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WAS now one of the biggest men in the
country. I had fought Vanderbilt to a
draw. That meant much. Vanderbilt was by this time a man of power, so that ordinary people were scared of him. But I wasn't. He was rich. But so was I. My property at this time footed up to thirteen million dollars. (If I only had stopped to think, I'd have seen it was an unlucky figure, and would have dodged it in some way. If it had been twelve millions, or fourteen millions, I might have had better luck in keeping it.) My bread was buttered on both sides, so to speak. I had a great mansion at Union Square, had my own stable, and a servant to drive my horse and milk my cow.
When I went down to Broad Street the people would point me out to strangers. I was one of the big men of the Street.
Maybe I hadn't had so much book-learning as some. But I had more money than many a man whose head was chock-full of book-learning. My clerks, who had more schooling than I, didn't dare to put on any of their bookish airs around me. They knew I could buy them out ten times over.
on leaving the office I set the combination of the safe at the letters which spelled the word, “Doare.' The next day I was kept at my house for some time. The clerks wanted to open the safe. So they sent up. I told them the combination was for the word “Doare.” They didn't talk back. They were too much scared of me for that. They tried to open the safe. Pretty soon they sent again: “Mr. Drew, what was the word that you said was the combination for the safe this morning?”
“Doare,” I said, “an ordinary house doare, barn doare, stable doare — any kind of a doare.”
“But,” they insisted, “there are five letters to the combination of our safe. Are you sure it's the word doare? We've tried it — several ways."
“Of course I'm sure!” said I. “Turn to those
“ letters and it will work.”
But they had trouble with the thing, and finally I had to go down and help them out. When I took the thing in hand, the safe opened as easy as anything. I turned to them:
“There,” said I, “it opens as easy as an old sack. Just d-o-a-r-e.”
I have found out since that the ordinary house doare is commonly spelled in a different way from that. And I dare say some of those clerks poked fun at me at the time; but it wasn't when I was around. Book-learning is something, but thirteen million dollars is also something, and a mighty sight
more. Why, on the walls of my house out at Drewsclift, I had, framed and hung up, a cancelled check of mine for one million dollars. It used to make the people out there stare their eyes out when they came to see me and I would show them that picture on the wall.
Then there were my steamboats. I was now president of the People's Line. Isaac Newton had been the first president. But during the Civil War the boat that was named after him got afire and had to be sent to the bottom. It was during one of her trips up to Albany, and while she was opposite Fort Washington. It was found that the fire had broken out because the back part of the arch of the starboard boiler had blowed down, due to the shattering of the pins which hold the braces in position. The excitement and exposure was too much for poor Newton (he was another of your thin-skinned men). Nine of the passengers lost their lives in the accident to his boat. He sickened and died.
So I became president. St. John took my place as treasurer. Then we built that great new boat, the Drew. I don't mean the old Daniel Drew. That was a day-boat. I never was very proud of her. She was too narrow.
When she had many passengers aboard she would list over, like a horse with a sore foot. The Drew didn't list over. She stood up, her keel even, no matter how many passengers she was carrying. For she was a floating
palace — and is even yet. Cost $800,000. She could sleep a thousand people. I was proud to
. have my picture at the head of the stairway leading up into the passenger saloon. Maybe people have wondered to see, as the owner of so great a boat, a plain-looking man, his face criss - crossed with wrinkles. But I started out as a boy so poor, I didn't even own a rowboat. And it's always the case, a wrinkled purse makes a wrinkled face. I suppose, too, that some people have thought Vanderbilt a much more stylish man than me, because he wears his beard on the sides of his face, whilst I wear mine under my chin. But those little points don't count. And I have seen people stand at that platform half-way up the stairs, and look at my full-length portrait there for as much as five minutes at a time.
I used to ride on the boat often. It was a pleasant way to take a trip on a hot summer's night; and didn't cost a penny. In going to Saratoga I used to take one of the bridal chambers for my stateroom, if there weren't any bridal couples on board. During the summer time, at this period of my life, I and my family used to have a tent up in the garden back of the Grand Union Hotel, taking our meals at the hotel table. I could go to Saratoga without its costing anything; and I used to like the air up
; there. That is the way I got acquainted with John Morrissey. He had his gambling house right opposite the Congress Park. So when I would go out
in the morning to take a drink of the spring water, I used to meet him. But I never would go into his place. Gambling is a sin that I didn't want to countenance. But I used to have many good chats with Morrissey, and when he and I were going up the river in my boat, we would visit way into the night.
I also had a tent down at Ocean Grove (which was then just beginning to be settled). Before Ocean Grove came, Peney's Grove at Brewsters', and the camp just out of Sing Sing, amidst those great oak trees, used to be my favourite camp meetings. It was a refreshment both to body and spirit, when August set in, to get away from business cares, set up my tent at one or the other of these camp meetings, and receive a blessing.
In the summer time also, before the camp meetings opened, I would go out to my big farm, between Brewsters' and Carmel. I don't know but what I enjoyed myself raising fat beeves there almost as much as I did my work in Wall Street. I knew how to handle money, and I knew also how to handle critters. Western breeds were the ones I kept mostly on my farm. And I had fine luck with them. One year, out of a hundred and twenty head of cattle sold from my farm, a hundred weighed over a thousand pounds in the beef. My son, Billy, must have learned the trick of cattle raising from
Because when he went to live on the farm,