William Walton Woolsey was born in 1766, the son of Benjamin Woolsey, a prominent New York merchant, and Anne (Muirison) Woolsey. He, like his brother George Muirison Woolsey, became a merchant in New York City engaged in foreign and domestic trade and sugar refining. In addition, he was an important landholder both in New York and in the Ohio Territory.
In 1792 Woolsey entered into a partnership with his brother-in-law, Moses Rogers, a hardware merchant. Rogers was also engaged in sugar refining, a business Woolsey later developed into a considerable fortune. They were in fact among the very first to refine sugar on a large scale in America. In addition, Woolsey became in 1807 the second president of the Eagle Fire Insurance Company, one of the oldest companies in the city of New York. He was also named as one of the directors of the Merchants' Bank and helped to obtain for it a charter which saved the bank from an "Act to restrain unincorporated Banking Associations" that had been passed in the previous state legislature. It appears that Woolsey, a brother-in-law of Timothy Dwight, was also a secret partner in the firm of Dwight, Palmer and Company.
When Woolsey and Rogers dissolved their partnership in 1804, the latter apparently paid Woolsey a "very handson sum" not to engage in the iron and hardware trade in New York for ten years. Woolsey therefore moved to New Haven in order to continue his hardware business. He remained in New Haven, where he was also president of the Eagle Bank, until 1815, when he returned to New York and resumed his old business activities.
Woolsey was closely associated in business with his brother, George Muirison Woolsey (1772-1851), a merchant whose ships successfully evaded the blockade during the embargo and carried cotton abroad. He was, of course, under heavy bond to the government for each ship that left to go to another domestic port, but, apparently through an understanding with the Collector of the Port of Perth Amboy, he was able to send his ships to sea. He was compelled, however, to go to Europe in order to save his property from confiscation and himself from prosecution for violation of the embargo. For several years he resided in Liverpool "until the Custom house at Perth Amboy was burned and the bonds with it." It is not clear whether William Walton Woolsey was a partner to these events, there are, however, a number of letters to him from his brother while the latter was exiled abroad.
Woolsey was prominent in the social and political life of New York. He was a member of the politically powerful Chamber of Commerce of New York City, an organization important to the economic development of the city. In 1796 he was elected secretary, a position he held for many years, and from 1825 until his death in 1839, he served as vice-president. He also served for many years as president of the Merchants' Exchange Company. In 1817 he was appointed by the Supreme Court of New York as one of the appraisers of the property which became the Erie Canal and in fact he had hosted many of the early meetings organized to further the canal project. In addition, Woolsey was vice-president of the Manufacturing Society of New York, a member of the Board of Governors of the New York Hospital, treasurer of the American Bible Society, and a very active member in the Manumission Society. He was too a member of the Friendly Club, which flourished in New York for many years before and a few years after the death of Washington, until it was disrupted by political differences. The club, which included among its members Chancellor Kent, Gilbert Aspinwall, Charles Brockden Brown, Anthony Bleeker, and the historian, playwright, and painter, William Dunlap (Woolsey's brother-in-law), met every Tuesday evening in the home of one of the members for literary discussion.
Woolsey married twice, first to Elizabeth Dwight, sister of President Dwight of Yale College and the granddaughter of Jonathan Edwards, and, after her death in 1813, to Sarah Chauncey. He died in New Haven in 1839.
(For additional information see Old Merchants of New York by Walter Barrett (N.Y.: Carleton, 1863).)
THEODORE DWIGHT WOOLSEY
Theodore Dwight Woolsey, born in New York on October 31, 1801, was the son of William Walton Woolsey, a prosperous hardware merchant, and Elizabeth Dwight Woolsey. He was a nephew of Timothy Dwight and a grand-son of Jonathan Edwards. He moved with his family to New Haven in 1806, where he attended Hopkins Grammar School and graduated from Yale College in 1820, valedictorian of his class. After studying law with Charles Chauncey in Philadelphia, he studied at the Princeton Theological Seminary until 1823. He returned to Yale as a tutor in 1823 where he also completed his theological studies. He went to Europe in 1826 for four years where he traveled and studied Greek language and literature.
In 1831 he was appointed Professor of Greek language and literature at Yale College. In 1833, he married Elizabeth Martha Salisbury, by whom he had nine children. He devoted himself to the classics until 1846 when he was appointed to the presidency of Yale College. He declined it at first, doubtful of his religious fitness. Finally persuaded to accept, he was inducted into the presidency and ordained as a minister on October 21, 1846. At the start of his administration, he relinquished the teaching of Greek and began to teach History, Political Science and International Law. During the twenty-five years of his presidency Yale made greater progress than during any other previous administration.
Elizabeth Martha Salisbury died in 1852. Woolsey was remarried in 1854 to Sarah Sears Prichard, by whom he had four children. He retired from the presidency in 1871 at the age of seventy. After his resignation, he continued to instruct at Yale and was a member of the corporation until 1885. He died in 1889 at the age of eighty-eight.
Theodore Dwight Woolsey was the author of the following college text books: The Alcestis of Euripides, The Prometheus of Aeschylus, The Antigone of Aeschylus, and The Gorgias of Plato . He was also the author of three legal works: Introduction to the Study of International Law, Essays on Divorce, and Divorce and Divorce Legislation . He is also the author of A Volume of Sermons .
THEODORE SALISBURY WOOLSEY
Theodore Salisbury Woolsey was born in New Haven, Connecticut, on October 22, 1852, the son of Theodore Dwight Woolsey, then president of Yale College, and Elizabeth Martha (Salisbury) Woolsey. He entered Yale College at the age of fifteen. Upon graduation in 1872, he immediately entered the Yale Law School, where he remained, with the exception of a tour of Europe (1873-1875), until he received the degree of LL.B. in 1876.
In 1877 he was appointed instructor in public law in Yale College, and in 1878, he was appointed professor of international law in the Yale Law School, a position he occupied, with the exception of four years (1886-1890) of residence in California in order to improve his wife's health, until 1911.
Woolsey made his most notable contribution in the field of international law. In addition to the publication of J.N. Pomeroy's Lectures on International Law in Time of Peace (1886) and an enlarged edition of his father's Introduction to the Study of International Law (1891), Woolsey published many articles on specific international problems in professional journals, seventeen of which were published in 1898 under the title, America's Foreign Policy. Most of his time, however, was devoted to giving addresses and writing articles for popular journals in the attempt to persuade the American public of the significance of international law.
Woolsey was married on December 22, 1877, to Annie Gardiner Salisbury of Boston, by whom he had two sons. He died in New Haven on April 24, 1929.
From the guide to the Woolsey family papers, 1750-1969, 1811-1921, (Manuscripts and Archives)
|creatorOf||Woolsey family papers, 1750-1969, 1811-1921||Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives|
|Place Name||Admin Code||Country|
|New York (State)|
|New Haven (Conn.)|