08 October 2009

Horatio Victor Newcomb (1844-1911)

Here is what B.M. Newcomb wrote about him:

Mr. Newcomb was a banker. He was formerly of the firm of Newcomb, Buchanan & Co. of Louisville, and was at one time president of the Louisville & Nashville R.R. He was, later, a partner of Warren Newcomb & Co., New York. In 1880 he organized the United States National Bank of New York and was for several years its president.

This biography appeared in America's Successful Men of Affairs: An Encyclopedia of Contemporaneous Biography, 1896:

HORATIO VICTOR NEWCOMB, railroad president and banker, is one of the group of vigorous spirits who have come to the metropolis from the Southern States during the last fifteen years and identified themselves prominently with financial affairs. Born in Louisville, Ky., July 26, 1844, he springs from New England ancestry, being, through the line of his father, Horatio D. Newcomb, a descendant of Hezekiah Newcomb and Jerusha Bradford, who were married Nov. 4, 1716, the latter being a daughter of Thomas Bradford and great-granddaughter of Major William Bradford, who came to America in the good ship Mayflower in 1620 and for many years ruled the Plymouth colony as its governor. Through the line of his mother, Cornelia Washington Read, Mr. Newcomb is collaterally descended from George Washington, the father of his country. The Newcomb family traces its line back through the history of America and England as far as 1189. In Kentucky, it has always belonged to the ruling class in the South, being conspicuous both in public affairs and business enterprises.

Victor received an excellent education, beginning in schools at home and continued in England and France. From his books, he brought an active mind and earnest nature into the counting room of the firm of H. D. Newcomb & Bro., commission merchants in Louisville, Ky., and, when fitted for the responsibilities of a career, became a partner in Warren, Newcomb & Co. in New York city. He proved a bright, competent and active business man, and his firm, which subsequently took the name of Newcomb, Buchanan & Co., at Louisville, enjoyed a large trade and a prosperous career while he was at the head of it.

Horatio D. Newcomb, father of the subject of this sketch, is remembered as one of the most enterprising of the residents of Louisville, being largely engaged in Southern trade, the operation of steamboats on the rivers, the management of a large possession in land and, as president of the corporation, in the direction of The Louisville & Nashville Railroad. Upon his resignation in 1880, a series of extremely complimentary resolutions were adopted by the directors of the corporation, some of whom were older railroad men than he, who attributed to his foresight, energy and progressive spirit, the great growth and prosperity of the Louisville & Nashville system. Mr. Newcomb was the youngest executive officer of a railroad during his time and bore the title of the "boy president."

"Mr. H. Victor Newcomb having, for reasons relating to his personal health, tendered his resignation as president of this Board, the Directors cannot permit the occasion to pass without an expression of regret at the loss of his Valuable services as the head of this company. The name of Mr. Newcomb is intimately associated with the origin, the subsequent growth and the rapid development of The Louisville & Nashville Railroad. His father, H. D. Newcomb, was one of its founders. From the organization of the company to the day of his death in 1874, he was continuously in its services in the capacities, successively, of director, vice-president and president.

"In 1874, upon the death of his father, H. Victor Newcomb was elected a director to succeed his father, later vice-president of the company and then president. When Dr. Standiford became president, he was an active member of the board of directors and an efficient adviser and coadjutor of the president. During the incumbency of Dr. Standiford, the services and exertions of Mr. Newcomb were invaluable to the company toward the acquisition of the additional lines of road, which have supplemented and completed the great Louisville & Nashville Railroad system. The continuation of the line by the way of Montgomery and Mobile to New Orleans and the establishment of the Southern terminal stations of the road upon the Gulf of Mexico at Mobile and upon the Mississippi levee in New Orleans, was his special project, and its successful accomplishment was substantially the result of his sagacity and energy.

"Resolved, That we accept with regret the resignation of H. Victor Newcomb as president of this Board; and upon his termination of our official relations with him, made necessary by causes beyond his or our control, we most cheerfully bear testimony to his ability and fidelity in the discharge of his laborious duties and responsibilities as chief officer of this company. To his acknowledged wisdom and foresight and to the courage of his convictions, the stockholders of the company are substantially indebted for the late valuable additions to the property of the company, resulting in the perfection of the present great railway system of The Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company; and he is entitled to and receives the hearty thanks of the stockholders and of this Board for his kindness and manly bearing toward us, his associates, officially and personally. We render to him our kindest wishes for all the future."

In 1880, Mr. Newcomb removed to New York city and organized The United States National Bank, of which the stockholders elected him president. In this institution, he was associated with Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Morris K. Jesup, William R. Travers, Col. John J. McCook, and other well-known men. Within fourteen months from the time this bank had opened its doors, the deposits had grown to $7,000,000, an achievement the like of which had never been heard of before. He was, it is believed, the youngest bank president in the United States; and whatever may be said of the subsequent history of the institution, it is a fact that while Mr. Newcomb held the position of president, the bank never sustained a single loss.

Mr. Newcomb has been at times a large and active operator in Wall street. He began dealing in stocks before he left Louisville and became conspicuous for the brilliancy of his manoeuvres. He thought quickly, acted without hesitation, and generally succeeded in his ventures. The manner in which he developed the value of the stock of The Louisville & Nashville Railroad was the subject of much flattering comment.  As a director in The New York & West Shore Railroad at its organization, Mr. Newcomb was an active factor in the construction of that line.

Dec. 26, 1866, he was married in Louisville to Florence Ward Danforth. Two children have been born to them, Herman Danforth Newcomb, and Edith, wife of Reginald Henshaw Ward, formerly of Boston. The family dwell in a handsome house at 683 Fifth avenue and have figured prominently in the social life of the city. The introduction of their daughter Edith to society was the occasion of a brilliant function. Mr. Newcomb is a member of the Union, Tuxedo, New York Athletic, Suburban, Driving, Riding and other clubs, and an active supporter of every public spirited and philanthropic enterprise which commends itself to his judgment.


  1. Christine JeffreyFebruary 21, 2013

    After Mr. Victor H. Newcomb's unfortunate illness a man named Monell Sayre (aka, Adolphus Monell Sayre) took up residence in his home at 683 Fifth Avenue for a year or so in the year of 1900 . Do you have any idea how this occured? Did the two men know one another personally? Monell Sayre was purportedly the "boy wonder of Wall Street" at that time. But I can find no personal connection other than Mr. Sayre being a tenant. Do you have any knowledge of their relationship prior to this, if any? Thank you for any information or leads you can provide. I am truly appreciative.

    Best wishes,

    Christine Jeffrey

  2. Christine, I'll look into it and see if I can come up with anything.

  3. Christine JeffreyFebruary 22, 2013

    Thank you Rosemary!

  4. Hello, my name is Demian Warner. I'm the great great grandson of H. Victor Newcomb. Thank you for the information you have supplied here. I've actually just inherited a number of his pessesions much of which are papers and letters. I'm very interested in where you found the information you have and learning more. Sadly many of the letters and handwritten material I'm barely able to decipher. I'm currently reading the transcripts from his trail in the early 1900's related to his divorce and his time spent Please let me know if you are interested. I can be conntacte by email at demianwarner@gmail.com. Again thank you for the information you have supplied.


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