Henry W. Corbett arrived in Portland Oregon by ship on March 7, 1851. The 24-year-old aspiring merchant had the backing of his New York supplier Williams, Bradford & Company, this was to be key to Henry W. Corbett's success.
Corbett witnessed a tide of immigration pouring into the city from all parts of the West. The astute trader clearly perceived that the great influx of potential customers, combined with a dwindling supply of gold dust, would require him to grant credit to the newcomers. By 1854, Corbett had expanded into farm equipment, which helped him to clear profits of from 50 to 80 percent a year.
By the 1860's, Henry W. Corbett owned controlling shares in The First National Bank, was a US Senator, and he was involved in the incorporation of the Oregon Telegraph Company. In 1888, Henry W. Corbett and Henry Failing organized the Portland Art Association. Corbett donated the initial $10,000 to be used for the purchase of reproductions of classical works of sculpture.
In 1863, Corbett along with the Starr brothers, William Ladd, John Green, Cicero H. Lewis, and Henry Failing promoted and capitalized the Macadamized Road Company which was conceived as a toll road, it was to connect Portland with Taylor's Ferry, which crossed the Willamette River to Milwaukie. The road was later extended south to what later became Riverwood, where several stockholders owned property. This road is now known as Macadam Avenue, also Hwy. 43 and travels along Portland's west side of the Willamette River where today it is the west entrance to River View Cemetery and River View Cemetery Funeral Home.
Henry Failing began his career working for his father Josiah Failing who located a store diagonally across from Henry Corbett & Co. The Failings amassed a small fortune, due to the cautious, methodical and tireless efforts of the father and son. The Failings were wholesalers, selling miscellaneous stock of goods largely for farmers and farm communities.
In 1853, after a large shipment of goods, including nails, was lost while the ship was crossing the Columbia River bar; a New York supplier advised the Failings about cornering the Portland nail market by purchasing all the nails in San Francisco and Portland and then reselling them at a 100 percent profit. Such practices were considered normal methods of successful business by merchants of that day. Josiah turned to civic, educational and religious interests and was elected mayor in April, 1853.
Selling large quantities of imported ironware increased the Failing's business volume beyond that of Corbett's. Congenial and only partially competitive the two merchant houses were bound more closely together by Henry Failing's marriage in 1858, to Emily Corbett, Henry Corbett's younger sister. The tie cemented a family relationship that influenced Portland's history for over a half-century.
William S. Ladd arrived in Portland, Oregon three months after the town's incorporation, in early April, 1851. Coming ashore with a small consignment of liquor, a character reference from his Congregational minister, a hole in his shoe, and cash to survive for two weeks. The 24-year-old Ladd was short on cash but long on ambition and was destined to become a major business and political leader in the territory, believing that Oregon afforded him great opportunity.
Ladd added to his liquor store by touring valley farms; adding eggs, chickens and other produce. He also became a commissioned merchant selling consigned goods consisting of shaving soap, tobacco, paper, farm tools, blasting powder, and other items.
Ladd was involved in politics and was elected to the city council in 1853, and chosen mayor in 1854.
The gold strike put Ladd heavily into gold-dust transactions with San Francisco and New York banks. In 1854, he found himself extending credit along with other Portland merchants, making loans, receiving deposits and generally functioning as a banker to customers. In 1859, Ladd and his San Francisco associate would form the Ladd & Tilton Bank, destined to become Portland's leading and most profitable financial institution. The bank indispensably advanced Portland's growth and industrialization by providing working capital to many non-mercantile enterprises, especially manufacturing.
Within 10 years, the group of dedicated Front Street merchants consisting of William S. Ladd, Henry W. Corbett, Cicero H. Lewis and Josiah and Henry Failing, and their families would dominate the economic, political and social life of Portland. All became warm and lasting friends, close-knit, they trusted and respected one another as business people without losing their sharp competitiveness.
River View Cemetery
Phone: (503) 246-4251
300 South Taylors Ferry Road, Portland, OR 97219
8421 South Macadam Avenue, Portland, OR 97219