder of Georgetown University.[b] Her father was at the head of one of the foremost families of that city, and was a leading financier of Maryland, being connected with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and other important corporations. Together, they were the parents of seven children, including:[16]

Socially, Adrian Iselin and his family were among the wealthiest of New York high society.[1] In New York City Iselin was a stockholder in the Metropolitan Opera House and Real Estate Company, along with other wealthy men that included Cornelius Vanderbilt and J.P. Morgan.[40] Iselin was one of the incorporators of the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. For many years he was the Consul of the Swiss Republic in New York.

Iselin's wife died in 1897 and left her entire estate to him.[41] He died at his residence in New York City, 23 East 26th Street, on March 28, 1905.[1] His funeral service was held at his New York City home followed by a burial at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.[42] According to his obituary in The New York Times, Iselin's wealth was estimated to be between $20 and $30 million.[1] His estate was formally valued at $18,500,000 by the New York State Tax Appraiser later in 1905.[43]


Through his son Columbus, he was the great-grandfather of Columbus O'Donnell Iselin (1904-1971), the oceanographer who was the director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and a professor of Physical Oceanography at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Through his son Charles, he was the grandfather of Eleanora "Nora" Iselin (1881–1939), who married Count Ferdinand von Colloredo-Mansfeld (1878–1967), an attache of the Austrian Embassy at Rome and a nephew of Prince Colloredo-Mansfeld, in 1909.[44]

Family legacy[edit]

The coal-mining town of Iselin, one of the many company towns in Indiana county founded by the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal and Iron Company, was named after him. The Iselin family also controlled the Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railway Company, which transported coal from Pennsylvania to markets along the Great Lakes and Canada.

He and his family were responsible for the building a number of Catholic churches in his Coal Company towns including St. Adrian's in Adrian, Pennsylvania, as well as several hospitals, including the Adrian Hospital in Punxsutawney, and the Indiana Hospital in Indiana, Pennsylvania.[45][46]

In the 1870s, Unionville, previously known at Perrytown was renamed Iselin after Adrian Georg Iselin.[47][48][49]

The town of Adrian Mines, Pennsylvania was named after the family as well.[50]

The town of Adrian, Minnesota was also named after the family.


  1. ^ The Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal and Iron Company was a subsidiary of the Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railway.
  2. ^ Although he donated significant funds (in excess of $1,000,000 to Catholic Charities) and the fact that Eleanora, his wife, and several of his children were Catholic, Adrian was not a Catholic himself.[14][15]
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "ADRIAN ISELIN DEAD AT HIS CITY HOME; Banker's Illness Developed Into General Breakdown. NEW ROCHELLE'S BENEFACTOR Rumor That He Was Deathbed Convert to Roman Catholic Church, to Which He Gave Much". The New York Times. 29 March 1905. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  2. ^ Faust, Albert Bernhardt (1916). Guide to the Materials for American History in Swiss and Austrian Archives (in German). Carnegie Institution for Science. p. 120. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Iselin Family - Coal Culture: People, Lives, and Stories - Coal Culture Projects - Special Collections and University Archives - Departments - IUP Libraries - IUP". Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  4. ^ Catalogue of Matriculants who Have Not Graduated, 1758-1897. New York City: Columbia University. 1897. p. 15.
  5. ^ "Adrian Local History". The City of Adrian, Minnesota. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  6. ^ Rose, Arthur P. (1908). An Illustrated History of Nobles County, Minnesota. Northern History. p. 218. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  7. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  8. ^ a b "ISELIN FIRM TO END, JOINING DOMINICKS; One of Oldest of Wall Street Houses to Lose Identity by Merger on July 22. SOME OF FORCE TO SHIFT Dominick & Dominick Will Take Over Also Iselin Securities Corporation" (PDF). The New York Times. 17 June 1936. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  9. ^ "E. ISELIN IS DEAD; INDUSTRIALIST, 77; -Officer of Many Companies Was Active in Charitable Organizations in City" (PDF). The New York Times. January 11, 1954. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  10. ^ Davis, Barbara (2012). New Rochelle. Arcadia Publishing. p. 9. ISBN 9780738592831. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  11. ^ NY Times "ADRIAN ISELIN DEAD AT HIS CITY HOME; Banker's Illness Developed Into General Breakdown. NEW ROCHELLE'S BENEFACTOR Rumor That He Was Deathbed Convert to Roman Catholic Church, to Which He Gave Much"
  12. ^ ISELIN MEMORIAL CHURCH.; St. Gabriel's to be Consecrated at New-Rochelle To-Day -- A Quaint Edifice
  13. ^ "MRS. ADRIAN ISELIN DEAD.; She Had Been Seriously Ill Since September, but Recently Had Improved". The New York Times. 28 November 1897. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  14. ^ "MR. ISELIN NOT A CATHOLIC.; Rather of Soul Than of Body of Church, Says Father Kelly". The New York Times. 3 April 1905. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  15. ^ "IN HONOR OF ADRIAN ISELIN.; Statue with Background of Gold to be Placed in Church". The New York Times. 10 April 1905. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  16. ^ Who's Who in New York City and State. L.R. Hamersly Company. 1914. p. 390. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  17. ^ "ADRIAN ISELIN DIES IN HIS 89TH YEAR; Head of the Family's Banking Firm, Which He Entered in the Late 1860s" (PDF). The New York Times. January 30, 1935. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  18. ^ "MRS. ADRIAN ISELIN, JR., DEAD. Wife of New York Banker Dies at Her Home in Fifth Avenue". The New York Times. 5 December 1909. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  19. ^ "MRS. ADRIAN ISELIN DIES IN HER SLEEP; Wife of Banking House's Head Is Stricken in Her 81st Year. A SOCIETY CONSERVATIVE Was a Descendant of the King, Duer and Gracie Families, Long Prominent in This City". The New York Times. 5 April 1931. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  20. ^ "MRS. ISELIN'S FUNERAL.; 200 Persons of Prominence at the Services in Grace Church". The New York Times. 7 April 1931. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  21. ^ "ADRIAN ISELIN AND MRS. BRONSON WED; Banker and Widow of Frederic Bronson Married in Rectory of St. Patrick's Cathedral". The New York Times. 20 February 1914. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  22. ^ "ADRIAN ISELIN LEFT ESTATE TO FAMILY; Son and Two Daughters of the Banker Share Most of It -Value 'More Than $20,000.'". The New York Times. 7 February 1935. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  23. ^ "WILLIAM E. ISELIN, MERCHANT, 89, DIES; Partner for Many Years in the Family's Wholesale Dry Goods Concern Here". The New York Times. January 27, 1937. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  24. ^ "MRS. W. E. ISELIN DIES; WAS OF OLD FAMILY; Her Grandmother Inherited Two City Blocks Between Fifth and Park Avenues". The New York Times. 23 October 1932. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  25. ^ a b "MRS. DELANCEY A. KANE; Member of Old New York Family Dies in Westchester at 89". The New York Times. 23 October 1938. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  26. ^ a b "COL. DE LANCEY KANE DIES OF PNEUMONIA; Noted Horseman and Astor's Great-Grandson Initiated Coaching in America. LONG A SOCIAL LEADER Graduate of West Point Who Inherited $10,000,000 Served in the Cavalry in Our Army". The New York Times. 5 April 1915. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  27. ^ "C.O'D ISELIN DEAD; FINANCIER WAS 82; Banker Who Retired 13 Years Ago, Was Director in Many Corporations. FAMILY NOTED IN FINANCE Had Extensive Real Estate Holdings in City--Member of Leading Clubs". The New York Times. 11 November 1933. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  28. ^ "C.O'D. ISELIN LEFT EMPLOYEES $110,000; Residue of Large Estate of Financier Who Died in New Rochelle Goes to Family". The New York Times. 22 November 1933. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  29. ^ "MRS. EDITH COLFORD ISELIN; Wife of Banker and Yachtsman Dies of Pneumonia". The New York Times. 1 April 1930. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  30. ^ "MRS. ISELIN'S WILL GIVES ESTATE TO KIN; Son, Daughter and Children of Son Who Died to Get Bulk of Fortune Put at $5,000,000". The New York Times. 13 April 1930. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  31. ^ "C. OLIVER ISELIN, NOTED BANKER, DEAD; Member of Family of Financiers Succumbs at 78 After Illness of Three Years. WAS AN ABLE YACHTSMAN Served as Sailing Master In International America's Cup Races--Used Bold Tactics". The New York Times. January 2, 1932. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  32. ^ "Mrs. Charles Iselin, Turf Figure And Social Leader, Dies at 102". The New York Times. 6 April 1970. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  33. ^ a b "GEORGINE ISELIN, A PHILANTHROPIST; Member of Old City Family, Honored for Charity Work, Dies in New Rochelle at 96". The New York Times. 1 July 1954. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  34. ^ "$135,000 TO CHARITIES; Miss Iselin's Will Also Makes $350,000 in Personal Gifts". The New York Times. 17 July 1954. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  35. ^ "Mrs. Emilie E. Beresford". The New York Times. 25 May 1916. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  36. ^ "Mrs. Beresford's Will Filed". The New York Times. 4 June 1916. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  37. ^ "$6,000,000 ESTATE DIVIDED.; J.G. Beresford's Widow Gets Major Portion Under Will". The New York Times. 13 June 1925. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  38. ^ "John George Beresford". The New York Times. 11 May 1925. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  39. ^ "MARRIED. Beresford--Iselin". The New York Times. 23 February 1898. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  40. ^ Metropolitan Opera History: From the Metropolitan Opera Archives.
  41. ^ "ELEANORA ISELIN'S WILL.; The Estate Is Bequeathed to the Husband, Adrian Iselin, Sr". The New York Times. 16 December 1897. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  42. ^ "ADRIAN ISELIN'S FUNERAL.; Prayers by Father McNicol of Pelham Roman Catholic Church". The New York Times. 1 April 1905. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  43. ^ "ISELIN LEFT $18,500,000.; The Greater Part of the Banker's Estate Was In Stocks and Bonds". The New York Times. 28 September 1905. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  44. ^ "MISS NORA ISELIN IS NOW A COUNTESS; Her Wedding Took Place in the Home of Her Uncle, Owing to Her Father's Illness. MGR. LAVELLE OFFICIATED The Bridegroom Is Count Ferdinand Colloredo-Mannsfeld of the Austrian Embassy at Rome". The New York Times. 11 May 1909. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  45. ^ "The Iselin Family Left Its Mark On The Pennsylvania Coal Fields"
  46. ^ Indiana County, 175th Anniversary History, vols. 2,4; Indiana, Pennsylvania: Halldin Publishing, Company, 1989, 1983; Clarence D. Stephenson;191, 575-577
  47. ^ Lawlor, Julia (2002-04-21). "If You're Thinking of Living In/Iselin, N.J.; Curry and Saris Spice a 'Typical' Suburb". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-02-26.
  48. ^ Lurie, Maxine N. ; and Mappen, Marc. "Iselin", p. 414. Encyclopedia of New Jersey, Rutgers University Press, 2004. ISBN 9780813533254. Accessed July 21, 2016.
  49. ^ Virginia Bergen Troeger, Robert J. McEwen (2002). Woodbridge: New Jersey's Oldest Township, p. 113
  50. ^ McKnight, William James (1917). Historical. J.H. Beers. p. 429.

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