Benjamin Talbot Babbitt



Born 1809, in Westmoreland, New York, near Holman City.  He married Rebecca McDuffie, who died December 1894.  He died October 20, 1889, they were buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, New York City.


Ida Josephine.                                                          Lillian E., married Clarence M. Hyde.

His grandfather, Jonathan was born in Berkley, Massachusetts was the older half-brother of Abel Babbitt, resident of Barnard, Vermont, being Benjamin was their father.  Jonathan born February 5, 1729, resided in Berkley and was styled "Joyner" in deeds.  In 1756 grandfather Jonathan and his wife Elizabeth Talbot, married March 1, 1753, deeded Benjamin Babbitt land, formerly owned by his father Benjamin.  In 1761 he bought land in Dighton from Nathan Walker, and in 1763 he is called of "Dighton" in deed to Ebenezer Redding.  Later in 1768 he resided near Middletown, Connecticut. His father, Nathaniel Babbitt, settled near Holman City, New York, near Utica on the Mohawk River valley.  Later removed to East Sauquoit, south of Utica, where he kept a tavern. He also was blacksmith for a time at Paris Hill, New York.  In 1806, Nathaniel Babbitt was a ensign in the Brigade of militia of Oneida County, New York.  Married before 1804, Betsey Holman, daughter of David Holman. Children: Rebecca 1804, Mary 1805, David 1806, Elizabeth 1807, Benjamin Talbot 1809, and George Reed 1810.                                                                      

Mr. Babbitt's youth was spent in hard work on the home farm, receiving meantime the scant education afforded by the local schools.  This hard work in his youth gave him an exceptional physical development which stood him in good stead, in the arduous labors of his latter life.   He was possessed of a most ingenious and inquiring disposition, accompanied fortunately by a capability of carrying out his ideas personally.  When he was barely twenty years old he was an expert wheel-wright, machinists and file maker.  He acquired these trades by hiring out to machinist and thus being able to give full expression to the ideas constantly evolved by his keen intellect, and at the same time enumerating his father for his time. In this same period he acquired a good knowledge of Chemistry by including a professor from Clinton College to visit the work-shop occasionally and instruct the workmen. 

At the age of twenty-two he had acquired sufficient funds to establish a machine shop at Little Falls, N. Y., where for twelve years he manufactured pumps and engines, and while there succeeded in making a practicable and workable mowing machine, one of the first made in America.  His workshop being destroyed in a flood, he removed to New York City, leaving the closing up of the business at Little Falls to a supposed friend, who proved dishonest and left Mr. Babbitt completely ruined.            

His business in New York started as a manufacturer of saleratus (aerated salt, sodium, "baking soda") by an original process and selling it in convenient packages.  The economy of the new method of manufacture enabled him to secure almost instant control of the business in this country. He soon added a yeast Baking Powder, a Soap Powder and several varieties of soap to his list of manufactures, all of them becoming very popular.         

Mr. Babbitt was a genius in the art of advertising, rivaling his friend Barnum in originality and success in this important element of his success, his name becoming a household word over the land.  An amusing story is told in this connection of his meeting a colored bootblack in a southern hotel, bearing his own name.   When he told the boy that he, too was B. T. Babbitt, the astonished boy exclaimed, "Lawd-massa-did your "mammy" get your name off a soap box too?"   

His ingenuity was not confined to the inventions concerning his own particular field of business, although he personally invented most of the machinery used in making his products.  A study of the Patent Office records shows an astonishing diversity of talent, his invention numbering over one hundred in number, concern all sorts of ideas from wind-mills, to air-guns, armor plate, ventilators, steam engine appliances, canal boats and artificial ice devices. He is credited with having first conceived the idea of utilizing the power of Niagara Falls. When he died, in 1889, he left a record hardly equaled in American life of successful and honorable business dealings and mourned by all who were associated with him.

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