As we enter the Thanksgiving season we should take pause and be grateful for the things we have and have been handed down. I wasn’t aware that my heritage included strong entrepreneurial genes – until my seven siblings and I came across this letter from my father’s memoirs. My great grandfather, John A. Currie, started an elevator business in 1902 in Philadelphia at 2nd and New St. (Sadly, the business closed in 1977, but that's another post!)
Early elevators were called “dumbwaiters” back then, and all big brownstone row houses needed a way to move dishes and laundry up and down their many floors easily and quickly. So they were very common, based on ropes and pulley “technology”. My great grandfather built this business from nothing into a nice little business with 50 employees. I also found the original stock certificates for the incorporation of this business.
This letter is his retirement address, and it certainly captures some elements of his entrepreneurial spirit and driven nature. My father was born to John A.’s son (John F.) two years after he wrote this this, and my grandfather John F. took over the business in 1927. Comments welcome!
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(reprinted) Retirement Address by John A. Currie from Energy Elevator Co., 1927
April 2, 1927
214 New St.
To the Stockholders of Energy Elevator Co.
You will see from the report of the Treasurer that the year 1926 was the most profitable we ever had, and it looks as though the present year will be a good one, too, but owing to the general slowing down throughout the country, it is unlikely to equal the year just closed.
I am now asking you to let me retire from the Presidency, as the wear-and-tear of a long, active life makes it necessary for me to take a rest.
During all my time, bringing the Company up fro a working force of one boy to the present force of about 50, I was never obliged to be absent on account of sickness, except to nurse a cold for a day or two at a time, and I thank God for such a wonderful period of good health.
I might also mention the fact that during this entire period I did not take a vacation. This may have been a mistake on my part, as I do not disapprove of vacations and have seen that everybody else had them, but it may also be that this close attention helped in the gradual, steady growth of the business to its present prosperous state.
I know I am leaving the company in good hands and it will go on from year to year paying fair dividends so that each of you can invest part of your earnings in good securities and by middle life have enough put by to insure you a living from outside investments, as I have now. Get started at this early and you will be surprised at the way it will grow.
When I die, the Energy shares will be apportioned so you three boys will each hold one-third, from which you will see that your efforts to make it a go will all come back to you in the end. In this connection I would advise taking moderate salaries so as not to overload the payroll, and take it out in extra dividends when the surplus warrants it. I think your surplus at the present time is ample and need not be increased.
I thank you for the fine support you have given me. May God bless you. As a final word, let me remind you that absolute harmony is the key to success. Also, do not have too many irons in the fire and do not try to cover too wide a field; rather have a good narrow field and push it hard.
(sign.) John A. Currie