RICHMOND INDIANA FLORIST BECOMES MULTI-MILLIONAIRE & WALL STREET FINANCIER
The Life of William Bateman Leeds
William Bateman Leeds (September 19, 1861 – June 23, 1908) was born in Richmond, Indiana in 1861 to Noah Smith Leeds and Hannah Ann (Starr) Leeds. Genealogy; He was a grandson of Warren Mifflin Leeds and Elizabeth (Bateman) Leeds. His great grandparents were Vincent Leeds and Catherine (Smith) Leeds (Widow Carr) and Noah Smith, who was a private in the Gloucester County (New Jersey) militia. His mother was a daughter of Charles W. Starr, one of Richmond™s most prominent early businessmen. Her brothers were also well known and extremely successful in their own rights, James M. Starr and Benjamin Starr, (both associated with the Starr Piano Company and other Richmond Indiana businesses). William B. Leeds was wed to Jeanette Irene Gaar (a daughter of John M. Gaar) in August of 1883.
œRudolph G. Leeds, son of William B. and Jeanette G. Leeds, was born in Richmond, Wayne county, Indiana, March 15, 1886, and has resided in that city the greater part of his life. He married Florence Smith, daughter of Philip W. and Susan Smith, also of Richmond. He was the editor of the “Richmond Palladium,” and also proprietor and editor of the “Indianapolis Sun.” He wrote in 1911, “The Equal Price Law,” which was published first as a supplement to one of the issues of the “Palladium,” and then prepared for publication in book form. Source; Memoirs of Wayne County & the City of Richmond by Henry Clay Fox; Vol. 1 ~ 1912
William B. Leeds™s first business (in Richmond, Ind.) was a rose nursery and greenhouses. His company specialized in the sale of roses, shrubbery, vines and greenhouse plants. He followed that calling until his association with Harry Miller, a General Superintendent of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Through the influence of Mr. Miller, Mr. Leeds entered the railroad business in July of 1883, taking a position with the engineering corps of the Pennsylvania lines west of Pittsburgh. Our subject was later appointed Divisional Superintendent of the Richmond Indiana Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad on March 15, 1890.
August, 1883; William Bateman Leeds and Jeanette Irene Gaar are married.
1886-1887; William B. Leeds is in local management of the Cincinnati/Richmond Railroad and later works as an engineer of maintenance for the Cincinnati Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad Co.
œMRS. GAAR™S INHERITANCE MONEY & THE MCKINLEY TARIFF PROVIDED THE IMPETUS THAT HELPED TO CREATE THE FORMATION OF THE œBIG FOUR?
1890; About this same time, Mr. Leeds™s wife (Jeanette Irene Gaar) inherited a large sum of money and Mr. Leeds saw how much might be done with it under the McKinley Tariff. (Mrs. Leeds™s father, John Milton Gaar was born 5-26-1823 and died August 8, 1890. His will was filed for probate on August 9, 1890). There was a moderately successful tin-plate plant operating in Richmond and Leeds was determined to buy it. He formed a partnership with Daniel Gray Reid, and this association forged the beginning of a successful relationship that would become known as the œBig Four.
The partners entered the tin-plate business and quickly organized the industry. During this time, the tin-plate industry was largely dominated by companies in Europe. American tin-plate manufacturers found it very difficult to compete with European competitors, as those companies only paid their employees a small percentage of the wages earned by American workers. The McKinley Tariff would help to equalize this unfair situation, and place Messrs. Leeds and Reid in the right place, and at the right time.
In the 1890s, the Law Practice of William Henry Moore and his brother, James Hobart Moore, was recognized as the one of the best and most successful legal firms in Chicago. It was during this time that W.H. Moore became well known as an impressive organizer for the new wave of industrial centralization’s. One of the early companies the brothers organized failed for several million dollars when its stock was depreciated; however, their credit rating was left unimpaired as they had quickly regained lost ground, with the respect and assistance of their supporters. It was said their creditors allowed them to name their own terms for settlement, and their firm was never officially declared insolvent or put into bankruptcy. A quote from œEverybody™s Magazine stated the following about William H. Moore; œW.H. Moore, especially, has that gift of power upon men which no one can quite analyze or define. When the Moore brothers joined the partnership of Leeds and Reid, that association became known as the œBig Four.
1894; William B. Leeds resigns from his Superintendent™s position with the Pennsylvania Railroad, so he could devote all his time to the tin plate industry. The American Tin-Plate Company, at this time employed 1,000 men.
WINTER, 1898; In December of 1898, the partnership promoted and organized the American Tin Plate Company. At first it was feared the newly formed American Tin Plate Company was destined for failure. Even with the McKinley Tariff in place, the company was struggling to efficiently produce their products at a profit. The partners remained steadfast and prevailed in establishing the largest tin-plate conglomerate in the nation. With the increased efficiencies of the operation implemented, the company became hugely successful. The company had been capitalized at 50 million dollars, with 10 million in stock given to the Moore brothers when it was organized. In 1898/1899, to protect their tin-plate interests, the Big Four also formed the National Steel Company, American Sheet Steel and the American Steel Hoop Company. Mr. Leeds was Chairman of the Executive Board (American Tin Plate Company) until it was absorbed by U.S. Steel.
August 1, 1900; WILLIAM B. LEEDS AND JEANETTE (GAAR) LEEDS ARE DIVORCED
On August 1, 1900, Mr. Leeds divorced his wife of 17 years. It was reported he gave her 1 million dollars to settle the matter. Reportedly, (at the time) the highest amount ever paid in a divorce settlement. The couple was married in Richmond, Indiana in 1883.
THE WORLDWIDE GOSSIP COLUMNS OF 1900 COVERED THIS DIVORCE (much was written, the following clipping is an example)
August, 1900; Mr. Leeds, 38, married Nonnie May (Stewart) Worthington, 24, at the home of her parents in Cleveland, Ohio. Ms. Stewart, the daughter of Cleveland banker, William C. Stewart, had been recently divorced (1898) from George W. Worthington. Nonnie Stewart was married to Mr. Worthington for a period not longer than 4 years. It was reported Mr. Leeds™s wedding gifts to the former Mrs. Worthington exceeded $500,000 in value. The couple resided in Chicago after the wedding.
1901; On February 23, 1901, an agreement was reached in New York with the representative of a new syndicate headed and financed by J.P. Morgan. This massive new organization would be the origin of the U.S. Steel Company. The American Tin Plate Company was bought out by the syndicate, and the members of the œBig Four walked away with a profit of 40 million dollars.
January 1, 1902; The Big Four decided to continue their association and invest their profits in the preferred stock of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Company. Mr. Leeds is named the President of the company.
1902, THE NOMA; William B. Leeds™s ($500,000) 263™ steam yacht Noma, was launched February 11, 1902 from the works of the Burlee Dry Dock Company, at Port Richmond, Staten Island, NY. At the time, Mr. Leeds™s business office was located in Chicago, but he also owned a residence on Fifth Avenue, in New York. The yacht builders claimed the Noma was the fastest yacht ever built, with a guaranteed speed of 18 & ½ knots per hour (most likely the ship was capable of cruising at 20 knots). Mr. Leeds immediately planned a tour of the globe with his friends. The voyage was to occur as soon as the ship was commissioned.
1902; Note: Another source listed the delivery date of the Noma and Daniel Reid™s Rheclair as July, 1902.
Specifications of the NolaLength; 263 Ft Overall (226 Ft. on the waterline) a Schooner Rigged design Beam: 28™ molded Engines: (2) 4 cylinder triple expansion engines of 4,000 HP (twin screw drive) Steam; Provided by 6 water tube boilers of 250 lb working pressure Compartments; The ship featured seven water tight compartments Interior: Finished with mahogany and teak-wood Electrical; (2) Dynamos which besides all the lights, will supply a decorative belt around the entire rail and a rainbow running from the deck to the foremast and thence to the deck again. The windlass and halliards were operated by electricity. Other Features; In addition to other novel features, the boat included storage space for automobiles. Leeds ordered the ship painted black. Cost; The final price of the Noma reportedly exceeded $500,000. Source for the Noma information: New York Times; February 2, 1902
The Noma was usually docked next to Daniel G. Reid™s yacht, The Rheclair (539 Tons). Both yachts were built in 1902 by the Hurlee Dry Dock Works in Staten Island, New York.
The Noma, 763 Tons, was later sold to Col. John Jacob Astor. Astor loaned the ship to the U.S. Navy during WW 1. The U.S.S. Noma logged thousands of miles, engaging the enemy during the Great War that was fought to end all wars¦
The Noma was designed by Clinton S. Crane.
Ship Captain; (for Leeds) G.E. Breckwith. Ship’s Crew; 45 men
1917; The U.S.S. Noma rigged for battle, during WW 1. The ship was returned to the Astor family after the war ended.
July 1903; The Noma is beaten in the Lysistrata Cup Race. (The event was the Annual Cruise of the New York Yacht Club). The 60 mile race was won by the Kanawha. The winning boat averaging 19.65 knots, finished the race in a little over 3 hours. The Kanawha took the cup and the $2500.00 purse. Mr. Leeds was pleased with the performance of the Noma as it averaged 19.65 knots per hour, exceeding the builder™s guarantee of 18.5 knots per hour.
The Noma, at 763 tons, and 263™ was beaten by the smaller ship Kanawha, (475 tons and 227 feet long) by only 4 minutes and 56 seconds.
1904: After hearing Wall Street rumors of dissension among the Directors, Mr. Leeds resigned from his position as President of the Rock Island & Pacific Railroad in 1903, his resignation becoming effective January 1, 1904. While President, his reported annual salary was $32,000. After his resignation, he continued to play an active role in business and was made a Director in several other companies, including the American Tin Plate Company, the American Audit Company, the Ellwood, the Anderson and Lapelle Railroad, the Nassau Gas, Heat and Power Company, the United States Mortgage and Trust Company, and the Windsor Trust Company.
December, 1905; Mr. Leeds is stricken with paralysis in New York. The stroke affected his throat and vocal organs.
1906; Mr. Leeds suffers a second stroke, which affected the left side of his body. He decides to visit Paris, France to consult a specialist.
December 3, 1906; Mr. & Mrs. Leeds have been leasing the Frederick W. Vanderbilt summer cottage called œRough Point (in Newport, R.I) and in 1906 they decide to purchase the villa. The price paid for the retreat is reportedly in the $800,000 range. The Leeds™s had been summer residents at Newport for 3 years.
THE NATION’S WEALTHIEST MEN IN 1906 ~ THE TOP 51 WEALTHIEST MEN
Fall, 1907; W.B. Leeds suffers a third attack (also affecting his left side). The financial panic of late 1907 had placed a severe strain upon his weakened body. He returned to Paris, with hopes of making a recovery.
WILLIAM BATEMAN LEEDS, THE œTIN-PLATE KING IS DEAD AT AGE 47
June 23, 1908; William Bateman Leeds, with his wife and son (William B. Leeds II) at his side, died suddenly at 10:30 am at the Hotel Ritz in Paris, France. He had come to Paris for the benefit of his health and had been showing recent improvement. He planned to sail for New York on the 24thof June. However, last evening he was taken ill and gradually lost consciousness. All attempts to revive him failed. His body will be shipped to New York, June 27. Close friends in Paris estimate his wealth at *$35,000,000. (*Later estimated to be at least 40 million dollars.) When comparing the buying power of $40M dollars in 1908 to the year 2008…40 million equals apx $965M in 2008 dollars. Leeds wealth of 1908 was comparable to a net worth of 1 billion today. His estate was indeed substantial… when one considers the average annual wage of a 1st year (Yale) graduate in 1908 was $723.74. That annual amount was only increased by apx. $1300.00 for Yale’s alumni who had been out of college for 5 years!
Source of Yale Alumni wages; History Of The Class Of 1908; Vol II, 1908
He belonged to many clubs and was an enthusiastic yacht man, his fine craft, the Noma, was 252 feet overall. He was a member of the Seawanhaka-Corinthian, the Brooklyn, the Larchmont and American Yacht Clubs, and belonged to the Strollers, Meadow Brook, City Midday Turf and Field, and Church Clubs and the Automobile Club of America.
Before going to Paris, Mr. Leeds had placed his affairs in the hands of the President of The First National Bank and others concerned in the arrangements, which Mr. Leeds made at that time. Source; New York Times
In one report, it was indicated Mr. Leeds’s financial planners provided for the bulk of his estate to be held in a Trust…with the beneficiaries receiving only the interest from the estate, however, it was said the heirs were permitted to dispose of Leeds’s personal property and real estate, should they desire to do so. The interest only payments were quite substantial. One source reported Mrs. Leeds’s wealth amounted to $70,000,000 shortly before her death.
ANY NEWS OR GOSSIP REGARDING THE LEEDS FAMILY WAS WIDELY CIRCULATED IN THE PRESS
He was buried July 8, 1908 at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York City. His mausoleum was designed by John Russell Pope (who also designed the Jefferson Memorial). Pope was also engaged by Mr. Leeds at the time of his death, and in the process of designing a new residence for the Leeds on Fifth Avenue. The Leeds mausoleum (lot) is 9,452 SF, and the tomb measures 30™ x 30™. It is crafted from Tennessee (pink) marble. Approximately 300,000 persons have been buried in this 400 acre cemetery since it was established in 1863. There are over 1300 mausoleums at Woodlawn. (More regarding this mausoleum is addressed later)
WIDOW OF TIN PLATE KING MARRIES PRINCE CHRISTOPHER OF GREECE
January 21, 1920; Nonnie May (Stewart) Worthington Leeds married Prince Christopher of Greece, January 21, 1920. The widow of William B. Leeds was first married to George H. Worthington of Cleveland, Ohio in 1894. She was divorced in 1898 and married Mr. Leeds in August, 1900 at the age of 24. W.B. Leeds died in Paris in 1908. “Princess Christopher through her marriage is now a cousin of King George of England and of Queen Victoria of Spain, and an aunt of King Alexander of Greece. She becomes a sister in law of Prince George, Prince Nicholas, Prince Andre, and of Princess Marie of Greece. She would later be referred to as Anastasia , Princess of Greece“. Source for Anastasia’s royalty line is from The New York Times.
PRINCESS ANASTASIA OF GREECE, FORMERLY MRS. WILLIAM BATEMAN LEEDS HAS DIED
August, 29, 1923; Shortly after the wedding, Princess Anastasia began to experience health problems. Her health continued to decline and eventually the Princess was diagnosed with cancer. The former Mrs. Leeds, age 40, died August 29, 1923 at 11:48 pm, at the Spencer House in London. She was born January 20, 1883 in Zanesville, Ohio to Mr. & Mrs. William C. Stewart. Mr. Stewart died January 24, 1914.
Warner Mifflin Leeds
Apr. 6, 1925, Time Magazine: Warner M. Leeds, 57, tin-plate man, brother of the late William B. Leeds, “Tin-plate King”; died in Manhattan, of tuberculosis of the lungs. The bulk of his estate, valued at several millions, will go to Joy Leeds, twelve-year-old adopted daughter. Two years ago, (February, 1923) Mrs. Leeds died from a fall¦ from the fifth-story window of their home. (He was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, NYC)
St. Petersburg Times; Thursday, March 26, 1925; ADOPTED CHILD LEFT FORTUNE
WARNER MIFFLIN LEEDS, TINPLATE MAGNATE, DIES AFTER LONG ILLNESS.
Warner was the brother of William Bateman Leeds, the Tin-Plate King. He married Louise Taylor (Hartshorne) Moore on December 17, 1901. His brother, William B., was the best man. Warner and Louise were well known as lavish entertainers.
2002; WILLIAM B. LEEDS DIED JUNE 23, 1908 AND WAS BURIED IN RICHMOND INDIANA, MARCH 15, 2002
March, 2002; The heading above is not a misprint;William B. Leeds™s granddaughter never met her grandfather, but over the years she became concerned that he was the only one entombed in the Leeds mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery. She decided to have his body removed from the mausoleum and relocated to the Earlham Cemetery in Richmond, Indiana. According to Earlham Cemetery™s records, he was buried next to his parents on March 15, 2002. Leeds™s granddaughter gave the mausoleum to Woodlawn Cemetery, however, with a stipulation that $1.8 million from the sale of the tomb would go to the educational institutions she designated. The Leeds mausoleum was placed on the market by Woodlawn in 2002 for $5,000.000. Since then, the price has been lowered to $3.5 million. The price does not include an estimated $700,000 that will be added on to the sale price to take care of immediate and future repairs. As of 2009, a buyer has not come forward. The mausoleum was designed by John Russell Pope, who also designed the Jefferson Memorial, and was made of Tennessee pink marble. It will be sold complete with Leeds™s sarcophagus (it was too large to remove) and 8 burial chambers. The vacant tomb measures 30™ x 30™ and the lot is about 9500 SF. William Bateman Leeds™s Earlham monument is very modest, perhaps no more than 3™ x 2™.
William B. Leeds’s parents are buried at Earlham Cemetery in Richmond, Indiana. Mr. Leeds’s marker is visible at the bottom left side of the photo.
William B. Leeds grave marker
1946; Jeanette Gaar Leeds (William Bateman Leeds’s first wife) died September 24, 1946, at age 84. (Pal-Item; Pg. 1, Col 4-5; September 25, 1946). If the incredible business mind of William Bateman Leeds, and the timely benefit he recognized as a result of the McKinley Tariff are not considered, it could be said that the former Mrs. Leeds provided the impetus (her substantial inheritance) which enabled Mr. Leeds to realize his remarkable successes. It could be concluded that the Gaar family’s money provided the initial capital and thus created the need for Leeds and Reid to form their partnership, which later evolved to the creation of the ”Big Four”. The end result of their organizational efforts would create U.S. Steel, the nation’s first billion dollar corporation. Jeanette Gaar Leeds is buried in the John M. Gaar family plot at Earlham Cemetery, Richmond Indiana.
William B. Leeds’s first business, (a “small” nursery business) was located in the ”small” town of Richmond, Indiana. He later became one of the world’s most respected, successful businessmen. He was on a first name basis with the Astors, J.P. Morgan and many of the world’s most influential people of the late 1800s, early 1900s. He died over 100 years ago, and the history of his success still provides an excellent example for the citizens of this community…Initiative and thinking BIG can produce results. Anyone can start out ”small” and rise to the top of the business world.
William Bateman Leeds Biography by Dan Tate ~ October 28, 2009