1882: The Passing of a Home-Grown Entrepreneur

Henry McComb
Colonel Henry S. McComb

On January 23, 1882, the Society respectfully marked the passing of prominent Wilmington entrepreneur and valued member, Colonel Henry Simpson McComb (1825-1881).  The minutes remark that: “It is with sincere sorrow that we have to record the death of Henry Simpson McComb, which occurred suddenly on the thirtieth day of last December, in the city of Philadelphia.  Colonel McComb was a valued member of this Society from the date of its organization, and always manifested a zealous interest in its welfare, taking an active part in its proceedings, and contributing to the promotion of its objects.”

McComb was not just a valued Society member; he was also a clever, industrious, old-school entrepreneur who managed to achieve life-long success through sheer hard work.  Although business interests took him all over the country, he always considered Delaware and the fine house he built at Eleventh and Market Streets in Wilmington home. He did not have much formal schooling because he had to support his family after his father died, but this did not seem to hold him back.  He started out in the newspaper business, but gave it up to become a leather worker’s apprentice.  By the age of twenty-one, he had bought out his employer and, by the Civil War, had secured valuable contracts to supply the Union Army.  

McComb also raised, served with, and equipped the Fifth Delaware Regiment at his own expense and became friends with Lincoln, Stanton, and other high-ranking officials during the war.  He also zealously supported the 1864 Sanitary Fair in Philadelphia, and it was here that he acquired a wonderful Civil War era miniature house that has since become part of our collections.  After the war, he successfully turned his attention to the railroad business and even had a city in Mississippi named after him. As the Society remarked, “It will be difficult to fill the vacancy caused by his death.”

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