Anson Phelps Stokes (1838-1913)

Anson P. Stokes, Merchant Banker, of Phelps, Stokes & Co., New York

Associated Houses

Bay Villa

New Brighton

The Homestead


Shadow Brook


Brick House


He was born at New York City and was tutored at home and privately before entering the family import-export and mining business, Phelps, Dodge & Co. (still going today, known as Phelps Dodge). He left in 1878 to co-found the banking house of Phelps, Stokes & Co., with his father, James, and father-in-law, Isaac Newton Phelps. It was disbanded after his father died in 1881 and his will was contested. Stokes then invested his money in real estate, successfully developing properties in New York City as well as the silver mining boom town, Austin, in Nevada. He was the director of two banks founded by his father-in-law, the Second National and Mercantile Banks.

Although he chose not to involve himself directly with politics, he campaigned for Grover Cleveland and was one of the "Committee of Seventy" along with the likes of Henry Clews who brought about the end of the corrupt Tammany Hall. He was a supporter of the free trade league and an anti-imperialist who served as Chairman of the National Association of Anti-Imperialist Clubs, opposing the annexation of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. He was a keen genealogist and yachtsman, writing his family history and twice serving as Vice Commodore of the New York Yacht Club. Beyond international racing, he also designed the "Ultima Globular Naval Battery," a floating fortress to defend harbours. He often visited Europe and England (leasing Dingley Hall near Market Harborough, Leicestershire) where he enjoyed grouse shooting, fox-hunting, and racing his yachts at Cowes on the Isle of Wight. In 1889, he, his wife and two of their daughters (Sarah and Helen) were presented at court to Queen Victoria.

He was married in 1865 to Helen, the daughter and sole heiress of Isaac Newton Phelps. They were very distant cousins, their mutual ancestor being George Phelps who came to America in 1630. They were the parents of 9-children many of whom were notable social reformers and philanthropists. The family were prominent members of Mrs Astor's Four Hundred. They lived between various houses on Madison Avenue; Bay Villa on Staten Island; the 100-room Shadow Brook at Lenox, Massachusetts; Birch Island on Upper St. Regis Lake in the Adirondacks; and, Brick House in Darien, Connecticut. Following a hunting accident at Shadow Brook in 1899 Stokes had a leg amputated and died in 1913 at 230 Madison Avenue worth an estimated $25 million. However, after his debts had been settled what was left had dwindled to something in the region of just $625,000.
Contributed by Mark Meredith on 20/08/2021 and last updated on 29/08/2021.