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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Hon. Samuel Wallin

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 210-215 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

Contents | Portraits | Illustrations | Maps

Portrait of Hon. Samuel Wallin

Portrait: Hon. Samuel Wallin

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A review of the life and services to his community of the late Hon. Samuel Wallin, a former representative in congress, a former mayor of the city of Amsterdam and for many years one of the foremost figures in the general industrial, commercial and social life of that city and the larger community centering thereabout, reveals in a striking manner a very real instance of a fine boyhood dream coming true. As a boy Mr. Wallin took employment in a carpet mill at a wage of fifty cents a day. He became interested in his work, one of the prime requisites of success, and even then, as a lad in the mills, had a dream that some day he would be a manufacturer on his own account. He had a fine, true social instinct also and mingled with this dream of industrial ambition was a none the less clear vision of a day when he would be in a position to serve his fellowmen largely in positions of trust and responsibility. Both dreams came true in the proper fullness of time and Mr. Wallin came not only to be recognized as one of the great carpet manufacturers of the world but he also came in time to serve the people of his home town in the responsible executive capacity of mayor and then to render a wider service as the representative of the whole people of his district in the congress of the United States. In reviewing the lives of many of the men who have risen to distinguished positions in this country from very small beginnings, it is possible to point out many parallel instances, but there are few if any such that offer a more interesting comparison than that shown in a review of the life of Samuel Wallin, whose passing at his home in Amsterdam in 1917 was the occasion for a general expression of regret throughout this district.

Samuel Wallin was a Pennsylvanian by birth, born in the city of Easton in Northampton county, on July 31, 1856, and was a son of John Wallin, who had come to America with his bride following their marriage in their native England and for a time had made their home in Easton, Pennsylvania. John Wallin had been trained to the carpet manufacturing trade in England and not long after he had come to this country and when his son Samuel was but a child, he left Easton and moved to Poughkeepsie, New York, where he was made foreman and superintendent of a small carpet factory that then was in operation in that city. In 1864, during the time of national stress incident to the Civil war then being waged between the states, he transferred his services from the factory at Poughkeepsie to that of the old Sanford carpet mills at Amsterdam and moved to the latter city, where he ever after made his home with a brief exception. He did not long continue in the factory, however, for in the year following his arrival in Amsterdam he bought a small farm in the Osborn Bridge vicinity in Fulton county, with a view to becoming a farmer. This change did not prove satisfactory and two years later he returned to Amsterdam, where he resumed his industrial vocation and where he was for years thereafter thus employed, although retaining to the end the ownership of his Fulton county land.

A comparison of dates above will disclose that Samuel Wallin was but eight years of age when his parents became residents of Amsterdam and it was thus that he had his schooling in the schools of that city, finishing in the old Amsterdam Academy. As a boy he was given employment in the Sanford carpet mills, going to work at a wage of fifty cents a day, beginning at the very bottom rung of the ladder of success in the carpet industry. So it was that as he gradually was promoted to better positions in the mill he became thoroughly familiar with all the details of manufacture, as well as with the office detail and the mystery of marketing. It was while thus "climbing the ladder" that he entertained the dreams of becoming a proprietor in his own right, reference to which has been made above. As a fine anchor for these aspirations he had the wisdom to marry young and thus from the days of his young manhood had a helpmate who could give him true and proper encouragement at every step along the way.

Mr. Wallin's opportunity came when he was thirty years of age. That was in 1886, when four employes of the Sanford mills — William McCleary, John A. Howgate, David J. Crouse and Mr. Wallin — decided to enter the manufacturing field on their own account. They put together what little capital they had managed to accumulate and started a little rug mill along the river on the south side, starting in with an equipment that gave employment to about ten persons. This new concern started out to do business under the firm name of Howgate, McCleary & Company, all the partners doing their part manfully in their respective departments. Competition was keen and the new firm had its work cut out for it, the partners working almost night and day during the time they were getting their product in hand in marketable quantities. Mr. Wallin had the office detail, but he often found himself under the necessity of aiding in the designing room, looking after the machinery, attending to the shipping and doing anything else about the mill that his hand found to do. Any road to great success inevitably must have in it in some places some pretty rough "bumps". One of these was encountered by the new firm just about the time they felt that their mill was in a good way to make a name for itself as well as to establish a real market for its products. The little factory along the riverside was destroyed by fire. It was a hard blow but the partners faced it bravely and buckled down to the task of rebuilding and taking a new start on an even more substantial basis. Their apparent misfortune eventually was found to be a stroke of good fortune, for they selected a new site for their factory, built better than before and were soon on the highway to the greater success which eventually came to them. This new factory was erected in Rockton, at that time not an overly promising suburb but now the thriving eighth ward of the city of Amsterdam. In 1893, ten years after the inception of this business, Mr. Howgate died. His partners bought his widow's interest in the enterprise and reorganized, carrying on thereafter under the firm name of the McCleary-Wallin-Crouse Company, which style is still maintained and which has come to be an exceedingly valuable trade name in the carpet industry. In 1902 the enterprise was incorporated and during the more than twenty years since then, with a growing market and better facilities for manufacturing, the operations of the concern have expanded far beyond the point which the young partners back in the '80s would have considered outside even the wildest flight of imagination. As needs arose the plant has been extended until now the group of buildings required to carry on the company's operations covers acres of ground, the plant is equipped with the latest and best machinery obtainable in the carpet industry and on the pay roll of the concern are carried the names of no fewer than two thousand persons.

Despite the close attention Mr. Wallin found it necessary to bestow upon his growing business he found time to give a good citizen's attention to the more important civic and social interests of his home town and he was ever a builder up, a promoter of all good local movements. His interest in church work, begun as a young man, continued paramount to the end and he was for many years one of the most influential members of the First Methodist Episcopal church of Amsterdam, and long a member of the board of trustees of that congregation. This interest in church work took him into the wider field of church activities and in his old age he was honored by election as a delegate to the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal church, the highest honor that can come to a layman in that communion. He also had served as a delegate to the Troy conference and was a widely recognized layman of the church in this state. For years he rendered a fine service to the church as a member of the board of trustees of the Troy Conference Academy at Poultney, Vermont. Mr. Wallin's general philanthropies covered a pretty wide ground, but many of his benefactions never came to the public notice, for in these matters he did not always let his right hand know what his left hand was doing. His charities were not of the ostentatious sort and many a person and many a cause in and about Amsterdam was helped through his kindly and generous giving of which the public knew nothing. One of the local beneficences in which he ever took an open interest and which he helped generously was the work long carried on at Amsterdam by the association having in charge the Home for Elderly Women in that city. When this country took a hand in the World war in the spring of 1917 his heart was fired with patriotic fervor and he was unsparing of his time and efforts in behalf of all local war work movements. As chairman of the First Liberty Loan committee his sound business judgment was helpful in bringing to a successful conclusion that "drive" and in pointing the way for the conduct of future similar drives.

Mr. Wallin had other business interests besides those represented in the carpet mill and he was the president of the Rockton Realty Company and vice president of the Inman Manufacturing Company. He took an earnest interest in the general fraternal and social organizations of the city, was a member of the Masonic order, an Elk, a Knight of Pythias, a member of the locally popular Antlers Country Club, a member of the Union League Club of New York city and of the Masonic Country Club of Schenectady. For years Mr. Wallin had been one of the influential members of the Amsterdam Board of Trade and was a director of that body at the time of his death. He was the vice president of the Board of trustees of the Amsterdam Savings Bank and a member of the directorate of the Farmers National Bank. Mr. Wallin's republicanism knew not even the shadow of turning and he was for years recognized as one of the leaders of that party in his district. His first political office was held in 1889, when he was elected to serve his ward on the board of aldermen, a capacity in which he served for two or three years, at the end of which time he was elected mayor of the city and in that executive capacity rendered two more years (1901-02) of local service. It is recalled that during his incumbency as mayor the annexation of Rockton to the city of Amsterdam was brought about, a measure that added to the population of the city something more than a thousand persons. In 1914, upon the urgent demand of many of his friends and the leaders of the party in the thirtieth congressional district, Mr. Wallin stood for the nomination to congress and in the election of that fall was elected, thus going to Washington for service in the sixty-third congress as a representative from his home district. The popularity of his candidacy is revealed when it is recalled that he had gained a victory in the primaries over former Representative DeForest of Schenectady and in the election defeated by a plurality of near five thousand votes the present representative from the thirtieth district, G. R. Lunn, who then was running as a socialist. During his term in congress Mr. Wallin had a hand in some important legislation, but the measure that appealed more strongly to him than some of the others was the new tariff bill that was enacted into a law during the first session of that congress. As a manufacturer and thoroughly familiar with the details of the textile industry his counsel and advice in committee hearings on that bill were recognized as having value, and were given close attention by the members of the committee as well as by the house generally, for it was recognized that he spoke for a district that was vitally interested in whatever effect a new tariff law would have on the manufacture of woolen goods, knit goods, gloves and the like. His maiden speech in congress was directed to a criticism of the bill as it then stood and proved so much to the point and was so fraught with facts and figures relating to the textile industry that it not only was copied extensively by the newspapers but was made the subject of frequent quotation thereafter by other members of the house in discussions of the measure.

Mr. Wallin's widow, Mrs. Margaret Faulds Wallin, is still living in Amsterdam, where she is very pleasantly situated, residing at No. 162 Locust avenue. She is a daughter of Alexander Faulds, who in his generation was one of the best known men in Amsterdam. Mr. Wallin also left an adopted son, Freeman Faulds Wallin, who is still living in Amsterdam. Samuel Wallin died on December 1, 1917, and, as set out in the introduction to this review, there was universal regret throughout this district at the passing of a good man who had maintained himself uprightly in all the relations of life and who thus left a good memory at his passing.

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