Return to Ohio Biographies
Return to Index
William Newell Hobart
WILLIAM NEWELL HOBART, for forty years identified with the commercial, industrial, and artistic life of Cincinnati, was one of the founders of the May Musical Festival, and from 1884-1900 directing President of the Festival Association. He held up the hands of the late Theodore Thomas in the work of directing the famous May Festivals, and to him, more than to any other man, the success of this movement was due.
William N. Hobart, was born March 28, 1936, on Beacon Street, Boston, Massachusetts, son of Thomas and Anne (Newell) Hobart. He was descended on his father's side from Edmund Hobart, an Englishman who cam to Massachusetts in 1633, and settled in Hingham, Massachusetts, in 1635. On his mother's side he was related to the Newells, who have been more or less closely connected with Harvard University since its founding. He was named for his mother's brother, the Rev. William Newell, a prominent Unitarian minister, for fifty years identified with the cause of religious advancement in New England. While an infant, his parents brought him west to Hawesville, Kentucky, where James T. Hobart had charge of the coal mines, and in 1844 the family again moved to Cincinnati, which, form that time on, was his home.
William N. Hobart was educated under Doctor Colton, who conducted a private school, well known in its day. Later his father put him in the office of his old friend, Mr. Lowell Fletcher, who was engaged in the wholesale liquor business. He speedily made himself master of the details of the business and eventually became partner under the firm name of Fletcher, Hobart, and Company. When the senior partner retired, Mr. Hobart continued the business with William B. Maddux as Maddux, Hobart, and Company. Mr. Maddux died, and was succeeded by his son, Lewis O. Maddux, whom Mr. Hobart later bought out, and thus established the business of the Diamond Distilling Company. In 1910, he disposed of this interest to the Union Distilling Company and gave his attention to various other enterprises in which he had become interested.
Among these were the Triumph Electric and Machine Company, of Oakley, of which he was president. He was likewise interested in the famous old music publishing house, the John Church Company, being a director. He was also a director in the William S. Merrill Chemical Company from the time of its incorporation. Mr. Hobart was a good business man and eminently successful in all of his business connections. He was also a very liberal man toward causes which he found worthy, and did much in a financial way to foster musical culture in Cincinnati. More than a third of his long life--Mr. Hobart was seventy-six years old when he died--was devoted to music in Cincinnati, chiefly in the aid of the famous May Musical Festivals, which brought him into close association with the late Theodore Thomas of Chicago. In the history of music in America, the name of William Newell Hobart should go sided by side with that of Theodore Thomas, for they fought the good fight for principle and culture and the highest in music. Many and honorable are the references to W. N. Hobart in the "Memoirs" of Theodore Thomas, who declared that the high musical standard of Cincinnati was assured so long and William Hobart lived.
In 1905 Mr. Thomas died and the shock was greatly felt by Mr. Hobart. He never gave up his interest in the May Musical Festivals, but from 1900 committed the actual direction of affairs to other hands.
Mr. Hobart died November 15, 1912. The year of his death was also the fiftieth anniversary of his marriage to Miss Elizabeth Babbitt, of Cincinnati, daughter of Calvin and Anne (Andress) Babbitt, both parents representing old, pioneer families in Cincinnati. Five children were born to this union: The eldest, James Calvin, now President of the Triumph Electric Company, married Lucretia Winchell and has three children--James C., Robert W., and Everett W. The second son, Lowell Fletcher, married Edith Irwin, but died February 19, 1913, shortly after his father's death, leaving a son, Lowell Fletcher, Jr. The third child, Anna, is the wife of Prof. George J. Peirce, of Leland Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, and has three daughters, Elizabeth, Carolyn, and Rosamond. The youngest son, Everett Winslow Hobart, a graduate of Yale, class of 1895, died in 1899, at the age of twenty-six. The youngest child is a daughter, Elizabeth.
Mr. Hobart was a man of strong and high ideals. His religious views found their best expression in the Swedenborgian Church of New Jerusalem. He was president of the Church Society and superintendent of the Sunday school. He was president of the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce for the year 1878-79, and was a member of the National Wholesale Liquor Dealers of America.
The following editorial from the "Cincinnati Commercial Tribune" for November 16, 1912, may be taken as representative of public feeling:
"It is one of the mournful things of life that we too often place flowers upon the grave of a well-beloved friend, when some of those fragrant blossoms should have been sent to him to comfort and cheer his declining days. And it is a source of profound regret to the writer of this article that he was not permitted to extend this trifling tribute to a life-long friend while that friend was present in the flesh to hear or read somewhat of the esteem in which he was held for his distinguished services to art, to religion, and to commerce during his life-long residence in the city of Cincinnati. Lamentations are of no avail in the face of a neglected opportunity, and yet there is somewhat of melancholy satisfaction in being permitted to place a wreath upon the casket containing all that is mortal of the late William N. Hobart. And if the words of those who see with the eye of faith, then he may know that the good deeds done in the flesh live after him and that he is not forgotten. In an experience covering nearly forty years in the civic advancement of the Queen City, no man can be recalled who bore a nearer relation to men of affairs in every department of commercial, industrial, and artistic life than did William N. Hobart. Ultra-democratic in his tastes, simple in his life, keenly alive to every impulse which might lead to a higher artistic growth and a finer moral sense of proportion with the rising generation about him, Mr. Hobart gave of the best that was in him, either in mind or in purse, to elevate the city of his life-long residence to a foremost place in the estimation of men the world over. He held up the hands of the late Theodore Thomas in the continued conduct of the May Musical Festivals along lines of progress which at times aroused the most rabid censure, and he was right. Just as Mr. Thomas was right, so was Mr. Hobart unalterably right. They made no mistake, and between them they placed Cincinnati upon a plane of excellence in an artistic way which has not been excelled except by the historic record of the famous Birmingham, England, festivals of a similar character. And there is room to question whether th performances of the great English choir have ever excelled the record made by the Cincinnati May Festival chorus under that incomparable leadership, backed by the whole-hearted enthusiasm of the President of the May Festival Board of Directors, W. N. Hobart. Theirs was a great and memorable record in the history of the Queen City, the city of notable achievements in expositions, in May festivals, in dramatic festivals, and kindred celebrations of an unusual kind. And it must be said, with all credit to his associates in these matters, that the mainspring of action in May Musical Festival matters was Mr. Hobart. Even in the darkest days of prospective defeat, his optimism rose triumphant over seemingly insurmountable obstacles and the May Festival continued. To recount all that troublous history would require a volume rather than an inadequate abstract such as this, which is intended simply as a loving tribute to the memory of one of the sweetest characters the long history of Cincinnati has ever produced."
Barbara's Bordered Backgrounds