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New York State's Progressive Men
An Encyclopedia of Contemporaneous Biography compiled by Mitchell C. Harrison (1900) in 2 volumes.


IN THE history of a modern state is chiefly the history of its prominent and progressive men. Ancient history is starred with the names of monarchs, conquerors, great soldiers, daring adventurers. Only a few great names in industry, commerce, and professional life survive. There is some mention, perhaps, of the vastness of the multitude that composed city or nation; but of those who really leavened the lump there is little. The merchant princes, the captains of industry, the practitioners of law, who contributed so largely to the greatness and glory of olden communities, have vanished as completely from the record as have their shops from the forum and their galleys from the sea. The latter-day record is more just. Men of thought and men of action win their places as surely and as securely as those who are born to theirs. The truth of Emerson's saying is more and more becoming recognized, that "the true test of civihzation is not the census, nor the crops; no, but the kind of man the country turns out." It is quality, not merely quantity or numbers, that counts. There are to-day plenty of men of political or other distinction, or of vast wealth, known to the world for the reason of those conditions. There is in this closing year of the nineteenth century being taken in the United States a census which will impressively display the aggregated greatness, in numbers and in wealth, of the nation. But "the kind of man the nation turns out"— not the kind of President, or General, or millionaire only, but the kind of average, every-day man in business, commercial, industrial, or professional life — is to be shown through other mediums than mere statistics. He is to be shown in the story of his life.

It is the aim of the present work, in this and the succeeding volumes, to set forth the life-records of a considerable and representative number of the prominent and progressive men of the Empire State of the American Union. They are chosen from all honorable walks of life, public and private. They represent all political parties, all departments of industry and trade, and the various learned professions which fill so large a place in the social economy of the modern community. Some of them are in affluent and some in moderate financial circumstances. Some of them have finished or are finishing their life-works, and some of them are, seemingly, only upon the thresholds of their careers.

There is no intention nor attempt to choose or to compose a class, save as native ability and achieved leadership in affairs may be the characteristics of a class. There are names on the roll that will command instant recognition; and there are others that may have in these pages their first introduction to the general public. The one qualification required, which will be found a characteristic of all, is that of such achievement as gives fair title to prominence or to a repute for progress. A work of this kind is of necessity much like a daily newspaper in at least one respect. It deals with things as they are at the moment of publication, and as they have been down to that time.

The next day may materially alter them. Before these pages are all read by those who shall read them, new items may be added to many a record which will be missing from the book. The biographer cannot forecast the future. He can do nothing more than to make his story as complete as possible down to the time when he lays down his pen, and as accurate as possible, with all research and consultation with the subjects of his sketches.

Volume 1   |   Volume 2

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