USGenWeb RI Articles, History of Providence: City of Providence, 3
Rhode Island Reading Room
These documents are made available free to the public by the Rhode Island USGenWeb Project

This section contains articles of genealogical and historic interest on Rhode Island in general, from old Rhode Island books and newspapers. If you would like to contribute please e-mail me with information.

  Biographical sketches, "City of Providence; Benjamin B. and Robert Knight"

History of Providence County, Vol I & II
Ed. by Richard M. Bayles; W.W. Preston & Co., NY.  1891

Biographical sketches Volume I "City of Providence"

p. 716 - 717: Benjamin Brayton KNIGHT, manufacturer, senior member of the firm of B. B. & R. Knight, was born in Cranston, R.I., October 3d, 1813.  He is the son of Stephen and Welthan (Brayton) Knight, with whom he spent his early life, assisting his father on the farm.  His educational advantages were limited to an attendance of a few terms at the district schools, during the intervals of labor, until he was 16 years of age.  From 1831 to 1833 he served as an operative in the Sprague Print Works at Cranston, and then resumed farming for two years.  In 1835 the initiative movement of his business career was begun.  At this time he purchased a small building near the Sprague Print Works and opened a general grocery.  In 1838 he removed to Providence, and with Onley Winsor and L. E. Bowen, under the firm name of Winsor, Knight & Co., engaged in the wholesale and retail grocery business. In 1842 Mr. Knight purchased Mr. Bowen's interest and continued the business alone until 1847, when his brother, Jeremiah Knight, became associated with him, under the style of B. B. Knight & Co.  Subsequently D. T. Penniman, under the firm name of Penniman, Knight & CO., associated with him in the flour and grain trade, their stand being in the Amasa Mason Block on Dyer street, Providence.  One year afterward Mr. Knight purchased Mr. Penniman's interest and continued alone for about four years, doing a large and successful business.  In 1849 he sold his interest in the grocery business to his brother Jeremiah, and in 1852 he sold one-half of his flour and grain interest to his brother Robert, and at the same time purchased of the latter one-half interest in the Pontiac Mill and Bleachery, when the firm name of B. B. and R. Knight was formed.  They soon afterward retired from the flour and grain business, and have since devoted their entire time to the manufacture of cotton goods.  Of the immense business carried on by B. B. & R. Knight, now the largest of its kind in the world, we will presently speak.  Aside from the manufacturing interests, Mr. B. B. Knight has served the public efficiently as a legislator and as a member of the city government of Providence.  He has been twice elected to the general assembly.  He served as alderman in the city government of Providence from the Sixth ward in 1865, 1866 and 1867, and was chairman of the finance committee while a member of that body.  He has been president of the Butchers & Drovers Bank ever since its organization, July 2d, 1853, with the exception of about one year, and is a director in different insurance companies.

He has been twice married; first, in 1842, to Alice W., daughter of Elizur W. Collins, of Johnston, R.I., who died February 8th, 1850; and second, in December, 1981, to Phebe A., daughter of Abel Slocum, of Pawtuxet, R.I. There were three children by the first marriage: Henry, Mary W., and Walter (all deceased); and three children by the second marriage: Alice Spring, Henry Eugene (deceased) and Adelaid Maria.

[Facing page:  portrait of B. B. Knight]

p. 717 - 727: Robert KNIGHT, manufacturer, and a member of the firm of B. B. & R. Knight, was born in Old Warwick. .I., January 8th, 1826.  In his childhood his father, Stephen Knight, moved his family to the town of Cranston, and the lad was put to work in the Cranston Print Works when but eight years of age. He remained here but two years, and then became an employee in the cotton mill in Coventry, owned and operated by Elisha Harris.  He remained here till 17 years of age, part of the time working 14 hours a day, for $1.25 a week.  Early in 1843 he went to Providence and entered the employment of his brother Benjamin, as a clerk in his store.  Being desirous of securing an education,  he staid (sic) at this place but two years, and then, through the aid of a friend, spent the 18 months following in the Pawcatuck Academy at Westerly, R.I.  He next taught a district school in the town of Exeter, R.I., for four months, and in 1846 was employed by John H. Clark as a clerk in his factory store at Arnold's Bridge, now Pontiac.  Mr. Clark was subsequently elected to the United States senate, at which time the cotton mill and bleachery were leased to Zachariah Parker and Mr. Knight for $5,000 a year.  October 4th, 1850, Parker & Knight purchased the whole property from Mr. Clark for $40,000.  The next year Mr. Knight bought his partner's interest and gave the village its present name of Pontiac.

Mr. Knight is distinctively a business man, never having held any public office, but devoting his time exclusively to his business.  January 1st, 1867, he was elected one of the directors in the National Bank of Commerce, of Providence, and held that office to January 8th, 1884, when he was elected its president, which office he now holds.  October 7th, 1874, he became an incorporator in the People's Savings Band, and was elected director at the same time.  October 4th, 1876, he was elected a member of the standing committee, and January 21st, 1884, was elected president, which office he now holds.  He has also been connected officially with several insurance companies and other banking institutions, and is now a director in the N.Y., P. & B. R. R. Company.

Mr. Knight married, March 5th, 1849, Josephine Louisa, daughter of Royal A. and Hannah C. (Parker) Webster, of Providence.  They have had nine children: Joseph E., Robert W. (deceased), Webster, Franklin (deceased), Harriet (deceased), Clinton Prescott, Sophia, Edith and Royal (deceased).

The business organization of this firm and their enormous interest is as follows:  Benjamin B. and Robert Knight are the presidents and treasurers of their several corporations; the firm of B. B. & R. Knight are the agents; Edwin Knowles is the financial secretary of the firm in charge of the Providence office and the accounts of 17 of the mills.  Dexter N. Knight, brother of B. B. & R., is in a similar position as secretary of the Hebron Company, comprising the Hebron, Dodgeville and Grant mills; Fred B. Burt is the secretary of the Clinton Manufacturing Company; Henry A. Fifield is assistant secretary to the firm, in charge of the accounts of the cotton and finished goods; William E. Wall is agent of the firm for the sale of the goods at the principal store in Worth street, New York.

Hebron Mill, Hebronville, Mass............. 19,652 spindles
Dodgeville Mill, Dodgeville, Mass.......... 21,300   "
Grant Mill, Providence, R.I.     ..............   9,056   "
                                                              50,008 spindles

Stephen A. Knight, brother of B. B. & R., Providence, general manager, with resident superintendents at each of the above mills.

The Natick Mills (2), Natick, R.I.   ..... 85,984 spindles
  Webster Knight, agent
Queen of the Valley Mill, Knight's Station, RI  15,000 spindles
The Royal Mills, River Point, R.I.                    50,000 spindles
   Prescott C. Knight, agent
Pontiac Mills, Pontiac, R.I.   ..........                 27,926    "
Pontiac Bleachery, capacity, 132 tons per week
White Rock Mills, Westerly, R.I. ...                27,500     "
Clinton Manufacturing Co., Woonsocket, RI  20,581      "
Readville Mills, Hyde Park, Mass. ...              19,000     "
Fiskville Mill, Fiskville, R.I.       .......                 4,500     "
The Arctic Mill, Arctic, R.I.   ..........               37,000     "
Lippitt Company Mill, Lippitt, R.I. ..               10,500     "
Jackson Mill, Jackson, R.I.     .........                 4,912     "
Manchaug Company, Manchaug, Mass..         52,000    "
                                                                    354,903 spindles

D. M. Thompson, Providence, R.I., general manager, with resident superintendents at each of the above mills.
The total number of spindles owned and operated by this firm is 404,911.
The total number of looms is 10,956.
The employees of the firm number nearly 7,000 persons.

[Facing page: portrait of B. B. Knight]

The following contribution of "G. M.", as addendum notes to the biographies of Messrs. Knight, is at the request of the publishers.  The subject is presented so fully, that the usual history of their operations, as we had prepared them, are deemed to be unnecessary, and therefore omitted.  The article is from the pen of a prominent man, who is familiar with the subject.  It is of unusual interest, because of the character and principles included in the illustrations.

'To the publishers of the "History of Providence County".
In response to your request, the following is submitted as 'addendum' to your biographies of Benjamin B. and Robert Knight, and your brief statement of the organization of the business interests of the firm of B. B. & R. Knight, whose unparalleled sucess, it is suggested to the writer, is worthy to be recorded, with such comment thereon as may be of interest to the present, and of value to the generations to follow. 'The people doth delight to honor' whomsoever, through meritorious achievement, are entitled to recognition for distinguished service.  It is a human impulse freely, cheerfully and spontaneously given in recognition of merit, the product of genius and acquired ability, as it may be exhibited in the achievements of the soldier, statesman, jurist, philosopher or philanthropist; it is none the less due in respect to men who have in a preeminent degree distinguished themselves as leaders in the important fields of commercial and manufacturing industry.

It is not given to all men that they shall be endowed with the spirit of genius, or that they shall possess the qualities of mind requisite to successful leadership in the important fields of domestic industry.  It is intended for the best good of society, since the diversified interests of a community are best promoted by such subdivisions of labor as will secure advancement upon all of the lines of useful work.

A proper knowledge of the lives of distinguished men, their habits, methods, struggles, the sacrifice of personal comfort and pleasure, the constant and unremitting effort, the indefatigable labor and economy necessary to their success, would do much toward the enlightenment of thos persons who profess to believe that wealth is unjustly distributed.  A just appreciation of the true relation of capital and labor is necessary to the security of property, and the perpetuity of the free institutions of our country.  The inviolability of contract, and the recognition of vested rights constitute the bulwark of civilized existence.

Education and a diffusion among the people of important economic truths, will do much to avert a serious danger which threatens the quiet, peaceful condition of society through the antagonisms of labor and capital, so often produced by the agitations of demagogues.  These various conditions are significant of momentous results.  The consequences of such a strife no man can measure.

The civilization of the present day is the grandest spectacle the world has yet seen.  It is a suerstructure of vast and magnificent proportions, yet beneath its foundations are the quicksands of ignorance, imtemperance, avarice, prejudice and passion, held thus far in place by materials and forces of a diametrically opposite nature; these must be strengthened by education upon broad and specific lines, until a higher standard of intelligence shall prevail, in which character, integrity, temperance and morality shall be universally recognized as the safeguards of civilization. A just conception of individual duty as a component part in the structure of society, is a factor of safety that should be inculcated and maintained with zealous care.  This is especially true in a nation within which all men are upon terms of equality before the law, where the son of the pheasant or common laborer, born in obscurity, living in a log cabin in the wilderness, or in a thatched cottage upon the borders of civilization, or within the crowded walls of the densely populous cities, may justly aspire to attain unto the most exalted positions of trust, honor or profit, within this, the most glorious country upon the face of the earth.  The experience of the past, during all of the years in the life of this republic, furnish the most abundant testimony in corroboration of the fact that honest and inteligent labor is sure of its reward.

The biography and the history which records the success of eminent men, if rightly studied and considered in the light of all the general conditions of life, must be of inestimable value as an incentive tending to encourage others to greater ambition, while at the same time it will serve to reconcile them to the acceptance of what ever conditions may result after faithful and honest effort.  A just appreciation of the grave responsibilities that are imposed upon the possessors of great wealth, who are actively engaged in the important industries, would remove very much of the jealousies and discontent herein before referred to.  Earnest, honest labor, economy, and a contented mind will produce the very ideal of happiness, and it is within the reach of all men, while the possessor of great wealth -- though he may enjoy all of these -- is through his enormous responsibilities, the servant of the people.

The subjects of your biographical sketch, the Messrs. B. B. & R. Knight, to whom these 'addendum' notes refer, are both of them remarkable men.  Thier lives and wonderful business careers are worthy of note, since their labor and skill have contributed so largely to the welfare of the state, and to the people in the communities effected by thier great enterprise.  The unparalleled success and the enormous possessions of the Messrs. Knight are of especial significance, since their great achievement has been the result of their own individual and mutual effort.  It is the product of the labor and genius of two men, skillful masters of their professions, thoroughly conversant with all the details of their business, to which they have devoted their lives and energies without diversion therefrom during a period of over 40 years.

Their success in one of the most important of the domestic industries (the manufacture and finish of cotton goods) is remarkable, since it is without a parallel in the history of the world.  Singular and impressive as this statement may appear, it is nevertheless a veritable fact.  It is not an abnormal condition, neither is it a question  of chance or accident.  It is an exhibition of 'cause and effect', in which superior natural and acquired abilities, an almost boundless ambition, steady, systematic yet herculean effort, all blended and united in consistent action, have produced their legitimate result.

Your statement of the several manufacturing properties and numbers of spindles, of the Messrs. Knight, convey to those unfamiliar with the subject but a slight conception of the vast magnitude of the business interests and operations of this firm.  In a comparison of their interests with the largest manufacturers of Europe, it should be remembered that the cotton manufacturers of England buy the yarn and weave the fabrics, while those who produce the yarn are cotton spinners, and are seldom engaged in the so-called manufacture.  In the American system are united all the operations of the manufacture, which include the carding, spinning and weaving.

The principal and more important interests of the Messrs. Knight, briefly summarized, are as follows:  They operate and manage, as agents for the several corporations of which they are the sole owners - except a limited interest in the Hebron and Clinton Companies - 21 cotton mills, aggregating the enormous capacity of over 400,000 spindles, with all of the preparatory and finishing machinery, and nearly 11,000 looms, from 30 inches to 102 inches wide, making sheetings, shirtings, print cloths, three, four and five shade twills and fine cambrics.  They are the owners of the renowned 'ticket' or trade mark, 'Fruit of the Loom'.  The great demand for this grade of goods requires the operation of 4,500 looms.  They are also bleachers and finishers of cotton goods.  The bleachery at Pontiac has a capacity of 22 tons of goods per day, which amount is equal to only about 60 per cent of the production of their mills.  Preparations are in progress for improvement, reorganization and enlargement of this bleachery, to double its present capacity, at an early day.  Their vast property consists of 15 villages, absolutely separate and independent of each other, except in their general management (as shown in the statement before named).  Of the aforesaid 21 mills, 16 have been extensively enlarged, reorganized  and thoroughly repaired during the past eight years, requiring the expenditure of nearly five million dollars.  It is believed that they are unsurpassed in respect to the excellence of their operations and product.

The annual consumption of cotton is nearly 53,000 bales, from which are produced yarns from No. 24 to No. 60.  The annual product of all the mills in cloth, considered upon the basis of the 'Fruit of the Loom', would, in lineal length, amount to 77,500,000 yards, which would encircle the globe over 1 3/4 times.  If this were reduced to the basis of yard wide goods, it would be nearly twice around the earth.  If the yarn required in the production of the cloth, as above cited, were extended as a single and continuous thread, it would encircle the earth over 12,000 times.  These figures are strikingly suggestive of the wonderful, nay, even marvelous progress of the past hundred years, since the period when cotton yarns were the product of the hand spinning wheel.  The actual product of the mills of the Messrs. Knight is considerably more than the aforesaid 77,500,000 yards, since 6,500 looms are weaving goods of other varieties, the production of which are from ten per cent to more than double the aforesaid 'Fruit of the Loom'.

Three of the villages, vis.: Lippitt, Fiskville and Jackson are upon the north branch of the Pawtuxet river; they each have valuable water powers. The mills are small, having an aggregate capacity of about 20,000 spindles. It is generally understood that it is the intention of the Messrs. Knight to improve these properties in the near future, by the erection of new mills, adding from 75,000 to possibly 100,000 spindles, and over 14,000 looms.

All of their mill properties, except in Providence and Woonsocket, comprise large tracts of land.  The farms are stocked with work cattle, young stock, and about 300 milch cows.  The farm and mill service requires about 120 horses.  The farming is a large interest, and it is operated mainly for the purpose of giving employment to the heads of families who would otherwise be without work, or obliged to seek employment elsewhere.  The hay crop the past year was about 1,200 tons.  The principal crop is potatoes, with a considerable amount of corn, oats and vegetables.  About 25,000 tons of ice is gathered annually, the larger part of which is sold to dealers in Providence.

Stores are maintained, where it is inteded that the employees can secure goods of all description, of the best of their several kinds, at as low a cost as can be procured elsewhere, one of the chief objects being to secure to the employees every advantage and priviledge that can be obtained under the most favorable circumstances.  In all of the villages there are competing stores, and employees exercize their free choice as to whom they will give patronage.  The influences of the stores as conducted by the several corporations of this firm are of unquestioned benefit to the communites, since they secure a healthy competition, and thereby protect the buyers, who are in large part the employees of this firm.  The stores are conducted upon the same careful system as in the case of the mills.  There is one general manager of all the stores, Mr. J. S. Paige, with headquarters at the Providence office.  The very large business in the aggregate sales of these stores constitutes the most ample testimony as to their utility.

The Messrs. Knight own about 1,700 tenements, which are occupied by their employees.  These tenements are principally double cottages of seven rooms for each family.  They possess every convenience for comfortable living, and each house has from 8,000 to 10,000 square feet of land.  All of the two storey, four family houses, built some years since, and according to the custom of former times, with a single entrance, and with the stairs and halls for the common use of the several families, are being remodelled as rapidly as possible, and made to conform to modern ideas of correct living, to wit: that the apartments for the use of families shall be in absolutely independent groups, having no communication within the interior, and therefore strictly private.  Other important improvements are in progress and in preparation, with the purpose of making the villages in the highest degree healthful, pleasant and attractive for comfortable residence.

The Messrs. Knight own the controlling interest in the Cranston Printing, Dyeing and Beaching Works at Cranston, R.I., formerly the property of A. & W. Sprague Manufacturing Company, and one of the largest in the country. They have also other large interests, both as a firm and individually.

The firm of B. B. & R. Knight are also merchants, independent of all other operations and interests hereinbefore cited.  Their principal store is on Worth street, New York.  They also have agencies in Boston, Hartford, Philadelphia and Baltimore, the operations of all being directed from their central office in Providence.  They have no accounts with commission houses upon which they can draw.  They sell their own goods, and carry the accounts of all of their customers.  In this connection, it is worthy to observe the general policy and method pursued by this firm in the conduct of its multifarious and enormous interests.  The principal raw material used is cotton.  This is bought in the beginning of the season, a full year's stock is put into the storehouses of their several  mills, involving an outlay of capital of about $2,500,000.  This also applies in a measure to the general supplies, involving a large investment in stock.  Aside from the foregoing, there is the stock in progress of manufacture, and the large stock of goods in process of finishing, and the goods in the store-house; subject to the varying demands of the trade, seldom less than a quarter to a half million of dollars, and not infrequently amounting to the value of several millions of dollars in times of business depression.  The firm do not stop their mills or curtail their production, however serious and threatening the financial conditions may be.  In times when confidence seems almost an abandoned hope, and many important interests are suspended of their operations are contracted, the Knight Mills are always in operation.  It has been their policiy upon such occasions to make their largest improvements and most extensive outlays.  The savings which they are enabled to make at such perios is generally equal to the earning capacity of the mills under prosperous business.  It is doubless true that their example has been of much value, tending to support and strengthen confidence so important to commercial prosperity.  This policy in periods of depression has been of exceeding value to many interests dependent upon them, and the result is a confirmation of the wise and judicious direction which is apparent in all of their vast operations.

It is impossible to give in this brief sketch any more than a superficial outline.  The nearer one may approach to a defiinate comprehension of the business interests of this firm, the more fully will it be realized that they are not only unparalelled in their magnitutde, but it will also appear as almost incredible that such enormous interests can be the product of single lives, and yet- as herinbefore stated - such is the fact, and the men whose genius, ability, economy, thrigt and business sagacity have produced this almost phenomenal result are to-day in the vigor of health, and in the personal management of their enormous business operations exhibit no signs of abated energy or loss of interest.

[Facing page:  portrait of Robert Knight]

I cannot conclude this sketch without a notice of the interest manifested by this firm in matters outside of the simple operations of their mills.  In several of their villages they have built churches, in others large halls for the pleasure and benefit of their employees, as also for use in religious service.  It is to be observed also that they contribute liberally to the support of Christian work, irrespective of their denomination; their aid has been extended to Protestant and Catholic.  At Hebron there is a fine church built by them for the Methodists.  At Natick they are rebuilding in the most thorough, liberal convenient manner the Baptist church and vestry. At Pontiac there is an Episcopal church which is worthy of especial notice. It is one of the finest in the state, a beautiful example of modern church architecture; its interior is of elegant design, tastefully decorated and most liberally furnished.  It has a fine pipe organ, indirect steam heating, and a gas plant for lighting.  There are beautiful memorial windows which adorn both chancel and transept.  A large and spacious parish house of three stories adjoins the church building.  The basement is fitted with a large hall, kitchen, and all of the conveniences and appliances for cooking tributary to the pleasures of social gatherings.  It has also a full and complete equipment for gymnasium exercises.  The second floor has a large vestry hall for Sunday school services, with a fine entrance to the rector's study, and thence into the altar within the chancel.  Fron the other class room there is an entrance on one side of the vestry, and upon the other into the beautiful auditorium of the church.  The third floor has a large hall and two smaller rooms, all of them fitted and furnished complete, with a library for reading rooms, and also for the use of the society in its various circles for charity work.  With the completion of the rectory it will present as charming a spectacle of liberality and deep interest in Christian work and in the welfare of the employees of a corporation as can well be concieved.  This church, with its several appendages and complete equipment, is the munificent gift of the Messrs. B. B. & R. Knight, and built in 1888 at a cost of $25,000.  These few examples fittingly illustrate the spirit and fore-shadow the purposes of this firm in respect to questions of a public interest, so closely interwoven into their business management. The importance and the value of such work as this cannot be over-estimated. The interest thus exhibited is worthy of the highest commendation.  The beneficent effects to result therefrom will be far reaching, and involve great good to both benefactor and the beneficiaries.

The benefactions of illustrious men throughout the world have by their munificent gifts contributed inestimable benefits to the people.  The aid thus extended has assisted to unlock the treasure house of knowledge, to develop the arts and sciences, to bring into subjection the forces of nature, and render possible the advancement of the interest of all classes of the people, as now visible in the present age.  Benefactors include, also, those who have attained preeminent distiction as leaders in the fields of literature, science, the mechanic arts and commerce.  It is the aggregation of these forces, utilized in the direction of the active labor of  the people from day to day, assisted by capital representing the accumulated savings of labor in the past, that is essential to the prosperity of the people.

Benefactions differ in magnitude, and are manifest in a variety of forms. The possessor of great wealth is a benefactor, in such degree as he may devote his capital and labor in the building up of the great industries and give permanent and safe employment to the people upon the basis of a just compensation.  It is especially in this role that we must regard nearly all men during the activities of their business career.   It is in this light that the interests and the personal character of the subjects of this sketch are to be considered.  The magnitude of their business operations and their financial success are without a parallel in the world, when considered within the lines of their field of work.  The confidence reposed in them respecting the security and permanence of their business operations, and the appreciation and regard for their experience and judgment in the direction of such vast financial interests, as also in the counsels of the boards of direction, and in the positions of chief executive management of several of the large banking institutions, constitute a factor of safety even in a community of great wealth, as in the city of Providence, where success has crowned the efforts of other men in an eminent degree.

A history of the lives and business career of these two brothers would be one of unusual interest to the present, and the generations to follow them. The contributions of their energies and labor have been of value to the world.  They are men who have come up from the ranks, they have seen all sides and phases of life, from poverty to the possession of enormous wealth. The route over which they have traveled is free and open to all.  They have by fair, honest effort, attained unto the position which they now occupy. The are of simple habits, without estentation or show.  The interest in their employees as exhibited in the liberal plans, now in process of execution, respecting the order of their villages, the comfort and pleasure of the people, provision for amusement, education, church work and charities, all of which are rendered in a quiet, unassuming manner, but with a just and liberal spirit.  These are evidences of a desire and purpose on their part to advance the interest of the communities where their mills are located, that must be of great value in the promotion of order, good feeling, and reciprocal interest to all concerned.

They are men of strong convictions, powerful in the natural resources of both mind and body; the traits of their character are preeminently positive. They are possessed of an indomitable spirit, and iron will, a courage that never falters.  Difficulties, however formidable, do no restrain them; whatever their judgment approves, and they believe to be right, they enter upon with a determined spirit, and pursue it until the object is accomplished.  Beneath the shield of these strong forces, which have made their success, there are other qualities in their character equally deserving of mention, which have been concealed, it may be, from the public view, by the force of the circumstances which surround them.  They are men of deep sympathies and tender hearts.  All who have had the priviledge of intimate personal aquaintance, or social relations, must have recognized these as strongly marked.  There are many who have been the recipients of their favor in influence, financial assistance, or charity, who knew not from whence it came, or the hand which bestowed it.

The subjects of this review, who now occupy a position of such vast influence and power, were born of poor parents, trained and nurtured by loving hearts, and principles constituting the foundation of their lives, inculcated through the teachings of a Christian mother, from necessity placed at work when very young, with but limited educational advantages. Benjamin B. upon the farm, theninto the print workds, from thence into a store, where he acquires the experience and practical knowledge which laide the foundation of his career as a merchant and financier.  Robert in the mills at the age of eight years, working fourteen hours a day for a trifling sum, several years later receiving but $1.25 per week, possessed of the same spirit of ambition which appears so conspicuously in later life, he is enabled to surmount many of the difficulties surrounding his boyhood, and we find him as a teacher in a district school, later as a clerk in the office of John H. Clark, at Arnold's Mills, subsequently purchased by him and given its present name at Pontiac.  His labor and training in the mills gave to him the necessary practical knowledge as a manufacturer, to which must be attributed in a large measure his subsequent success.  Both of these brothers combine with their technical knowledge rare qualities of administrative ability, the result of great native talent and training. Adding to these the great energy, the indomitable will, the steady industry and consistent labor, the careful attention to the most minute details of their business, constitutes the essential elements which have secured their unparalleled success, and placed them in the preeminently distinguished position which they now occupy.

The tribute of praise or commendation bestowed upon distinguished men in public life is the expression of the heart and judgment of the people, prompted by the beating pulse of a reciprocal interest.  The benefactor becomes the beneficiary of the people's favor and honor.  This reciprocity of interest strengthens confidence, opens up a wider field for usefulness, given an added zest to human effort, and enables all of the forces to be utilized in the highest degree for the public welfare.  It is upon the lines parallel to these in principle that a just and proper recognition should be awarded to all men, who though in private life, have reeminenly distinguished themselves by great or extraordinary achievement.  The biography, or history of men, is of real value only when considered in the spirit of a just desire to profit by the lesson their example teaches.  Its relation to men still in the greatest activities of their life, and in the very zenith of their power and influence, is especially significant.  In the sense of their important relation to the great industrial interests which contribute so much to the public advantage, they are public men; hence it follows that good will between the people and such men of the people, who through thier genius and great ability, have become possessed of vast wealth and power, must inevitably result in the largest measure to the public and the best good of the people.

It is with this feeling and a recognition of the principles herein suggested, that I desire to pay a just tribute of respect to Benjamin B. and Robert Knight, whose names and power, now so widely known and recognized, are henceforth to become a great and controlling influence in the industrial and financial interests of the state of Rhode Island.'   G. M.

Back to the City of Providence Biographical Sketches

These documents are made available free to the public for non-commercial purposes by the Rhode Island USGenWeb Project. Transcribed by Beth Hurd, 1999 .
MailIf you have a (pre-1922) contribution from a Rhode Island book or newspaper you would like to share, please send me an e-mail with the publication title, author, and publisher. Thanks.