Monday, June 29, 2009

The First "Coffee King"

Benjamin Green Arnold came to New York from Rhode Island in 1836 and took a job as accountant with an east-side grocer. He was thrifty, industrious, and kept his own counsel. He was a born financial leader. Fifteen years later he was made a junior partner in the firm. By 1868, the bookkeeper of 1836 was the head of the business, with a line of credit amounting to half a million dollars—a notable achievement in those days.

Mr. Arnold embarked upon his big speculation in coffee in 1869. For ten years he maintained his mastery of the market, and in that time amassed a fortune. It is related that one year's operations of this daring trader yielded his firm a profit of a million and a quarter of dollars.

B.G. Arnold was the first president of the New York Coffee Exchange. He was one of the founders of the Down Town Association in 1878. The president of the United States was his friend, and a guest at his luxurious home. But the high-price levels to which Arnold had forced the coffee market started a coffee-planting fever in the countries of production. Almost before he knew it, there was an overproduction that swamped the market and forced down prices with so amazing rapidity that panic seized upon the traders. Few that were caught in that memorable coffee maelstrom survived financially.

Arnold himself was a victim, but such was the man's character that his failure was regarded by many as a public misfortune. Some men differed with him as to the wisdom of promoting a coffee corner, and protested that it was against public policy; but Arnold's personal integrity was never questioned, and his mercantile ability and honorable business dealings won for him an affectionate regard that continued after his fortune had been swept away.

After the collapse of the coffee corner, Mr. Arnold resumed business with his son, F.B. Arnold. He died in New York, December 10, 1894, in his eighty-second year. The son died in Rome in 1906. The business which the father founded, however, continues today as Arnold, Dorr & Co., one of the most honored and respected names in Front Street.

No comments:

Post a Comment