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Captains Of Industry Or Men Of Business Who Did Something Besides Making Money - Thomas Edward

1. Preface

2. David Maydole

3. Ichabod Washburn

4. Elihu Burritt

5. Michael Reynolds

6. Major Robert Pike

7. George Graham

8. John Harrison

9. Peter Faneuil

10. Chauncey Jerome

11. Captain Pierre Laclede Liguest

12. Israel Putnam

13. George Flower

14. Edward Coles

15. Peter H. Burnett

16. Gerrit Smith

17. Peter Force

18. John Bromfield

19. Frederick Tudor

20. Myron Holley

21. The Founders Of Lowell

23. John Smedley

24. Richard Cobden

25. Henry Bessemer

26. John Bright

27. Thomas Edward

28. Robert Dick

29. John Duncan

30. James Lackington

31. Horace Greeley's Start

32. James Gordon Bennett

33. Three John Walters

34. George Hope

35. Sir Henry Cole

36. Charles Summers

37. William B. Astor

38. Peter Cooper

39. Paris Duverney

40. Sir Rowland Hill

41. Marie-Antoine Careme

42. Wonderful Walker

43. Sir Christopher Wren

44. Sir John Rennie

45. Sir Moses Montefiore

46. Marquis Of Worcester

47. An Old Dry-goods Merchant's Recollections



The strangest story told for a long time is that of Thomas Edward,
shoemaker and naturalist, to whom the Queen of England recently gave a
pension of fifty pounds a year. He was not a shoemaker who kept a shop
and gave out work to others, but actually worked at the bench from
childhood to old age, supporting a very large family on the eight or
nine or ten shillings a week that he earned. And yet we find him a
member of several societies of naturalists, the Linnaean Society among
others, and an honored pensioner of the Queen.

His father was a Scottish linen weaver, and for some time a private
soldier in a militia regiment which was called into active service
during the wars with Napoleon; and it was while the regiment was
stationed at an English sea-port that this remarkable child was born. A
few months after, when the Waterloo victory had given peace to Europe,
the regiment was ordered home and disbanded, and this family settled at
Aberdeen, where the father resumed his former occupation. Now the
peculiar character of Thomas Edward began to exhibit itself. He showed
an extraordinary fondness for animals, to the sore distress and torment
of his parents and their neighbors.

It was a taste purely natural, for not only was it not encouraged, it
was strongly discouraged by every one who could be supposed to have
influence over the boy. He disappeared one day when he was scarcely able
to walk, and when he had been gone for some hours he was found in a
pig-sty fast asleep, near a particularly savage sow and her pigs. As
soon as he could walk well enough his delight was to ramble along the
shore and into the country, gathering tadpoles, beetles, frogs, crabs,
mice, rats, and spiders, to the horror of his mother, to say nothing of
the neighbors, for these awful creatures escaped into houses near by and
appeared to the inmates at the most unexpected moments.

His parents scolded and whipped him, but his love of animal life was
unconquerable, and the only effect of opposing it was to make him more
cunning in its gratification. They tied the little fellow by his leg to
a table, but he drew the table up near the fire, burnt the rope in
halves, and was off for the fields. They hid his coat, but he took his
elder brother's coat and ran. Then they hid all his clothes, but he
slipped on an old petticoat and had another glorious day out of doors,
returning with a fever in his veins which brought him to death's door.

All these things, and many others like them, happened when he was still
a boy under five years of age. Recovering from his fever he resumed his
old tricks, and brought home one day, wrapped in his shirt, a wasp's
nest, which his father took from him and plunged into hot water. Between
four and five he was sent to school, his parents thinking to keep him
out of mischief of this kind. But he had not the least interest in
school knowledge, and constantly played truant; and when he did come to
school he brought with him all kinds of horrid insects, reptiles, and
birds. One morning during prayers a jackdaw began to caw, and as the
bird was traced to the ownership of Thomas Edward, he was dismissed from
the school in great disgrace. His perplexed parents sent him to another
school, the teacher of which used more vigorous measures to cure him of
his propensity, applying to his back an instrument of torture called
"the taws." It was in vain. From this second school he was expelled,
because some horse-leeches, which he had brought to school in a bottle,
escaped, crept up the legs of the other boys, and drew blood from them.

"I would not take him back for twenty pounds!" said the schoolmaster in

A third time his father put him at school; and now he experienced the
ill consequences of having a bad name. A centipede was found upon
another boy's desk, and he was of course suspected of having brought it
into the school-room. But it so happened that on this one occasion he
was innocent; it was another boy's centipede; and Thomas denied the
charge. The schoolmaster whipped him severely for the supposed
falsehood, and sent him away saying:--

"Go home, and tell your father to get you on board a man-of-war, as that
is the best school for irreclaimables such as you."

He went home and declared he would go to no more schools, but would
rather work. He had now reached the mature age of six years, and had
been turned out of school three times, without having learned to write
his own name. Soon after, he went to work in a tobacco factory on the
river Don, a short distance out of Aberdeen, and there for two happy
years he was free to employ all his leisure time in investigating
animated nature around him. His love of natural history grew with his
growth and strengthened with his strength, so that by the time he had
completed his eighth year he was familiarly acquainted with the animals
of that region, and had the most lively admiration for the more
interesting specimens. He watched with delight the kingfisher, and loved
to distinguish the voices of the different birds.

But his parents objecting to the tobacconist's trade, he was apprenticed
about his ninth year to a shoemaker,--a violent, disreputable character,
who made ruthless war upon the lad's birds and reptiles, searching his
pockets for them, and killing them whenever found. The lad bore this
misery for three years, and then his patience being exhausted, and
having in his pocket the sum of seven pence, he ran away and walked a
hundred miles into the country to the house of one of his uncles. His
uncle received him kindly, entertained him a day or two, and gave him
eighteen pence, upon which the boy returned home, and made a bargain
with his master by which he received small wages and had complete
control of his leisure time. At eighteen we may regard him as fairly
launched upon life, a journeyman shoemaker, able to earn in good times
nine shillings a week by laboring from six in the morning till nine at
night. At that time all mechanics worked more hours than they do at
present, and particularly shoemakers, whose sedentary occupation does
not expend vitality so rapidly as out-of-door trades. And what made his
case the more difficult was, he was a thorough-going Scotchman, and
consequently a strict observer of Sunday. Confined though he was to his
work fifteen hours a day, he abstained on principle from pursuing his
natural studies on the only day he could call his own.

He was a night-bird, this Thomas Edward; and as in Scotland the twilight
lasts till ten in the evening and the day dawns at three in the morning,
there were some hours out of the twenty-four which he could employ, and
did employ, in his rambles. At twenty-three he fell in love with a
pretty girl, and married her, his income being still but nine and
sixpence a week. His married life was a happy one, for his wife had the
good sense to make no opposition to his darling pursuits, and let him
fill their cottage and garden with as many creatures as he chose, not
even scolding him for his very frequent absences during the night. Some
one asked her recently about this, and her reply was:--

"Weel, he took such an interest in beasts that I didna compleen.
Shoemakers were then a very drucken set, but his beasts keepit him frae
them. My mon's been a sober mon all his life, and he never negleckit his
wark. Sae I let him be."--

Children were born to them, eleven in all, and yet he found time to
learn to write, to read some books, and to increase constantly his
knowledge of nature. In order to procure specimens for his collection,
he bought an old shot-gun for a sum equal to about a dollar,--such a
battered old piece that he had to tie the barrel to the stock with a
piece of string. A cow's horn served for his powder; he measured his
charge with a tobacco pipe, and carried his shot in a paper-bag. About
nine in the evening, carrying his supper with him, he would start out
and search the country round for animals and rare plants as long as he
could see; then eat his supper and lie down and sleep till the light
returned, when he would continue his hunting till it was time for work.
Many a fight he had in the darkness with badgers and pole-cats.

When he had thus been employed eight or nine years, his collection
contained two thousand specimens of animals and two thousand plants, all
nicely arranged in three hundred cases made with his own hands. Upon
this collection he had founded hopes of getting money upon which to
pursue his studies more extensively. So he took it to Aberdeen, six cart
loads in all, accompanied by the whole family,--wife and five children.
It needs scarcely to be said that his collection did not succeed, and he
was obliged to sell the fruit of nine years' labor for twenty pounds.
Nothing daunted, he returned to his cobbler's stall, and began again to
collect, occasionally encouraged by a neighboring naturalist, and
sometimes getting a little money for a rare specimen. Often he tried to
procure employment as a naturalist, but unsuccessfully, and as late as
1875 we find him writing thus:--

"As a last and only remaining resource, I betook myself to my old and
time-honored friend, a friend of fifty years' standing, who has never
yet forsaken me nor refused help to my body when weary, nor rest to my
limbs when tired--my well-worn cobbler's stool. And although I am now
like a beast tethered to his pasture, with a portion of my faculties
somewhat impaired, I can still appreciate and admire as much as ever the
beauties and wonders of nature as exhibited in the incomparable works of
our adorable Creator."

These are cheerful words to come from an old man who has enriched the
science of his country by additions to its sources of knowledge. In
another letter, written a year or two since, he says:--

"Had the object of my life been money instead of nature, I have no
hesitation in saying that by this time I would have been a rich man. But
it is not the things I have done that vex me so much as the things I
have not done. I feel that I could have accomplished so much more. I had
the will, but I wanted the means."

It is in this way that such men feel toward the close of their lives.
Thomas Edward still lives, in his sixty-seventh year, at Banff, in
Scotland, rich in his pension of fifty pounds a year, which is more than
twice as much as the income he had when he supported by his labor a wife
and eleven children. Even his specimens now command a price, and he is
every way a prosperous gentleman. It seems a pity that such men cannot
have their precious little fifty pounds to begin with, instead of to end
with. But who could pick them out? What mortal eye can discern in a man
the _genuine_ celestial fire before he has proved its existence by the
devotion of a lifetime to his object? And even if it could be discerned
in a young man, the fifty pounds a year might quench it.

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