July 3, 1766|
Portsmouth, Rhode Island, U.S.
July 23, 1846 (aged 80)|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Employer||Fish & Grinnell|
Preserved Fish was born in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. His father, a blacksmith, and grandfather were also named Preserved Fish. His extended family, prominent in New York, also gave rise to Hamilton Fish, governor, senator, and secretary of state, and Stuyvesant Fish. He was descended from Thomas Fish, who settled in New England in 1643.
As a youth, the younger Preserved Fish shipped to the Pacific on a whaler, becoming its captain at the age of 21. He soon realized that fortune lay in selling whale oil, not in getting it.
He prospered as a merchant in New Bedford, Massachusetts, but had a political squabble and left for New York. He, along with Joseph Grinnell, controlled a potent shipping firm named Fish & Grinnell – later Grinnell, Minturn & Company – which had its beginnings in his efforts to expand his whale oil market. In 1812, he became a director of Bank of America, founded after the charter of the First Bank of the United States was not renewed. He also was one of the 28 brokers of the New York Exchange Board, which later became the New York Stock Exchange.
After his resignation from Fish & Grinnell and a brief retirement from business, he served from 1836 to his death as President of the Tradesman's Bank as well as president of the Bank of America, which was unrelated to the current institution of that name. He was also involved with Tammany Hall: along with Gideon Lee, another banker, his faction controlled the Democratic Party in New York City at the time that the Locofoco reformers attempted, unsuccessfully, to take it over. He was one of the leaders in the movement opposed to sabbatarianism in the United States.
Fish was married three times. His first wife died giving birth to a child in New Bedford, who did not live. His second wife died in New York City, and he thereafter married his third wife just four months later.
None of Fish's children survived, however, he had an adopted son named William Fish who reportedly "died a disgraced man." William had one child who could inherit Fish's property if "the youth must renounce his mother on arriving at the age of twenty-one."
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