Why Some Succeed While Others Fail: Horace B. Claflin

This great dry-goods prince was born at Milford, Massachusetts, in 1811, and his education was attained in the public schools of that place. When he became of age he bought out the store in which he was clerk, and in company with another young man began business for himself. But this place was too small for the already expanding vision of both Claflin & Daniels; they accordingly moved to Worcester. The latter place proving yet too small for Claflin, we soon see him located in Cedar street, New York, where he finds himself somewhat satisfied for a time. After a period of successful trade—extending over six years’ time, the young men were compelled to find more commodious quarters, which they found at No. 57 Broadway, and two years later they moved once more, locating in the Trinity Building. 1860 came, their business was found to amount to about $12,000,000 annually, and the firm resolved to build a store, for themselves. The result was an immense dry-goods palace. The retail business was entirely abandoned, and Claflin at once sprung to the front as the leading wholesale dry-goods merchant of America.

One day, about five o’clock, Mr. Claflin sat in his private office when a young man, pale and careworn,timidly knocked and was asked in. “Mr. Claflin,” said he, “I am in need of help. I have been unable to meet certain payments because certain parties have not done by me as they agreed. I would like to have $10,000. I come to you because I knew that you were a friend of my father, and I thought possibly you might be a friend to me.” “Come in and have a glass of wine,” said Claflin. “No,” said the young man, “I never drink.” “Have a cigar?” “No, I never smoke.” “Well,” replied Claflin, “I am sorry but I don’t feel that I can let you have the money.” “Very well,” replied the young man, “I thought perhaps you might; hence I came. Good day, sir.” “Hold on,” said Claflin. “You don’t drink?” “No.” “Nor smoke?” “No sir.” “Nor gamble?” “No sir; I am superintendent of a Sunday-school, in —— street.” “Well,” said Claflin, “you shall have it.” This was characteristic of the man. This anecdote well illustrates his character. He was an everyday Christian.

On November 14, 1885, he passed away, leaving one more gap in the commercial world, and in the membership of Plymouth Church, of which he had been a member many years. Probably no one man missed him more at the time of his death than did Henry Ward Beecher, of whom he had long been a devoted admirer.