A Distinguished Benefactor
Birth: March 7, 1808 – Hartford, Ohio County, Kentucky
Death: May 10, 1885 – Saint Louis St. Louis City, Missouri
Buriel: Bellefontaine Cemetery
Joshua Crow (1760 – 1830)
Mary Wayman (1768-1827)
Isabella Buck Conn Crow (1813 – 1892)*
Anne Wayman Crow McCreery (1792 – 1869)*
John Wayman Crow (1794 – 1860)*
Phillips Crow (1806 – 1868)*
The Founder of Washington University
The founder of the School of Fine Arts of Washington University was the Honorable Wayman Crow. Mr. Crow was the youngest son of Joshua Crow. His father was born in Virginia, April 18, 1760, and March 27, 1788, married Mary Wayman, at Poplar Spring, Anne Arundel County, Maryland. The issue of this union was twelve children, all of whom, except two boys who died in childhood, reached mature years.
“The subject of this sketch inherited his activity and executive capacity from his mother.”
The Crows came from North Irish stock; the Waymans were of English extraction. Joshua Crow died in Hartford, KY, April 20, 1830. He was a man of good abilities and sterling integrity, but somewhat deficient in vigor of character. His wife, who died near Hopkinsville, KY., September 27, 1827, was endowed with strong native sense and extraordinary energy. The subject of this sketch inherited his activity and executive capacity from his mother.
Wayman Crow was born in Hartford, KY., March 7,1808. When Wayman was six years old his father moved to Hopkinsville, Ky. At the age of seven, Wayman was sent to the district school. The school-house, situated in the outskirts of the village, was a rude log cabin, whose chinks were imperfectly closed with mud. The floor was clay. It was here in this log cabin that Wayman, between the ages of seven and eleven, and under teachers whose system of instruction was as rude as the building in which they taught, acquired the elements of his imperfect education.
In 1819 his father removed to a farm six miles from Hopkinsville, and here Wayman spent one year, attending school in the winter and working on the farm in the summer. In February, 1820, he was, at the age of twelve, apprenticed to Strother J. Hawkins, who kept a store of assorted dry-goods, groceries and hardware in Hopkinsville. The period of his apprenticeship was five years. By the terms of his indenture, he was to receive his “victuals and clothes” and to board in the family of his “master.” He took his meals with the family, but slept on a cot in the counting-room. He made the fires, brought water from a sprint two hundred yards from the house, opened, swept, and closed the store. Mr. Hawkins was a thorough merchant, and under his careful instruction, Wayman easily mastered the difficulties of bookkeeping by double entry, and became familiar with all the duties incident to the conduct of a country store. In the course of a year and a half Mr. Hawkins retired from business, and Wayman was transferred by agreement to the firm of Anderson & Alterbury.
These merchants had previously been doing a wholesale business in Baltimore, and in consequence of their unfamiliarity with the details of a retail trade, Wayman, though not yet fifteen years old, was intrusted with the chief control of their business. To him was confided the responsible duty of making out the inventory for purchased and lists of credits. After the expiration of his apprenticeship, he was employed by the firm at a salary of three hundred dollars per annum, and at the end of the first year Messrs. Anderson & Aterbuty offered to establish a branch house, furnish it with three thousand dollars’ worth of merchandise, and give Wayman one-quarter of the profits to manage the business. The young clerk accepted the offer, and in October, 1826, opened a store in Cadiz, Kentucky. Although Cadiz is only twenty miles from Hopkinsville, six months elapsed before Wayman received a visit from either of his employers. Their confidence in his integrity and capacity did not need the reassurance of frequent inspection of his books.
In December, 1828, Messrs. Anderson & Alterbury, in consequence of their determination to move to Pittsburgh as a larger field for mercantile operations, voluntarily offered to sell Wayman on credit their stock of goods at Cadiz. But Wayman was still in his non-age, and to his suggestion that the note of a minor is not legally binding, his employers replied that they were willing to assume the risk, feeling assured that he would never plead the statute of infancy in bar of a just claim.
November 5, 1829, Mr. Crow married Miss Isabella B. Conn, the third daughter of Captain H. Conn, of Union County, Ky. Of this marriage nine children were born, of whom Alphousine, Victor, Medora and Alice died in childhood, while Cornelia, Emma, Mary, Isabel and Wayman reached adult life.
In the fall of 1826, when he was only nineteen years old, Mr Crow was appointed postmaster at Cadiz. He held this trust till the winter of 1832, when, in consequence of his support of Henry Clay for the presidency, he was removed from office. But his dismissal was so unpopular that no citizen of Cadiz would accept the position, and the vacancy was filled by a man from Hopkinsville.
For some time Mr. Crow had been contemplating a removal to a larger field of commercial enterprise. In the sprint of 1835 he set out in quest of a new home. Detained in St. Louis for several weeks by a severe illness, he used the opportunities of convalescence to examine the business features of the place, and deeply impressed with its commercial facilities, he determined to settle in St. Louis.
At this time Mr. Crow formed a partnership with his cousin, Joshua Tevis, of Philadelphia, and on the 18th of November, 1835, he landed at St. Louis, and began business under the style of “Crow & Tevis.” Such was the humble beginning of one of the largest commercial houses in St. Louis. Under the later hames of “Crow, McCreery & Co.” and “Crow, Hargadine & Co.” the firm has continued in business until the present time.
From the date of its organization the house has never known a reverse or received a stain upon its commercial honor. From the beginning Mr. Crow has been the head of the firm, and it was chiefly owing to his practical wisdom and business foresight that the firm has been able safely to weather the financial storms that have from time to time swept so disastrously over the country.
One sentence is specially worthy of quotation: “To us our commercial honor is as dear as our lives; to preserve it we are prepared to make any pecuniary sacrifice short of impairing our ability to pay ultimately every dollar we owe.”
In 1840, Mr. Crow was unanimously elected president of the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce. He held this office for about ten years in succession. In 1840 and again in 1850 he was elected to the State Senate on the Whig ticket. The second term of senatorial service was four years.Mr. Crow obtained the charter of the St. Louis Asylum for the Blind and of the Mercantile Library Hall Company. With generous contributions he assisted in the erection of the library building, and was for many years a member of the board of directors.
In 1844 he was chosen president of the Marine Insurance Company. Mr. Crow is a Unitarian, and has liberally support the interests of his denomination. He has been more than thirty years a trustee of the Church of the Messiah, and for many years president of the board of control. While in the Senate he procured the charter of the mission school connected with the Unitarian Church, and was several years a member of its board of managers.
Mr. Crow has always been an active supporter of the public schools, but his gifts to Washington University are his most important contributions to the cause of education. He may indeed be called the founder of the institution, inasmuch as he was the first to conceive the idea of a university and to embody that idea in an organic form. In the winter of 1853, during his last term of service in the Senate, without consultation with any one, he drafted, introduced and secured the passage of the charter of Washington University. In the remarks which Mr. Crow made at the festival held on 22nd of April, 1882, is commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the foundation of Washington University, he used these words,-
“The charters’ clear recognition of the literary wants of St. Louis, its absolute prohibition of partisan politics or sectarian religion in the administration of the university, attest the liberality and practical sagacity of the mind that conceived it.”
In June, 1875, he gave twenty-five thousand dollars to the university for the endowment of the professorship of physics. The total amount of his endowments is more than two hundred thousand dollars. (Source – History of St. Louis City and County – John Thomas Scharf – 1883)
On the 1st of March, 1878, Wayman Crow’s son, Wayman Crow, Jr. died in Leamington, England. When his young son and namesake died, Crow determined to memorialize him by building a major arts center for St. Louis. Prominent Boston architects Peabody & Stearns designed a three-story Renaissance/Romanesque palazzo located at 19th and Lucas Place (now Locust Street), one of St. Louis’ most elite neighborhoods.
There were to be studio and art history classes, supported by a museum collection. Halsey C. Ives, an energetic young professor, was hired as Director. He immediately went to work assembling collections to fill the museum. He traveled the world buying authentic art works, reproductions of important works, plaster casts of famous classical statues, and many examples of the decorative arts. The forward-thinking Ives modeled the museum after London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, which includes not just the “fine” arts, but decorative and applied arts. Ives, Crow, and the other founders of the institution believed that skilled artisans were valuable and essential components of successful modern societies.
The Washington University School of Fine Arts, which had been formed a few years earlier, moved from an attic into this up-to-date temple of art. Dedicated in 1881 as the “St. Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts”, it was also often called the “Crow Memorial.”
At first, the art collections were used only in the instruction of the students, but soon they were opened to the public to general acclaim. The School trained two generations of St. Louis artists and skilled craftspeople, including William Merritt Chase, who went on to national fame. Ives tirelessly promoted the School and the Museum in countless public programs, lectures, interviews, and writings. Building a national reputation, he brought in well-known guest artists and lecturers, and secured popular temporary exhibits. Every year, a well-publicized exhibition of the works of the graduating class was held. Ives’ skill and reputation were such that he was selected to be the Art Director of the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904.
A 700-seat auditorium, Memorial Hall, was used for meetings, lectures, recitals, and concerts. It was said to have superb acoustics and was especially suited to chamber music. Some of the most famous musicians of the day appeared there as they toured the country, and visiting writers such as Mark Twain and William Dean Howells delivered talks.
When St. Louis was planning the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition, it was decided to make the art pavilion a permanent, city-run museum in Forest Park. In 1909, after several years of complicated legal maneuvers and the passing of a tax, the St. Louis Museum of Fine Arts formally separated from the School of Fine Arts and became the City Art Museum. The Museum’s identity and collections were moved to Art Hill, and the School moved to the Washington University campus. Halsey C. Ives gave up his position as director of the School and was appointed the first Director of the new Museum; it is now named the St. Louis Art Museum.
The building itself fell into disuse and was demolished in 1919. When Ives died suddenly in 1912, he was hailed as the father of the St. Louis art world. He and the other principals of the Museum and School of Fine Arts, through their vision and hard work, had laid the firm foundations of a number of today’s venerable institutions. (Source – St. Louis Public Library)
“Mr. Crow is a man of eminent usefulness.”
In 1859 Washington University opened Mary Institute as a women’s college to compliment the university. Named for William Eliot’s daughter, Mary, the building was located on Locust near fourteenth. Wayman Crow had donated the location to the university for an endowment; however, the University directors decided that the location suited the new institution. Eliot felt this school filled a real need because many Protestant St. Louisans sent their daughters east for an education.
Beginning his business life at twelve with the humble duty of sweeping a small country store, he rose step by step, without a single reverse throughout his long career, until he has become one of the merchant-princes of the land.
Mr. Crow is a man of eminent usefulness. For his honorable services in mercantile life, in political trusts, in public enterprises, in educational work, and in private charity, St. Louis will long cherish the memory of its distinguished benefactor.