Brands and Business
Department store pioneer
In 1862, Alexander Turney Stewart from near Lisburn, County Antrim, opened the world’s largest department store – the ‘Great Iron Store’ in New York City. He subsequently founded an even more impressive shopping emporium, which was known as the ‘Marble Palace’. One of America’s wealthiest retailers, he was also responsible for the development of Garden City on Long Island.
Alexander Brown was born in Ballymena, County Antrim, and emigrated to Baltimore in 1800, where he founded the first investment bank in the United States. Thomas Mellon from near Omagh, County Tyrone, established a bank in Pittsburgh in 1869, as a result of which his family became one of the wealthiest in America. Thomas’s son Andrew William was Secretary to the Treasury from 1921 to 1932 and founded the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.
A presidential hat-maker
A native of Ramelton, County Donegal, Charles Knox founded in New York City what became the largest hat manufacturing company in the world. Among the many customers of the Knox Hat Company were more than 20 US Presidents. Abraham Lincoln’s well-known ‘stovepipe’ hat was made by the firm.
The world's most famous whiskey
Jasper Newtown (Jack) Daniel was the grandson of a Scotch-Irish immigrant to North Carolina. As a youth growing up in Tennessee, he learned the art of whiskey distilling and before long had founded a business of his own. The firm he established produced the world’s most famous whiskey brand. Today, Jack Daniel’s is America’s most internationally successful whiskey.
The linen industry
At the end of the nineteenth century Belfast was the greatest linen-producing city in the world. A major boost to the industry had been the American Civil War, which cut off supplies of cotton and led to a boom in demand for linen. Many of the major linen firms established strong commercial links with America. The Barbours of Hilden, near Lisburn, the largest manufacturers of linen thread in the world, built a large factory in Paterson, New Jersey.
A global giant
Born near Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, James Gamble emigrated with his family to America in 1819, settling in Cincinnati and becoming a soap-maker. In 1837, he formed a partnership with his brother-in-law William Procter, a candle-maker. The company, Procter & Gamble, went on to become one of the most successful firms of its kind in world history.
In the years following the end of the Civil War, the American Midwest began to open up as a result of improved rail connections and the movement of settlers taking advantage of the Homestead Act. Meatpacking firms were attracted to the region. Members of the Sinclair family from Belfast established a plant at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which pioneered the use of refrigeration. Before long the factory was one of the largest and most technologically advanced meatpacking facilities in the world.
The son of Scotch-Irish immigrants from County Tyrone, Thomas J. Watson was the founder of International Business Machines – better known as IBM. Described as the ‘world’s greatest salesman’, he built up IBM into a hugely successful firm. A generous philanthropist, Watson supported numerous charitable, educational and religious causes.