| William Edenborn|
(German-American businessman and inventor)
|Born|| March 20, 1848 |
Plettenberg, Westphalia, Prussia
|Died|| May 13, 1926 (aged 78) |
|Spouse|| Sarah Drain Edenborn (married 1876-1926, his death)|
William Edenborn (March 20, 1848 May 13, 1926) was a businessman, inventor, and philanthropist, born in Plettenberg in the Westphalia region of the Ruhr River Valley of the former Prussia. He immigrated to the United States in 1866 as a "financially poor youth yet rich in vision and courage" and eventually became a naturalized American citizen.
Edenborn was a son of Jacob Edenborn and the former Antoinette Hessmer. In 1860, while still in Germany, he was apprenticed to a manufacturer of steel wire manufacturer. After his arrival in the United States in 1867, Edenborn first settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at which he found work as a mechanic in the wire industry.
He then moved to St. Louis, Missouri, at which he built the first wire mill west of the Mississippi River in 1870 and wed the former Sarah Drain (1856-1944), a St. Louis native, on October 4, 1876.
In 1882, Edenborn invented a machine that dramatically simplified the manufacturing process for barbed wire and the nail industry. His inventions spanned thirty-nine years. The last was an apparatus for the extraction of resin and related products. These inventions brought success to Edenborn's company, which soon merged with that of John Warne Gates (1855-1911) and ultimately became the American Steel and Wire Company, which held a monopoly on the steel wire industry in the United States. Edenborn served as the president of the American Steel and Wire Company until it was acquired by J. P. Morgan in 1901 during the formation of U.S. Steel, of which he became a board member.
In 1884, Edenborn purchased controlling interest in the Lambert & Bishop Wire Fence Company of Joliet, Illinois. He also bought Iowa Barbed Wire Fence Company in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The two companies were incorporated into the Consolidated Steel & Wire Co.
In 1898, Edenborn had launched construction of the Louisiana Railway and Navigation Company, which extended from Shreveport to New Orleans and linked areas of his adopted state where the lack of transportation had prevented the development of industry. The railroad cost some $20 million. The project pumped $50 million into the state's economy. The obituary describes Edenborn as "fearless in this giant undertaking and was entirely unaided by finances other than his own." In addition to Emden in Winn Parish, the Edenborns maintained a residence in New Orleans, where they spent most of their later years to be near the railroad business office. He was also a chairman of the board of the Kansas City Southern Railroad. With William Buchanan and Harvey C. Couch, Edenborn also owned the short-line, the Louisiana and Arkansas Railway.
On May 9, 1903, Edenborn organized the Louisiana Railway & Navigation Co. Later that year he built a branch line from Aloha to Winnfield, Louisiana. In 1909 he organized the Angola Transfer Co. In 1907, he established freight railway service from New Orleans to Shreveport. Passenger service came in 1923.
Edenborn was the president of the Louisiana Central Construction Co., from 1897 to 1913. He was the vice-president of the German Society of New York. His other holdings included the Pittsburgh and Southern Coal Co., St. Louis Iron & Machine Works, the American Musical Co., of New Jersey, and the Metropolitan Bank of New Orleans. C. Geoffrey Mangin, in an article in North Louisiana History, a journal published at Louisiana State University at Shreveport, refers to Edenborn as a "robber baron."
Sedition Act of 1918
In April 1918, Edenborn was arrested in New Orleans for alleged violation of the Wilson administration's Sedition Act of 1918, which forbade one from speaking "disloyally" about the United States military effort amid World War I.The Sedition Act was repealed in 1921.
There has been much talk about Germany coming over here and attacking the United States. We need have no fear that Germany will ever attack the United States. It would take a maritime nation to do that, because America is surrounded by water. America can look to other countries for any attacks in the future. Recently a certain prime minister (David Lloyd George) stated, 'Our nation is mistress of the sea, our nation has been mistress of the sea, and always will be mistress of the sea.'
The U.S. government claimed that Edenborn, mentioned in its complaint as "the father of the wire industry," had "breathed the arrogant spirit of Prussianism in its most hateful form [which constituted] seditious treason, being in effect pro-German propaganda of the most cunning, insidious, and demoralizing sort to the morale of the American people, having the direct effect of sowing seeds of discord, discontent, and hatred against a great government (Great Britain) with whom we are associated in bonds of brotherly love."
Death and legacy
Edenborn died in a Shreveport hospital on May 13, 1926 after having been felled by a stroke eight days earlier at Emden Plantation. At his death he was counted among the wealthiest men in the United States by the Wall Street Journal. His funeral may have been the largest in the history of the large Forest Park Cemetery in Shreveport. Mourners sent twelve truck loads of flowers to his funeral and lined a concourse fifteen blocks long at the cemetery to pay their respects. Henry Ernest Hardtner (1870-1935), a leading forester in the American South, and founder of the Natchez, Urania and Ruston freight railroad line, said of his friend Edenborn:
He brought millions of dollars to Louisiana, which he used for the development of latent natural resources. He was honest, temperate, charitable, and above all a just man.He asked only reasonable service of his employees and was never fault-finding. Poor and Democratic in life; rich and powerful in death, he approached the grave as one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him and lies down to pleasant dreams.
On May 19, 1926, Sarah Edenborn succeeded her husband as the head of the Louisiana Railway and Navigation Company. She was the first woman in such a position in the state. The couple had two daughters, one adopted, and neither lived to adulthood. One was accidentally killed by a street car while horseback riding in St. Louis; the other died of diphtheria. Sarah was buried beside her husband upon her death in 1944.
His obituary further describes him as:
"Always honest, always dauntless, always tireless, always a student and with a vision of his possibilities and duties, he forged constantly onward and upward from a penniless apprentice boy to the million dollar head of one of the greatest steel and wire industries of the world, his inventions and economics saving billions of dollars to humanity."
Because of the Louisiana Railway and Navigation Company passing through Ascension Parish, the city of Gonzales, near Baton Rouge, was briefly named "Edenborn" in his honor. He is the namesake of Edenborn Avenue in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie in Jefferson Parish.
- Eric Brock. William Edenborn. Findagrave.com. Retrieved on October 11, 2019.
- Maude Hearn O'Pry, Chronicles of Shreveport and Caddo Parish, 1928, p. 349.
- Barbed Wire Inventors. Antiquebarbedwiresociety.com. Retrieved on October 11, 2019.
- Edenborn, William. Louisiana Historical Association: A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography. Retrieved on October 12, 2019.
- Kansas City Southern: John Lambert Succeeds William Edenborn as Chairman of the Board. The New York Times (May 6, 1900). Retrieved on October 11, 2019.
- James R. Fair (1997). The Louisiana and Arkansas Railway: The Story of a Regional Line. Northern Illinois University Press. Retrieved on October 11, 2019.
- S.S. William Edenborn. wrecksite.eu. Retrieved on October 11, 2019.
- C. Geoffrey Mangin, "A Robber Baron in Louisiana: William Edenborn," North Louisiana History Vol. 3, Nos. 2–3 (Spring-Summer 2002), pp. 66–76.
- Railway President Held as Seditionist; William Edenborn, Naturalized German, Accused of Disloyal Speech in Louisiana. The New York Times (April 28, 1918). Retrieved on October 12, 2019; under pay wall.
- William Edenborn. Ascension Parish Bicentennial Hall of Fame. Retrieved on October 30, 2010.