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Hastings Lush French
CONSPICUOUS among the representative business men and public-spirited citizens of the State of Ohio during the past generation, was the well-remembered and lamented gentleman whose name forms the caption of this article. Mr. French made his influence felt for good in the city of Cincinnati, having been a man of sterling worth, exceptional business acumen, and rare mental equipment—one of the commendable native sons of the renowned Buckeye State and one of the nation's captains of industry during the first decade and a half of the progressive twentieth century. His life was closely interwoven with the history of Cincinnati and locality in which he always resided, and his efforts for at least two score years were ever in harmony with the material advancement of the same as well as for the civic and social welfare of his fellowmen. The well-regulated life he led gained the respect and admiration of all who knew him, and entitle his name to representation in a memorial work of the scope intended in the present historical compendium.
The late Hastings Lush French was born December 5, 1852, in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was one of four children born to Charles A. and Elizabeth (Salisbury) French, the former a native of Braintree, Massachusetts, and the latter of the State of New York. These parents grew to maturity in the East, received good educational advantages, and removed to Cincinnati in an early day, establishing the future home of the family there, and the father became prominent in the early business circles of the city, being known as a man of sound judgment and upright character. He died about three years ago, and his wife many years ago. Only two of their children survive, namely: Salisbury French, of Norwood, a suburb of Cincinnati; and Mrs. Edna French Lee, widow of Hamlet Lee, who passed from earthly scenes several years ago; she has one son, Charles Shepard Lee, a graduate of Harvard University and a young man of much promise. He and his mother reside in the beautiful home at Walnut Hills, Cincinnati. She is a lady of culture and high social standing.
Hastings L. French received his early education in the public schools of Cincinnati, and although his text-book training was not extensive he made up for this deficiency in after life by actual contact with the world through business and travel and by wide miscellaneous home reading until he became an exceptionally well informed man on a great diversity of subjects. He had a natural predilection for business and was importunate to begin his career, so he left school while still in his "teens" and took a position with the old and widely known firm of Procter & Gamble, whose great manufacturing plant is located at Ivorydale, a suburb of Cincinnati. Perhaps little did his employers think that this polite, wide-awake, ambitious youth would eventually be one of the prime factors in this concern and help give it an international reputation, but such was destiny nevertheless, as we shall see. Its Ivory Soap has long been sold throughout Christendom. Our subject remained with this firm the rest of his life, his rise being rapid from the first, for he proved to be a conscientious, capable, and thoroughly trustworthy young man and his fidelity and talents were properly rewarded as years advanced. From the very bottom of the ladder he worked his way up to one of the heads of the vast concern, holding the office of secretary and general sales manager, and was one of the heavy stockholders at the time of his death. His is truly the record of one of our great self-made Americans of which the nation may justly be proud. From a modest beginning he forged his way unaided and alone to the forefront, by close application, the exercise of rare good judgment and honest dealings, he became a millionaire. The career of such a man might well be studied with profit by the young men of the entire country, for it shows what may be done in this free land of ours where there is no caste, no royalty, no hindering causes to the worthy, capable and ambitious, and his career also teaches a valuable lesson in that it shows that great wealth may be secured along honorable lines and without injury to any one.
Besides being a heavy stockholder in the Procter & Gamble Company, Mr. French had large holdings in the following concerns: Citizens National Bank of Cincinnati; Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad Company, Little Miami Railroad Company, Procter & Gamble Distributing Company, Cincinnati Street Railway Company, Indian Refining Company, The Guyamel Company, the Royal Mining Company, and the Queen City Club.
Mr. French was a Republican in politics, but while he took an abiding interest in political and public affairs in general, and especially such as pertained to his native city and State, he never sought leadership in his party, although well qualified both by nature and training for high official position; he preferred to give his attention to his extensive business affairs. He remained unmarried and lived at his home with his sister, Mrs. Hamlet Lee, to whom he ever manifested the most admirable brotherly devotion, doing his full share in making an ideal home; and there he delighted in spending his spare time, in preference to club or social life. He was a lover of fine horses and derived much pleasure from driving, also enjoyed travel, both domestic and foreign, and, being a keen observer and a ready conversationalist, he was always benefited by his travels and benefited and interested his friends who remained at home after his return. He made extended trips to Japan and other foreign countries. He stood very high in the estimation of his business associates and the friends who were admitted to his confidence, all regarding him as a man of high honor and culture. Being a man of unlimited means in his later life, he gave to charity and good movements of various kinds, but always in a quiet way, evading publicity in his charities, for he was entirely unostentatious. He was thorough in business and unassuming at all times. Many beautiful tributes to his worth have been spoken and written.
The death of Mr. French was very sudden and unexpected and therefore was a great shock to his wide circle of acquaintances and friends. On Christmas night, 1914, he retired in his usual health and good spirits, but a few minutes later he was summoned to his eternal rest, at the age of sixty-two years. However, his strength had been gradually declining for several years, but no one suspected that the end was so near as he heartily participated in the Christmas festivities at the close of his last day on earth. His influence will long continue for good in the city where he spent his useful life and where he was so .highly esteemed.
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