Bartlett, Adolphus Clay
Adolphus Clay Bartlett started employment as a janitor 1864.
Adolphus Clay Bartlett the last surviving original member of Hibbard, Spencer, Bartlett & Company died on Thursday, June 1, 1922. His will left $2,200,000. The obit was concerned with pallbearers and gave no information otherwise.
"...That three boys who grew up in the same part of western New York, should become acquainted in later years in Chicago and form a highly successful partnership is a sample of the quirks of Destiny that make life interesting. These three men, William Gold Hibbard, Franklin Fayette Spencer, and Adolphus Clay Bartlett, all from the same locality, formed a great trio. Each man not only had unusual qualifications supplementing those of his partners, but also was capable of team work. Perhaps partly because of their common background, they attained a degree of harmony and co-operation that was an example to everybody about them.
Mr. William Gold Hibbard, an exceptionally shrewd judge of values, always did most of the buying. Mr. Franklin Fayette Spencer continued to be the credit man, and Mr. Adolphus Clay Bartlett looked after the selling, as well as the management of affairs in the building itself. He was among the first to think of organizing a sales force to go out on the road to call on the trade. To him is due in great measure the successful building up of the elaborate sales system that Hibbard, Spencer, Bartlett & Company have developed. In the earlier period of his partnership, Adolphus Clay Bartlett handled all orders, and all correspondence in connection with sales work. He personally copied into a book every order that came in.
The outstanding characteristic of Adolphus Clay Bartlett that his old associates all mention was his capacity for hard work. For years, he put in longer hours than anybody else about the place. Franklin Fayette Spencer always came down early in the morning to pass on credits of orders and get them started. William Gold Hibbard came down later, but never liked to go home until the last horn was blown.
Adolphus Clay Bartlett, being the junior partner, felt that he should be down as early in the morning as Franklin Fayette Spencer and stay as late as William Gold Hibbard. He actually did that year after year. One of his special abilities was in the preparation of simple, vigorous unstereotyped business letters—such as the one that the firm sent out just after the great Chicago fire. He could express himself well and forcibly without wasting needless words.
Adolphus Clay Bartlett was born in Stratford, New York, but after his father's death, he went with his mother to live in the town of Salisbury, New York where he continued his schooling. Later he attended Danville Academy and studied for two years at Clinton Liberal Institute, Clinton, New York. He taught school for a short time and got his first business training as clerk in a general store. At the age of 19, he set out for Chicago and obtained a job with Tuttle, Hibbard Co.. His first duties were to dust the shelves where tinware was kept—a properly humble start for a man who was going to become successively sales manager, secretary, director, vice-president, president, and finally, in 1914, the first to occupy the newly-created office of chairman of the board of directors, the position he held at the time of his death, in 1922.
Early in his career with the hardware firm, Bartlett began to set his aim high. Willing to work, he saw no reason why he should not aspire to become a member of the firm. But he did not mention this to William Gold Hibbard or Franklin Fayette Spencer until he had made himself so useful and had his name so well established in the hardware trade that his requests for recognition could not well be ignored. The story is that he went to William Gold Hibbard and asked that his name should "go on the sign." He added that if his name didn't go on that sign, it would go on another. William Gold Hibbard decided that the young man was far too valuable to let go elsewhere and added his name to the masthead of the rapidly growing business.
Adolphus Clay Bartlett was serious-minded and liked young men who craved success and were willing to work for it. In a statement he once prepared, he said: "If the young men when coming into the house fully realize how much their advancement and ultimate welfare and success depend upon their thoroughness, diligence, loyalty and integrity, their futures are assured, for with that realization no one of intelligence can deliberately throw away his opportunities."
One young man, still in his teens, now the head of an important department, crashed the gate years ago and by chance made his way to the office of Adolphus Clay Bartlett to apply for a job.
"I'll send you down to the employment manager," Adolphus Clay Bartlett told him, "and perhaps he can find a place for you."
"I'd rather just deal with you," said the applicant. "Suppose we arrange it in this way: If there's a job available, I'm to have it, but if none is open right now, then I'll work for nothing at any odd job, no matter what, until there is an opening. Then, you see, I'll be here on hand ready to take the job."
In later years, after the young man had become a vital cog in the organization, Adolphus Clay Bartlett felt personal pride in having been wise enough not to let that applicant go away jobless.
Feeling a kinship for true toilers, Adolphus Clay Bartlett must have been rudely shocked one day in conversation with a certain young man who had recently entered the firm's employ. This young man, scion of a wealthy family, was just out of an eastern college where he had gained a reputation as a fashion plate. He took a job with the hardware company not so much because he craved a business career, as because his family had induced him to do so. Just as he was receiving his pay envelope on the first Saturday night of his employment, he chanced to come face to face with Adolphus Clay Bartlett who greeted him cordially.
"You must be feeling proud," suggested Adolphus Clay Bartlett, "to know that you're now earning your own upkeep."
"Oh, I'm feeling so-so," replied the young man, in a noncommittal tone.
"And how much money have you earned this week?" asked Adolphus Clay Bartlett.
"They've just handed me $4," replied the new employee.
"What do you plan to do with this first money you have earned?" further inquired Adolphus Clay Bartlett.
"I think," said the young man, "that I'll put another dollar to it and go out tonight and buy myself a bottle of wine!"
Because of his irrepressible energy, Adolphus Clay Bartlett, after expending much thought and effort in his own business, still had time to devote to other enterprises, business, civic, charitable and educational.
He had an especial enthusiasm for the Chicago Home for the Friendless, of which he was president for more than thirty-five years.
He served as a member of the Chicago Board of Education, president of the Commercial Club, director of the Relief and Aid Society, director of the Art Institute of Chicago, First National Bank, First Trust and Savings Bank, The Northern Trust Co., Old People's Home, and Beloit College, and was Trustee of the University of Chicago.
During the latter years of his life, he became much interested in the development of the country about Phoenix, Arizona, and spent much of his time in the Southwest. Years ago he became one of the founders and first vice-president of the Chicago Sunday Evening Club, known today all over the United States because of its country-wide radio audience.