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Fortunes Made in Business
Series of original Sketches, Biographical and ^necdotal from the recent History of Industry and Commerce by Various Writers in two volumes (1884)


When Aladdin rubbed his Wonderful Lamp (so we are told in the Arabian Nights' Entertainments) he summoned a powerful genie, who obeyed his every behest, and was able to lay at his feet all the good things which this world can command.

The old Eastern story was a sort of prophetic mirror of many romantic incidents in the Modern Biography of Industry and Commerce. In Current Literature few things have a greater charm to busy men than any trustworthy record of successful enterprise, especially when the story bears upon yesterday or to-day. No wonder that it is so.

Now, perhaps, more than ever, calm, well directed effort and scientific insight; indomitable pluck and that ready resolution which knows when to seize the moment of fortune are the ^grand characteristics which give power to win a prize in the arena of modern competition.

To know something, therefore, of the men who have succeeded becomes of increasing interest to those in the thick of the fight at the present moment. The lucky hit or the lost chance, the far-seen enterprise demanding years of quiet, patient labour and stern endurance, are a kind of commercial history which carries its own lesson of elastic hope or sober caution to the eager men of to-day.

In such studies of character and energy we observe at work the ready wit which sees a new market, and the prompt resource which supplies it; the skilful utilisation of a waste product; the building up of new industrial colonies, as remarkable for their social as for their commercial advantages; the forging of links of connection between eminent business houses and the highest offices of state; the magic of mechanical power and inventive genius applied to the cheapening of some article of every-day consumption; the light which casts a brightening fancy upon even the mean utensils of the poorest household. Above all, we can mark the influence of fidelity to engagements, and the sagacity and wise liberality which know when to foster a struggling industry.

All the forces, in short, which bend the powers of Nature and the rugged products of the Earth to the comfort and the grace of man's life are before us. We see them in full play amidst the small beginnings and the marvelous expansion of Commercial Houses whose members have won wealth, social rank, and a world-wide reputation.

Some years ago the Editor of this Volume, in company with various writers, set about the task of which the result is here offered to the public.

The endeavour has been to take down from the lips of the living, facts not previously reduced to writing; and also to collect and crystallise the valuable material lying about in fugitive literature and out-of-the-w^ay storehouses.

It has been no easy matter to gather and sift the curiously scattered information which thus gave the key to such varied efforts as those of the men represented in this Volume. Many visits had to be paid to different parts of the Country and numerous appeals made, in person and by letter, to those who were found to be the sole living depositaries of the knowledge desired. It would be tedious to tender in detail acknowledgments for that large and generous aid which has made this book possible the reminiscences so kindly placed at our service by those who have had special opportunities for observation; the authentic anecdotes (often throwing remarkable light on obscure beginnings), as well as the practical knowledge which has helped us to thread our way amidst the tangled history of complex mechanical inventions and industrial improvements.

It is hoped that this book may thus be found a genuine contribution to our Commercial History. Those only who have been engaged in a similar task can fairly estimate the labour involved in welding such an enormous mass of miscellaneous matter into homogeneous form, so as to give a clear, succinct idea of the rise and progress of Houses which have made a very distinct mark on the Industrial and Mercantile World.

Volume 1   |   Volume 2

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