Stephen V. Harkness
|Stephen Vanderburgh Harkness|
|Born||November 18, 1818
|Died||March 6, 1888(1888-03-06) (aged 69)
New Hyde Park, New York
|Resting place||Woodlawn Cemetery|
|Residence||New York City|
|Spouse||1) Laura Osborne
2) Anna M. Richardson
|Children||Lamon V. (1850-1915)
William L. (1858-1919)
Charles W. (1860-1919)
Edward S. (1874-1940)
Stephen Vanderburgh Harkness (November 18, 1818 – March 6, 1888) was an American businessman from Cleveland, Ohio, who invested as a silent partner with oil titan John D. Rockefeller, Sr. in the founding of Standard Oil.
Born in Fayette, New York, he was the son of Dr. David Harkness and his first wife who died in 1820. His father relocated to the Western Reserve region of Northeast Ohio, settling in Milan where he remarried to Elizabeth Caldwell Morrison. David Harkness died in 1825 and his widow later returned to Seneca County, New York where she remarried to the Reverend Isaac Flagler, a Presbyterian minister in Milton, New York with whom she had a son, Henry Flagler. David Harkness had a younger brother, Lamon G. Harkness, who was also a doctor but who became a successful businessman in Bellevue, Ohio.
At age twenty-one, after finishing his apprenticeship as a harnessmaker, Stephen Harkness moved to Bellevue, Ohio. Harkness worked for a time in harnessmaking but in 1855 set up a distillery in Monroeville, Ohio that was a success. Within a few years he organized a bank and in 1864 formed a partnership with Wm. Halsey Doan to provide crude oil to refineries – that made him a rich man. In 1866 he sold his Monroeville businesses and moved to Cleveland. There, he joined Henry Flagler in investing in Rockefeller, Andrews & Flagler, the firm that became eventually Standard Oil. Harkness became its second largest shareholder; the company’s success made him enormously wealthy. Although Stephen Harkness was a silent partner, he was a member of Standard Oil’s Board of Directors until his death in 1888.
After his death, Anna M. Harkness, Harkness’s second wife, established the Commonwealth Fund, a foundation dedicated to the improvement of healthcare. Their second son, Edward Harkness, was an important philanthropist.
Three sons (Anna was the mother of the third son, Charles, and the fourth, Edward) helped found and sustain The Third Society, later known as Wolf’s Head Society, at Yale University, in 1883. William, the second son by Laura Osborne, was also a member; their Yale Classes were William, 1881, Charles, 1883, and Edward, 1897.
Including Anna’s philanthropy, the family made possible the residential college system at Yale as well as the house system at Harvard. At Yale, their donated buildings include the Memorial Quadrangle, Harkness Tower, William L. Harkness Hall, and the new or second hall for Wolf’s Head Society on York Street, New Haven, CT.