Historic, but not famous

Isaac Hopper, abolitionist, prison reformer

Isaac Tatem Hopper (1771 – 1852) was an abolitionist who was active in Philadelphia in the anti-slavery movement and protecting fugitive slaves and free blacks from slave kidnappers. He moved to New York City in 1829 to run a Quaker bookstore. From 1841-1845 he served as treasurer and book agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society. In 1845 he became active in prison reform and devoted the rest of his life to the Prison Association of New York.

He influenced his daughter, who started the Women’s Prison Association to work for prison reform as well. His work was known by legislatures in Albany and the governor trusted his opinion on the pardoning of many prisoners.

The Isaac T. Hopper Home of the Women’s Prison Association

The Isaac T. Hopper House, a Greek Revival townhouse at 110 Second Avenue in the East Village of Manhattan stands in his honor and for the work he did with the Quakers and prison reform. The house has been part of the prison reform system since the 1870s. It continues to serve as a half way house for female prisoners.  The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, and was designated a New York City landmark in 2009.

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Historic, but not famous

Felix Adler, founder NY Society for Ethical Culture

Felix Adler (1851 – 1933) was a professor of political and social ethics, rationalist, influential lecturer on euthanasia, religious leader and social reformer who founded the Ethical Culture movement. Born in Germany, his family immigrated to the United States when he was 6 years old. He studied at Columbia University and continued his education at Heidelberg University in Germany. There he was strongly influenced by neo-Kantianism, especially the notions that one cannot prove or disprove the existence of a deity or immortality, and that morality can be established independently of theology.

After realizing being a rabbi was not for him, he entered academia, teaching at Cornell University. In 1876

By David Shankbone (attribution required) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2163846

, he gave a lecture on doing away with theology and to unite theists, atheists, agnostics and deists, all in the same religious cause. He began a Sunday lecture series and in February 1877, aided by the president of Temple Emanu-El, Adler incorporated the Society of Ethical Culture. Adler talked about “deed, not creed”; his belief was that good works were the basis of ethical culture.

The group expanded to sending nurses to help the poor, free kindergarten, clothing and food for the children of the working poor. Adler served as rector for the Ethical Culture School until his death in 1933. He also helped establish the National Child Labor Committee, the American Civil Liberties Union, was president of the Eastern Board of the American Philosophical Association and he served on the first Executive Board of the National Urban League. In government, he was involved in housing reform and foreign policy.

Throughout his life, he always looked beyond the immediate concerns of family, labor, and race to the long-term challenge of reconstructing institutions, such as schools and government, to promote greater justice in human relations. The school based on his philosophy can still be found on Central Park West in Manhattan. Ethical Culture Fieldston School’ (ECFS), known as just Fieldston, is a private independent school and a member of the Ivy Preparatory School League. The school serves approximately 1700 students with 325 faculty and staff.

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Historic, but not famous

Isaac Leopold Rice, founder Forum Publishing and Battery Company

Isaac Leopold Rice (1850 – 1915) was a  businessman, investor, musicologist, author, and noted chess patron. He was born in Bavaria and emigrated to the United States with his mother in 1856. They initially lived in Philadelphia where he attended school, but upon graduation he went to Paris to study music for 3 years. He returned and worked at a newspaper then moved to England  in 1868 to be a music and language teacher. A year later he moved to New York City and practiced music before going back to school to become a lawyer. After graduating from Columbia College of Law in 1880 he practiced law for the rest of the decade.

He became a specialist in railroad law in the United States, and held large investments in several lines, including the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. While a lawyer he was invited to join a music publishing company and decided to do that as well as diversify his railroad holdings. He eventually bailed out the bankrupt Electro-Dynamic Company in 1892 with a partner and became the first president of The Forum magazine, and later the Electric Storage Battery Co. (later Exide) in 1897.

He bought out a company that made the first successful electric submarine and named the company  the Electric Boat Company in 1899. He contracted with the US Navy and delivered a fleet of submarines to them. Electric Boat was a founding company of General Dynamics Corporation. During World War I, Rice’s new company (Electric Boat) and its subsidiaries (notably Elco) built 85 Navy submarines and 722 submarine chasers, along with 580 motor launches for the British Royal Navy.

He also wrote and published books on music and music theory as well as becoming an accomplished chess master and president of the Manhattan Chess Club.

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Historic, but not famous

St. Clair Pollock, the amiable child memorial

St. Clair Pollock was a young boy living in the wild areas of Manhattan back in the late 1700s. He is the person buried at the Amiable Child Monument.  The monument is located in New York City’s Riverside Park. It stands west of the southbound lanes of Riverside Drive north of 122nd Street across from Grant’s Tomb. One side of the monument reads: “Erected to the Memory of an Amiable Child, St. Claire Pollock, Died 15 July 1797 in the Fifth Year of His Age.” The monument is a granite urn on a  pedestal inside a wrought iron fence. The monument, originally erected by George Pollock, who was either the boy’s father or his uncle, has been replaced twice due to deterioration. The present marker was placed on the site in 1967 to replace a marble marker installed by the city in 1897.

The monument has inspired many poems from writers throughout NYC and beyond. The monument is thought to be the only single-person private grave on city-owned land in New York City. Nothing is known about the child or how he died at the age of 5.


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