William Fletcher Weld

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William Fletcher Weld
Born William Fletcher Weld
April 15, 1800
Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts
Died December 12, 1881(1881-12-12) (aged 81)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Nationality American
Spouse(s) Mary Perez Bryant
Isabella Melissa Walker
Parent(s) William Gordon Weld
Hannah Minot

William Fletcher Weld (April 15, 1800 – December 12, 1881) was an American shipping magnate during the Golden Age of Sail. He later invested in railroads and real estate. Weld multiplied his family's fortune into a huge legacy for his descendants and the public.

Early life[edit]

Weld was a son of William Gordon Weld, a prosperous ship master and ship owner, and his wife Hannah Minot. Weld planned to attend Harvard as his father had before him; however, during the War of 1812, a British frigate cruising off Boston Harbor captured one of the family's ships carrying a valuable cargo of wine and Spanish silver dollars. This financial disaster ended Weld's plans for Harvard. Instead, Weld became a clerk for an importer in Boston at age 15. By 22 he was in the dry-goods trade, but his partner's lack of business sense put the company in debt.

Financial success[edit]

Weld eventually entered the shipping trade that had enriched his father. By 1833, Weld had made enough money to build "The Senator", the largest ship of her time.

Weld eventually became one of the most successful merchant ship owners in the United States. He operated 51 sailing vessels and 10 steamers. His fleet sailed under the name and symbol of the "Black Horse Flag".

As profits from the American shipping industry began to wane, he sold his fleet and turned to urban real estate and railroads, in particular the Boston and Albany and Boston and Maine lines.

Weld Hall[edit]

Weld Hall, Harvard Yard

In 1870, Weld donated money to Harvard for a dormitory to be built in memory of his younger brother, Stephen Minot Weld. This building was called "Weld Hall". Tours of Harvard Yard often pause near Weld Hall to note that John F. Kennedy lived there during his freshman year.

Further legacy[edit]

Weld married twice, fathering six children by his first wife, Mary Perez Bryant, and one son by his second wife, Isabella Walker. In 1906, his youngest son, George Walker Weld, donated the Weld Boathouse to Harvard University.

William Fletcher Weld left an estate estimated at $20 million. His granddaughter Isabel Weld Perkins inherited $17 million of this at age 5. She later married diplomat Larz Anderson and left a legacy for the public that includes Larz Anderson Park and Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, Anderson Memorial Bridge in Cambridge, the Larz Anderson Bonsai Collection at Arnold Arboretum and Anderson House Museum in Washington, DC.

His most important legacy is probably his family tree.


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