THE WORLD OF SAMUEL MEEKER, MERCHANT OF PHILADELPHIA, AND GILBERT STUART, AMERICAN PORTRAIT ARTIST
Saturday, March 31, 2012
With my interest in economics alongside my ever-ongoing and abiding interest in the merchant Samuel Meeker, I have started to read a book "The House of Morgan" by Ron Chernow. He makes the point that often business was passed to the sons who were groomed for the takeover. It took years to build up trust, and this trust was built upon and continued by future generations.
He writes: "Since merchant bankers financed foreign trade, their bills had to be honored on sight in distant places, so their names had to inspire instant trust."
I think this concept works very well in Samuel Meeker's case; does not his portrait radiate trust? We know that Meeker engaged in the trade of goods, sending goods to Liverpool where his first cousin William was the agent, who would arrange for sale and use the profits to buy goods and ship items back to Philadelphia. It can be sure that Meeker, Denman & Co did not receive loans for these business activities, but funded them on their own, plowing back growing profits into the business.Samuel Meeker played a major role in the creation of the new elite merchant class in the city of Philadelphia, by now established as an important financial and cultural center. All evidence points to the man being a talented, motivated and successful participant and opportunist. Samuel would have definitely been grooming his young son to take over his successful business.
The accounting ledgers of the Morrises, a prominent Philadelphia family contain accounts showing Meeker conducting trade in New Orleans, Ohio, and Kentucky, besides the overseas trade.Besides business and banking, Meeker became involved in marine insurance which played a crucial role in supporting the rapidly expanding trade of the American colonies throughout the eighteenth century. In the early years merchants had obtained insurance in London, but by the time Samuel Meeker arrived in Philadelphia, the city was the center for the writing of insurance against losses at sea from all causes and to a lesser degree losses on land by fire. The Napoleonic wars caused a great increase in demand for marine insurance. Samuel Meeker became actively involved in the booming, but risky, insurance business. About 1802 Messrs. Welsh, Fitzsimons, Dutihl, Bolen, & Meeker established a new insurance company, The Delaware Insurance Company of Philadelpha. Samuel was also on the Board of Directors of the Insurance Company of North America.
From all that I have found, I have determined that Samuel only had one son, who died at age 26. I don't know how he died, but hope to find out more. It surely was a tragedy in his life. "Samuel's wife was Jane (born in 1763; married on March 3, 1792; died on July 1, 1845, aged 82 years), daughter of Jonathan Hampton. Her son Samuel Hampton Meeker, was born in 1796, and died on Tuesday, May 21, 1822, aged 26 years. He was named after Samuel Hampton, who, in 1785, was a private in the Third Company, Second Battalion, Philadelphia City Associators, Colonel James Read." This excerpt is from "The Second Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry" an article by W.A. Newman Dorland, 1903. To remind new readers, I am descended from Phoebe, Samuel's twin sister, to whom the portrait was gifted.
at 12:59 PM