Other Free Encyclopedias » Online Encyclopedia » Encyclopedia - Featured Articles » Contributed Topics from P-T » Scottron, Samuel R.(1843–1905) - Inventor, entrepreneur, Inventions, Chronology

Becomes Activist and Writer

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By 1872 Scottron demonstrated an interest in the Cuban war and worked with the abolitionist Reverend Henry Highland Garnet (1815–1882) to form the Cuban Anti-Slavery Society. Garnet was founding president and Scottron founding secretary. Two years later, after extending the society’s scope to include labor, they renamed it the American Foreign Anti-Slavery Society and kept in close touch with the British Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. Quoted in Booker T. Washington’s The Negro in Business , Scottron said, “To the moral force of these societies we ascribe the extinction of slavery in Cuba and Brazil, and the slave trade in … Africa.” Scottron also traveled and lectured widely during this period, as he promoted the work of the organization. At some point in his life he was secretary of the National Liberal Republican Committee.

Scottron spent thirty-five years as an occasional writer for newspaper and magazines, often writing on race matters. He lashed out at the displacement of blacks by whites in such occupations as barbering and catering. His articles were published in a number of periodicals, including the New York Age , the Boston Herald , and the Colored American Magazine . At some point he was editor of the latter publication.

Samuel Scottron believed that black forefathers in New York were far superior to those of the early twentieth century; thus, he spent his last years gathering a library on the history of African Americans in New York, chronicling their past and extolling their values. His work in this area may be seen in the article “New York African Society for Mutual Relief—Ninety-Seventh Anniversary,” published in the Colored American Magazine for December 1905.

Scottron belonged to the Cooper Union Alumni Society and the Brooklyn Academy of Sciences; both memberships confirmed his reputation as a scientist. Other memberships may have included the Society of the Sons of New York, comprised solely of blacks who were born in New York and/or those who were highly respected. The Scottrons were among those active in the founding in 1884 and early development of the society. The society was most active each April, when it hired an orchestra for its annual ball and had the food catered. He held membership in an elite temple founded in pre-Revolutionary Boston, the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite (33rd degree Mason). In 1879 he was elected grand secretary general of its supreme council of the United States and held the post for several years.

Scottron married Anna Maria Willet, a Native American who was born in Peekskill, New York, in 1844. The date of their marriage is uncertain, however; some claim that he married when he was nineteen years old, which would have been around 1862, while Gail Lumet Buckley claims that Scottron met Willet when he traveled as a glass salesman, which would have been later. Whatever the case, Anna Willet shared with the Scottrons her heritage—the Algonquian nation. They married and settled down in New York City and by 1888 bought their tall, narrow, brownstone home located at the corner of Stuyvesant Avenue and Monroe Street in Brooklyn. They had three daughters and three sons. Cyrus, the youngest son, married Brooklyn schoolteacher Louise Ashton; their daughter—Samuel Scottron’s granddaughter—was actress and singer Lena Horne. Historically, the Scottrons were staunch Episcopalians. Samuel worshipped at St. Philips in Manhattan as well as St. Augustine’s in Brooklyn, which Gail Buckley referred to as “two bastions of elite Episcopalianism.” Willard B. Gatewood in Aristocrats of Color described New York’s black upper crust of the late nineteenth century as those who were free born, West Indian émigrés, Northern-born, were connected by marriage, and so on, who included the Rays (the educators), the Guignons (including Peter the chemist), the Philip A. Whites (wealthy druggists), and the Scottrons. They were close-knit and socially exclusive, forming New York’s best society. Inasmuch as they belonged to the same clubs, social organizations, and other groups, and even vacationed together, it follows that they would also worship together; hence, the select churches that they attended were known for their “conservative respectability.”

Samuel Scottron was a very entertaining, refined, and courteous man. According to the Cleveland Gazette , he was a fine lecturer and “a splendid conversationalist.” He also had great executive abilities which he put to good use in his business ventures. He became prosperous, and at one time had real estate and other properties valued at about $60,000, a handsome sum for that period. He died in 1905. Published works have yet to give this inventor and shrewd and prosperous businessman the highly visible place in biographical works that he deserved.

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