Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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BLAIR, John Insley, capitalist, born in Warren County, New Jersey, 22 August 1802. He is directly descended from John Blair, who came to this country from Scotland in 1720. The education received by the boy was limited to a few brief months of schooling during the winter, and ceased when he reached the age of eleven. About 1813 he entered the store of a relative in Hope, New Jersey, for the purpose of learning business, and remained so occupied until 1821, when he settled in Blairstown, New Jersey Here, with his relative, John Blair, he established a general country store, but two years later the partnership was dissolved, and the" business continued independently by John 1. Blair before he was of age. For forty years he remained in this place, constantly extending his business and acquiring branches at Narksborough, Paulina, Huntsville, New Jersey, and Johnsonsburgh, New York, in which his brothers and brothers-in-law were associated with him as partners. During these years Mr. Blair was also developing business interests in other lines, such as flour-mills, the manufacture of cotton, and the marketing of the produce of the country round about, and also in wholesaling many goods to other stores. He likewise filled the office of postmaster in Blairstown for forty years. About 1833 he became associated with others in the development of iron-mines in the vicinity of Oxford Furnace, a forge that had been in operation in pre-revolutionary times. Success in this venture led, in 1846, to his being connected with the organization of the Lackawanna coal and iron company. His ownership and interest in the building of railroads for the transportation of the outputs from the mines, of which he was part proprietor, followed as a matter of course. The road from Owego to Ithaca, New York, was bought and rebuilt by him and his associates during 1849. Later, the Legget's Gap road, from Scranton to Great Bend, was constructed, and thrown open in 1851. In 1852, by consolidation, building, and reorganization, the corporation known as the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western railroad came into existence. In the development of this road he was actively interested, and is one of its largest stockholders. It has since been entirely rebuilt, and is a most valuable property, transporting over 6,700,000 tons of coal in 1885, and its combined cost and capital amount to $100,000,000. He has been engaged in railroad building in Iowa, Wisconsin, Kansas, Nebraska, Dakota, Missouri, and Texas. He was the organizer of the railroad sys-tern of Iowa, having built the first railroad across that state from the Mississippi to the Missouri rivers, and subsequently more than 2,000 miles in Iowa and Nebraska. He was one of the original directors of the Union Pacific railroad, and is now a director in seventeen companies, as well as president of three. Mr. Blair is likewise controlling owner of a large number of other wealthy corporations both in the east and the west. He has been a life-long" attendant upon and supporter of the Presbyterian Church, to whose institutions he has at various times given upward of $500,000. Among these benefactions is $70,000 to the College of New Jersey, Princeton, of which, in 1866, he became a trustee; $57,000 to Lafayette; and upward of $100,000 to the Blair Presbyterian Academy. In the eighty towns that he has laid out in the west, more than 100 Churches have been erected, largely through his liberality. In politics Mr. Blair has always been a strong republican, and he was the candidate of that party for governor of New Jersey in 1868. He has also been a delegate to every national republican convention since the organization. One of his daughters married Charles Scribher, founder of the publishing-house in New York.
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