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
"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,
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
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
give to be made a millionaire?" "A liberal discount for cash, Sir," was
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.