George D. Pratt (AC 1893) Papers
George Dupont Pratt (16 Aug. 1869-20 Jan. 1935), industrialist and conservationist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Charles Pratt and Mary Helen Richardson. His father, a prominent philanthropist, officer, and director of the Standard Oil firm, founded the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. As a privileged child, George Pratt received the finest education available to one of his social standing. He graduated with an A.B. from Amherst College, where he excelled as an athlete, in 1893. In 1895 he entered the employ of the Long Island Railroad Company as a shop hand and over the next five years rose to the position of assistant to the president and supervisor of the company's ferries. In 1897 Pratt married Helen Deming Sherman, daughter of Brooklyn Cotton merchant John Taylor Sherman. They had five children, one of whom died young. After 1900 Pratt served as treasurer of the Chelsea Fiber Mills and treasurer and vice president of the Charles Pratt & Co. financial firm, which managed his father's estate. Conservative, patriotic, and sympathetic by nature and religion, Pratt joined the Presbyterian church and affiliated with the Republican party. Among the hobbies he pursued were travel, amateur photography, and big game hunting. Pratt's passion for athletics was carried into his activities with the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). He probably first became active in his student days at Amherst, and he served many years as chairman of the physical department of its International Committee. He was prominent in the formation of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) in 1910, serving as treasurer of that organization's executive board until 1934.
As a lover of the outdoors, Pratt made his work in the field of conservation a priority. As New York state conservation commissioner from 1915 to 1921, he launched a comprehensive program to prevent wanton destruction of timber, fish, and game. His efforts resulted in a $7.5 million appropriation, secured after a state referendum in 1916, to add some 400,000 acres of land in the Adirondeck and Catskill mountain regions to the state's forest reserves. Pratt oversaw the construction of over fifty steel lookout towers to help guard against forest fires, and during his administration the annual fire loss was reduced to less than $5,000 (by 1921). To further encourage public use, he built camping cabins and published bulletins indicating canoe routes, hiking trails, and roads for motorists. Under his leadership the commission restocked lakes and streams throughout the state, started fish and game clubs in areas where existing game laws had been violated, and initiated the cultivation of oysters. Believing that visual representation was more effective than mere words, Pratt produced and distributed motion pictures of the commission's activities, including a demonstration of fire-fighting techniques. His development and enlargement of Saratoga Springs as a year-round public resort is particularly notable.
In 1924, a year after his wife's death, Pratt was elected president of the American Forestry Association and was reelected annually until failing health forced his retirement ten years later. During his administration, that organization increased its membership and broadened its sphere of activity and influence, particularly in education and legislative lobbying. At his own expense Pratt provided several hundred association medals to be awarded annually to children throughout the United States in recognition of outstanding conservation work. His offer to donate $100,000 for an endowment fund, provided the membership could raise an equal amount, met with an overwhelming response. By the time Pratt retired, the fund had reached $265,000.
After three years as a widower, Pratt met Vera Hale, daughter of William Amherst Hale, a banker of Sherbrooke, in the Canadian province of Quebec. The couple was married at her hometown in 1926; they had no children.
Pratt served as a trustee of his alma mater, Amherst College. He was also a vice president and trustee of Pratt Institute, founder of the Society of Medalists, and a member of the New York Zoological Society, Alpha Delta Phi, the Camp Fire Club of America, and the Boone & Crockett Club as well as the University, Century, Recess (New York), and Piping Rock yacht clubs. A discriminating patron of the arts and an enthusiastic hunter, Pratt presented several trophies and souvenirs from his travels in the Orient to the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, both of which he also served as a trustee. In his will, he stipulated that 5 percent of his estate would be divided among various educational and charitable institutions.
During his later years, Pratt had two country homes, one in New Brunswick and the other in Glen Cove, Long Island, in addition to his Park Avenue townhouse in downtown Manhattan. In increasingly poor health during his last months, Pratt died at "Killenworth," his estate in Glen Cove. He was interred in the family mausoleum in Brooklyn.
[Source: H. Allen Anderson. "Pratt, George Dupont"; http://www.anb.org/articles/20/20-00818.html; American National Biography Online, Feb. 2000. Access Date: Fri Nov 04 2011 11:52:52 GMT-0400]