Why Some Succeed While Others Fail: Daniel Drew

Here is a great financier. A man of unusual ability; but who is no exception to the rule, born poor. His success came by hard work and a thorough mastery of his business. It is surprising how many Wall Street operators began life on the farm. In the case of Daniel Drew, at the age of only fifteen, matters were made worse by the death of his father.

At eighteen, he concluded to go to New York; but, after a discouraging time of it, his money giving out, he was obliged to return to his home. However, his trip did not prove a total failure, as subsequent events show. While in the metropolis he heard that fat cattle could be sold there at a profit over what he knew they could be bought for, at his country home. He therefore resolved to go into the cattle business. True, he had no money, he was a poor country lad, but this made little difference with Drew’s determination. As he had no money with which to buy a drove for himself, he did the next best thing; this was to induce the neighboring farmers to allow him to drive their cattle to market on a commission plan. By this one act the reader can understand the difference between Daniel Drew and the neighboring farm boys, many of whom were better situated, doubtless, than was he.

Another characteristic he developed was economy; his money was saved and with these small savings he added cattle to his drove which were his own, hence, in creased his profits; first one at a time, then two, when at last he abandoned the commission business, becoming a drover on his own account. Later, he took a partner and the firm of Drew & Co. became the cattle kings of America. This was the first firm that ever drove cattle from the West, and Drew, ever watchful for opportunities to add to his already increasing income, bought a tavern which became, as Drew knew it would under good management, the centre of the cattle business in the city on market days.

As time passed, as a matter of course, following such a line of procedure, he became a very rich man, and his disposition being of an enterprising nature, he began to cast about him for new investments, seeking new fields to conquer. The explosion of a boat on the Hudson, discommoding for a time the existing line, offered to Drew the favorable opportunity for which he was looking, and as was characteristic he at once improved his chance. He immediately placed on the river the “Water Witch”; the old line resumed business; the fares were reduced until the profits of both companies were eaten up. The opposition tried to intimidate, they tried to buy out, and then tried to negotiate some other deals, but all in vain. On the contrary Drew put on the “Westchester,” and instead of stopping at Peekskill, he extended to Albany. He next bought the “Bright Emerald,” and started an evening line. This was a new feature in those days and as it enabled the business men to travel without loss of time, it became eminently popular.

Drew was a man with a fertile mind; he made a study of whatever he undertook; he was a hard man to beat. He bought the “Rochester,” and next bought out the old line. For a long time he had things pretty much his own way; then came a new opposition. This time, through negotiations, he won the opposition over and established the celebrated “People’s Line,” naming their first boat after his new partner, “St. John.” Mr. Drew, in connection with others, formed the “Stonington Line” between New York and Boston, and still later he opened the “Champlain Transportation Company” from White Hall, New York, to Rouses Point, Vermont. He next placed his shoulder under Erie, endorsing its paper to the amount of ten millions. Later still he was elected President of this company, and as Erie and Central are natural enemies, Vanderbilt and Drew henceforth became hostile toward each other. Mr. Drew wanted to extend Erie west. To do this he must get a special act of the Legislature. Of course, he had Vanderbilt and Central, with all their patronage, with which to contend, and a bitter fight it proved to be; but in those days Daniel Drew seemed invincible in court, and the bill passed, Erie re-issuing stock and extending its lines.

He was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and to him is that religious body indebted for that grand institution, “Drew Theological Seminary.” Many men would have made a worse use of vast wealth than did Daniel Drew. He was a man who was quiet; he kept his “points,” and was a pleasing conversationalist. In 1879 he died, leaving two children.