Philadelphia was greatly shocked on
Thursday morning, 30th ult., when the sudden death
of one of her most honored citizens, Hamilton
Disston, became known.
The subject of this notice occupied
a position altogether unique and distinct from other
men. His influence in the community was so broad
that apart from his position as head of the largest
concern of the kind in the world, it permeated every
department - social, financial, political,
charitable and religious - yet he deprecated
anything that savored of personal conspicuousness.
He was essentially a man of the
people, and the employees of the firm had the
feeling that at any time, and under any
circumstances, Hamilton Disston could be depended
upon to advise, to counsel, and if need be to give
both time and money in cases of necessity.
His genial temperament and active
mind brought him into contact with a wider range of
people than is usually the case with men prominent
in business life. In his younger days he was "one of
the boys" of the Volunteer Fire Department and as he
merged into politics he made thousands of
acquaintances and with that magnetism peculiar to
leaders of men, he was always regarded as their
Thus among the rank and file of the
city that mourn his loss and honor his
memory, as well as in the business and financial
community, the name of Disston will stand as a
synonym of industry, integrity and progress, in all
that pertains to the best interests of the
Mr. Disston’s death was due to heart
failure. He was found dead in bed at eight o‘clock
in the morning.
Mr. Disston had not been in good
health for two or three years. He went abroad in
1893 for needed recreation, and returned much
better. His condition had never been considered as
serious, and was attributed to the cares of the
great enterprises in which he was chiefly
interested, which demanded his close attention.
Last year he had an attack of
typhoid pneumonia, which left him weak, and symptoms
of heart trouble developed. For some months he had
been under treatment for disordered heart action,
but there was no thought of its being serious. It
was observed that he became fatigued easily, and on
Tuesday, at his office in the Bullitt Building, he
complained of weariness and also of pain in the
region of the heart. He attributed it to the
pressure of business matters which for the time
demanded his personal attention, and thought a
little rest would restore him.
On Wednesday he was in Newark, N.
J., attending a meeting of the National Saw Company.
Returning late in the day he spent the evening with
Mrs. Disston at the theater.
Hamilton Disston was born near Fifth
and Wood streets, Philadelphia, on August 23. 1844.
His father, the late Henry Disston, was the founder
of the largest saw manufactory in the world, the
products of the plant being known in all the markets
of the universe. The works, which now occupy over 30
acres of land at Tacony, and employ over 2000 men,
grew from a little shop in a basement, with an
office on the first floor.
As business increased, a manufactory
was established at Front and Laurel Streets, where
Hamilton, who was the oldest son, learned the saw
making trade, going through all the departments as a
workman, and eventually becoming a partner with his
On the death of Henry Disston, in
1878, the business was incorporated in the hands of
his sons, Hamilton, Horace C., Albert, William and
Jacob S., Hamilton becoming president and
representing also his mother’s interest in the
business. Albert soon after died and his mother, who
died last year, left her interest to her sons.
Hamilton Disston‘s education was
acquired in the public schools. His familiarity with
all the details of the business and his close
attention to its management soon made him the
controlling spirit of the great enterprise, which
prospered as it had in the hands of his father.
With rare judgment he introduced
improved machinery, which increased the productive
capacity on the works without greatly adding to the
number of employees. He was mindful of the value of
close relations with the men in his employ and from
his custom of daily visiting every department of the
works in which he had himself obtained his knowledge
of the business, he was acquainted with his men
personally and recognized their abilities.
In return he was rewarded with their
loyalty to the establishment and to his personal
fortunes. In matters of wages there was never any