Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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HEWITT, Abram Stevens, statesman, born in Haverstraw, New York, 31 July, 1822. He was educated first at a public school in New York city, where by a special examination he gained a scholarship at Columbia, and -was graduated in 1842 at the head of his class. During his college course he supported himself by teaching, and after his graduation he remained as an assistant, being in 1843 acting professor of mathematics. In 1844 he visited Europe with his classmate, Edward Cooper, whose partner he afterward became, and whose sister he married in 1855. Meanwhile he studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1845, after an examination in which twenty-four out of fifty-seven applicants were rejected. He soon gave up the practice of his profession on account of impaired eyesight, and became associated with Peter Cooper in the iron business. The firm of Cooper and Hewitt now own and control the Trenton, Ringwood, Pequest, and the Durham ironworks. The development and management of these vast enterprises have been principally the result of Mr. Hewitt's efforts. In 1862 he went to England to learn the process of making gun-barrel iron, and at a heavy loss to his firm furnished the United States government with material during the civil war. The introduction of the Martins-Siemens or open-hearth process for the manufacture of steel in this country is due to his judgment. No serious labor troubles have ever affected their works, and in times of commercial depression the furnaces have been carried on at a loss, rather than add by suspension to the distress of the community. The plan of the Cooper Union was devised by its own trustees, with Mr. Hewitt as their active head, and as secretary of this board he has directed its financial and educational details, bestowing upon it for more than a quarter of a century an amount of labor exceeding the duties of some college presidents. He left the Tammany, joined the Irving Hall society, and was one of the organizers of the County Democracy in 1879. He was elected to congress in 1874, and served continuously, with the exception of one term, until 1886. Mr. Hewitt was an advocate of honest financial legislation, of a moderate and discriminating tariff reform, and has been a frequent speaker on subjects connected with finance, labor, and the development of national resources. The United States geological survey owes its existence principally to an address delivered in its favor by Mr. Hewitt, and his speeches generally have commanded the attention of both parties. In October. 1886, he was nominated as the Democratic candidate for mayor of New York city, and at the subsequent election received 90,552 votes against 68,110 for Henry George and 60,435 for Theodore Roosevelt. His management of the municipal government has been marked by a rigid enforcement of the laws, and holding the heads of the various departments to a strict accountability. Mr. Hewitt was chairman of the Democratic national committee in 1876. He has taken an interest in all matters pertaining to the development of New York city, and in 1883 was chosen to be the orator at the opening of the East River bridge. Columbia gave him the degree of LL.D. in 1887, and he was the president of its alumni association in 1883. In 1876 he was elected president of the American institute of mining engineers, and his retiring address on "A Century of Mining and Metallurgy in the United States" attracted favorable criticism at home and abroad. His report on "Iron and Steel" at the World's fair held in Paris in 1867 was received with approval, and was republished at home and abroad.
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