Biography of James G. Batterson
Connecticut Biographies





JAMES GOODWIN BATTERSON, HARTFORD: President. Travelers Insurance Company, and a leading builder and building stone contractor.

Hon. Jas. G. Batterson was born in Bloomfield Feb. 23, 1823, of stocks which have furnished some of the ablest and most versatile business and professional men of Connecticut. His mother was sister to Major James Goodwin, long president of the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company. His father having established a building stone business in Litchfield, Conn., he lived there through his boyhood, and was given the ordinary education of the academy, where he fitted for college, but did not enter. He gained from his father's business a living interest in and knowledge of geology and the qualifies of different stones and minerals, which has been a large element in his business success. After leaving school, he went as an apprentice into the publishing and printing house of Mack, Andrus & Woodruff, in Ithaca, N. Y., and served out his time; then returned home and studied law in the office of the noted Judge Seymour. His health, however, rendered a life of confined study impracticable, and he went into business fast with his father, and subsequently (in 1845) independently in the same line, as importer of and dealer in granite and marble, and later removing the headquarters of the business to Hartford. His business has grown into one of the largest in the United States, owning large granite quarries in Westerly, R. I., and using their products in carrying out important contracts for public and private building; among others the magnificent Connecticut Capitol building, the Connecticut Mutual building at Hartford, and the Mutual Life and Equitable Life Insurance Companies' buildings and the Vanderbilt residence, New York. He was the first in this country to use machinery for polishing granite, and has devised many other improvements in his business. He is master of every subsidiary detail of his business and a practical architect and builder of fine taste, as well as expert in mechanical details.

Mr. Batterson in 1863 had been on one of his various tours through Europe and the East, which have made him one of the best informed men of the generation on oriental geography, history, politics, and social life; and returning from Italy, where he had given acute attention to marbles and architecture, passed through England, where the success of the Railway Passengers' Assurance Company, founded a few years before, had demonstrated that accident insurance was practicable, a fact much shadowed by the failures of previous petty attempts in England. Grasping at once the possibilities of the new business, and as a Hartford man feeling the instinctive local capacity for success in the insurance field, he induced a number of other capitalists and active business men to join with him in starting an accident company; $300,000 was paid in as capital, and a charter obtained the same year for insuring against accidents of travel alone. But it was not till the next year, when the charter was amended to allow it to insure against accidents of all kinds that much business was done. Very few but the promoters expected it to live any length of time, and when in a year or so it became evident that it was to be one of the great business successes of the age, this sudden growth and prosperity came near being more ruinous than its first difficulties; for it inspired such a belief that the accident business was the sure road to wealth that, in the " boom " which followed, a swarm of new companies were organized, and most of the great railroads ejected the Travelers and started accident organizations of their own. A new corporation, the Railway Passengers' Assurance Company, composed of representatives from all the leading accident companies, was formed in the winter of 1866 to consolidate the railway "ticket" business under one management; five years later every one of the others was dead, and the Travelers, as the sole legatee turned the company into the ticket department of its own organization. Its superiority of brains, money, and incredibly hard work and economy, had enabled it to remain the solitary survivor. Meanwhile, in 1866, it had added a regular life insurance department, which in the last few years has taken sudden and enormous strides that have placed it among the foremost of New England companies.

Mr. Batterson is a man whom a robust physical frame, and a still more robust, assimilative, and flexible intellect, enable to accomplish an amount and variety of work which fills the ordinary man with wonder and despair. One of his most valuable intellectual qualities is the faculty of instant adjustment to any new piece of work - one of the rarest and most precious of faculties; to him, five minutes' time are good for five minutes' accomplishment whenever taken. He is a formidable debater, a capable actuary, a thorough student of economics, and even a poet.
The amount of solid reading he does would alone tax severely the energies of most men; he keeps abreast of the highest thought of the age, and knows what its leaders are thinking and saying on every subject. He has a large library, of the highest quality in selection. His judgment in art is delicate and just, and his fine collection of pictures covers a remarkable range of schools and subjects. Altogether, few men live a more symmetrical life of business and thought, assimilation and production; and in his combination of vigor and delicacy of mind, of solid judgment and nice taste of appreciation alike of the profoundest thought and the subtlest graces of style, he has few equals.

He might easily have attained high political honors, but he has Bever coveted. them, though his help and advice are eagerly 'sought and valued. He is, of course, an influential member of several societies for the advancement of learning; holds the degree of M.A. both from Yale and from Williams Colleges (the former given at the suggestion of the late Dr. Bushell); and the educational interests of Hartford (whose noted High School he built) are indebted to him for powerful service and upbuilding.

From:
Illustrated Popular Biography
Of Connecticut
Compiled and Published by J. A. Spalding
Press of the Case, Lockwood & Brainard Co.
Hartford, Conn. 1891


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