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George Barnsdale Cox
(George B. Cox Portrait)
(Caroline (Sheilds) Cox)
THE city of Cincinnati has been especially honored in the character and career of her active men of industry and public service. However, in various sections the great State of Ohio have been found men born to leadership, me who have dominated because of their superior intelligence, natural endowment, and force of character. It is always profitable to study such lives, weigh their motives, and hold up their achievements as incentives to greater activity and higher excellence on the part of others. These reflections are suggested by the brilliant career of the late George Barnsdale Cox, who forged his way, unaided, to the front ranks of the favored few, and who, by strong inherent force and superior business ability, directed and controlled by intelligence and judgment of a high order, stood for many years one of the leading men of the State, and no citizen in Cincinnati ever achieved more honorable mention and few ever occupied a more conspicuous place in the public eye than this splendid gentleman.
Mr. Cox was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, April 29, 1853. He was a scion of plain people but an honest and industrious family. He was a splendid example of a self-made man, for he had little opportunity to obtain an education, but his native wit and wonderful estimate of men stood him well in after years. Moreover, he remained a student all his life and became exceptionally well posted on a great diversity of themes, keeping well abreast of the times, not only by wide miscellaneous reading but by actual contact with the world. Mother Nature undoubtedly stamped him for a leader of men, and he did not betray her trust, but put forth every legitimate effort to be at all times worthy of the same. In due course of time he became a powerful political leader and by his genius built up a great party machine; but during the latter years of his life, theatrical and motion-picture interests held his attention, for the most part.
The first venture of Mr Cox in politics was as a member of the Cincinnati Council from the Eighteenth Ward, in 1879. He took an active part in the tumultuous scenes that marked the elections of 1884 and 1885. he assumed the proportions of a master even at that early date, branching out and attracting to him the element which loved and desired to follow a fighter, and he was recognized as a city-wide leader, which he remained until his voluntary retirement several years ago. He was a delegate to nearly all the Republican National Conventions from 1888 to 1908. It was literally true that he had much to do with making or unmaking of Congressmen, Governors, and even Presidents. He was a war friend of Mark Hanna, and each had a high regard for the astuteness and influence of the other.
The greatest pride was taken by Mr. Cox in the reputation he enjoyed for never breaking his word. He meant what he said. Seekers for office who went to him were frankly told that they would or would not be considered for the place to which they aspired. In 1904, he was elected National Committeeman from Ohio, but to prevent a split in the party up-State, he declined the place.
During the years when he was in the zenith of his political fame and power, Mr. Cox became interested in the Cincinnati Trust Company, but his desire to take a place in the banking world does not seem to have been very largely gratified, others having taken advantage of his lack of knowledge of financial affairs and his credulity, but his record stand a complete vindication that he ever in any way attempted to betray the trust his friends reposed in him. He knew personally most of the leading men of the nation, both in the political and financial world, and many of them were his close personal friends. He had a rare fund of reminiscences and experiences with public men, and the man who was fond of intimate personal political history found him to be and inexhaustible source of first-hand and valuable information. He was popular personally wherever he went.
Mr. Cox was very methodical in his business and daily life, always prompt to fill an engagement, believed in system and order in all his affairs, and through his able management and keen business discernment he accumulated a handsome competency. He was never extravagant nor parsimonious. On may occasions he gave freely to charity, and many a derelict to whom he opened his purse almost daily has reason to remember his generosity. He took especial delight in aiding worthy young men get properly started out in life. He had no patience with lavish and vulgar display of money. Those who knew of his vigorous and outspoken nature were amazed that he never displayed any bitterness or criticised those who seemed to neglect him when his power to benefit them had passed away. He seemed to take it as a matter of course. He felt no resentment toward any one.
In 1884, Mr. cox was appointed chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Campaign Committee. He was chairman of the delegation that went to Columbus in 1883 and nominated Foraker for Governor. He was twice an unsuccessful candidate for county clerk. In the zenith of his dominance was the famous birthday dinner given in his honor at the Laughery Club on his fifty-seventh birthday in 1910. It was one of the most elaborate and splendid feasts in the annals of the Middle West, and honors and presents were heaped upon the party dictator. In all his marvelous career the hardest test to which his mastery was put was in the campaign of 1905, when the Hamilton County Republican organization and Mr. Cox were denounced in a speech by William H. Taft, then Secretary of War; but Mr. Cox was far from being crushed and within two years was stronger than ever. That he had no spirit if resentment and could forgive, is shown by his support of Mr. Taft for President in 1908. The splendid, attractive physique of Mr. Cox belied his gentle speech and genial, kindly manner. he was never noisy in his methods. He spoke in a calm, determined manner that seemed to be more effective than any display of physical prowess could have done. He was always open to conviction and often yielded to the argument or judgment of his advisers. he desired to know what was best to do in a given circumstance, always sought to know the truth and the right. He was broad-minded and even a great admirer of William Jennings Bryan as an orator, although not a subscriber to his political doctrines. He always respected his opponents in their honest convictions.
For two terms Mr. Cox was president of the Young Men's Blaine Club, and every other president of the club was either his personal choice or was indorsed by him. By virtue of his extensive theatrical connections, he was one of the most influential individuals in the amusement business of the United States. For the past several years he had been connected with the advancement of the motion-picture world, being a pioneer in this field. Seizing the chances in the development of the screen drama and connecting it with his plays in theaters throughout the country, he increased his personage into a theatrical magnate. After retiring from political leadership, he greatly increased his holdings in the theatrical field and became one of the largest factors not only in the so-called legitimate theater world, but also in the motion-picture business. Because of his business interests, he had to make frequent trips to New York, and in that city he became widely known in amusement industry circles. He held the following offices in nationally known corporations: president of the World Film Corporation, chairman of the board of directors of the Shubert Theatrical Company, chairman of the Loew theatrical enterprises, which is said to be the biggest family vaudeville circuit in American; he was vice president and largest individual owner of the United Theaters Company, which owns and controls the Keith Theaters in Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Louisville, as well as the Mary Anderson Theater in the last-named city; he was owner of the largest interest in the Olympic Theater, Cincinnati, was a prominent stockholder in the Strand, Walnut, and Family moving-picture theaters, Cincinnati, and a holder of large interests in the Dayton Operating Company, which controls the Keith Theater at Dayton, Ohio.
In addition to these, Mr. Cox was interested in many of the subsidiary companies of the Shubert theatrical enterprises as well as a large holder of theatrical real estate in New York City. He purchased the Columbia Theater in Cincinnati prior to merging it with the Keith interests. He became interested in the fight the Shuberts were putting up against the so-called theatrical "syndicate," the Klaw & Erlanger booking offices, in 1904. His entrance as a large stockholder put new life into the Shuberts' fight and made the independent booking agency a success, thereby practically changing the theatrical map of America. It paralleled the theaters of the "syndicate" throughout the country. All the while, Mr. Cox worked constantly for an agreement between the two syndicates, and succeeded, two years prior to his death, in perfecting arrangements which extended over nineteen cities in this country where the competition had been ruinous, and it is now believed that the efforts he put forth in this direction will eventually lead to a complete understanding between the two syndicates and a practical amalgamation of their interests.
Mr. Cox was intimately acquainted with practically every prominent theatrical man in the country, as his extensive interests included the legitimate drama, high-class vaudeville, family vaudeville, and motion pictures. His business judgment was valued highly and his personal friendship equally assayed.
The happy domestic life of George B. Cox began on August 20, 1890, when he married Miss Caroline Sheilds, a lady of talent and education, a native of Cincinnati, and the daughter of Samuel and Caroline Sheilds, a prominent and highly esteemed old family. Mr. Cox's only real interest in life seemed to be his wife, and he sought in every way to make her happy. They were constant companions. he was happiest when by her side in their palatial home in Clifton, and much of his success both as a political leader and a man of affairs wa due in no small measure to her sympathy and counsel. She is a lady of many commendable attributes of head and heart, and has always been a great favorite in the circles in which she moves, having long been a recognized social leader in Cincinnati. She is interested in whatever makes for the betterment of the masses and lends support to worthy charitable and similar movements. Like her brilliant husband before her, she is a charming and instructive conversationalist--a lady of true culture.
George B. Cox was in failing health for a period of five years, and was summoned to his eternal rest on May 20, 1916, at the age of sixty-three years. An idea of his high standing in Cincinnati, where he spent his entire life, may be gained from the following memorial by the Blaine Club:
"The late George B. Cox was for nearly thirty-two years a member of the Young Men's Blaine Club, and by his death the club has lost one of its stanchest and most honored friends and the city of Cincinnati a public-spirited, philanthropic, and widely esteemed citizen.
"By his energy, indomitable will, and integrity, and by his uniformly considerate, affable, and just treatment towards all who came in contact with him, he endeared himself to every one and enjoyed a deserved widespread popularity.
"Mr. Cox was a modest man of exemplary character, avoiding display and publicity, liberally supporting charities, public institutions, and all enterprises pertaining to the welfare of the public and the city. A generous friend to the poor, for whom he always had a warm heart and open hand, they will sadly Miss his constant interest in them. As a friend he was unassuming, sincere, loyal, and magnanimous, and the kindness of his disposition and his tender affection for his wife and those who were near and dear to him, was daily made manifest. The loss to the community of such a man is great, but to his family and friends irreparable. To them we tender our profound sympathy."
The following editorial from "The Cincinnati Enquirer," entitled "A Leader of Men," should also be reproduced in this memoir:
"George Barnsdale Cox, who journeyed yesterday into the great unknown, was one of the last of a type of men, strong and rugged, who have played a dominant part in the control and development of American cities. Stigmatized as 'bosses,' the subjects of constant attack and condemnation, Tweed, Shepard, Crocker, Cox, and others of lesser fame, marshalled about them their cohorts and ruled as only men of strong personality and deep understanding of human nature can rule.
"The leader of the Hamilton County Republican organization was a remarkable man. What he lacked in academic education he more than made up in force of character and personal magnetism, which bound men to him with bonds of steel. In clear discernment of the effect of the proposed measures and in keen judgment of men and human nature, George B. Cox wad no peer. He was an untutored mental giant, who early felt within himself the power to lead and bend men to his will. His code of morals was his own, and it contemplated unswerving fidelity to friends and truth under all conditions. There is always a great deal of good in a man of whom it can be said his word was as good as his bond, and there is no doubt that the work of George B. Cox was always good."
The Chillicothe (Ohio) "Scioto Gazette" paid the following tribute to the subject of this review:
"In the death of George B. Cox, Ohio has lost one of her best known citizens. For almost a quarter of a century he absolutely ruled Cincinnati and played an important part in State and National politics. George B. Cox was a strong man, both physically and mentally. He was fearless, frank, truthful, loyal, and reliable. These qualities, together with a profound knowledge of human nature and an intuitive ability to judge individuals, made him a leader of men. He viewed politics from an intensely practical standpoint, and probably believed that the ideal is impossible. He gave Cincinnati better government than most American cities get. Life and property were safe, taxes low, and her credit high. He would not tolerate graft or inefficiency in those whom he put in office. He often did the big thing in favoring men and measures whom and which he did not like, for the sake of good politics. George B. Cox was a real man, and a better man than most of those who play the political game."
At a special meeting of the Board of Directors of the World Film Corporation held in New York, N. Y., on Wednesday, June 7, 1916, the following resolutions were adopted:
"The chairman stated to the board that it was with deep regret that he announced the death of Mr. George B. Cox, president of the corporation, on Saturday, the twentieth day of May, nineteen hundred and sixteen.
"Whereupon, on motion duly seconded, it was unanimously
"Resolved, That by his untimely death, this corporation has suffered a severe loss and the members of the board have been deprived of the companionship of a friend whose place cannot be filled; therefore, be it
"Resolved, that the Board of Directors of the World Film Corporation express its great sorrow and tender its deepest sympathy to the family of the deceased; and be it further
"Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be forwarded to Mrs. George B. Cox."
That he was a generous friend to the poor and the afflicted, the following will attest:
"The modest tribute which I might pay to George B. Cox would be lost among the eulogies and encomiums which friends and comrades of the departed leader have spoken since his death.
"The fact that this great man, with cares and worries, which few of us realized, could find time to smooth life's pathway for a blind man, who could not possibly do him any service, is to me the best proof of his greatness.
"He was my friend, and more than that I cannot say. If he found me waiting for a street car, he would help me to find a seat, with always a kindly word and an inquiry about my family. He always watched for the street where I got off, and would see that I was safely started homeward before he got back on the car.
"The blind, perhaps, remember voices better than others, and learn to judge people by them. I can remember that gruff voice as though I had heard it yesterday, but I always knew that the heart behind it was pure gold. The friendship of George B. Cox was one of which any might be proud, for once that friendship was gained, you knew that the tie could never be broken unless by your own unworthiness.
"For years to come the memory of George B. Co will be to his friends one of the bright pages in their life. In his death thousands of us suffer a severe loss for he was a great leader, but a greater friend.
"The Honorable George Barnsdale Cox, who departed this life at 4:35 a.m., on Saturday, May 20, 1916, was a member of the Council of the City of Cincinnati from April, 1879, to September, 1880, when he resigned his membership to become a member of the City Board of Equalization.
"During the period of this legislative service, Mr. Cox displayed that soundness of judgment, that lofty purpose, that spirit of loyalty to the duties of his office, and that affectionate regard for the welfare and prosperity of the city and his fellow citizens, which distinguised his entire career as a private citizen, and when in public office. Therefore, be it
"Resolved by the Council of the City of Cincinnati, that we deplore the death of this useful citizen; and be it further
"Resolved, That a copy of this resolution be embodied in the minutes of Council; and be it further
"Resolved, That a copy hereof be transmitted to the widow and the relatives of the deceased, with an expression of our sincere sympathy for the irreparable loss thus sustained by them.
"Read and adopted, May 31, 1916.
"Attest: FRED SCHENELLER,L. J. DAUNER,
"Clerk of Council.President."
Barbara's Bordered Backgrounds