Higginson, Henry L.

Higginson, Henry L. (Lee)

(1834–1919) banker, philanthropist; born in New York City (cousin of Thomas W. Higginson). In 1837 the family moved to Boston where his father was a commission merchant. On an 1852 tour through Europe, Henry became enthralled by music. He returned to work in a merchant office but an inheritance from his uncle in 1856 allowed him to return to Europe to take up music (piano and composition); an injury combined with a lack of talent impeded his success. Returning to Boston in 1860 he fought with the Union army in the Civil War. After an unsuccessful utopian experiment running a cotton plantation by paying the former slaves (1866–67), he joined his father's Boston banking house (1868) and prospered. In 1881, his love of music unabated, he founded the Boston Symphony Orchestra and remained its sole underwriter until 1918 (paying out an estimated $1 million). He left much of his fortune to Harvard, Radcliffe, and other colleges.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.