Martin A. Ryerson

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Martin A. Ryerson
Martin A. Ryerson.jpg
Martin Antoine Ryerson

Michigan, U.S.
DiedAugust 11, 1932
Cause of deatharthritis
Resting placeGraceland Cemetery
Residence4851 South Drexel Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Bonnie Brae, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, U.S.
Alma materHarvard Law School
Net worth$5 million[1]
Spouse(s)Carrie Ryerson
Parent(s)Martin L. Ryerson
Mary Ann Campau
RelativesLouis Campau (maternal uncle)

Martin A. Ryerson (1856-1932) was an American, lawyer, businessman, philanthropist and art collector. Heir to a considerable fortune, he was a lumber manufacturer and corporate director. He became the richest man in Chicago by the age of 36. A long-time trustee of the University of Chicago, he made large charitable contributions for the construction of buildings on campus. He bequeathed his extensive art collection to the Art Institute of Chicago.

Early life[edit]

Martin A. Ryerson was born in 1856 in Michigan.[2][3] His father, Martin L. Ryerson, was a lumber baron in Michigan forests who invested in real estate in Downtown Chicago.[3] His mother, Mary Ann Campau, was the niece of Louis Campau, the founder of Grand Rapids, Michigan[3] and member of the Detroit's Campau family.

Ryerson grew up in Chicago.[3] He was educated in Paris and Geneva.[2] He graduated from the Harvard Law School in 1878.[2][4]


Ryerson started his career as a lawyer. In 1880, he joined the family business, working for his father, who owned the only remaining lumberyard in Chicago in the aftermath of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.[5] As a lumber manufacturer,[6] Ryerson was Chicago's richest man by the age of thirty-six.[5]

Ryerson served on the Board of Directors of the Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company,[7] Northern Trust, and the Elgin National Watch Company.[8]


Ryerson served as the President of the Board of Trustees of the University of Chicago from 1892 to 1922.[2] He donated over $2 million to the university, including $350,000 for the construction of the Ryerson Physical Laboratory and $25,000 for the establishment of the Harper Memorial Library on campus.[2] Additionally, he endowed the Martin A. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professorship in 1925.[2]

Ryerson served on the Board of Trustees of the Rockefeller Foundation.[8] He served as honorary President of the Art Institute of Chicago.[6] He also served as the Vice President of the Field Columbian Museum from 1894.[2] He donated $300,000 to build the Ryerson Library in Grand Rapids, Michigan.[3]

Art collection[edit]

Ryerson maintained an art collection.[2] He was the owner of five paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and sixteen paintings by Claude Monet.[2] He also collected paintings by Old Masters.[2]

Personal life[edit]

With his wife Carrie,[9] Ryerson resided at 4851 South Drexel Boulevard in Chicago.[2] They summered at Bonnie Brae,[5] an estate in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.[6] Ryerson was a member of the Lake Geneva Yacht Club, where the Martin A. Ryerson Trophy is named in his honor.[4]

Death and legacy[edit]

Ryerson died on August 11, 1932 in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.[6][8] He was buried in the Martin Ryerson Tomb at the Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois.[8] At the time of his death, his estate was valued at $5 million, $3 million of which was invested in real estate.[1] Upon his death, he bequeathed the entire sum to charities, family members and former employees.[9] For example, his widow inherited one tenth, $500,000,[9] as well as an annual income of $200,000.[10] He also bequeathed $25,000 to Harvard University, $25,000 to Kenyon College, and $25,000 to the Little Sisters of the Poor.[10] His art collection was donated to the Art Institute of Chicago.[2][11] Edward W. Forbes served as the Martin A. Ryerson Professor in the Fine Arts at Harvard University from 1935 to 1944.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Ryerson Estate Is Valued At 5 Million". Manitowoc Herald-Times (Manitowoc, Wisconsin). August 23, 1932. p. 5. Retrieved September 15, 2015 – via open access
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Martin A. Ryerson". Building for a Long Future: The University of Chicago and Its Donors, 1889-1930. University of Chicago. Retrieved September 13, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Martin Ryerson". History of Grand February 20, 2011. Retrieved September 15, 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Martin A. Ryerson Trophy". Lake Geneva Yacht Club. Retrieved September 15, 2015.
  5. ^ a b c Hall, Ginny (July 3, 2013). "Judge builds lake home, lumber baron doubles its size". Walworth County Today. Retrieved September 15, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d "Chicago Manufacturer, Martin A. Ryerson, Dies". The Daily Journal-Gazette (Mattoon, Illinois). August 12, 1932. p. 3. Retrieved September 14, 2015 – via open access
  7. ^ "Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company". The Indianapolis News (Indianapolis, Indiana). January 6, 1932. p. 20. Retrieved September 15, 2015 – via open access
  8. ^ a b c d "Ryerson Dies At Lake Geneva Home". Belvidere Daily Republican (Belvidere, Illinois). August 12, 1932. p. 8. Retrieved September 15, 2015 – via open access
  9. ^ a b c "Will Bequeaths $5,000,000 Estate". Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California). August 23, 1932. p. 6. Retrieved September 14, 2015 – via open access
  10. ^ a b "Ryerson Leaves Estate Valued At $5,000,000". Ironwood Daily Globe (Ironwood, Michigan). August 23, 1932. p. 10. Retrieved September 15, 2015 – via open access
  11. ^ "Historic Collections: The Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection". Art Institute of Chicago. Retrieved September 15, 2015.
  12. ^ "Forbes, Edward Waldo". Dictionary of Art Historians. Retrieved October 12, 2012.

External links[edit]