Howard Potter

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Howard Potter was an industrialist, investment banker, diplomat and philanthropist, and a partner in Brown Bros. & Co.. He was born in Schenectady, New York on July 8, 1826 and died in London, England on March 24, 1897. He was the father of Howard Cranston Potter, James Brown Potter and Grace Howard Potter.

Life and career

Potter was the second son of Alonzo Potter – Professor and later Vice President of Union College and subsequently Episcopal Bishop of Pennsylvania – and Maria Nott, daughter of Dr. Eliphalet Nott, President for more than sixty years of Union College.

On both sides he came from New England Puritan stock of English descent, and counted among his distinguished relatives Nathan Hale, the patriot schoolmaster, and other noted New Englanders, the Rev. Joel Benedict of Connecticut, his maternal great grandfather, and the brother-in-law of Mr. James Brown; Rt. Rev. Horatio Potter, Bishop of New York, his uncle; Clarkson N. Potter, a noted lawyer and Congressman; Gen. Robert B. Potter of the 9th Army Corps, the first man to cross the bridge at Antietam, gaining that day for the Union cause; Rt. Rev. Henry Codman Potter, a distinguished bishop of New York; Dr. Eliphalet Nott Potter, President of Union and later of Hobart College, and other brothers distinguished in architecture and other walks in life.

Potter entered Union College in 1842 and graduated in 1846. After his graduation he remained for a year as tutor in Latin and Greek. Later he studied law and was admitted to the New York Bar, but gave up the practice of law to become Secretary and Treasurer of the Novelty Iron Works, then the most notable iron works in the U.S. In 1859, at the invitation of James Brown, he entered the firm of Brown Brothers & Company, becoming a partner in 1861.

In 1849 Potter married Mary Louisa Brown, the daughter of James Brown, and after his marriage spent six months or more as an attaché at the Court of Berlin, Prussia.

Potter was active in the merchant banking houses of Brown Bros. & Co. and Brown, Shipley & Co., the British wing of the Brown banking business. At the time of his death he was still working with Brown Shipley in London.

Charitable involvement

Among the positions of public trust held by Mr. Potter were the following: He was Trustee of the Children's Aid Society from 1857 to 1897; President of the Orthopedic Dispensary from 1878 to 1891; President of the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor from 1878 to 1884; President of the Niagara Park Association; Treasurer of the United States Sanitary Commission during the War; one of the Managers of St. Luke's Hospital from 1869 to 1886; Treasurer of St. Johnland from 1871 to 1883; First Vice-President of the State Charities Aid from 1874 to 1880; Trustee of Union College, as well as of other charitable and educational institutions. He was also a Founding Member of both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.


Howard Potter's children were James Brown Potter, Eliza Miller Potter (Mrs. Clarence Cary), Howard Cranston Potter, Maria Potter Tod (Mrs. John Kennedy Tod), Bertha Howard Potter (Mrs. Robert Shaw Minturn, Jr.) Ashton Potter and Grace Howard Potter. From 1877 until 1900 Howard Potter was the father in law of the actress Cora Urquhart Brown-Potter Mrs. James Brown Potter. Among his grandchildren a daughter of Howard Cranston Potter Jr.: Bertha was the wife of the aviationist William Boeing.



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