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JAMES GOODWIN BATTERSON, M. A. Rugged and stable as the granites which first gave him fame, finished and polished as the marbles which added lustre to strength, complex and diverse as the industries which he promoted—James Goodwin Batterson stands sans parcil in the great number of his personal and business qualities, negative to each other, yet conspicuous in variety and magnitude.
     Born in Wintonbury (now Bloomfield), Conn., near Hartford, Feb. 23, 1823, his early boyhood was spent at New Preston, among the Litchfield Hills, whither his parents removed when he was an infant. In the pure bracing air of the country, an active outdoor life laid the foundations in youth of a strong, vigorous constitution which sixty years of strenuous business exertions have failed to shake. Here he received a common-school education, followed by a course in the Western Academy, where he was prepared for college.
     Finding it impossible, however, through lack of means, to carry out this cherished ambition, he resolved to become self-supporting, and journeyed to Ithaca, N. Y. (a good share of the way on foot), where he signed for a three-years apprenticeship in the printing house of Mack, Andrus & Woodruff. The idea of a college course still remained, however, and his nights were spent in reading and study, so that he returned at the age of nineteen to Litchfield, where the family then resided, much broadened and strengthened in mind.
     Fortune cast his lot, for a time at least, as a stone-cutter in his father's marble yards. But the active mind of the youth still clamored for knowledge, and Judge Origen S. Seymour, a friend of the elder Batterson, becoming interested, took the boy into his law office. A happy year passed, and then the family circumstances demanded that the son again take up the mallet and chisel.
     Thwarted in his ambitions for a professional career, the plucky lad threw all his energies into the stone trade, determined to achieve more than a moderate success. And in this his plans did not miscarry, for five years saw the business so increased that removal to the larger field at Hartford was effected. The line of work also broadened, and to monuments and substructures were added all kinds of cemetery work, tombs, sarcophagi, etc., and the construction of the completed building. Among the earlier work in Hartford may be mentioned the brownstone building of the State Saving's Bank on Pearl street, and the marble front home of the Phoenix National Bank, on Main street. In 1857 Mr. Batterson was awarded the contract for the Worth monument, in New York, which stands at the junction of Fifth avenue and Broadway. From this time on the business grew rapidly until 1875, when it was thought best to organize it into a stock company.
     Accordingly, under a special charter from the Legislature, The New England Granite Works was formed with a capital of $250,000. Quarries were procured under purchase or lease at Canaan, Conn., Westerly, R. I., and Concord, N. H., and the work continued to be prosecuted with great vigor. New and modern apparatus was introduced, which the inventive genius of the man devised and improved until his equipments were far in advance of any other. He perfected a turning lathe for cutting and polishing stone columns, a process previously done by hand with clumsy and inaccurate results. In this field he had much to do besides his own work, and personally wrought and polished the granite columns in the Capitol at Albany.
     As a contractor and builder in granite, Mr. Batterson established a name second to none in the country. Covering over half a century since the business was first established, there is scarcely a cemetery of repute in the United States that has not its monuments, or a city of size that has not Batterson granite in some of its buildings. Representative among the public monuments and statues are the National Soldiers' Monument at Gettysburg, the portrait statue of Alexander Hamilton in Central Park, New York, the monument to Brevet Brig.-Gen. Thayer, founder of the West Point Military Academy, at West Point, the monument at Antietam surmounted by a colossal granite statue of a soldier twenty-one feet in height, the great monument at Galveston, Texas, dedicated to the soldiers who fell in the Texas revolution, the monument in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, to Major-Gen. Henry W. Halleck, General-in-chief of all the armies of the United States 1863-64, and the Gen. Wool monument at Troy, N. Y., whose sixty-foot shaft is in one piece weighing nearly fine hundred tons.
     Among the more notable buildings which Mr. Batterson and his company have erected or furnished the granite used, are the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Co.'s building. Hartford, the Equitable building (home of the Equitable Life Assurance Society), New York, the Masonic Temple, New York, the Mutual Life Insurance Co.'s building. Philadelphia, the City Hall, Providence, and the thirty-story Park Row building, New York.
     But the Congressional Library Building in Washington, that massive pile of pure gray Concord granite perfectly matched and grained, the finest granite building in the world, will ever attest to Mr. Batterson's pre-eminence as THE Man of Granites. Perhaps not less marvelous than the quarrying of this immense quantity of stone of such even grain and coloring, was the mechanical accuracy with which the cutting and fitting was done before leaving the shops at Concord, so that not a shilling was charged in Washington for refitting at the site.
     Another building of more than National repute is the Connecticut State Capitol at Hartford, for which Mr. Batterson personally was the contractor. Prominently set upon a hill in the midst of Bushnell Park, with its 500 trees of 150 distinct varieties and its rich and rare shrubbery, this handsome building stands forth, its native white marble walls supporting from the center a perfectly proportioned golden dome, bearing aloft 250 feet from the ground a heroic bronze figure of the genius of Connecticut. With this rich setting, and great architectural beauty, it has been pronounced by competent critics as "unique among structures of this kind in America." And it has yet another claim to distinction in that it is the first building of the kind to be erected in the United States within the appropriation, for so thoroughly did contractor and commissioners work to their limit that $13,000 of the 82,000,000 appropriated was returned unexpended. Mr. Batterson's contract covered the entire construction, even to the smallest details.
      Fifteen years of dealing with the harder exterior stones served to show the demand for the more ornamental and decorative marbles, and in 1860 Mr. Batterson established his steam marble works in New York City. Here in this new field he achieved immediate and increasing success, until today these works, under the name of Batterson & Eisele, are without question the largest and best-equipped in the country, furnishing employment for from 500 to 600 men. As examples of this firm's work may be mentioned among public buildings the marble interiors of the Equitable building, the Manhattan Bank building and the Mutual Life building in New York, the City Hall in Providence, R. I., and the Congressional Library Building in Washington, D. C. Among the many hotels, noted for their magnificent marble and ornamental stone interiors, which Mr. Batterson and his company have furnished, are the "Waldorf-Astoria" and the "Imperial," New York City, while representative among the private dwellings of the ''mansion" type are the Cornelius Vanderbilt residence, Fifth avenue, New York, "The Marble House" built for W. K. Vanderbilt, at Newport, R. I., and "Biltmore," at Asheville, N. C., for George Yanderbilt.
     But as though laurel-crowned efforts in two great lines of industry were not enough, it remained for Mr. Batterson to originate and organize a new kind of business, in which he has achieved even greater success than in the other two; for here he blazed a path where none had gone before, and set a pace which tired and made early rivals drop out of the race, and gave later competitors a hopeless task to overcome his lead. While traveling through England in 1863 Mr. Batterson's attention was attracted to the system of insurance by tickets against accidents occurring on railroads, then just coming into vogue there. Soon after his return he succeeded in persuading a few Hartford gentlemen of means to combine with him in the formation of an accident insurance company. A charter was secured from the Legislature, which was amended in 1864 to include all kinds of accident insurance, and the new company was launched on an unknown sea, with no compass to steer by, but with brains and energy at the helm. Two years saw the business increase, and in 1866 a further grant was secured, permitting the transaction of a general life insurance business.
     The early years were beset with the fiercest kind of competition, accident companies springing up like mushrooms in the night, and in many cases having about the length of life of these fungi. Railroads ejected The Travelers to make way for their own companies, and then retired these in turn when they had met with sufficient reverses. Seventy accident companies were born within two years, none of which now survive. Finally, from this chaotic condition of things, was evolved The Railway Passengers Assurance Co., being a consolidation of the ticket interests of all the larger accident companies then existing. After a few years of successful struggle this was reinsured by The Travelers as sole legatee, and is now represented in its Ticket Department.
     The first premium received by The Travelers was two cents, representing the charge for insuring a Hartford banker on his journey home from the Post Office. A recent premium in the Life Department exceeded $50,000, and a still further example of the growth during these thirty-eight years is in the receipt of applications for $300,000 on a single life, where originally but $10,000 would be considered. But the career of The Travelers Insurance Co. is current history, well known, and needs no exploiting. Under Mr. Batterson's guidance it has grown from nothing to a company with over $30,000,000 assets, and a surplus security to policy holders of $4,500,000. The capital stock has been increased from $250,000 to $1,000,000, and during these years over $42,000,000 has been returned to policy holders, doing an inestimable amount of good. The same energetic but conservative man is at the head now as in the beginning, and, besides making it the largest accident insurance company in the world, he has brought it to a high rank with the leaders in the life field. Justly termed the "Father of Accident Insurance in America." Mr. Batterson may also rightly claim the title of ''Father of all Accident Insurance," for the English idea was merely the suggestion which started him thinking, but the product of that thought in no way resembles the cause. For Yankee ingenuity and persistence devised, enlarged and constructed until Old England was forced to come to New England to learn about accident insurance.
     Having organized and developed three great companies, of each of which he has been president since the beginning, and whose careers have been prosecuted side by side, simultaneously by this master mind until each has achieved an extraordinary degree of success, it would seem that this man of granites, of marbles, and of insurances were solely a man of business. But lo! we have also a man of science, of art, of literature, and of public works, for the many other sides are all fully developed in proportion. A student from boyhood, he has become a scholar among men, but is always the student, by which one recognizes the scholar.
     One year's study of law furnished the foundation on which he has builded all these years by reading and experience, until today he possesses a judicial mind of rare balance, and, although never admitted to practice at the bar, he knows the law thoroughly, and his opinion on all practical questions carries great weight. In no sense pugnacious, Mr. Batterson has the accurate and just powers of discrimination which enable him to fully determine the right or wrong of an issue at the start, and once convinced he has a tenacity of purpose, backed by the strength of unfaltering convictions, which often carry him to the Court of Last Resort before he obtains final justification or technical defeat.
     Another of his early studies which has been of great service is that of geology, which he took up when a mere lad at the instigation of Prof. J. G. Percival, the poet-geologist of Connecticut, for whom he acted as guide during a part of the first geological survey of the State. This subject, together with mineralogy and engineering, as applied to his own industries, has commanded a large share of his attention. On the knowledge gained thereby depends to a certain degree his success as a builder, for he knows not only how best to get the material into place, but also all the qualities and characteristics of the material itself, giving him an immense advantage over the man bred as a builder solely from the mechanical standpoint. The winter of 1858-59 Mr. Batterson spent in Egypt with Brunei, the well-known engineer. The geological study of the Nile Valley, with particular attention to the unsolved problems in engineering for which Egypt is noted, became very interesting in such company. In turn the pyramids, the great ruins at Thebes, Karnak and elsewhere, the tombs, catacombs, obelisks, etc., were all studied with profitable results. Aside from the impetus given the engineering instincts under such unusual conditions, Egypt herself became a subject of engrossing interest to Mr. Batterson, which has increased as the years of study have deepened his knowledge, until today he stands among the foremost authorities on Egyptology, and is an Honorary Secretary of the Egypt Exploration Fund.
     Returning to the south of Europe, a geological study of the Mediterranean basin added much practical information in this line of research, and subsequent study and investigation on his many travels at home and abroad have given him a thorough general and technical knowledge of the subject that has been an undoubted factor in his success. At his home in Hartford is a collection of choice minerals, geological specimens and curios, gathered in his peregrinations from Norway to the Nile, carefully classified and arranged, to each of which is attached a concise and interesting story of its discovery and locus. The whole has a high value apart from its absorbing interest. From geology to astronomy is a natural step, and he has delved deep into the hidden mysteries of the latter and its kindred sciences.
     Art is another subject which has always appealed greatly to Mr. Batterson's natural tastes, and has been fostered both by his interest as a student and as a patron. His first trip abroad was as the representative of certain philanthropically inclined men, for whom he gathered and brought home the works in various stages of completion of his promising young friend Bartholomew, the sculptor, who died at Rome. Having erected a monument over the grave of the deceased, near the historic tomb of Virgil, Mr. Batterson delayed his return several months that he might study the paintings, sculptures and language of Italy. As the direct result of this trip the masterpieces of Bartholomew (who in sculpture, with the late Frederic Church in painting, placed Hartford's name to the fore as a progenitor of art) are now among the treasured possessions of the Museum at Philadelphia, and the Wadsworth Atheneum at Hartford. But a result no less far-reaching in its influence was the fostering and training of the artistic temperament, in its early impressionable stage, of the agent who executed this commission, and the few bits in oil picked up on that occasion formed the nucleus of a collec-tion of rare paintings which now has a National reputation. In a large gallery connected with his residence, constructed from original design, with special attention to light and wall-surface, hang a valuable collection of canvases covering a remark-able range of subjects and schools—including the Italian. Dutch. Flemish, Dusseldorf, French. English and Belgian. The Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford has quite a number of paintings from Mr. Batterson's collection. Travel and study have added to his reputation as a connoisseur the discrimination and artistic taste of the critic, and the value of his opinion on a canvas is unquestioned.
     But yet another accomplishment of this many-sided man is his marked ability as a linguist. Here we have two almost incompatible qualities, for we find, in the natural mathematician who laid the foundations and shaped the career of a great insurance company, a rare knowledge and command not only of his own language, but of the ancient classics and modern foreign tongues as well. This is a remarkable characteristic, for Greek verbs have not as a rule a fondness for the values of x and y in the same brain. A life-study of Greek and Latin has made him one of the devoted scholars of the day in these classics, and for twenty years a member of the Greek Club of New York. A natural philologist, his love for the comparative has developed in Mr. Batterson more than a superficial knowledge of the j modern languages of Europe.
     Sociology and economics have also received a great deal of attention, particularly the relations of capital and labor. Many trips abroad and much travel at home have stimulated the study of general history, both in its local colorings and in relative effects. Modern English, French and American literature have been read and studied, and Mr. Batterson's library (one of the finest in the State) is especially rich in works of this class, as well as in the heavier tomes of text and reference. The whole atmosphere of library and den breathes the scholar and student of unusual range of thought. Nor have contemporaneous writings been neglected, so that he is fully informed on the issues of the day, and is in touch with its most advanced thought.
     With his brain a vast storehouse of knowledge, and an intellect flexible and adaptable, but with great powers of concentration and expression, it is little wonder that Mr. Batterson has earned fame as a writer, which would overshadow all his other achievements were he to devote himself to it. A lifetime of reading and study has prepared him to write exhaustively upon almost any subject. In style strong and vigorous, every sentence concise and carrying some new thought, expression direct and with but little of the qualifying, the tracings from this pen have an individual flavor characteristic of the man which greatly enhances their intrinsic value. His many short contributions on the subject of capital and labor have always commanded attention, and the mastery in handling this complex question has won the respect of both sides by its fairness. Several brochures on taxation have served to set lawmakers to thinking, and in some cases have had a direct effect in the results. His translations from the Iliad have special value in smoothness and beauty of expression, while maintaining the heroic meter and literal meaning of the original. Monetary questions have been discussed from time to time, and in 1896 Mr. Batterson wrote his book on "Gold and Silver," which was at once recognized by leading authorities as the best concise treatment of the subject ever written. The demand was immediate, and called for the printing of large editions, which were used extensively in the sound money campaign of that election. The majority of Mr. Batterson's writings have appeared in his company paper, The Travelers Record, whose files are rich in contributions on questions of the day and insurance economics. A number of poems attest to his versatility as a writer, ranging from the deepest scientific subjects, treated in heavy technical prose, to the light airy verse, evenly balanced and musical. Among the latter may be mentioned ''The Death of the Bison," "The Trysting Place," and "Lauda Sion," translated from the Mediaeval Latin of St. Thomas Aquinas.
     But a work (now in press) which will live long to redound to the fame of its author is a poem in blank verse on the "Creation." Besides a remarkable display of knowledge in geology, astronomy, evolution, dynamics and the associated sciences, it contains germs of thought far in advance of the age. Expressed now with superlative force and virility, and again in the soft accents of simple description, the coloring of each passage varies that it may harmonize with its text. But the rhythmic swing of the verse is never lost to sight, and the whole is rounded and finished with a smoothness and polish that makes it of the highest order of literary merit. Add to this his masterly treatment of the subject and the poem will not only attract the litterateur, but the student in science and philosophy. Both Yale and Williams have recognized Mr. Batterson's preeminence as a man of letters and conferred upon him the honorary degree of M. A.
     In personal appearance Mr. Batterson is a man of large frame, strong, robust, naturally dignified and of commanding presence. With a wonderful constitution, a lifetime of unceasing labor, during which he has accomplished more than three average men, has left him at the age of seventy-eight still strong and active. Every weekday finds him before his desk at The Travelers, directing the affairs of this immense corporation, and often entering into the minutest details. In character honest and just to the last degree, he asks nothing which is not rightfully his, and takes no advantage over the weaker because of his superior strength. It has been said that "the busiest man has the most leisure," and this is true of Mr. Batterson, for in spite of his great and varied interests he is one of the most accessible of men, always finding time to listen to anyone whose business in any way warrants it. Possessing a strong personal magnetism and a gracious manner, he puts his interviewer completely at ease, seeming to know how to meet on equal footing men of every station.
     One great factor in his success has been the ability to wholly concentrate his mind on the matter in hand, disposing of it quickly without loss of time in reviewing details already covered. This is only made possible by his remarkable memory, and ability to grasp whole ideas at once. But more than all else is his power to find recreation in reading and study, and after a particularly hard and trying day at the office he may be found in his den, "resting" until the small hours of the morning, with a volume of Homer or Horace, of Spenser or Haeckel, before him. With his omnivorous intellect and great assimilative qualities, sixty years of such evenings have given him his wonderful store of knowledge, always available on almost every subject. He is the true type of the self-made man who has taken pride and pains in that making. 
     In religion Mr. Batterson is a Baptist, and his always been a regular attendant and active supporter of his church. The Bible has been a study of great interest to him, and his philological tendencies have been of very material aid in following the higher criticisms.
     Politically Mr. Batterson is a Republican, having nested in founding this great party. When the Civil  War broke out he withstood the temptation to take the field with the promise of rapid promotion held out to him, deciding to do his duty where it seemed to lie, in the direction of affairs at home. As a result today he wears no Grand Army button, bears not the title of colonel or general, but no man in battle ever did more for his country than this plain citizen of Connecticut. All through the war, as chairman of the State Central Committee of his party and chairman of the War Committee, he was indefatigable in his endeavors to further the public interests, managing events with a judgment and tact that dispelled jealousies and promoted harmony. Although Connecticut sent nearly 55,000 troops to war, or over 6,000 more than her quota, no less an authority than Appleton ('66) says politically she was regarded all through that crucial time in our history as a doubtful State. Those were days when Mr. Batterson was here, there, and everywhere, organizing and directing, consulting with his leaders in the various districts, exhorting, encouraging, and now and then answering calls to Washington for consultation with National heads, his advice being sought even by President Lincoln regarding matters connected with the administration.
     By sheer hard work and personal influence, felt to the corners of the State, Mr. Batterson managed to poll 2,405 majority for Lincoln in 1864 out of a total vote exceeding 87.000, one of the largest ever cast in its history. In 1866, when the differences between President Johnson and Congress over the reconstruction of the South became the election issues with the two parties in Connecticut, and the eyes of the Nation were turned toward that little State, General Hawley, the Federal candidate, was elected governor by only 541 majority. Although Buckingham was re-elected governor each year during the war, it was only with small majorities, and Republican Congressmen were returned by margins of a few hundred only. The moral effect of the election of an anti-administration government by loyal old Connecticut, one of the thirteen original States, can scarcely be imagined. A home of rebellion against the National Constitution, and of advocacy of State Rights in the very heart of the solid North, would have struck terror and discouragement into the sorely tried hearts at Washington, and given a new impetus to the efforts of the South. State sovereignty was the issue of the South; State Rights of the Democratic party of Connecticut.
     Mr. Batterson undoubtedly saved the State elec-tions through this trying time, for a man less strong than he in control of the Republican party would have ensured Democratic success. This mighty service was duly recognized abroad by the great National leaders. In many other ways he rendered untold service from 1861 to 1865, assisting greatly in the enlistment, organization and mobilization of troops. In relief work, too, he devoted much time and money.
     Ever since its formation Mr. Batterson has been very active in working for the interests of his party. With a powerful voice, ready wit, and strong argumentative ability, he has exerted great power as a political speaker and debater. But with all his service he will accept no reward or political preferment, and the man who might have attained to the highest State and National honors is a simple citizen of his native city, viewing politics as a civic duty only. This fact has carried unusual influence with his party leaders.
     In the old town meetings of Hartford, now done away with, Mr. Batterson was a man of unusual influence, and the rooms used to be crowded when it was known that his views on a subject would probably call for a debate. With his splendid presence, quick wit, at times keenly sarcastic, great argumentative powers, and the attribute of never recognizing defeat, he was more than a match for a score of worthy opponents, and the finest displays of forensic ability ever seen in the State took place when some of those long standing contentions were wrestled with in the open arena of the old town meet-ing. As a lecturer, also, and presiding officer, Mr. Batterson has an enviable reputation, and has been in great demand.
     A long life with its varied interests has given him a wide and extensive acquaintance with men in public life, and has enabled him to know intimately and number among his friends those in its highest walks for more than half a century. From humble circumstances he has risen to be a man of large affairs and comfortable estate.
     Although in no sense a club man, the following are a few of his business and society connections: President and director of The Travelers Insurance Co., The New England Granite Works, Batterson & Kisele, New York, director Hartford National Bank. Case, Lockwood & Brainard Co., vice-president Wadsworth Atheneum, trustee Brown University, member Colonial Club, Connecticut Society Sons of the American Revolution, American Statistical Association, Society of Biblical Literature & Exegesis, Hartford Scientific Society, Connecticut Horticultural Society, New England Society of New York, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Yale Alumni Association, Hartford Board of Trade, for thirty years Fellow American Society Civil Engineers, etc.
     In 1851 Mr. Batterson married Eunice E. Goodwin, and for forty-six years lived in the enjoyment of domestic happiness that comes to but few people. In 1897 Mrs. Batterson died, leaving, besides her husband, two children surviving—Mary E., wife of Charles Coffing Beach, M. D., of Hartford; and James G., Jr., who resides in New York, as manager of the business of The Travelers Insurance Co., in that city.—E. D. C,, 1901.

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Commemorative
Biographical Record
of
Hartford County,
Connecticut

Illustrated

Chicago

J. H. Beers & Co.

1901

pgs 23 - 28

HARTFORD COUNTY BIOGRAPHIES
pages / text are copyrighted by
Elaine Kidd O'Leary
May 2002

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