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 William Henry Aspinwall

William Henry Aspinwall

Birth
New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Death 18 Jan 1875 (aged 67)
Manhattan, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Burial Brooklyn, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, USA
Plot Section 21, Lot 2076
Memorial ID 4765 · View Source
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Businessman. In 1832 William joined Howland & Aspinwall, a New York merchant firm founded by his cousins that specialized in trade with the Caribbean. He assumed control of the firm in 1835 and expanded trade to South America, China, Europe, the Mediterranean, and the East and West Indies. In 1840 his younger brother, John, began to manage the firm and William was able to focus his attention elsewhere. William concentrated on his interest in ship design, he knew faster ships meant greater profits and was one of the first to commission the noted naval architect, John Willis Griffiths, to design what some have called the first clipper ship, Rainbow. In 1845 Congress authorized a number of ocean mail contracts to be sold. Of all the contracts offered, the one between Panama and the Oregon Territory appeared the least profitable, there were no great ports, no facilities, no industry of any kind, no coal, no repair yards. With widespread skepticism, William acquired the contract. On April 12, 1848 the New York Legislature incorporated the Pacific Mail Steamship Company and designated Howland & Aspinwall as its agent. William ordered three new ships to inaugurate the trade. The California was the first steamer on the west coast and entered San Francisco Bay on February 28, 1849. Joined shortly by the other two, Panama and Oregon, the ships became the backbone of his empire as the California gold rush quickly catapulted the Pacific Mail to success. In secret he developed plans to build a railroad across the isthmus of Panama to shorten the journey from coast to coast by avoiding the perils of Cape Horn. The first coast to coast train departed the east coast on January 28, 1855. When William finally came to Panama to inspect the railroad, he continued on to California. That trip marked the only time he ever traveled on either his Pacific Mail line or the Panama Railroad. In 1856 William resigned as President of Pacific Mail. In 1866 he became a founder of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and in 1869 helped to found the Metropolitan Museum of Art. William died in his home of a heart attack at the age of 67.

Bio by: Shock



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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 18 Mar 1999
  • Find A Grave Memorial 4765
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for William Henry Aspinwall (16 Dec 1807–18 Jan 1875), Find A Grave Memorial no. 4765, citing Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .