January 18 – Happy Birthday John Sanford

sanford3Here’s an excerpt from my story about the last “great Sanford” which appears in my new book “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays.” To order a copy, click here.

There were three members of the Sanford family who made significant contributions to the great carpet making company that helped make Amsterdam a powerful industrial presence in upstate New York. Each was from a different generation. The first was the patriarch, John Sanford (1803-1857) who founded the Amsterdam carpet mill in 1844 and ran it until a fire destroyed it in 1849. He then asked his son Stephen Sanford (1826-1913) to leave West Point and return to help him recover from the disaster.

When the elder Sanford decided he would rather retire than rebuild, it was Stephen who took the reins. He not only rebuilt and greatly expanded the business, he did so while facing stiff competition for both sales and labor from the Shuttleworth brothers and McCleary, Wallin & Crouse, a new firm started by four of Sanford’s former employees. Long before he died in 1913, Stephen had already handed total control of the family business to his son John.

John Sanford and his younger brother, William had actually been brought into the business by their father in the 1870s. John had attended the Amsterdam Academy and the Poughkeepsie Military Institute before graduating from Yale in 1872. Like both his grandfather and father, he also represented Amsterdam as a US Congressman serving two terms from 1889 to 1893, as a member of the Republican Party. Unlike his father who was handed a burned down business to rebuild, young John Sanford inherited a thriving company and about $40 million from his dad. Oh yes, he also took over one of the great thoroughbred horse farms in the country.

Fortunately for both the business and Amsterdam, John Sanford really did a good job replacing his very skilled father. He maintained the company’s position as an industry leader for another quarter of a century. What he did not have that Stephen did was a son with both the skills and desire to take over the family business when he himself was ready to pass the torch…

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