N. K. Fairbank

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Trade card for the Fairbank Canning Co, featuring an interpretation of Aesop's fable of The Frog and the Ox.

Nathaniel Kellogg 'N.K.' Fairbank (1829-1903) was a Chicago industrialist whose company, the N.K. Fairbank Co., manufactured soap as well as animal and baking products in conjunction with the major meat packing houses of northern Illinois. The company had factories in Chicago, St. Louis, Montreal and Louisiana and had international offices in the United Kingdom and Germany. Gold Dust Washing Powder (featuring the Gold Dust Twins and distributed by Lever Brothers), was one of the most successful cleansing product lines in twentieth century North America. Another original Fairbank creation, Fairy Soap, was purchased by Procter & Gamble and remains one of the best-known European household brands.


Fairbank was the original owner of the land that currently comprises Streeterville in downtown Chicago; now some of the most expensive real estate in the city. Despite unanimously winning several court cases, Fairbank, along with the Pinkertons and the Chicago Police, were unable –for 28 years– to remove the squatter and Chicago legend, George Streeter, from the property.[1] As a testament to the long running feud, a street running near the outside (western) edge of Streeterville is named Fairbanks Court.

Other activities[edit]

Fairbank served as: president of The University of Chicago board of trustees, a founder and president of The Chicago Club, a founder of the Commercial Club of Chicago, a senior officer and an early major trader at the Chicago Board of Trade, one of the original trustees of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the first Commodore of the Lake Geneva Yacht Club, and as a director of numerous corporations between 1880 and 1903. He was also a member of the famous Jekyll Island Club (aka The Millionaires Club) on Jekyll Island, Georgia.

Fairbank, Arizona, now a ghost town, was named for him because of his role in financing both the Grand Central Mining Company and the railroad in nearby Tombstone, Arizona[2][3](famous site of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral).

The Fairbank family in America[edit]

N.K. Fairbank was a descendant of Jonathan Fairbanks of England who arrived in Massachusetts in 1633. Settling in Dedham, Massachusetts, Jonathan built Fairbanks House, the oldest surviving wood frame building in America.

The Livingstons[edit]

Fairbank married Helen Livingston Graham in New York on April 24, 1866. Livingston Graham’s original American ancestor was Robert Livingston, 1st Lord of Livingston Manor.[4] Livingston Manor was ceded to Livingston in 1686 by New York Governor Thomas Dongan and confirmed by King James II and King George I, it was the largest of the American noble manors.[5] Unlike most manor lords the Livingstons supported democracy and independence in the America and were signors of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.

Lord Robert Livingston was a descendant of the Lords and Earls Livingston of Linlithgow and Callendar in Scotland. The family seat was Callendar House in Falkirk, now a museum.


  • Helen de Freitas, "Antecedents and descendants of Nathaniel Kellogg Fairbank, 1595-2000"
  • "The Story of Chicago", by Joseph Kirkland, published by Dibble Publishing, Co., 1892.

External links[edit]