Edward Clark

Edward Clark

Retyped from Beers "History of Greene County" by Annette Campbell
Clark's legacy extended to Otsego County where his family still is very prominent in Cooperstown politics.

The subject of this sketch was born at Athens, Greene county, NY, December 19th 1811. The earliest school instruction which Mr. Clark can recollect was received from a Mr. Bosworth, a placid old bachelor, who knit his own stockings, and had a talent for teaching very small children. The rudiments of Latin were mastered under the instruction of E. King, Esq., who then kept an academy at Athens. Mr. King was one of the earliest graduates of Williams College, and belonged to the same class as William Cullen Bryant. Subsequently, and when the boy was about twelve years of age, he was transferred to the academy at Lenox, Mass., then under the direction of John Hotchkin, a very thorough and successful teacher. He remained at Lenox about four years, and had beaten into him in the usual way a reasonable amount of Latin and Greek, with the other learning more or less useful. While there he acquired a taste for indiscriminate reading. A small library of about 500 volumes belonged to the academy. The boy read every volume, and it was fortunate that the selection of books was not a bad one.

The abrupt change from home life to the rough experiences of a public school was not at all agreeable. It was not his habit, at that time, to submit quietly to anything disagreeable. Therefore, one day not long after entering school, he departed from Lenox without the formality of giving notice of his going, and took his course, on foot and alone, for home, which he reached safely and in good time. He was received there very affectionately by his mother, but the sterner father quietly remarked, "Edward, you can take your supper and go to bed. Tomorrow I shall take you back to school." The next day, accordingly, he was taken back to Lenox. And this same programme, during a period of one year was repeated over and over again, the disobedient hardihood of the boy being corrected by the patient persistence of the father. Finally, in consequence of new boys joining the school, who were pleasant companions, and perhaps a greater familiarity with things which at first had been unpleasant, the boy became reconciled to the school and its teachers, and the terrible feeling of homesickness was overcome. The beneficial result of the struggle was this: when it began the boy was of slight, delicate frame, and almost sickly in constitution; when it ended his muscles were like steel, and he was a trained athlete.

In the autumn of 1826 young Clark entered the freshman class of Williams College, where he remained the following four years, and graduated with tolerable credit in 1830. Of the facts and follies incident to college life, he was always ready to admit his full share, though he generally exercised sufficient caution not to be found out in any infraction of college laws. He devoted himself more to literature than to science, and was successful in such studies as suited his natural taste, but was deficient in the mathematical branches.

Having selected the law as a profession, in the autumn of 1830 he entered the law office of Ambrose L. Jordan, Esq., at Hudson, NY. After a course of three years' study, and a very extensive experience in the way of copying and preparing law papers, he was admitted as an attorney, and in the autumn of 1833 began the practice of law in the city of Poughkeepsie.

In October 1835 he was married to Caroline, eldest daughter of Ambrose L. Jordan, Esq., and in May 1837, a law partnership was formed between Messrs. Jordan and Clark, which continued about 16 years. On May 1st 1838 Jordan & Clark removed from Hudson to the city of New York, where they soon established a successful practice.

In the year 1848, Isaac M. Singer was a client of Jordan & Clark. He was an erratic genius, having followed various occupations without much success, and having invented valuable mechanical devices, which had brought him no profit. One of these, a machine for carving wood and metal, which had been duly patented, had been involved by some injudicious contracts of Mr. Singer, and Mr. Clark was employed to recover the clear title to the invention. The object was accomplished; but before Singer was able to make his machine available, the bursting of a steam boiler at a shop in Hague street, New York, utterly destroyed it. Shortly after this calamity Mr. Singer made his great invention of the sewing machine. At first this was not profitable, and under the management of the inventor the title to the invention became involved, and was likely to be lost. In that emergency Singer applied to his legal adviser, Clark, to advance the means to redeem an interest of one-third in the sewing machine invention and business, and to hold that share as security for the money advanced. The request was acceded to, and the purchase made. Subsequently, and when it had become apparent that a great amount of litigation would be required to sustain the sewing machine patent, Singer requested Clark to take and hold one-third of the patent, and release Singer from the claim for money advanced.

This arrangement was carried out, and afterward, when an opportunity occurred, another one-third interest in the patent and business was bought by Clark for the benefit of Singer and himself. And thereupon was formed the copartnership of I.M. Singer & Co., in which Mr. Clark was half owner. The business was carried on by this firm with eminent success from 1851 to 1863. But, as was anticipated, Singer & Co. at once became involved in costly and vexatious lawsuits, which were directed and managed by Mr. Clark. During that period of about two years they were menaced by hostile injunctions for infringement of patents which threatened to destroy the business entirely. But the contest was perseveringly maintained, and the business continued to prosper, until finally the time came when a compromise and adjustment of claims could be made, so that defensive litigation was terminated. When that was effected the splendid success of the business of Singer & Co. became an assured fact. All the numerous contracts of Singer & Co. were carefully drawn by Mr. Clark, and a great advantage thereby accrued to the firm, when at a later period, it became expedient to purchase back certain territorial rights for the exclusive sale of the Singer Machine.

In the year 1863, Mr. Clark, wishing to be relieved from active duty, and to secure a continuous good management of the business, formed the scheme of organizing the Singer Manufacturing Company, and although Mr. Singer was very much opposed to the formation of such Company, he was induced to assent to it rather than have an application made to a court of law. The company was organized with a share capital of $500,000. Of this stock four-fifths was retained by Singer and Clark, and the residue was sold to several persons prominently employed in the business at $200 for each $100 share. The capital of this company was afterward enlarged to $1,000,000, and afterward that again expanded to $10,000,000, and the whole of which increase consisted of the accumulated profits of the business. Directly upon the formation of this company, Mr. Clark retired from its active management, though he continued to be a director, and during several years spent considerable time abroad, having on three different occasions occupied a house in Paris, and also passed a winter in Rome. In his travels over the principal countries of Europe he examined whatever was worthy of notice in nature and art, and made extensive purchases of statuary and other works of art, which he brought home to New York.

Mr. Clark passed the latter part of his life at Cooperstown, N.Y., where he died, October 14th, 1882; his wife died, June 27th 1874; of four children one alone survives. One died in Rome where he was studying as an artist, in which profession he exhibited great skill. Alfred C. Clark, his surviving brother and only representative of the family is now a resident of Cooperstown. This sketch is a tribute by Mr. Ogden Clark, to his uncle's memory.

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