Arthur and Lewis Tappan

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Lewis Tappan, ca. 1853

Arthur and Lewis Tappan were successful businessmen and early leaders of the movement to abolish slavery in America.

Arthur Tappan was born in 1786, and Lewis Tappan was born in 1788. Both brothers were born in Northampton, Massachusetts. The men became successful businessmen in New York City. In 1826, the brothers began to import silk from Asia, and they earned a sizable fortune. In 1827, they began to publish the New York Journal of Commerce, a business newspaper. The brothers refused to print advertisements from what they thought were "immoral" businesses. In the Panic of 1837, the brothers lost practically everything, but they recovered and rebuilt their businesses. During the 1840s, they formed a commercial-credit rating service. Lewis also established the Mercantile Agency, which later became part of the Dun and Bradstreet Company. The brothers retired from business in the late 1840s and dedicated their lives to charitable causes.

Arthur and Lewis Tappan supported a number of causes and are often remembered for their devotion to abolitionism. In 1833, the brothers and abolitionist Theodore Dwight Weld came together to form the American Anti-Slavery Society. This organization called for the immediate end to slavery and also advocated equal rights for African Americans with white people. William Lloyd Garrison dominated the American Anti-Slavery Society, although Arthur Tappan served as president of the organization from its founding until 1840. Tappan resigned from the society in 1840 when its membership became interested in fighting for equal rights for women with men.

The Tappan brothers assisted the abolition movement in other ways. They provided financial support to Oberlin College in Ohio. Oberlin provided education for both white and black students in fully-integrated classrooms. They actively supported the Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. Lewis Tappan financially supported The Emancipator, an abolitionist newspaper, and encouraged churches in New York City to end the practice of having separate seating areas for whites and African Americans. Lewis Tappan died in 1863. His brother Arthur died two years later.

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