Henry S. Chapman, Club Benefactor
1837 - 1926
The following entry is re-printed from the Glen Ridge Heritage Book, published by the Glen Ridge Bicentennial Committee in 1977 as the culminating project of a year-long celebration of America’s Bicentennial.
High on the list of citizens who made memorable contributions to the borough of Glen Ridge in its early days, stands the name of Henry Stanton Chapman.
Fifty years after his death, Glen Ridge residents are still benefiting from his farsighted generosity. He saw the need for a permanent library building and gave the money to build it; as a memorial to his wife who was also strongly community-minded, he contributed the funds to build the Women’s Club. He built the chancel of the Glen Ridge Congregational Church. He helped organize the Country Club in 1894 and was instrumental in erecting a clubhouse where he served as the first president.
He had not always been wealthy, however. Born on December 22, 1837 in Huntington, Mass., he had said he always had to work a little harder and faster because he had been born on the shortest day of the year. He went through the local schools until he was fifteen when his father died. Young Chapman was sent to live in Amenia, New York with an uncle who was a doctor. The young boy was intelligent and willing to work hard, and before too long he was a partner in the Chapman and Bartlett Drug Company, which was rapidly becoming one of the largest wholesale and retail drug companies in the state. He sold his interest in the drug firm in 1876 in order to invest in an iron mine near Amenia. Unfortunately, the mine filled with water, and since, at that time, there was no way known to pump out the mine, the two partners lost heavily.
His next business venture was not successful, either. He went into the manufacture of cartridges in Suffield, Connecticut. An explosion at the factory killed his father-in-law. Shortly before, his young wife had died, leaving Henry Chapman with a baby son of eight months old. (His son, who never married, committed suicide). Once again he was penniless, but again hard work and good business sense helped him.
He went to New York, and this time, he worked with a chemical company in Arlington, New Jersey, where celluloid combs, mirrors, collars, etc. were manufactured. In 1915, when he sold the business to Du Pont, it was the largest of its kind in the United States.
In 1891, Mr. Chapman with his young son and second wife, moved to Glen Ridge. He was a bicyclist and a golfer; his company was the first to make soft cord golf balls in 1902 in Arlington. He bought the large Darwin house on Ridgewood Avenue, enlarging it, till it was considered one of the most beautiful homes in the state. He enjoyed the conservatory which he had built onto the house, which housed a wide variety of plants and flowers year round. He was an ardent nature lover, who took great pride in his carefully landscaped gardens, and he was also a kind man. A young relative remembers that the gardener used to gather acorns for the squirrels’ winter feeding, at the request of Chapman.
Always interested in community affairs, and always ready to help, he invested in town real estate, helping to form a company that bought land for the use of the town. The present Glen Ridge Arcade, was built on that site. A Red Cross benefit at SunnyCrest, his large home on Ridgewood Avenue, was the first money raised at the beginning of the W.W. I in any town, and brought in $1400 for the Red Cross.
Henry Chapman gave of his business abilities, his scientific knowledge, his time and his money to his adopted town.