Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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BREWSTER, James, manufacturer, born in Preston, Connecticut, 6 August, 1788; died in New Haven, Connecticut, 22 November, 1866. He was the seventh in direct descent from Elder Brewster, who came over in the "Mayflower." The early death of his father, leaving the family with but limited means, made it necessary for James to follow a trade, and after a district-school education he was apprenticed, in 1804, to Charles Chapman, of Northampton, Massachusetts, to learn carriage-making. On attaining his majority, he was offered an interest in his employer's business, but this he refused, preferring to go into business by himself, and circumstances led him to New Haven. At that time, 1810, few carriages were in use, one-horse wagons being generally employed, and even Governor Strong, of Massachusetts, rode into Boston on Election Day in such a vehicle. Mr. Brewster undertook the improvement of the styles, and soon became known as the manufacturer of "Brewster wagons," which then came into extended use. He made a specialty of the better class of vehicles, and was the first maker in the United States to send a paneled carriage to the south. In time he established a very large business in the improved forms of buggies, phaetons, victorias, coaches, and similar modern vehicles. Mr. Brewster early adopted the custom of paying his workmen every Saturday evening, instead of continuing the old practice of giving orders for goods. His respect for religion compelled him to realize his responsibility to those in his employ, and he insisted that his workmen should attend divine service. Drinking habits prevailed among the journeymen to an unfortunate extent, and he strongly advocated temperance. In many ways he endeavored to educate his employees, and he delivered evening addresses to his men on moral and practical subjects. Later he instituted and sustained a course of scientific lectures by such men as Professors Olmsted, Shepard, and Silliman, of Yale. These lectures cost him over $5,000 annually, and he built a hall for them, all of which attracted to New Haven a superior class of workmen. In 1827 he opened a branch of his business on Broad street, New York, near the present stock exchange. In 1833 he became interested in railroad building, trod with a number of citizens of New Haven obtained a charter for the construction of a road between New Haven and Hartford. The great fire in New York, which occurred in 1835, made it impossible to collect a portion of the funds subscribed, and Mr. Brewster gave up a fine business in order to devote his entire energies to the building of the road, giving his time and services for four years to the accomplishment of this enterprise. He was president of the company, giving without remuneration such land belonging to him over which the road passed. The rails with which this line was built were imported from England at an expense of $250,000, and he became responsible for them as the importers refused otherwise to deliver them. In 1838 he again established a carriage business, associating with him his son, James B. Brewster, who afterward became head of the New York house, now known as "J. B. Brewster, of 25th Street." The almshouse and orphan asylum further attests the public spirit of Mr. Brewster that he built in New Haven.
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