Potter Family History  

Howard Potter

photo provided by Barbara Spaeth

A Hundred Years of Merchant Banking: A History of Brown Brothers and Company - In link below go to page 324 - VI Howard Potter

Howard & Mary Louisa (Brown) Potter

photo provided by Barbara Spaeth

Howard Potter was born July 8, 1826 in Schenectady, New York and died in London, England March 24, 1897.  He was the son of Alonzo Potter and Sarah Maria Potter (Nott).  He married Mary Louisa Brown on September 20, 1849.  They had 10 children,  Louisa Howard Potter, James Brown ( 4/6/1852 - 4/22/1852 ), James Brown Potter, Maria Howard Tod (Potter), Elizabeth Miller Cary (Potter), Grace Howard Potter, Howard Cranston Potter, Ashton Howard Potter, Bertha Howard Minturn (Potter), and Helen Howard Potter.

He was a New York City Banker and was known for his philanthropy.  There were three men in New York that were concerned in the establishment of pretty much every important charity or institution for public improvement, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which was organized namely by Howard Potter, William E. Doge, and Theodore Roosevelt, Sr..  Howard also helped found the Museum of Natural History, the Children's Aid Society, and the NY Orthopedic Hospital.
He remained at Union College as a tutor for a year or two after his graduation.  After leaving Union, he was to study law, being admitted to the bar.  He never practiced, but took up a business career, going into the employ of the Novelty Iron Works, and from there into Brown Brothers & Co., having married the daughter of Mr. James Brown, the head of the New York branch of the firm.  He remained in this firm til his death, obtaining such a prominent position that he was sent as managing director to the English branch in London, where he died.  It was Henry - that Howard had said to him that if he had had his choice he would never have gone into business at all; that his taste lay in the direction of a literary life, and he would have like to be a college professor.  Which simply shows what one can accomplish with a strong will and first-class ability.
Of the charitable works in which he was engaged, that which stood closest to his heart was, the Children's Society, and particularly the work among boys,  At the time of Howard's death The Independent published the following story; "Some years ago a vestryman of an Episcopal Church in this city, after the morning service, said to a brother vestryman across the aisle, 'Come with me this evening and see my boys.'   'Your boys?  What do you mean?'  The other replied, 'Come and you will see.'  'With some persuasion his friend went with him, on a wintry, icy night, to the Children's Aid Society rooms.  There the vestryman took the desk as leader, read the Scriptures, offered prayer, made a most appropriate address, and then called upon his friend to speak.  At the close of the service his friend asked the question, 'How long have you been doing this thing, without ever having suspected it?'  'Sixteen years,' was the reply.  For sixteen years Howard Potter had been leaving his rich and beautiful home every other Saturday night to help and instruct and stimulate to a better life the poorest boys, the very waifs of New York City, and to find form them honorable homes in the West.  He was a brother of Bishop Potter of this city, and no member of the family was either an abler or a truer man then was Howard Potter."
Howard's first conspicuous public service, so far as I can learn, was a  treasurer of the Sanitary Commission during the War of the Rebellion.  This was a sort of precursor of the Red Cross, and brought to the Northern soldiers what relief and comfort they got during those primitive days,  He was president of the New York Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, of the Orthopedic Dispensary and of the Niagara Park Association.  He was a trustee of Union College and of the Children's Aid, and he was one of the founders of the Metropolitan Museum.  One or two of the resolutions passed at the time of his death give an idea of what people who worked with him thought of him.  The Society for Improving the Condition of the Poor spoke of him as one "whose life was one long effort on behalf of the cause of humanity," and the Children's Aid said:
"There is non who has served our board with more zeal, or for a longer period, than he, and it is meet to record his life and death in our minutes.  he became by giving, he has done his utmost to create and sustain the Society.  Commanding in presence, gentle in voice, wise in counsel and most persuasive in address, he stood before us as the model of a Christian gentleman.  he lived life's full measure and when his time came 'God's finger touched him and he slept.'  Therefore, "Resolved, That his name be ever held among us in loving remembrance, and that we place on our records this expression of our affection and gratitude."

Howard Potter
( 1826 - 1897 )