This product was added to our catalog on Monday 23 August, 2010.
It is said that it isn't what you know, but who you know. Case in point was the development and subsequent marketing of a portfolio patented by George Chandler Hathaway on Christmas Eve 1861. In the annuals of history George Hathaway is a relatively obscure figure, and as one pulls back to get a higher vantage point, the success of the item was due in large part to the political connections of his father, Benjamin Hathaway.
Benjamin Hathaway was well established as a businessman in Plymouth Massachusetts by the outbreak of the Civil War. He actively had bought and sold real estate in Plymouth, and was part owner of a naval brig ship called the James Monroe. He owned a dry goods business and later a neck stock business. One of his employees in the neck stock business, Albert Mason, would later move on to become Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court.
Despite their financial and political successes, the Hathaway family was no stranger to misfortune. Benjamin's first wife Hannah died in childbirth in late 1852, Even by 19th century standards, the Hathaway family was quite large, but tragically few of the children survived to the age of 12. The 1850 census lists 6 children; Benjamin A age 16, George C age 14, William N age 9, Anne E. age 5, Rebecca age 3, and Albert F age 7 months.
George Chandler Hathaway was born in 1836. In the 1850 census, George, along with his elder brother Benjamin A. are listed as students. In 1854, George enrolled in Harvard, but left in his sophmore year, to transfer to Tufts college, where his brother had graduated earlier. George Hathaway's course of study was liberal arts. As a point of reference only 9 people had graduated in class of 1858, would have included George Hathaway had he not left in his Junior year.
In 1858 George had relocated to Rutland Vermont and began an apprenticeship to become a lawyer under Charles P. Marsh and Peter T. Washburn (who would become a Brigadier General as inspector General of the State of Vermont and after the war become governor of Vermont). In the 1860's, the requirements to study law were much less strict, and quite often, the bar examination existed of a brief oral examination. Consequently, he was accepted to the Vermont Bar, and in additional to his legal practice, served as treasurer to the Rutland Quarry.
I n 1864 he married Emma S. Dana and in 1866 gave birth to the couple's only daughter, Mary Dennison Hathaway. Shortly after birth, Mary contracted scarlet fever, and died on October 1st, 1866. His wife Emma had contracted the same fever and died three weeks later.
Coupled with the premature deaths of many members of his family, the premature death of his mentor Peter T. Washburn in 1869, and most importantly of his new wife and child, George sank into a severe depression which had gotten worse as the years went by. On May 30th, 1871, he made an unexpected trip to New York City and checked into room 422 of the Grand Central Hotel. The following afternoon drew a warm bath and comitted suicide by a single pistol shot to the chest. He was found by the chambermaid who reported it to the police and coroner. The following day, an inquiry by jury was held in the actual hotel room leaving a verdict of death by suicide. It seems that New York City was out of the realm of influence of the Hathaway family as they had unsuccessfully tried to suppress the 10 page suicide note from being read to the jury, which lacked anything that could be interpreted as embarassing to the family.
The reporting of George Hathaway's suicide was remarkably different in the three regional newspapers that it was printed in. The New York Times spared no detail, nor the feelings of any of the family members left behind. Out of defference to the elder Benjamin Hathaway, the Plymouth Massachusetts Old Colony Memorial dedicated three paragraphs of scant information, referring their readers to larger city newspapers to "soften the grief" of the Hathaway family. The Rutland Vermont newspapers are clearly filled with affection for the loss of their friend, and is devoid of any courtesies that money or power might have garnered. Per his last request, he was buried along side the graves of his wife and daughter in Vermont. A memorial headstone was also laid at an empty grave in the family plot, lot number 365, in Plymouth Massachusetts.
Benjamin Hathaway was most likely the driving force to have this writing kit produced, leaving George's role to veil any visible connections between his father and his political associates. The patent was issued in December of 1861, at which time, George Hathaway had already established himself in Rutland Vermont, and not Plymouth Massachusetts as noted in the patent abstract. Of particular note is the fact that the witnesses to the patent were his uncle and father. Advertisements clearly show that writing kit being advertised well before the patent was awarded, which typifies the aggressive business approach of Benjamin Hathaway. The promotional handbill which was distributed after the inclusion of the Griffing Patent Inkstand in February of 1862, states very clearly that these kits were being produced in Plymouth. The endorsements by the Governor of Massachusetts and Key military offcers could only have been gotten through the elder Hathaway's connections.
The Griffing Patent Inkstand
Augustus Griffing was prominent person in the Boston Political scene of the, serving as a member of the common council in the 1850's, as a tax assessor in the 1860's and simultaneously a truant officer and justice
of the peace in the 1870's. How and why a politician developed a patent for inkwells is not readily apparent. The census for 1860 listed Augutus Griffing as a glass merchant, which explains why the dramatic variations in his patented inkstand are within the glass body (see images below). Even the inkstand that came packaged with the writing kit is a much more elaborate affair than many styles offered to the civilian marketplace.