for many years president of the
Master Carpenters’ Association and general secretary of the National
Builders’ Association of America. He designed the colossal funeral car
upon which General Grant's body was borne to its final resting place on
Riverside Drive, New York. Mr. Hamilton was connected with many religious,
social and philanthropic organizations and a generous contributor to many
worthy causes. His son, Thomas L. Hamilton, was a Police Commissioner and
County Clerk, in New York City.
Henry Eckford (1775-1832),
shipbuilder, a native of Irvine, Ayrshire, gave New York in his day the
reputation of building the best wooden ships in the world. He learned his
trade from his uncle, John Black, in Quebec, Canada, coming to New York in
1797. In 1812 he built the United States fleet for the Great Lakes, and in
1820 became naval constructor at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where he built
some of the best ships of the old navy.
Donald Mackay (1810-1880) , a native
of Nova Scotia, in 1845 established the shipyards in East Boston, where he
became famous as the builder of clipper ships.
Captain Barr, who sailed so many of
the American Cup-Defenders to victory, was a native of Gourock, Scotland.
In the field of natural science,
America has been indebted from the beginning to men of Scottish birth or
descent. It is necessary to mention but a few such names as William
Maclure, Alexander Wilson, Robert Dale Owen, John Muir, Spencer F. Baird
and Asa Gray, to realize the extent of this service. Samuel Mitchell, a
Scot, also published the first scientific periodical in the United States.
William Maclure, "the father of
American geology," born in Ayr in 1763, after a short visit to the United
States in his youth, returned in 1796 and engaged in mercantile pursuits
in Philadelphia, from which he amassed a comfortable fortune. In 1803 he
was appointed one of the commissioners to adjust claims against France,
presented by citizens of the United States for spoilations committed
during the Revolution in that country. On the conclusion of this task, Mr.
Maclure undertook single handed a geological survey of the United States
at his own expense. In the course of this research he crossed and
recrossed the Alleghenies no less than fifty times, and covered every
state and territory from the St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico. The
results of this remarkable exploration were published in the transactions
of the American Philosophical Society in 1809, and eight years later he
published a final revision of his explorations accompanied by the first
geological map of the United States. This was six years prior to the Smith
geological map of England. On the foundation of the Academy of Natural
Sciences of Philadelphia in 1812 he became a member and in 1817 was
elected President, a position to which he was annually re-elected for
twenty-two years. In 1816-17 he carried out scientific explorations in the
West Indies, and in 1819 he engaged in the same work in France and Spain.
His collections he generously distributed among various scientific
societies, particularly in Philadelphia. To the Academy of Natural
Sciences of that city Mr. Maclure transferred his library (2259 volumes),
besides bestowing from time to time about 5000 other books and many maps
and charts. It was chiefly through his liberality that the Academy’s new
building was erected at the corner of Broad and Sansom streets. He died in
1840, in his seventy-seventh year, "thus closing a life in which no views
of pecuniary advantage or personal aggrandisement entered, but devoted
with untiring energy and singular disinterestedness to the attainment and
diffusion of practical knowledge."
The three Owens—David, Richard, and
Robert Dale Owen (1801-1877)— sons of Robert Owen, the Lanarkshire
reformer, all bore a high reputation in American geological annals, Robert
Dale Owen having the first museum and laboratory in the United States.
Alexander Wilson (1766-1813), the
great ornithologist, was a Paisley weaver who after being imprisoned for
writing lampoons on labor questions in his native town fled to
Philadelphia. His study of birds carried him far afield. Once, abandoned
by his companions, he walked alone from Niagara Falls to Philadelphia in
the dead of winter. In addition to his great work, American Ornithology
(9 volumes), he was the author of The Foresters and some fine
Asa Gray (1810-1888), the most
famous American botanist, was descended from a New England Scot. Ormsby
McKnight Mitchell (1809-1862), of.Kentucky Scottish parentage, was among
the first to popularize astronomy in
America. Maria Mitchell, the noted
woman astronomer, was also of Scotch descent. Dr. Alexander Garden
(1728-1792), born in Aberdeenshire, resident in Charleston, S. C., was as
noted a botanist as a physician. It was for him that the genus Gardenia
was named. He was a correspondent of Linnaeeus and the author of many
Robert Buist (1805-1880), a native
of Edinburgh, was a noted American horticulturist. His place "Rosedale,"
in Philadelphia, was one of the first great nurseries in the United
States. It was known all over the world, and many young Scottish gardeners
received their training there. Buist and his son, Robert, Jr. (1837-1910),
together with Peter Mackenzie (1809-1868), James Ritchie, Robert Scott,
John Dick, and Andrew Dryburgh, all of Scottish birth, made Philadelphia
famous as the center of ornamental horticulture in America from 1840 to
John Muir (1838-1914), geologist and
explorer, was born in Dunbar, and came with his parents to the United
States when eleven years old and settled on a farm in Wisconsin. In 1860
he entered the University of Wisconsin, supporting himself by teaching,
and by working in the harvest fields. After an accident to one of his
eyes, in 1867, he set out on foot for California, with a few books and a
plant press. His wanderings led him into the Sierras and through the
Yosemite Valley, the later preservation of which, together with the Big
Trees and other National Parks, the United States owes almost solely to
him. As a member of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, he
explored thousands of miles of Alaska, whose greatest glacier is named for
him. He also traveled extensively in Norway, Switzerland and Brazil. He
was the author of many books on natural science, and many popular articles
in magazines and newspapers, and degrees were conferred upon him by the
Spencer Fullerton Baird (1823-1887),
one of the foremost American naturalists, was of Scottish descent. He
superintended the scientific and geographical survey of the Western United
States, and was Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. See a
Memoir of Spence Fullerton Baird
W. R. Smith, a Scot, was for years
Superintendent of the Botanical Gardens in Washington, and D. F.
MacDougall was the first director of the Desert Botanical Laboratory, in
In inventive science whether we give
credit for the invention of the telegraph to Charles Morrison, to Joseph
Henry, or to Samuel Finley Breese Morse, each of whom contributed towards
it, the honour still belongs to a Scot. Edison’s mother was Mary Elliott,
of Scottish blood; and John Ericsson had a Scottish mother and a Swedish
father. Likewise, William Henry, James Rumsey, and Robert Fulton, who each
had a share in the invention of the steamboat were all three Scots; as
well as Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray, the inventor and the
improver of the telephone, and the McCormicks, who did so much for the
improvement of harvesting machinery.
Peter Cooper built the first
locomotive in the United States, and the present position of the greatest
railroad in the Union, the Pennsylvania Railroad, is due to the united
efforts of the following Scotsmen or men of Scottish descent:
Thomas Alexander Scott, the
"discoverer" of Andrew Carnegie, William Thaw, J. N. McCullough, Robert
Pitcairn, Frank Thompson, Alexander Johnston Cassatt, and James McCrea.
General Campbell, a former manager of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, was
also a Scot. To Major-General Daniel Craig McCallum (1815-1878), born in
Renfrewshire, was due the efficiency of the Federal railroad service
during the Civil War.
Another notable railroad builder was
the Hon. Alexander Mitchell, of Milwaukee, a native of Aberdeen, who died
in 1887. He is credited with having done more for the state of Wisconsin
than any other single man.
Matthew Baird (1817-1877), a native
of Londonderry, Ireland, came to Philadelphia at the age of four. In 1838,
he entered the boiler department of the Baldwin Locomotive Works, and on
the death of Matthias W. Baldwin, in 1865, he succeeded him as sole
proprietor. He retired from active business in 1873. He was a director in
many railroads and a generous contributor to many charities and
The Carnegie group in the iron and
steel business had many worthy predecessors. The first iron furnace west
of the Allegheny Mountains was built by a Scot named Grant. It was here
that the cannon balls were cast that were used by Commodore Perry in the
battle of Lake Erie. Another Scot, John Campbell, first employed the
hot-blast in making pig-iron.
William Chisholm another
distinguished inventor, born in Lochgelly, in 1825, settled in Cleveland
in 1852. He invented many new methods and machinery for manufacturing
steel shovels, and in 1871 organized and was long head of the Union Steel
Company of Cleveland. His brother Henry, born in Fifeshire, was the first
to introduce steel making into that city and might, therefore, be justly
called the "Father of Cleveland."
Thomas Dickson (1822-1844), a native
of Lauder, founded the Dickson Manufacturing Company (1836), for the
building of steam engines and the construction of mining machinery. In his
hands the company became one of the most important locomotive works in the
United States. Later he acquired a national reputation as President of the
Delaware and Hudson Coal Company, and as organizer of a great iron plant
on the shores of Lake Champlain. Thomas Jefferson is said to have invented
the modern plow; and it was John Oliver, a Roxburghshire man, descended on
his mother’s side from Edward Irving, who improved it and manufactured it
on a scale unknown in the world before. He died at eighty-five, leaving
William Longstreet (1760-1814), a
New Jersey Scot, improved the cotton-gin and made possible its operation
Cyrus Hall McCormick (1809-1884),
the inventor of the reaping-machine, was of Scottish parentage. At the age
of twenty-one he invented plows, and in 1831 built with his own hands the
first practical reaping machine ever made. Reverdy Johnson said in 1859,
"The McCormick reaper has already contributed an annual income to the
country of $55,000,000 at least, and must increase through all time." The
French Academy of Sciences, when electing him a corresponding member,
declared that through his invention he had "done more for the cause of
agriculture than any other living man."
Henry Burden (1791-1871), a native
of Dunblane, the founder of the Burden fortune, came to America in 1819.
His inventive genius was particularly directed towards agricultural and
labour-saving machinery. The first cultivator invented in this country was
patented by him in 1820. He also improved plows, threshing-machines and
grist-mills. He was also the inventor (1840) of machinery for making the
hook-headed spike used on all the railroads in the United States. It was
this invention that made possible the great progress in railroad building
in this country; as the spikes could not have been made fast enough by
hand. His greatest triumph, however, was the machine for making horse
shoes (1835. 1843,
1857). This machine turned out sixty shoes a minute—a
day's work for two men. He was a great iron-master in Troy, N. Y., and
much interested in early steam navigation. His son, James Abercrombie
Burden, inherited his father’s genius and became president of the Burden
Hugh Orr (1717-1798), born in
Lochwinoch, Renfrewshire, inventor and manufacturer, came to the United
States in 1737, and a year later settled in Bridgewater, Mass., where for
some years he was the only manufacturer of edged tools in that part of the
country. He was also a locksmith and gull-maker, and in 1748 manufactured
500 stand of arms for the Province of Massachusetts, the first muskets
ever made in the Colonies. During the Revolutionary War, he cast brass and
iron cannon, and iron cannon-shot for the colonial troops. One of his
important inventions was a machine for dressing flax (1753), and in 1786,
in company with other Scots, Robert and Alexander Barr, he built three
carding, roping and spinning machines, and so became the introducer of the
spinning-jenny into the United States.
In 1868, the late James Lyall, born
in Perthshire, Scotland, in 1836, invented the Lyall positive-motion loom,
the last great advance in weaving. He came with his parents to Jersey City
in 1839. In 1863, he invented a simple mixture for enamelling cloth, which
was approved by the United States Government. He and his brother William
employed at one time 4,000 men in filling the orders they received. They
afterward engaged in the manufacture of weaving machinery and were
interested in the Brighton mills and Chelsea Jute Mills.
Peter Watson, born in Arbroath in
1816, became an expert in the manufacture of linen in Dundee. In 1860, he
brought over to Philadelphia a plant for manufacturing linen, the first
introduced into America. He afterwards took up the manufacture of jute,
and was the pioneer of the jute trade in the United States, and the
importer of the first ship-load of East Indian jute into America. Two of
his sons gave their lives for their adopted country in the Civil War.
To the inventive minds of two
Scotsmen is due the greatness of the New England shoe industry. The
sole-stitching machine invented by Gordon McKay, and the pegging-machines,
stitching-machines, lock-stitch machines for sewing uppers of Duncan H.
Campbell (born in Greenock in 1827), revolutionized the entire industry.
Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor
of the telephone, is a distinguished son of Auld Reekie. His biography
will be found elsewhere in this volume.
Samuel Finley Breese Morse
(1791-1872), the inventor of the telegraph, was the great-grandson of the
Rev. Dr. Samuel Finley, the Ulster- Scot President of Princeton College.
His father was a noted divine and editor, of Woodstock, Conn., who took a
great interest in christianizing the indians.
Dr. Charles Morrison, born in
Greenock, a surgeon in Virginia, was the first to announce, in the
of 1753, that electricity could be used for
In this connection it is interesting
to note that many of the early telegraphers—James D. Reid, Andrew
Carnegie, Robert Pitcairn, Kenneth Mc Kenzie, David McCargo—were Scots or
of Scottish blood.
Robert Dick (1814-1893), missionary,
newspaper-editor, and inventor, was born in Bathgate, and at the age of
seven years, was brought to this country by his parents. He is famous for
his invention of the newspaper mailing machine (1856), which with some
later improvements is still in universal use.