- ASPINWALL, William H., merchant, was born in New York city, Dec. 16, 1807. He served his mercantile apprenticeship with his uncles, G. G. &; S. Howland, and in 1837 became a member of the newly organized house of Howland & Aspinwall, doing a large trade in the Mediterranean and Pacific. He retired from active participation in the firm's affairs in 1850, and instituted a steamship line between the Isthmus of Panama and California, and subsequently obtained from New Grenada a concession for a railroad across the Isthmus, which was opened on February 17, 1855. The eastern terminus of the railroad was for a time called Aspinwall. Mr. Aspinwall resigned the presidency of the Pacific mail steamship company in 1858, and travelled in Europe, [p.132] where he collected a rare gallery of paintings, which collection was sold after his death, many of the subjects selling at phenomenal prices. He died Jan. 18, 1875.
WILLIAM H. ASPINWALL, merchant, born in New York, Dec. 16, 1807, died here Jan. 18, 1875. He came from an honorable line of shipping men, his grandfather, Captain John Aspinwall, having been a captain of vessels hailing from his port long before the American Revolution, and his father, John, being a member of the famous shipping and mercantile firm of Gilbert & John Aspinwall. This latter house dealt largely in cotton, received goods on consignment from all parts of the world, and were large exporters of American products. William attended a local boarding school, and was trained as clerk for his uncles, Gardner G. and Samuel S. Howland. In 1832, he became a partner, the name being changed in 1837 to Howland & Aspinwall. The house transacted an immense business with the East and West Indies, the Mediterranean, China and England, owning seventeen or eighteen ships, including several Liverpool packets, and rose to be the largest shipping firm in the city. In 1850 Mr. Aspinwall relinquished the active management to his brother, J. Lloyd Aspinwall, the business thereafter taking the nature of banking, and devoted his attention to the building of The Panama Railroad and creation of The Pacific Mail Steamship Co. In the railroad enterprise he was aided by Henry Chauncey and John L. Stephens, and its pecuniary success was a proof of Mr. Aspinwall's sagacity. The profits of the road were $5,971,000 during the first seven years. The Pacific Mail Steamship Co. proved, especially in its earlier years, very successful. Mr. Aspinwall retired from the presidency in 1856, and devoted his remaining years to well-earned rest. He left five children, Lloyd and the Rev. John Abel Aspinwall; Anna Lloyd, wife of James Renwick, the architect; Catharine, wife of Ambrose C. Kingsland, and Louisa, wife of John W. Minturn. Mr. Aspinwall was widely known for his generosity. A liberal patron of the fine arts, he collected a gallery of valuable paintings, including Stuart's head of Washington. In his will, he specifically stated that he left no bequests to public objects, because he had given according to his judgment during life. He enjoined his children to charity. [1, 2]