On a visit to Duke and Monticello we stopped off at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. The visit led to biographical data concerning a great business man of the gilded age, Lewis Ginter. He started out from Dutch ancestry in Brooklyn and moved to Richmond in 1846 when he was 22 years old. He established himself as a toy retailer with a gift for mechanical toys. He built his toy company into the most successful retailer in Richmond by 1846. His wide travels with market mechanism enabled him to predict the terrible recession of 1857. Seeing the potential devastations from the Civil War he put some of his earnings into cotton.

His business character was attention to detail and meticulous orderliness. This served him well as quartermaster where he became an admirable contributor to Southern efforts. In one particularly telling incident he had an interview with Lee in which he stated that solution to the starving Southerners was to commandeer all the railroad lien and supply depots that were doing frivolous things. Lee agreed with him that would be of great benefit but it would violate the laws of liberty and he wouldn't do it. He lost everything in 1864 when Richmond was burned by war.

After losing his fortune for the first time in 1864 he moved to New York. He became a flexion funneling money to the South from northern speculators who had capital to rebuild southern manufacturing especially iron manufacture. He lost everything a second time on Black Friday and was deeply in debt. He returned to Richmond and formed a partnership with Allen who had a tobacco factory. His marketing savvy turned the firm into cigarette man.

He became the largest cigarette man in the world using advertising at world's fairs as one of his prime outlets. He bought out his partner for 100,000. Subsequently he refused to produce cigarettes by machine and became the 2nd largest cigarette man with Duke. They formed the American Tobacco Company and Ginter had a 20% interest in it for about 15 million in 1890 dollars. Along the way they adopted a much younger worker named John Pope who he had admired as a hard worker in Horatio Alger fashion in New York when John was aged 10. He and John lived and traveled together for most of their lives. Using his Tobacco fortune he became the leading entrepreneur and industrialist in Richmond. He owned interest in banks, iron works, real estate development, potash plants, ship building and other enterprises.

He was a great admirer of Jefferson and followed in Jefferson's footsteps in his habits including an extensive library. He built Jefferson Hotel still standing in 1894. Duke died in 1892 from a respiratory disease and this took away Ginter's spirit and he passed away 2 years later. All in all, the story of Ginter spans the ascendancy of the South in the 1840 to 1860 era, the fall during the civil war, the attempt to come back during the reconstruction era, and the south's resurgence in the late 19th century. His niece who lived to 100 Grace Anent founded the botanical gardens in his memory with money he left in his will.


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