Biography of William A. Mapes
Bronx County, NY Biographies





WILLIAM ARCHER MAPES - High political endeavor, zealously undertaken and consistently promoted through his long and extremely useful life, revealed in part the true character of William Archer Mapes, an outstanding citizen of The Bronx, New York, one of the pioneers in that State of the concrete Prohibition movement, in which party he had been an energetic worker and by which he had been repeatedly honored in the great fight for recognition in the State and National governments. This fine apostle of the cause of total abstinence and against liquor traffic in all its forms stood shoulder to shoulder with the stalwarts of his time who were of like mind, and they and the steadily increasing forces of Prohibitionists who stood solidly at their back lived to see the movement crystallize into an expression of an element of the nation which would not be denied. It was one of the happiest moments in Mr. Mapes' life when he was able to perceive that the campaign in behalf of prohibition had attained so great a momentum that the eagle of victory even then was poised in preparation for alighting on the party's banner. Mr. Mapes' departure preceded the actual political realization of his and his fellow workers' vision of an achievement of the goal by some seven years, but in spirit and principle he saw that day as already having arrived, and he was glad to have been one of the faithful who had stood by their guns through the thickest of the fight. This somewhat extended mention of Mr. Mapes' activities in the Prohibition movement has not been made with a view of overshadowing his participation in other affairs, of great importance in themselves, but as showing in some measure that the trend of his mind was in the way of righteousness, moral uplift and the physical and economic welfare of the nation. As a business man, for many years in the merchant class, and in his latter life a realtor and investors' adviser, he set forth his ideals through a code of ethics which he practiced with eminent success throughout his period of identification with the marvelous development of his beloved Bronx.

Born in West Farms, New York, December 1, 1839, William Archer Mapes was a son of Leonard and Mary (Archer) Mapes. The house of his birth is still standing on Daly Avenue, near One Hundred and Eightieth Street, a frame structure in the midst of brick and stone apartment houses. His father was a descendant of Thomas Mapes, who came from England in 1640 and settled in Southold, Long Island. His mother, too, came of an old English family, her forbears having received the original grant of land of what today is all of Fordham, New York City, by virtue of an instrument issued by King Charles II, the family homestead being located on the present site of the New York University grounds and known as "Archer Manor."

When William Archer Mapes was a small boy his father removed from West Farms to a farm he had purchased east of The Bronx River, and bordering on what now is known as East Tremont Avenue and the Catholic Protectory, and which is often spoken of as "Park Versailles," or the "Mapes Estate." On this farm William Archer with his brothers spent the early days of his youth. He received his education in the old neighborhood school, where his teacher was Anne McGregor, under whose instruction he made excellent progress. Later he was a pupil in the new public school of which the principal was Theodore Kent.

From school walls and life on the farm William Archer graduated into the role of merchant in embryo at the general store established by his uncle, Daniel Mapes, Sr., at No. 2077 Boston Road, the building still standing as one of the older structures of The Bronx and having been partially remodeled. The associations that clung to this landmark and center of business activities in those days must have had a beneficial influence upon this new member of the Mapes establishment. His uncle, Daniel Mapes, was an earnest, courageous man of high principles, who carried his convictions into practice in his business relations. At that time he was the only man in his vicinity voting the Prohibition party ticket. Therefore the young William, at an impressionable age, received both a practical education as a merchant and breathed an atmosphere surcharged with high moral principles and strong convictions which became a part of his very being and made of him the outstandng figure of his time and place in the Prohibition movement.

From the founder, Daniel Mapes, Sr., the general store business descended to Daniel Mapes, Jr., William Archer Mapes and Henry Clay Mapes, brothers, and it was conducted under the name of Mapes Brothers until 1869, when Daniel Mapes, Jr., sold his share. William Archer Mapes carried on the store at the old Boston Road location after his brothers had withdrawn from the business, and remained as the proprietor until 1889, when he sold his interest. In the latter year he joined his brother, Daniel Mapes, Jr., in the conduct of the coal, feed and hard ware business at No. 1920 West Farms Road, where Daniel had erected an office building and storage room for the products in which the firm dealt. The Mapes establishment became one of the largest and most prosperous in The Bronx and it drew its customers not only from the immediate vicinity but also from all parts of the Upper Bronx region. William Archer Mapes retired from the business in 1906, leaving his brother Daniel as the sole proprietor. From then until his death he devoted his attention principally to the development of real estate, and served an increasing number of clients seeking advice as to how best they might place their investments. His integrity, shrewd business foresight and personal success were big drawing cards in his later years as he became more and more concerned in the rapid modernization of The Bronx. He built the five story, twenty family apartment house at No. 1019 East One Hundred and Seventy ninth Street, now owned by his daughter. When this building was completed, in 1906, it was one of the first of its kind in The Bronx neighborhood.

In his political alliance Mr. Mapes originally was a Republican, but in his connection with that party he always was in favor of temperance, as the movement for the abolition of the saloon was called in its early days. When the Prohibition party came on the stage, Mr. Mapes as one of the pioneers of that cause made a formal avowal of his attachment to the organization. He worked indefatigably for the incorporation of the principles of the party into local, State and National political policies and their adoption into the form of government of the respective political divisions. Several times, at various intervals, he was nominated for local and State government positions. So desirous was he of the uninterrupted promotion of the Prohibition cause, which he firmly believed was to spread with telling effect throughout the country, that, before he died, he made a provision in his will for a trust fund of one thousand dollars, the income from which is to be expended for the furtherance of the movement.

Mr. Mapes married, in 1869, Ida Carnley Arnow, a daughter of Matson S. and Phoebe Jane (Horton) Arnow. She was of an old and highly esteemed family of Westchester, New York, where she was born in 1846. She died at her home in The Bronx December 30, 1919, aged seventy three years. She was a member of the Protestant Episcopal church, and was well known for her philanthropies and her personal ministries in cases of sickness and disease among the townspeople; while her husband had his religious fellowship with the Reformed church. Children: 1. William Archer, Jr., who died at the age of forty two years, leaving a widow, Anne Homer Mapes. 2. Bertha Mapes, a graduate of the woman's law department of New York University and the Law School of that university, receiving the degree, Bachelor of Laws, in 1917; she was admitted to the bar in 1918 and is now in active practice in New York City; in politics she is a strong advocate of prohibition, as was her honored father; she is also a lecturer on the "Constitution of the United States" and prominent in Presbyterian church work and in woman's club life. 3. Howell Mapes, who married Mabel Kaneen in 1913, a contractor and builder, interested in building on the Mapes Estate and the development of The Bronx.

William Archer Mapes died February 19, 1913, in his seventy fourth year, at his home in The Bronx, New York City. His life was one of continuous and generous service within his ever widening sphere of influence. In business he was upright, in politics a consistent and sincere advocate of the purest principles of community, State and national life, and in his contacts with his fellows a fine exemplar of the ideal citizen.

From:
The Bronx and its people
A History 1609-1927
Board of Editors: James L. Wells,
Louis F. Haffen
Josiah A. Briggs.
Historian: Benedict Fitspatrick
Publisher: The Lewis Historical Publishing Co., Inc.
New York 1927


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