Stewart, Alexander T.

Stewart, Alexander T. (Taylor)

(1803–76) merchant; born in Lisburn, Ireland. He came to New York City around 1820 after the death of his grandfather who had raised him to be a minister, a job for which he had no inclination. With a $5,000 inheritance, he invested in Irish lace and in 1823 opened his first shop. He expanded rapidly, in part by purchasing the goods of merchants who failed during the panic of 1837. By 1850 his was the largest establishment of its kind in New York; by 1862 his retail business covered an entire city block, the largest store in the world. His interests encompassed textile mills in New England, and real estate in New York, including the Garden City development for the middle class on Long Island. Although penurious about wages, his acts of charity included sending food to Ireland during the 1847 famine and bringing back a boat-load of immigrants for whom he found jobs. In 1878 his coffin was stolen and his remains were ransomed to his widow. They were returned in 1880 and reinterred in Garden City.