19 May 2010

Biographical Note on Alfred Smith Barnes (1817-1888)

ALFRED SMITH BARNES, publisher, a native of New Haven, Conn., born Jan. 28, 1817, died in Brooklyn, Feb. 17, 1888. He was descended from Stephen Barnes, an Englishman, who settled on Long Island the latter part of the seventeenth century. His early life was laborious. First a clerk in a shoe store, he then obtained employment in Hartford in the publishing house of D. F. Robinson & Co., and being dependent entirely upon his own abilities, he made every effort to learn the business. At the age of twenty-one, he published the mathematical works of Charles Davies in Hartford, and successfully introduced his arithmetics and Mrs. Emma Willard's history as popular school books.

In 1840, he went to Philadelphia for four years, and built up a profitable publishing business, which he then removed to New York city. His brother, five sons and a nephew were associated with him under the title of A. S. Barnes & Co. The firm attained eminence in the publication of school books. Mr. Barnes was connected with the Central Branch of The Union Pacific Railroad, The New York Elevated Railroad, The Hanover Bank, The Dime Savings Bank of Brooklyn, and The Home Insurance Co.

He was naturally attentive to educational interests and identified with Cornell University, the Fisk University in Tennessee, and the Polytechnic and Adelphi academies, in Brooklyn. He was a member of the Union League Club of New York, and the Hamilton Club, The Long Island Historical Society, and The New England Society of Brooklyn, and trustee of the Clinton Avenue Congregational Church of Brooklyn, which city was his home for many years. To the Good Samaritan and other institutions of Brooklyn, he was a generous donor, and he founded Barnes Hall, one of the most prominent buildings at Cornell University.

Mr. Barnes was twice married, first in 1840 to Miss Harriet E. Burr of Hartford, and later in 1883 to Mrs. Mary Matthews Smith. He left ten children by his first wife. His son, Alfred C. Barnes, now represents the house in The American Book Co. The other children are Mary C., Henry P., Sarah F., Harriet E., Edwin M., Richard S., William D., Annie M., and Emilie B. Barnes.

From: America's Successful Men, Henry Hall editor, The New York Tribune: NY 1895

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