An online project under the direction of the CAPE ANN MUSEUM
Charles Fox Hovey was a Boston dry-goods merchant, who for nine years had a house in Gloucester. In 1845, the Town of Gloucester sold Mr. Hovey a plot of land on Granite Street on which he built a house. He sold the house and land to Capt. Edward Babson in 1854. (1)
Hovey (1807–59) was born in Brookfield, MA, one of the four sons of Darius and Sarah (Howe) Hovey. He married Justine de Peyster (1820–91) in New York in 1837. They had six children, two of whom died young. (2)
In 1841, he and two associates began Hovey, Williams and Co., an import and wholesale dry goods business with offices on Water Street in Boston. By 1848, they had merged with a retail store and were on Summer Street, Boston as C. F. Hovey & Co. They also opened offices in New York and Paris and became innovators in department-store merchandising, introducing a simple pricing system as well as instigating early closing hours, employee profit-sharing and a customer credit system with monthly billing. They were taken over by Jordan Marsh in 1947. (2)
Mr. Hovey was an ardent abolitionist who, along with other Boston businessmen, provided most of the funding for the American Anti-Slavery Society. He also strongly supported Woman Suffrage, free trade and temperance. In his will he instructed that all his residual estate, after payment of all other legacies and bequests, was to be set up in a trust that would pay out no less than eight thousand dollars a year (until the principal was exhausted) to support abolitionist efforts. This became the Hovey Fund, headed by Wendell Phillips. (4)
His funeral held on May 2, 1859 was attended by many people, among them William Lloyd Garrison (who spoke), Wendell Phillips and Rev. Thomas Starr King. (5)
– Stephanie Buck
(1) Cape Ann Museum BR Box P 33 FF4 & Salem Registry of Deeds Bk. 502: 210.
(2) Harvard Business School records - Mss:776, H846.
(3) Vital Records, New England Historical and Genealogical Society.
(4) The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison: From Disunionism to the Brink of War, 1850–1860 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976).
(5) "Tribute to the memory of Charles F. Hovey, esq.," The Liberator, May 6, 1859.