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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EDDY, Thomas, philanthropist, born in Philadelphia, Pc., 5 September 1758 ; died in New York City, 16 September 1827. His parents, who were Friends, emigrated from Ireland about 1758. Thomas received a limited education, and in his thirteenth year was apprenticed to a tanner, but remained with him only two years. On 4 September 1779, he went to New York, being resolved to become a merchant, though his possessions only amounted to ninety-six dollars, and he was totally ignorant of business. He began by buying small quantities of goods at auction, and soon established a trade, but failed in 1784 through an unfortunate speculation, and about 1790 entered the insurance business, in which he made a large fortune.
In 1796, with Philip Schuyler and Ambrose Spencer, he prepared a bill for establishing a penitentiary system, which was passed. Mr. Eddy had sole charge of the erection of the first building, and served as its director for four years, substituting cleanliness and discipline for former abuses. To Mr. Eddy is due the plan of providing a separate cell for each convict, instead of confining several together. He was chosen one of the governors of the New York hospital in 1793, induced the legislature to make liberal grants in its aid, and in 1815 was one of the founders of the Bloomingdale insane asylum. In 1798, with John Murray, he was appointed by the Society of Friends to visit the Indians in New York State, and did much to improve their condition. He labored earnestly for the construction of the Erie Canal, being second only to De Witt Clinton in his efforts, and was also one of the originators of the New York savings bank and the New York Bible society. His labors in these various directions earned for him the title of the "American Howard." He published a work on the " State Prison of New York " (1801). See " Life of Thomas Eddy" by Samuel L. Knapp (New York, 1834).
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