Tompkins, Daniel Augustus, 1851-1914

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Daniel Augustus Tompkins (1851-1914) was an engineer, author, and entrepreneur, of Charlotte (Mecklenburg Co.), N.C.

From the guide to the Daniel Augustus Tompkins Papers, 1774-1976, (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University)

Engineer and manufacturer.

From the description of Papers of Daniel Augustus Tompkins, 1887-1920 (bulk 1899-1914). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 71063827

Engineer, author, and entrepreneur, of Charlotte (Mecklenburg Co.), N.C.

From the description of Daniel Augustus Tompkins papers, 1774-1976. (Duke University Library). WorldCat record id: 20188718

Daniel Augustus Tompkins (1851-1914) was an engineer, manufacturer, publisher, author, and leader in Southern industrial development. A native of South Carolina, he received a degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Troy, N.Y., in 1873; worked in the steel industry in New York, 1873-1874, and Pennsylvania, 1874-1883; worked as agent for the Westinghouse Machine Company and as an engineer, machinist, and contractor in Charlotte, N.C.; was principal owner of three cotton mills; owned controlling interests in the Charlotte "Daily Observer" and the Greenville (S.C.) "News"; wrote a history of Mecklenburg County, N.C., and books about cotton mill operations; and worked actively in business and civic organizations.

From the description of Daniel Augustus Tompkins papers, 1838, 1868-1920. WorldCat record id: 27192755

Biographical Note

  • 1851, Oct. 12: Born, Edgefield County, S.C.
  • 1873: Graduated, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N.Y.
  • 1873 - 1882 : Employed as machinist-engineer in New York, Pennsylvania, Germany, and Missouri
  • 1882: Established an engineering and contracting firm, Charlotte, N.C.
  • 1886: Organized Southern Cotton Oil Co.
  • 1898: Appointed to U.S. Industrial Commission
  • 1899: Published Cotton Mill, Commercial Features. Charlotte, N.C.: the author Published Cotton Mill Processes and Calculations. Charlotte, N.C.: the author
  • 1900: Published American Commerce, Its Expansion. Charlotte, N.C.: the author
  • 1901: Published Cotton and Cotton Oil. Charlotte, N.C.: the author
  • 1914, Oct. 18: Died, Montreat, N.C.

From the guide to the Daniel Augustus Tompkins Papers, 1887-1920, (bulk 1899-1914), (Manuscript Division Library of Congress)

Daniel Augustus Tompkins (1851-1914) was an engineer, manufacturer, publisher, and leader in Southern industrial development. He was born and reared in Edgefield County, S.C. He attended the University of South Carolina for two years and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Troy, N.Y., 1869-1873. He received a civil engineer's degree in 1873 from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. While he attended Rensselaer, he worked part-time and in the summer for the Bessemer Iron Works in Troy. After a year as a draftsman in the office of Alexander L. Holley in Brooklyn, N.Y., Tompkins worked for ten years under John Fritz at the works of the Bethlehem Iron Company in Pennsylvania. Fritz was instrumental in Tompkins's going to the Schwerte Iron Works in Westphalia, Germany, to set up American machinery. When he returned after a year in Germany, Tompkins worked for one year as master machinist for the Crystal Plate Glass Works in Crystal City, Mo., and then went to Charlotte, N.C., early in 1883. In addition to providing services as engineer, machinist, and contractor, he was the representative of the Westinghouse Machine Company of Pittsburgh, Pa.

In 1886, Tompkins began designing and building cottonseed oil mills. In addition to selling and installing steam engines and electric-generating plants, Tompkins built 500 cottonseed oil mills and 200 cotton-spinning and -weaving mills in an area extending from Texas into Virginia. He was principal owner of cotton mills at Charlotte and High Shoals, N.C., and at Edgefield, S.C.

In 1891, Tompkins purchased controlling interest in the Charlotte Chronicle . This newspaper was soon called the Charlotte Daily Observer, and in 1903 the Observer began publishing the Charlotte Evening Chronicle . Two years later Tompkins and the Observer 's editor, Joseph Pearson Caldwell, acquired controlling interest in the Greenville (S.C.) News .

Tompkins was an active writer and public speaker. Many of his speeches were published in pamphlet form. His books include a two-volume history of Mecklenburg County, N.C. (1903), Cotton Mill Processes and Calculations (1899), Cotton Mill Commercial Features (1899), and Cotton and Cotton Oil (1901). In his writing and speaking, Tompkins promoted the economic progress of the South. He supported improved education in the South, especially practical education such as that provided in state agricultural and mechanical colleges. He strongly advocated diversification of the economy of the South, both of agriculture and of industry.

Tompkins was appointed to membership on the U.S. Industrial Commission by President William McKinley in 1900. The commission reported in 1902. He was seriously considered by President Taft for the post of American minister to China but was not appointed. He served North Carolina as a member of the Board of Trustees of the North Carolina Agriculture and Mechanic Arts College (later North Carolina State University).

Tompkins was an active member of the National Association of Manufacturers, serving on the executive committee and chairing at various times committees on child labor, immigration, tariffs, currency, and merchant marine. He served on the child labor committee of the National Civic Federation. He was also a member of the American Cotton Manufacturers Association, the National Association of Cotton Manufacturers, the Appalachian National Forest Association, the advisory committee of the National Religious Training School and Chatauqua for the Colored Race (later North Carolina Central University), the Manufacturers' Club in Charlotte, and other business and social organizations.

Daniel Augustus Tompkins never married. According to George T. Winston, whose A Builder of the New South: Being the Story of the Life Work of Daniel Augustus Tompkins was published in 1920, Tompkins planned to marry a young woman he met in Brooklyn in 1873. He corresponded with her for ten years, while they waited for her health to improve, but she died before they could be married. He corresponded and exchanged visits with, and gave financial help to his brother, Arthur S. Tompkins (b. 1854) of Edgefield, S.C.; his sister, Lalla Tompkins Graydon of Greenwood, S.C.; his stepmother Ella S. Tompkins, and his brothers and sister, Clifford Tompkins, Wallace Tompkins, and Grace Tompkins (b. circa 1887) of Edgefield, S.C. He corresponded with and helped educate Arthur's daughter Christine Tompkins, and Lalla's children, Madge Graydon Fetzer, Sterling Graydon (d. 1974), and Clinton Graydon. He also corresponded with and financially helped his cousins, Sarah Tompkins Smyly and Josephine Tompkins Willcox. Tompkins died in October 1914 at his summer home in Montreat, N.C.

From the guide to the Daniel Augustus Tompkins Papers, 1838, 1968-1920, (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Daniel Augustus Tompkins Papers, 1887-1920, (bulk 1899-1914) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Thorpe, Francis Newton, 1857-1926. Copybook of the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of the State of New York, 1801. University of Pittsburgh
referencedIn Morrill, Dan L. Survey and research report on the Atherton Cotton Mill, 1988 June 6. University of North Carolina, Charlotte, J. Murrey Atkins Library
creatorOf Daniel Augustus Tompkins Papers, 1774-1976 David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn Page, Walter Hines, 1855-1918, recipient. Letters from various correspondents, American period, 1876-1937 Houghton Library
creatorOf Daniel Augustus Tompkins Papers, 1838, 1968-1920 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection
creatorOf Tompkins, Daniel Augustus, 1851-1914. Papers of Daniel Augustus Tompkins, 1887-1920 (bulk 1899-1914). Library of Congress
referencedIn Webb, E. Y. (Edwin Yates), 1872-1955. E. Y. Webb papers, 1901-1955 [manuscript]. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
referencedIn E. Y. Webb Papers (#3482), 1901-1955 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection
referencedIn Morrill, Dan L. Survey and research report on the Leeper and Wyatt Store Building, 1988 Dec. 5. University of North Carolina, Charlotte, J. Murrey Atkins Library
creatorOf Tompkins, Daniel Augustus, 1851-1914. Daniel Augustus Tompkins papers, 1774-1976. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
creatorOf Edgefield Reading Room (S.C.). Constitution, rules and regulations of the Edgefield Reading Room broadside, [18uu]. University of South Carolina, University Libraries
referencedIn Boatwright, James, 1773-1857. James Boatwright biographical file, 1857-2005 (bulk, 1857-1901) University of South Carolina, University Libraries
creatorOf Tompkins, Daniel Augustus, 1851-1914. Daniel Augustus Tompkins papers, 1838, 1868-1920. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Role Title Holding Repository
Place Name Admin Code Country
North Carolina
Southern States
United States
Charlotte (N.C.)
Pennsylvania
South Carolina
Edgefield (S.C.)
High Shoals (N.C.)
United States
North Carolina--Charlotte
Southern States
North Carolina
United States
Subject
Industry
Cotton textile industry--History--20th century
American newspapers
Tariff
Economics
American newspapers--History--20th century
Inventors
Economics--Southern States
Industries--History--20th century
Businessmen--History--20th century
Education--History--20th century
Company towns--History--20th century
Steel industry and trade
Merchant marine--History
Textile industry
Brick trade
Child labor--History--20th century
Money
Banking law
Civic improvement--History--20th century
Tariff--Law and legislation
Industrial engineers
Occupation
Industrialists
Manufacturer
Engineers
Function

Person

Birth 1851-10-12

Death 1914-10-18

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