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Thaddeus Hyatt · Obituary · Brooklyn Daily Eagle · 1901
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Articles: 10 of 11

Thaddeus Hyatt obituary in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 26, 1901

Well Known Inventor and Friend of John Brown Had Lives Quietly For Years
Arrested When He Declined to Give Testimony in Washington—His Inventions.
Thaddeus Hyatt died yesterday sat Sandown, Isle of Wight, England. He completed his 85 years of life last Sunday. He was born in Rahway, N.J., July 21, 1816. His youth and manhood were spent in New York. He was the inventor and manufacturer of the bullseye glass lens, which, as a means of admitting light to cellars and sub-cellars and vault under sidewalks, added untold thousands of dollars to the value of the business property in the lower part of the city. Of course, he acquired wealth, but not to hide money in a napkin. His success in business merely served to furnish him with facilities for identifying himself with enterprises for the benefit of mankind and the uplifting of those who were downtrodden.
In the early 50s, when the "irrepressible conflict" began to assume serious proportions and when the development and spread of anti-slavery sentiment was working havoc in political parties, as evinces in the revolution in the Whig party and the division of its elements between the Democracy and the new Republican parties, Mr. Hyatt found himself an active anti-slavery man. Wherever he gave himself he gave his means with a liberality proportioned by whatever were the demands of emergencies. His house was a headquarters of the leading spirits of the anti-slavery reform. He threw himself into the non-extension of slavery movement, and, therefore, was a Republican as soon as there was a Republican party. He was the friend of the leaders against slavery in what was known as the Kansas-Nebraska agitation. It was in that period that he became the fast and uncompromising friend of John Brown, who, when in New York, always found hospitality in the Morton street house of Hyatt.
Infractions upon his several parents cause litigation, which absorbed considerable of his time and attention, but he always found a liberal margin of time to devote to the cause of mankind. He traveled almost incessantly between Kansas and New York during the memorable struggle for non-extension. In the Fremont campaign of 1856 he was a mighty factor. His forte lay not so much in making speeches as in securing the services of and sustaining the most distinguished orators of the time. His speeches were mostly in the form of checks.
It might be expected that Mr. Hyatt would at some point touch a danger point and be called upon to suffer. This point was reached after the execution of John Brown, when, at the instance of Senator Mason, of Virginia, he was summoned to appear before the United States Senate to give testimony regarding the movements leading up to the Harper's Ferry fiasco of John Brown. Mr. Hyatt declined to give any testimony on the subject, and thereupon (1860) was committed to the Old Capital Prison in Washington. Instead of sitting down and posing as an incarcerated martyr, Mr. Hyatt at once resolved to make himself at home for an indefinite period, he had prison-room handsomely decorated and furnished. This done he issued to all his friends in and out of Congress his "at home" cards, and he was never lonesome—never lacked companions.
During this incarceration he provided for monster mass meetings at the Cooper Union, in New York, the first in the series being that known as "the John Brown meeting," which was addressed by Wendell Phillips and the Rev. George B. Cheever, D.D., pastor of the Church of the Puritans, in Union square.
Other meetings followed in close succession. Hyatt sent communications from his jail home to the newspapers, and so kept going a fearless and effective agitation of the public mind. The pro-slavery forces in the United States Senate saw their error and on the motion of the senator who caused his imprisonment, Mr. Hyatt was literally ordered out of jail. He at once telegraphed to his representative in New York, "Have been kicked out; will be home to-morrow."
After the election of Abraham Lincoln, came the famine in Kansas, resulting from failure in crops. Mr. Hyatt had the celebrated Kansas Relief Committee organized, and through its instrumentality Kansas was once more the recipient of a national hospitality which was generous and helpful. Mr. Hyatt traveled to Kansas and personally organized committees for the distribution of the money, food, seeds, clothing, etc., which were kept going thither without pause until the work was done. "Bleeding Kansas" was again redeemed through the ministrations of Thaddeus Hyatt.
Among the literature which he had prepared and put into circulation was all that pertained to John Brown, by Wendell Phillips, William Loyd Garrison, Governor Andrews, Dr. George B. Cheever, Theodore Parker, Charles Sumner and others. Of his Kansas work, Mr. Hyatt wrote in a letter to his son in recent years, "I started with not a soul to encourage me in the belief of doing anything. 'Kansas is played out' was the cry on all sides. But I did a wonderful work with Pomeroy and Arny's help—a work that amazes me as I look back upon it, one million in hard cash, seed corn, clothing, etc., was the footing up of the work, $50,000 of which was contributed by the State of New York." It was Daniel Lord, one of New York's greatest lawyers, who, meeting Hyatt after many years of peace, exclaimed with uplifted hand, "Mr. Hyatt, the people of Kansas should erect a statue of gold to your memory, sir!"
Mr. Hyatt was a genius. He was the inventor of a variety of improvements in building. He, not long since, while on a visit to the Eagle, claimed to have thirty years ago and more planned out what the people were now please to call skyscrapers. He had some ideas about a flying machine which were original, but many of his notions were set aside owing to the attention he had to give to immediate business interests.
In religion the later years of Mr. Hyatt's life were given up to theosophy. He indulged in a sort of belief in spiritism—not spiritualism—in which he appeared to find great comfort. It was a medium by which, at his advanced age, when old associates and friends had departed from him, he could summon them before him again and hold sweet communion with them. Holding these views, he took occasion to contend against the representations of modern spiritualism. As a traveler, in addition to what has been noted, he crossed the Atlantic some seventy-six times, and was familiar with many of the leading captains of steamships. In the last letter which he wrote to his son here, Dr. Thaddeus P. Hyatt of Montague street, alluding to our intensely warm weather, he wrote: "The papers now give us dreadful accounts from America, frightful scenes in New York and Brooklyn and all over. Are we in the last days of St. John's Apocalyptic angels, or what is the matter with old Mother Earth?"
The life of Mr. Hyatt was long and for the most part useful. His aims were humans and he had exalted views of his relations with and obligations on behalf of mankind. He aimed to make the world better for his having been in it, and fortune and nature favored him in means to work with. He was one of those American noblemen for whom history has no need to offer apology.