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Scots and Scots Descendant in America
Part V - Biographies
Alexander R. Peacock


DUNFERMLINE, the ancient capital of Scotland, the royal seat of Malcolm Canmore and his Saxon queen, St. Margaret, and the burial place of many Scottish Kings, has long been famous. It was of this town that Sir Patrick Spens wrote his well-known lines:

"The King sits in Dunfermline toune
Drinking the blude-red wine:"

From that early period to the present, Dunfermline has never failed to produce men of brain and brawn and character, who have made their influence felt in all parts of the world. And this is most notably the case in Pittsburgh; the very suggestion of the name of Pittsburgh we owe to a Dunfermline man. The earliest settlement of what is now Pittsburgh was French, and was known as Fort Duquesne. The successful expedition against the French garrison was commanded by General John Forbes, the first Dunfermline man of record to make his influence felt in this district, who changed the name to Fort Pitt, the latter almost immediately to be changed to Pittsburgh. Forbes gave the city its name: and writing to Governor Denny, of Pennsylvania, November 28, 1758, a few days after the capture of Fort Duquesne, he said, "I have called the place Pittsburgh." In the early days the name was frequently spelled "Pittsborough," and there is no doubt that Forbes so pronounced it. The historian, Parkman, says: "If Forbes’ achievement was not brilliant, its solid value was above price. It opened the great west to English enterprise, took from France half her savage allies and relieved the western borders from the scourge of Indian warfare. The frontier population had come to bless the memory of the steadfast and all-enduring Scottish soldier.’’

Such is Dunfermline ‘s first contribution to Pittsburgh. And if Dunfermline thus contributed to the beginning of Pittsburgh, she has not contributed less to her great development. The names of Carnegie, of Lauder, of Peacock, of Morrison, are a part of the history of industrial Pittsburgh.

Notable among these noble sons of Dunfermline is Mr. Alexander R. Peacock, who was born in the ancient city on August 12, 1861, the son of William and Isabella H. Peacock. The family name of Peacock is distinctly English and for many centuries the family has contributed its full share to the progress of the national life, more especially along religious and educational lines. The Scottish branch of the family appears to have settled in Fifeshire and Perthshire, and one of its best-known members in the last century was John MacLeay Peacock. This odd genius was an engineer, and a verse writer. He became, in the pursuit of his profession, identified with Laird ‘s iron shipbuilding works, Birkenhead, England, where the famous Confederate cruiser Alabama was built; but true to himself this did not prevent him from openly advocating the cause of the North in the Civil War. Undoubtedly, his outspokenness helped to keep him poor, as all the other Peacocks, both English and Scottish, appear to have been.

The subject of this sketch is in this respect, a striking exception to the stock he hails from, and such material achievement as he has made cannot therefore be charged to heredity. He has literally carved out his life and fortune with his own brain and hands. Mr. Alexander R. Peacock was educated in the public schools, and his taste being for business, he served his apprenticeship in a linen manufacturer ‘s counting house in his native town. From the beginning he won the personal approbation of his employers by his close attention to his duties, and his quick and ready judgment. But Mr. Peacock, realizing that the United States offered greater opportunities to ambitious young men, when only eighteen years of age, decided to leave his native, land, and came to America in December, 1879.

He was employed as salesman in a large New York dry goods store, and later entered the employ of J. B. Locke & Potts, who represent in the United States John Shields & Sons, the famous linen manufacturers of Perth, Scotland. Here, he advanced rapidly and had the reputation of being one of the foremost linen salesmen in America.

His fellow-townsman, Mr. Andrew Carnegie, whose attention had been attracted to Mr. Peacock by his ability and enterprising spirit, felt that a young man so quick and ready and capable would be just as quick and capable under greater responsibilities, and offered him a position in the great steel works of Carnegie Brothers & Company, Pittsburgh. It has been related that when Mr. Carnegie was selecting his "young partners" he sent for Mr. Peacock and without any preliminary remarks, said: "Peacock, what would you give to be made a millionaire?" "A liberal discount for cash, Sir," was the reply.

Mr. Peacock entered the purchasing department of the Carnegie Company, December, 1889; in November, 1890, he was admitted to the firm and was delegated to organize the Credit Department; in 1891, he became Assistant General Sales Agent in charge of credits, and in 1895 was appointed General Sales Agent; in 1896, he was made First Vice-President. He early acquired a thorough knowledge of the steel business; his energy knew no bounds; he worked day and night to devise new methods of securing trade; it is no exaggeration to say that his labour, energy and ability resulted in his being known as the most successful salesman in the steel industry. He attracted great attention in March, 1900, by making the fastest time on record for a continuous trip from the Pacific Coast to Pittsburgh. He was notified to attend a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Carnegie Company, at which it was absolutely necessary for him to be present, and with characteristic decision he chartered a special train, under contract, and reached Pittsburgh in time for the meeting.

His connection with the Carnegie Company continued up to the formation of the United States Steel Corporation, in 1901, and Mr. Peacock contributed a large share to the phenomenal success of this great organization. When he resigned the Vice-Presidency of the Carnegie Company, at the time of its absorption, his interests represented many millions of dollars. Since that time he has given his time largely to his personal business.

Mr. Peacock is a member of the Duquesne Club, Pittsburgh, and the Union League Club, St. Andrew ‘s Society and Burns Society, New York, and of many other clubs and societies. He was married June 24, 1885, to Miss Irene M. Affleck, a daughter of Stephen D. and Ida (Allan) Affleck, of Brooklyn, N. Y. They have a family of five children: Clarence Neilson, Rolland Bedell, Grant Allen, Irene Margaret and Jean Alexander. His home on North Highland Avenue is one of Pittsburgh’s most imposing palatial residences. His love of automobiles and good horses is evidenced by the turnouts in his stables. He also has a beautiful summer home on "Belle Isle," Alexandria Bay, N. Y., where he has one of the finest yachts, the Irene II, on the St. Lawrence River. He also has several launches for pleasure trips among the Thousand Islands.

Mr. Peacock loves the quiet home life and has been passionately devoted to the education of his children. and a beautiful companionship binds their mother, him and them together. He is very genial and wins for himself many friends. His generous nature has made him a large but unostentatious contributor to charities; he has assisted in many ways old friends and acquaintances both in America and in his native land, and is always ready to help any deserving cause. He is a member of the Shadyside Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, and a trustee and a member of the Executive Committee of the Homeopathic Hospital, Pittsburgh, in which Mrs. Peacock and he have taken a great interest; they have also contributed liberally toward its building and support. Mr. Peacock, in connection with his fellow-townsman. Mr. Thomas Morrison, has given the old weavers of his native town an annual holiday and excursion to neighbouring estates for a number of years.


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