Biography of John Hastings
Bristol County, MA Biographies

Hastings, John, from his connection with the famous oil manufacturing firm of Hastings & Co., can be justly said to have been at one time one of the foremost business men of New Bedford. He was born at Hatfield, Mass., March 17, 1817, a son of Samuel and Lucy (Andrews) Hastings. The family trace their genealogy back through the Puritans to the time of William the Conqueror, who married a daughter of the House of Flanders from which the " Hatfield Hastings" are proved to have descended. When John Hastings was an infant, his father, a successful merchant, removed to Heath, in Franklin county, Mass. His education, though limited, was thorough, the schools of the vicinity being good. A few miles away, in Greenfield, the firm of Allen & Root conducted a large general store, and when he reached the age of fourteen a position as clerk for this firm was obtained for him and he remained in their employ, receiving an excellent business training, until he reached his majority. Being a young man of adventurous spirit he now decided to go west, and settling in Cleveland, Ohio, was employed there for one year in a whole sale grocery store. He then went to Illinois, which at this time was largely undeveloped, and bought out a squatter who had settled on a tract of 1,000 acres about three miles from Rockford on the Rock River. This land he afterward purchased at the government rate. He at once began to engage in extensive farming operations, having under cultivation in the first year over 100 acres of corn and in following years growing large crops of corn and wheat, besides giving much attention to stock raising. At the end of a period of five years he advantageously disposed of his land and soon after came east to Springfield, Mass., where, in company with his brothers, Waitstill and George Hastings, he engaged in the manufacture and sale of lard oil. The enterprise was successful from the start and in about three years the firm removed to Boston, where they engaged in a general oil business. This led to a removal in 1854 to New Bedford, where a factory was erected and wharves for the accommodation of a large business acquired. The main office of the firm was then established in New York city. The firm gained a reputation for their product which was almost world wide, for while they sold oil in every State in the Union, nearly one half of their trade was in foreign countries, the bulk of this being in England, France and. Scotland. This trade was not conducted in the usual way through commission houses, but by the establishment of European agencies, Mr. Hastings making trips to England and the continent for this purpose. There is no question but that the firm of Hastings & Co. were at this time the largest manufacturers of whale and sperm oil in the world. For many years the average annual output was over 25,000 barrels. Jonathan Bourne, one of the leading business men of that time, has said that this firm undoubtedly did more for New Bedford than any other one enterprise, first by creating a market for oil, and second by keeping their product up to a good standard of excellence. In addition to the trade in whale oil their foreign trade in menhaden oil grew to large proportions. The business declined with the whaling industry and in 1879 Mr. Hastings purchased his brothers interest and has continued the business to the present time, although of necessity in a small way. In the same year he interested his capital in the Photo engraving Company of New York city. and had soon acquired a controlling interest in the stock of the company, of which the inventor of the process, Mr. Moss, was a member. As is well known this halftone process was long kept a secret and the company had a monopoly in the business for several years. Mr. Hastings was made president and treasurer and devoted to it all the power of his mature judgment and experience. The business of the corporation was enormous, requiring a rare tact and executive ability in its management, and of these qualities Mr. Hastings was possessed. He closed his connection with the concern in 1890. In the mean time, in 1886, he had engaged in the coal business in New Bedford and this he continued until 1896, when he leased his wharf to the City Coal Company. Mr. Hastings has during his entire life been a staunch Whig and Republican and his party has several times remembered his devotion by the tender of different nominations, the acceptance of which was always precuded by his extensive business cares, so that the only public service he ever rendered was as alderman, in which capacity he served four terms, being chairman of the committee which purchased the South Cemetery while a member of the board. Although in his eighty second year he is still active and of good memory, a notable example of the well preserved man. He has been a deacon of the North Congregational Church for upwards of twenty four years. In 1850 he married Lucy, daughter of Deacon Henry Fowler of Westfield, Mass.

Our county and its people
A descriptive and biographical history of
Bristol County, Massachusetts
Prepaired and published under the auspices of
The Fall River News and The Taunton Gasette
With assistance of Hon. Alanson Borden
The Boston History Company, Publishers, 1899.

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