Biography of George Curtis

From New England Families Genealogical and Memorial
william Richard Cutter, A.M., New York, 1915

Pages 1878-1880

George, eldest son of David and Susannah (Stone) Curtis, was born February 23, 1796, in Worcester. He began his business career in the banking office of J. B. Wood, in Providence, Rhode Island, and at the age of twenty-three was offered and accepted the position of cashier of the Exchange Bank of Providence. In 1835, he was offered and accepted the position of treasurer of the Providence & New York Transportation Company, which was the first through railroad and steam ship line from New York to Boston. During this time he took an active part in public affairs in Providence and held the following offices: Member of the Providence school committee from June 14, 1828, to 1837, when he resigned from the position; warden of the second ward of Providence; president of the common council from June 2, 1834, to June 5, 1837, when he declined reelection; commissioner of Dexter donation from June, 1834, to February, 1839; moderator of town meetings, October 7, 1830, and October 18, the same year, April 30, June 6. August 30, October 5, 12, 22. November 21, 1831, and April 18, May 16, 1832, at which time Providence became a city; representative from Providence to the general assembly from May, 1832, to October,1832, and then declined reelection; was again chosen representative in August, 1835, and served during January, May, June and October, 1836, January, May, June and October, 1838, and January, 1839; was chosen speaker of the assembly in October, 1837, and served in that capacity until his removal to New York. He was also a bank commissioner from June, 1836, to May, 1837.

In 1839, upon the organization of the Bank of Commerce of New York he was tendered and accepted the office of cashier, and removed to New York. He held that position until 1852, when he resigned and became the senior partner of the private banking house of Curtis, & Fearing. In 1854, upon the organization of the Continental Bank of New York, he was offered and accepted the office of president, which position he held until his death. He was elected a member of the New York Chamber of Commerce in 1841 and held the position of first vice-president from 1854 until his death. He took a prominent part in the movement for the establishment of the New York Clearing House Association in 1853, appreciating, like Mr. Gallatin, that it would tend to the establishment of a more stable financial system. He gave the proposal attentive study and prepared a plan for its organization at an early period. His personal influence was particularly exerted in removing objections, and he drew the constitution which was adopted without change in 1854, and which with a few changes made necessary by the growth and development of our banking system, remains in force to-day. He served as chairman of various committees of the Clearing House, and to him was conceded by the common voice of his associates, the precedence, in regulating and administering its affairs. He was considered an authority on financial matters, and his opinion was eagerly sought by bankers in New York, and on questions of national finance by the government officials at Washington. He was trustee of various public and private trusts and for many years was a member of the finance committee and vice-president of the New York New England Society. He died at Jacksonville, Florida, January 9, 1856, whither he had gone in search of health. Special meetings of the various bodies with which he was identified were held upon the occasion of his death, and addresses delivered, in the Chamber of Commerce by Charles Howland Russell and John A. Stevens, in the Clearing House Association by Thomas Tileston, the president, and in the New England Society by Senator William M. Evarts. He was buried in the North burying ground, in Providence, Rhode Island. He was widely known and esteemed for the force of his intellect and scrupulous sense of honor, and was a leader in the business and social life of his day.

He married (first) in Providence, March 6, 1821, Mary Elizabeth, daughter of James (2) and Sally (Arnold) Burrill, of Providence, born October 26, 1798, in Providence, died July 23, 1826. James Burrill was for many years chief justice of the supreme court of Rhode Island, and later represented that state in the United States senate. Mr. Curtis married (second) April 3, 1834, Julia Bowen Bridgham, born November 17, 1810, in Providence, died New York City, December 29, 1874, daughter of Samuel Willard and Elizabeth (Paine) Bridgham, of that town (see Bridgham VII). Samuel Willard Bridgham was attorney-general of Rhode Island, first mayor of Providence, and chancellor of Brown University. Children of first marriage: James Burrill, mentioned below; George William, mentioned below. Children of second marriage: Samuel Bridgham, mentioned below; Joseph Bridgham, mentioned below; Edward, mentioned below; John Green, mentioned below.