Alexander Turney Stewart (1803-1876)

A.T. Stewart, of New York "Merchant Prince of America"

Associated Houses

A.T. Stewart Mansion


Born in Northern Ireland, his father died before his birth and his teenage mother remarried and emigrated to New York, leaving Alexander in the care of her father. He received a good classical education and was left $50 by his cultured and hard-working grandfather, John Turney, who died in 1815. Alexander served an unhappy apprenticeship in the linen trade before emigrating to New York to join his estranged mother and stepfather. There, he used his inheritance and prior experience to enter the linen trade, forming A.T. Stewart & Co. He was the first retailer to put fixed price tags on his merchandise and he invented the concept of the "sale" to get rid of old stock. His wife was the aunt of Mrs John Lawrence Smith, mother-in-law of the famous architect Stanford White.

In 1867, an article appeared in the Galaxy listing the ten wealthiest men in New York. He came third on the list with a fortune estimated at $6,091,000, behind William C. Rhinelander in second place and ahead of the brothers Peter and Robert Goelet in fourth place. When he died in 1876, he left a fortune of $50 million, making him the 8th richest man in America, ranking him alongside the likes of Billy Vanderbilt and William B. Astor.