King of Electricity

King of Electricity: Schoellkopf

Millionaire, Industrialist, King of Electricity…. INDIRECT KILLER

Jacob F. Schoellkopf (1819-1899) held a fancy resume, at least to what meets one’s eye. He was a German immigrant from a family of millionaires, bankers, diplomats, Congressmen, manufacturers, and investors. He made the trip to America when he was 22. Three years later he settled in Buffalo. He owned leather tanneries in Buffalo, Milwaukee, Indiana, Chicago, and other parts of NY. He also owned flour mills in Buffalo and Niagara Falls and built a power station with the intent of launching a hydropower industry. He was vice-president of the Buffalo, New York, and Philadelphia Railroad before the days of Western New York and Pennsylvania Company. He was President of the Third National Bank, a director of the Buffalo Citizen’s Gas Co., and trustee of the General Hospital of Buffalo. Another investment of his was when he obtained beer breweries. It was at that point when he found the need to monopolize on the business of electrical production. He bought all rights for the Niagara Falls Hydraulic power as well as three other businesses. All of this power would assist in the success of his other investments. He quickly became known as the King of Electricity, as his company was the first to produce electricity in Niagara Falls. When he first acquired the company, electricity was simply being used for the newly invented telephone and for telegraphs. Schoellkopf thought of ways to use this electricity to hold world records. He used electrical technology for his turbines.

A man with such a resume would not strike many as a man who go to own tenements in the Canal District that the Health Board would attempt to shut down on numerous occasions. Dr. Wende condemned several neighboring tenements, but was not advised to proceed any further with shutting down Schoellkopf’s Revere Block establishments due to the facts that he was a millionaire and would chase them away with lawyers and injunctions. “That plague spot with its overcrowded rooms, its lack all sanitary arrangements, its sickening and disease-breeding water closets” was not able to be shut down by the Board of Health without the proper ordinances. At that point in history, ordinances such as the ones that were needed were net yet formally established. The Canal District was sadly known for deaths due to poor sanitation and poor ventilation. “Diarrhea, hemorrhaging, convulsions, gastric diseases, scarlet fever, diphtheria, flu, typhoid fever, septicemia, and whooping cough – all claimed victims. Of the 233 burials from the Canal District, in a three year time period, 190 were 15 years or younger of which 134 were infants in their first year of life. 31 of the deaths came from the Revere Block alone.”  Once the publicity of this nauseating block increased and it put a damper on his beloved investments, Schoellkopf sold that property at a cheap cost to a social worker. [1, 1a]

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