James Burton Pond Collection: Northwestern Obituary


Death of Major J. B. Pond
The Daily Northwestern, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Monday Evening, June 22, 1903


Death of Major J. B. Pond
Well-Known Lecture Manager Dies in New York

   (Bulletin Press Association)
   New York, June 22.--Last evening at his home in Jersey City, Major James B. Pond died from the effects of an operation. His right foot had become ulcerated and gangrene set in. The leg was amputated near the hip and it was thought he would recover, but he sank until death came to his relief. The funeral will be held Tuesday from his residence in Jersey City. The Major leaves a wife and one son, J. B. Pond, Jr., a boy of seventeen, and a daughter of his first wife.

   Major Pond was born in Cuba, N. Y., in 1838. He went into the army at the outbreak of the Civil war and when the war closed he came back major of the Third Wisconsin cavalry. He had been a printer at Oshkosh, Markesan, Fond du Lac and other places and about 1865 he started in the manufacture of furniture at Appleton in the firm of Pond & Atkinson. A few years later he sold out his interest to his partner, Mr. J. F. Atkinson, who was a brother-in-law of Major C. G. Finney. Major Pond then became attached to The Oshkosh Northwestern for a short time as traveling agent. Later he became a commercial traveler for the Wisconsin state prison, then engaged in manufacturing furniture, and after a year or two he engaged with the furniture firm of Abernathy Bros., Leavenworth, Kan. While traveling for the firm he visited Salt Lake City and there fell in with Ann Eliza Young, sixteenth wife of Brigham Young.

   It was Ann Eliza Young that got Major Pond in the lecture business. He saw the possibilities before the young woman and took her at once to New York and Boston and started her as a public lecturer with immense success. Under the major's management, she traveled all over the United States, telling the story of Brigham Young's harem and the life of one of his numerous wives. Pond soon after took an interest in the Redpath lecture bureau in Boston and soon after moved it to New York where for the past twenty-five years he has carried on an immense business in hiring and supplying lecturers, singers and musicians.

   The major was a tall handsome man with brusque but kindly manner and he invariably made warm friends of every one he came in contact with. He managed all of Henry Ward Beecher's lecture tours in this country and Europe and to the day of his death he carried a magnificently jeweled gold watch presented him by Mr. Beecher. He was on good terms with such men as William Dean Howells the novelist, Max O'Rell, Hall Caine, Marion Crawford, Sir Edwin Arnold, Fred Douglass, John B. Gough, Canon Farrar, Ian MacLaren, Conan Doyle and many others, all of whom loved him for his personal qualities. In fact it was difficult to come into personal contact with the big-hearted major and not like him.

   His nerve in executing a business enterprise was something wonderful. He once told me how he handled Henry M. Stanley, the African explorer. He offered Stanley a cool $50,000 for a series of fifty lectures in the United States, agreeing to pay the personal expenses of Stanley and a companion besides. Stanley accepted and the deal  was successfully carried through. It required him to take in for each entertainment something like $1,200 to pay expenses, and he cleared $20,000 on the contract. For years he was angling to get Mr. W. E. Gladstone to come to this country on a lecture tour and he had a standing proposition to pay "the grand old man" $100,000 for a series of lectures, but Gladstone was so tied up with his political engagements that he could not accept until he became too feeble to cross the Atlantic. He also offered Dreyfus $100,000 for a series of lectures and he thought nothing of staking immense sums on a deal if the man was well known.

   Major Pond had only a smattering of an education, chiefly picked up in a printing office, but his native talent enabled him to write well and to appear with distinction in any company. He was the author of several books. Two years ago he published his memoirs under the title of "Eccentricities of Genius," giving personal reminiscences of the many distinguished men and women he had known as a manager. Besides this he wrote "A Summer in England With Henry Ward Beecher," "Across the Continent With Mark Twain," and "Pioneer Boyhood."

   Major Pond was married three times. His first wife was a native of Janesville, Wis., who died before he left the state. In New York he married Marie Stone, an opera singer from whom he was divorced. About 1880 he married Miss Glass, who with a very promising son, survives him.

With appreciation to Kevin Dier-Zimmel, who located this obituary.

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