Excellent and Rare Autograph Letter Signed on Financial Matters by the “Merchant Prince” of Wall Street

Signed by William E. Dodge

Item: 18019
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DODGE, WILLIAM E. (1805-1883). American industrialist and “Merchant Prince” of Wall Street, congressman and philanthropist. ALS. (“W.E. Dodge”). 2pp. 4to. New York, February 21, 1868. On a folded sheet of Phelps, Dodge & Co. stationery. To J. C. Newkirk, Esq.

“Your esteem’d favr of the 25 ult and 18 came duly to hand the former enclosing memo obtained from Magoun of lots sold & of those remaining, the latter en check for 200$ on… of payments from Renlack [?] & Franklin. I am perfectly astonished at the obstinacy of the man and cannot understand him at all. I find by looking in my papers that his last settlement was in 1858… With these and the map you can tell pretty well how the matter of the lots stand. But as to what he has rcd I do not see as we can get at it in any other way but by trying to find from the parties as to what they have paid, he has no doubt rcd some 4000$ that he has never paid over. Perhaps if you should say if he will now render a full … that I will take his notes pay at such times as he may desire for the balance due me he may come to terms. Suppose you try him one more with his letters in your hands and the map. I should like with the opening spring to close out what is left for what it can be sold for & will be glad if you will either take it in hand or employ some real estate man to do it. Please get the map corrected by Magoun. (This he will not reprise. I am sure.) and let it be keep carefully as I have no other. Very resp[ectfully] yours…”

Dodge, in partnership with his brother-in-law and father-in-law, owned Phelps, Dodge & Co., a New York-based firm active in importing metals, exporting cotton, lumber; mining and manufacturing of brass, copper and iron; railroads; real estate; and banking. During the 1880s, the firm became one of the largest mining companies with the purchase of several Arizona copper mines.

After the Civil War, Dodge and several other businessmen purchased large plots of land in Southeast Georgia for the longleaf pine timber, with the Dodge Land Company claiming more than 300,000 acres in 1868 through questionable land deeds. Southerners saw Dodge as the ultimate carpetbagger and his “action led to a 50-year land war, murder and mayhem over property rights of the settlers and local citizens in the five-county region who thought they owned the rights to the land. In 1886, Dodge’s agents printed thousands of handbills and distributed them through five Georgia counties claiming that Dodge had true title to the property. Trouble was, someone named Dodson had sold much of this same land to hundreds of local citizens, who had since moved to the area and developed homesteads,” (“The Dodge Land Troubles,” Georgia Trend, Young). After Dodge began cutting the timber, “the locals fought through the courts and with guns and knives to hold onto land that they thought was already theirs. It was a lawless time. It is estimated that more than 50 people lost their lives during the ongoing 44-year land war and court fight, called the Dodge Land Troubles… It was not until 1923, when many of the lawyers and judges who participated in the civil trials had passed away, that the almost 50-year dispute was finally settled when a judge removed the litigation from the court docket,” (ibid.).


William E. Dodge

In addition to his business interests, Dodge served one year in Congress (1866-1867), was a founding member of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), president of the National Temperance Society, and an active Native American rights activist. He co-founded and funded the United States Indian Commission in 1868, took a strong interest in government policy and lobbied for the establishment of an Indian Affairs department.

Magoun is possibly George C. Magoun (1840-1893), an expert in railroad finance who, in 1868, opened a New York branch of Kidder, Peabody & Co. investment banks, and who, later, was heavily involved in railroads, specifically, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.

New York City’s Morgan Library sits on the location of Phelps’ Madison Avenue mansion, which J. P. Morgan demolished to make way for his gardens. Folded with creasing and some age toning. In very good condition and rare.

Excellent and Rare Autograph Letter Signed on Financial Matters by the “Merchant Prince” of Wall Street

Signed by William E. Dodge

$750 • item #18019

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