Frederick Lothrop Ames

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Frederick Lothrop Ames
Frederick L. Ames 1835-1983.jpg
Born (1835-06-08)June 8, 1835
Easton, Massachusetts
Died September 13, 1893(1893-09-13) (aged 58)
Fall River, Massachusetts
Cause of death Cerebral Apoplexy (stroke)
Education Phillips Exeter Academy
Alma mater Harvard College
Occupation Vice President of the Old Colony Railroad and director of the Union Pacific Railroad
Known for Wealthiest person in Massachusetts
Net worth IncreaseUS $25 to $50 million at the time of his death[1]
Spouse(s) Rebecca C. Blair
Children Frederick Lothrop Ames, Jr.
Parent(s) Oliver Ames, Jr.,
Sarah Lothrop
Relatives Capt. John Ames great-grandfather
Oliver Ames, Sr. grandfather
Oakes Ames Uncle
Oliver Ames cousin
Frederick Lothrop Ames 1835-1893 signature.jpg

Frederick Lothrop Ames (June 8, 1835 – September 13, 1893) was heir to a fortune in railroads and shovel manufacturing. He was Vice President of the Old Colony Railroad and director of the Union Pacific railroad. At the time of his death, Ames was reported to be the wealthiest person in Massachusetts.[3]

Ames Family[edit]

The Ames family was a wealthy family which had lived in Easton for many generations. Frederick's grandfather Oliver Ames, Sr. founded the Ames Shovel Works in Easton, Massachusetts. The Shovel Works earned the family a huge fortune, during a time when aggressive canal and railroad expansion was built by the hands of thousands of men using shovels. Frederick's father Oliver, Jr. was president of the Union Pacific Railroad during the building of the transcontinental railroad. Frederick's cousin Oliver Ames was governor of Massachusetts 1887–1890.


Sketch of Ames from his New York Times obituary

Frederick Lothrop Ames was born June 8, 1835 in Easton, Massachusetts, the only son of Oliver Ames, Jr. and Sarah Lothrop.[2][4] Sarah's father was Hon. Howard Lothrop, of Easton, who was a State Senator; and her brother was George Van Ness Lothrop, minister to Russia during the Grover Cleveland administration.[2]

Young Frederick attended Phillips Exeter Academy and graduated Harvard College in 1854.[3][4] Although he wished to study law, he was persuaded by his father to join the family shovel business.[3] On the death of his grandfather Oliver Ames, Sr., he became a member of the firm.[3] In 1876, he became treasurer.[4] On the death of his father in 1877, Frederick became head of the Ames & Sons Corporation;[2] he also inherited five or six million dollars, which he invested in railroads.[3]

He married Rebecca Caroline Blair[2] on June 7, 1860[4] and they had five children.[3] The children were: Helen Angier; Oliver; Mary Shreve; Frederick Lothrop, Jr.; and John Stanley Ames.[4]

The family had a winter home on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston and their main home was an estate in North Easton, Massachusetts.[3] In 1893 Ames commissioned the 13-story Ames Building in Boston, considered Boston's first skyscraper and its first elevator-dependent building.[5] Ames worked from his offices there.[6] At the time it was the tallest building east of New York City.[6]

Ames stood about five feet 11 inches, and weighed about 175 pounds.[3] He was a Unitarian and member of both the Unity Church of North Easton and the First Church in Boston.[2][4]

Business interests[edit]

Ames was Vice President of the Old Colony Railroad and director of the Union Pacific Railroad.[1] All told, he served as director of forty railroads, probably more than any other person in the country.[6] He was a director in the Old Colony Steamboat Company.[2] He also owned over six million dollars in Boston real estate, as well as real estate in Kansas City and Omaha.[3] At the time of his death at age 58, Ames' wealth was estimated at somewhere between 25 and 50 million dollars.[1]

Art collector and architecture patron[edit]

Angel of Help by John La Farge, commissioned by Ames to honor his late sister Helen

Ames was known widely as an art collector.[3][6][7] He was a trustee of Boston's Museum of Fine Art, and gave the museum a number of artworks including several large jades and crystals.[6] Ames also donated two Rembrandts, portraits of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp and his wife dated 1632.[6]

Ames' collection also included "Pointer Dog" by Constant Troyon, "Tiger Hunt" by Eugène Fromentin, several landscapes by Charles-François Daubigny, and several other paintings by French Romanticists.[1] On October 6, 1885, the Ames estate in North Easton was robbed of several paintings, including "Teybeck at Brousic" by Stanisław Chlebowski, and "Goose Girl" by Jean-François Millet.[8]

In 1882, Ames commissioned artist John La Farge to design a large stained glass window in Unity Church of North Easton as a memorial to his only sister, Helen Angier Ames.[9] The work is called Angel of Help.

Frederick (and others in the Ames family) commissioned architect Henry Hobson Richardson to build several buildings.[2] The first was Ames Free Library, built with a $50,000 bequest from his father (Oliver Jr.)'s will. Construction was started 1878 and completed 1883.[10] Perhaps the most notable was the Ames Building in Boston,[2][5] built by Richardson's firm after his death. It was for many years the tallest skyscraper in Boston.[5]


Ames was also an avid amateur orchid gardener, an interest which he shared with his nephew, professional botanist Oakes Ames.[7] Frederick's collection of orchids was considered one of the finest in the country.[2][3] The orchid amesianus was named in honor of both Frederick and Oakes.[7]

Ames was a generous donor to Harvard's Arnold Arboretum and a vice president of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.[2] He was a member of the corporation of Harvard University at the time of his death.[4]


Ames was elected to the Massachusetts State Senate in 1872 "in his absence and without his knowledge."[2] He served one term as a Republican.[2]

Death and legacy[edit]

Ames died aboard the steamboat Pilgrim

Ames died suddenly aboard his steamboat Pilgrim sometime early in the morning of September 13, 1893 en route to Fall River, Massachusetts.[3] He went to bed "in the best of health and spirits" but was found dead the following morning.[3] The cause was reported to be cerebral apoplexy,[3] a condition which would later be called a stroke.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Estimates of His Wealth". New York, NY: New York Times. 14 September 1893. p. 8. Retrieved 18 February 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Davis, William T. The New England States (Vol 1 ed.). Boston: D.H. Hurd & Co. pp. 429–432. Retrieved 17 February 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "F.L. AMES'S SUDDEN DEATH". New York, NY: New York Times. 14 September 1893. p. 8. Retrieved 18 February 2016. He Left Fall River Seemingly in the Best of Health and Spirits Tuesday Night and His Lifeless Body Was Found in His Stateroom Yesterday — Many Times a Millionaire and Said to Have Been the Wealthiest Citizen of Massachusetts — His Career. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. United States: J.T. White Company. 1910. p. 202. Retrieved 23 February 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c "Ames Building, Office Building". Shepley Bullfinch. Retrieved 19 February 2016. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Boston Letter". The Critic. 23: 199. 23 September 1893. Retrieved 19 February 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c Smith, A.W. (2013). A Gardener's Handbook of Plant Names: Their Meanings and Origins. Courier Corporation. p. 28. Retrieved 18 February 2016. Frederick Lothrop Ames was a well-known horticulturalist and amateur grower of orchids. 
  8. ^ "F. L. AMES'S LOST PAINTINGS.". The New York Times. 7 October 1885. Retrieved 19 February 2016. 
  9. ^ Neely, Robin (Spring 2007). "Two Masterpieces: La Farge Windows in North Easton, Massachusetts" (PDF). Stained Glass. 102 (1): 40–64. Retrieved 19 February 2016. 
  10. ^ Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl (1984). H. H. Richardson: Complete Architectural Works. MIT Press. p. 68. 

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