Charles Millard Pratt

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Charles Millard Pratt
Charles Millard Pratt circa 1915.jpg
Charles Millard Pratt circa 1915
Born(1855-11-02)November 2, 1855
DiedNovember 27, 1935(1935-11-27) (aged 80)
ResidenceNew York City
Alma materAmherst College
OccupationFinancier, businessperson, educator, philanthropist
EmployerCharles Pratt and Company, Standard Oil
Home townClinton Hill, Brooklyn
Net worth$20,004,812 (in 1938)[1]
Board member ofStandard Oil
Spouse(s)Mary Seymour Morris
ChildrenMorris Pratt, Theodore Pratt, Margaret Richardson Pratt, Katherine Eugenia Pratt, Richardson Pratt
FamilyCharles Pratt family

Charles Millard Pratt (November 2, 1855 – November 27, 1935) was an American oil industrialist,[2] educator, and philanthropist.[3] As the eldest son of industrialist Charles Pratt,[2] in 1875 he began working at Charles Pratt and Company, soon becoming president.[2][4]

He was a director of the Standard Oil Company and later a president of the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.[1] A philanthropist, he donated large sums to Vassar College and Amherst College, among other institutions.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

Pratt was born on November 2, 1855[citation needed] in Brooklyn.[2] He was raised on the Pratt family estate at 232 Clinton Hill, Brooklyn,[6] the eldest son of Charles Pratt and Lydia A. Richardson.[2] His father married again, after the death of his first wife, to Mary Richardson. Charles had five younger half-brothers: Frederic B. Pratt, George Dupont Pratt, Herbert L. Pratt, John Teele Pratt and Harold I. Pratt, and one half-sister.[citation needed]

He graduated from Adelphi Academy in 1875[2] and from Amherst College in the class of 1879.[2][5] In 1880 at the age of 24, he was living at the family estate in Clinton Hill with his six younger siblings.[6]


In 1875 Pratt began his business career at one of the family businesses, Charles Pratt & Co, a financial firm started by his father. He later became its president.[2][4] Pratt joined Standard Oil in 1879.[citation needed] He was a director and secretary at Standard Oil from 1899 to 1911, and treasurer from 1908 to 1911.[2][4] For years he was also president of the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, contributing greatly to its endowment.[2]

For a time he was a vice president of the Long Island Railroad, and a director in other companies[2][4] such as the Brooklyn City Railroad and American Express.[citation needed] In March 1900, Pratt was re-elected a director of the United States Mortgage and Trust Company, to serve three years.[7] Prior to 1923, he was a trustee of the Atlantic Mutual Insurance Company,[4] president and director of The Thrift, and director of the Union Mortgage Company, Chelseai Fibre Mills, Hoagland Laboratories, Pratt & Lambert, Self-Winding Clock Company, and others.[4]

In 1923, Justice Stephen Calaghan[4] of the Kings Country Supreme Court confirmed “findings of a special sheriff’s jury” that Pratt was unable to conduct his business[8] due to his age.[4] His sons Richardson and Theodore, as well as his wife, were named a committee of the person to represent him.[8] He had been ill six months, at age 68.[4]


He was president of the Pratt Institute’s board of trustees, as well for a time of the Adelphi Academy.[2] He was a trustee of Amherst College and Vassar College.[4] He was a director of the Brooklyn Bureau of Charities and other charitable entities.[2][4]

He personally contributed funds to Adelphi Academy, Emmanuel Baptist Church in Brooklyn, and Amherst and Vassar. For example, as a trustee of Vassar from 1908 and 19021, he contributed more than $800,000, which enabled development of the college’s outdoor theatre, artificial lake, and landscape gardens.[2] The New York Times said the gardens “made its campus famous throughout the country.”[9] Pratt House at Vassar, a residence for the Warden, was completed in 1915 by architects York and Sawyer.[citation needed] Pratt also contributed to the endowment and the building of structures at the Pratt Institute. In 1910, he and his five brothers and a sister gave $1,750,000 to the institute.[2]

As a trustee of Amherst from 1897 and 1921, Pratt contributed funds for a gymnasium, dormitory, and other buildings.[2] He was the first alumnus to donate a building to Amherst College—the Pratt Gymnasium was erected in 1883, and was reconstructed as the Pratt Museum in 1942. Following further rebuilding, it reopened in August 2007 as the Charles M. Pratt Dormitory.[citation needed] Pratt was also responsible for the Morris Pratt Dormitory at Amherst College in 1911, in memory of his son Morris, who died at Amherst while an undergraduate student.[10]

Personal life[edit]

He was married to Mary Seamoor Morris Pratt,[11] daughter of Governor of Connecticut Luzon B. Morris, on May 8, 1994.[2] He and Mary Seymour Morris had five children:[11]

  • Morris Pratt (November 29, 1885 – July 15, 1910)
  • Theodore Pratt (May 21, 1887 – June 1977) married Laura Merrick on June 2, 1910. They had three children, Gwendolyn Pratt (October 27, 1917 – October 31, 1917), Theodore Pratt Jr.(June 16, 1920 – January 15, 1998), and Merrick Pratt (born June 4, 1922).
  • Margaret Richardson Pratt (July 19, 1889 – January 20, 1919) married Frank J Frost. They had two children, Morris Pratt Frost (November 19, 1916 – July 11, 1990) and Margaret Frost (January 18, 1919 – January 19, 1919)
  • Katherine Eugenia Pratt (May 28, 1891 – April 20, 1981) married Burton Parker Twichell, son of Rev. Joseph Twichell. They had four children, David Cushman Twichell (born April 16, 1918), Margaret Frost Twichell (born August 13, 1919), Harmony Twichell (September 9, 1921 – February 20, 1993), and Charles Pratt Twichell (February 27, 1924 – April 3, 2004).
  • Richardson Pratt (June 16, 1894 – August 16, 1959) married Laura Cecelia Parsons. They had two children, Mary Marselis Pratt (born September 26, 1920) and Richardson Pratt Jr (March 25, 1923 – May 1, 2001).

Pratt was a member of the Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity, and the Nassau Country Club at the time of his death in 1935. He had previously belonged to the New York Yacht Club, The Nineteenth Century Club,[2] the Brooklyn Club, and Hamilton Club, and the Montauk Club.[2][6]

Death and services[edit]

He died on November 26, 1935 in Glen Cove, New York, at his Seamoor country estate that overlooked Long Island Sound. He had been ailing for ten years, with his condition becoming serious in January 1935 after his brother George Dupont Pratt died.[2] Charles Pratt was survived by his widow, his sons Richardson and Theodore Pratt, a daughter Katherine Eugenia (Mrs. Burton Parker Twitchell), and three brothers and a sister.[2] Private funeral rites were held at his Seamoor estate in Glen Cove, under a reverend of the Central Congregational Church of Brooklyn.[3]

Legacy and honors[edit]

Upon his death, his estate left $150,000 to educational and religious institutions. His will granted much of his estate to his widow and three children, with funds also to Pratt Institute, Vassar College, Amherst College, Emmanuel Baptist Church of Brooklyn, and the Brooklyn Bureau of Charities. Funds also went to the International Committee of the Young Men’s Christian Association, as well as Pomona College, and the Presbyterian Church of Glen Cove, L.I.[5]

A June 1938 report filed with Kings County valued the C. M. Pratt estate at a net value of $20,004,812. Gross estate was $22,181,006. His widow and children were to share in the property, which was primarily in stocks and bonds. A state tax of $3,305,062 was levied against the property, with the Federal tax more.[1]

His widow died on October 24, 1947 at their home of Seamoor in Glen Cove.[11]


Charles Millard Pratt House, 241 Clinton Ave, Brooklyn
Charles Millard Pratt House, one of only several "ultimate bungalows", in California

Pratt had a number of estates and mansions designed. William Tubby designed the Charles Millard Pratt House at 241 Clinton Avenue, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn in 1893. Located in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill Historic District[6] on a 2,000-acre estate,[2] it is one of the city’s finest examples of Romanesque revival architecture. The property is now owned by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Brooklyn.[6] Between 1921 and his death in 1935, Pratt spent "practically all his time" at 241 Clinton Avenue.[2]

He also spent time at his estates outside of Brooklyn. Pratt had a winter home, also known as Charles M. Pratt House, designed by architects Greene and Greene in Ojai, California and completed in 1909. The winter bungalow was on a 54-acre estate as of 2001. Architectural Digest described it as an “American masterpiece.”[13]

In 1923 Pratt was said to be living at Seamoor, his summer place in Glen Cove, on the North Shore of Long Island in Nassau County.[4] Pratt's large estate, Seamoor, was designed by the New York firm of Lamb & Rich.[14] In 1903 a barn on the property burned down, killing 12 horses. Pratt said the losses were covered by insurance.[15] By October 1930, the property’s assessed valuation was around $7 million. The Pratt estate also included the homes of nine members of the family: Representative Ruth Baker Pratt, Harold I. Pratt, Herbert L. Pratt, Charles Pratt, Frederic B. Pratt, George D. Pratt, F. L. Babbett and Helen P. Emmetto.[16]

The large estate was later broken up. In the late 20th century, a portion of the property was donated to the city of Glen Cove for use as a public park. It has been developed for a golf course, tennis courts, a restaurant and related facilities.


  1. ^ a b c "C. M. Pratt Estate Put at $20,004,812; Educational and Religious Institutions to Receive a Total of $150,000 Fund to Pratt Institute - Widow and 4 Children Share in Property--Principal Item Is Stocks and Bonds Realty and Securities Lead - Widow Is Chief Beneficiary". The New York Times. New York City, New York, United States. June 2, 1938. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w "Charles M. Pratt, Financier, Is Dead. Former Standard Oil Officer, 80, Son of Co-Founder of the Company". The New York Times. November 27, 1935. Retrieved 2013-12-04. Charles Millard Pratt, a former director and officer of the Standard Oil Company, philanthropist and former president of Pratt Institute, died at 11:40 P.M. ...
  3. ^ a b "Funeral of C. M. Pratt.; Simple Rites for Philanthropist Held at Glen Cove Estate". The New York Times. New York City, New York, United States. November 30, 1935. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Charles M. Pratt Found Incompetent; Philanthropist and Former Standard Oil Official, III Six Months, Witnesses Say. Condition Due to His Age - Request for Appointment of a Committee to Follow Deci- sion by Sheriff's Jury". The New York Times. New York City, New York, United States. May 15, 1923. Retrieved August 20, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c "Charity to Share in Pratt Estate; $150,000 to Educational and Religious Institutions Left by Standard Oil Man". The New York Times. New York City, New York, United States. December 4, 1935. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d e Christopher Gray (November 18, 2010). "When the Pratts Decamped for Manhattan". The New York Times. New York City, New York, United States. Retrieved August 20, 2017.
  7. ^ "United States Mortgage and Trust". The New York Times. New York City, New York, United States. March 9, 1900. p. 11. Retrieved August 20, 2017.
  8. ^ a b "Mrs. Theodore Pratt Seeks Reno Divorce; New York Financier Has Already Agreed to Her Custody of Children". The New York Times. New York City, New York, United State. February 23, 1930. Retrieved August 20, 2017.
  9. ^ "C. M. Pratt Revealed; Brooklyn Man in His 25 Years of Trusteeship Has Made Gifts of $800,000". The New York Times. New York City, New York, United States. June 7, 1921. Retrieved August 20, 2017.
  10. ^ "C.H. Pratt Gift To Amherst; Standard Oil Man and Wife Will Give Dormitory In Memory of Son". The New York Times. New York City, New York, United States. November 30, 1910. Retrieved August 20, 2017.
  11. ^ a b c "Mrs. Charles M. Pratt". The New York Times. October 25, 1947. Retrieved 2013-12-04. Mrs. Mary Seamoor Morris Pratt, widow of Charles Millard Pratt, former president of Pratt Institute ...
  12. ^ "Yale's Closing Exercises; Louis C. Tiffany, Thomas Thacher, Minister Bowen, and Charles M. Pratt Get Degrees". The New York Times. New York City, New York, United States. June 25, 1903. p. 5. Retrieved August 20, 2017.
  13. ^ Kelly, David (December 8, 2001). "Owner Agrees Not to Open Historic House to Public". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California, United States. Retrieved August 21, 2017.
  14. ^ Robert B. MacKay, et al., Long Island Country Houses and Their Architects (W. W. Norton & Company, 1997), 245–46.
  15. ^ "Twelves Horses Die in Fire - Blaze on Pratt Estate Results in $40,000 Loss — No Persons Hurt". The New York Times. New York City, New York, United States. August 5, 1903. Retrieved August 20, 2017.
  16. ^ "Pratt Tax Cut $700,000.; But Other Glen Cove Estate Owners Face Fight for Lower Land Levy". The New York Times. New York City, New York, United States. October 31, 1930. p. 2. Retrieved August 20, 2017.

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