Isaac Bronson

Dr. Isaac Bronson (March 10, 1760 in Middlebury, CT – May 19, 1838 in Greenfield Hill) was a surgeon during the American Revolutionary War. He was later a successful banker and land speculator and is credited with co-founding the New York Life Insurance and Trust Company and Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company. Bronson was a member of the Society of the Cincinnati.

Isaac Bronson
Isaac Bronson.jpg
Portrait of Bronson by John Trumbull
Born(1760-03-10)March 10, 1760
DiedMay 19, 1838(1838-05-19) (aged 78)
Greenfield Hill, Connecticut, U.S.
OccupationSurgeon, investor, banker
Anna Olcott
(m. 1789; his death 1838)
Parent(s)Isaac Bronson
Mary Bronson
RelativesFrederic Bronson (grandson)

Early lifeEdit

Bronson was born on March 10, 1760, in Middlebury, Connecticut. He was the son of Captain Isaac Bronson (1736–1826) and Mary Bronson (d. 1810), and the older brother of Ethel Bronson (1765–1825), who married Hepzibah Hopkins Bronson (1768–1829)[1] and Silas Bronson (1788-1867). His father was a farmer who was also a member of the Connecticut General Assembly.[2]

His paternal grandparents were Isaac Bronson (1707–1799)[3] and Eunice (nee Richards) Bronson (1716–1749).[1]


Bronson studied medicine with Dr. Lemuel Hopkins in Litchfield. On November 14, 1779, he received a warrant to become a junior surgeon at the age of 19. During the American Revolutionary War, he served in the 2nd Regiment of Light Dragoons under George Washington, eventually becoming senior surgeon (attaining the rank of colonel) until the War ended in 1783.[4] Bronson made a personal appeal to George Washington to have his mates treated fairly and awarded pensions like the other officers. Three decades later, the omission was finally addressed and surgeons were granted full pay for life.[4]

Later careerEdit

After the War, Isaac Bronson became interested in foreign commerce and traveled as far as China, returning with valuable cargo which he sold at a profit. Bronson then pursued a career in purchasing and selling government obligations. He invested in the new American government's debt, assisted by many friends from former officers, including Alexander Hamilton, who had become the first Secretary of the Treasury in Washington's first cabinet. in some cases purchasing it for ten cents on the dollar. When the debt recovered to its face value, he had made a fortune. Bronson also invested in the Bank of the United States.[4]

In 1807, he founded the Bridgeport Bank in Connecticut, for which he was the largest shareholder, a director and president from 1807 to 1832.[2] In 1830,[5] he co-founded the New York Life Insurance and Trust Company (which merged with the Bank of New York in 1922)[6] and Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company.[7]

By 1828, he was one of the wealthiest men in New York City, with assets of more than $250,000.[2] Bronson also owned and invested in considerable real estate holdings throughout New York.[8]

None did more than banker Isaac Bronson to make an exact science of the business. Going beyond mere speculation, Bronson employed local businessmen, judges, and politicians to steer him toward the best land. He then resold it to farmers, granting five-year mortgages at 6 percent to those whose financial standing his agents and scrutinized and certified. By the early 1820s Bronson owned or held mortgages on property in over half the counties of the state. His enterprise was so solid that conservative bankers like Prime, Ward & King invested substantial sums with him.[8]

In 1833, Bronson, along with his sons Arthur, Frederic, and Charles Butler, the brother of Benjamin Franklin Butler the U.S. Attorney General, used his vast wealth to make one of the largest land purchases of his day.[5][9] Utilizing capital from the New York Life Insurance and Trust Company, among other banks, they purchased nearly one-third of a million acres of land across eight states, including North Carolina,[2] Indiana, Chicago (which had a population of only 500 at the time) and other parts of Illinois, and the Michigan Territory[8] Bronson was competing against John Jacob Astor, who also acquired a vast real estate portfolio.[10]

Personal lifeEdit

Portrait of Mrs. Isaac Bronson, circa 1805, by John Trumbull

On August 30, 1789, three months after his last trip to China, he married Anna Olcott (1765–1850), the daughter of Thomas Olcott. They moved to Hartford, then Philadelphia, and eventually in New York City. Together, they had ten children, two of whom died in infancy. Their children included:[1]

Bronson died on May 19, 1838, at Greenfield Hill.[1]


In 1796,[5] Bronson purchased the home of Timothy Dwight, called "Verna" in Greenfield Hill. Their country home later became Fairfield Country Day School.[16] He is credited with planting the first dogwood trees along Bronson Road where today there is a yearly Dogwood Festival.[17]


Through his daughter Caroline, he was the grandfather of Harriet Bronson Willett (1839–1911), who married Charles Burrall Hoffman (1821–1892),[18] the son of Ogden Hoffman and brother of Ogden Hoffman, Jr., in 1860.[19][20] Their daughter, Emily Burrall Hoffman (1861–1942),[21] married Maj. Gen. Villiers Hatton, CB (1852–1914), the Commander of British Troops in South China, in 1897.[7][22]

Through his son Frederic, he was the grandfather of Frederic Bronson (1851–1900),[23] who married Sarah Gracie King (1850–1931).[24] She was the daughter of Archibald Gracie King (1821–1897) and Elizabeth Denning (née Duer) King (1821–1900), and the granddaughter of U.S. Representative James Gore King and William Alexander Duer. She was also the sister of May Denning King (1848–1925), who married John King Van Rensselaer (1847–1909), son of Henry Bell Van Rensselaer and grandson of Stephen Van Rensselaer III, the patroon of Rensselaerwyck.[25]


  1. ^ a b c d Sibley, Harriet (Bronson) (1917). Bronson Lineage 1636–1917 | Ancestors and Descendants of Captain William Bronson of the Revolutionary War, and Other Ancestral Lines. Dallas, Oregon. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d "Isaac Bronson (1760–1838)". University of North Carolina Asheville. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  3. ^ "Obituary". Connecticut Journal. 9 May 1826. p. 3. At Middlebury, on the 15th ult. Captain Isaac Brownson, aged 90.
  4. ^ a b c "The Society Of the Cincinnati in The State of Connecticut | Surg Mate Isaac Bronson 1760–1839". Retrieved 2017-07-10.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Haeger, John D. (1981). The Investment Frontier: New York Businessmen and the Economic Development of the Old Northwest. SUNY Press. ISBN 9780873955317. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  6. ^ "New York's Oldest". TIME. 26 March 1934. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Van Rensselaer, Mrs. John King (1897). New Yorkers of the XIX Century. New York: F. Tennyson Neely. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  8. ^ a b c Gates (of Cornell University), Paul Wallace; Carstenen, ed., Vernon (1968). The Public Lands | The Role of the Land Speculator in Western Development. Madison, Wis.: Hibbard. pp. 314–333. Retrieved 17 October 2017.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Cole, J. Timothy (2008). Chimney Rock Park and Hickory Nut Gorge. Arcadia Publishing. p. 53. ISBN 9781439619469. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  10. ^ Burrows, Edwin G.; Wallace, Mike (1998). Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. Oxford University Press. p. 570. ISBN 9780199741205. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  11. ^ Harris, Luther S. (2003). Around Washington Square: An Illustrated History of Greenwich Village. JHU Press. pp. 12–13. ISBN 9780801873416. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  12. ^ Greider, Katharine (2011). The Archaeology of Home: An Epic Set on a Thousand Square Feet of the Lower East Side. PublicAffairs. p. 263. ISBN 9781586489908. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  13. ^ Richards, Penny L. (2 February 2014). "The Mordecai Female Academy: 130., 131., 132. The Donaldsons (Eliza, Isabella, and Joanna)". The Mordecai Female Academy. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  14. ^ Rinaldi, Thomas E.; Yasinsac, Rob (2006). Hudson Valley Ruins: Forgotten Landmarks of an American Landscape. UPNE. p. 92. ISBN 9781584655985. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  15. ^ "Bronson family papers 1790–1875". New York Public Library. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  16. ^ "History". Fairfield Country Day School. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  17. ^ "Bronson Windmill". Greenfield Hill Improvement Society. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  18. ^ Greene, Richard Henry; Stiles, Henry Reed; Dwight, Melatiah Everett; Morrison, George Austin; Mott, Hopper Striker; Totten, John Reynolds; Pitman, Harold Minot; Forest, Louis Effingham De; Ditmas, Charles Andrew; Mann, Conklin; Maynard, Arthur S. (1919). The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. p. 39. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  19. ^ Hoffman, Eugene Augustus (1899). Genealogy of the Hoffman family : descendants of Martin Hoffman, with biographical notes . New York : Dodd, Mead & Co. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  20. ^ "MARRIED. Hoffman -- Willett". The New York Times. 17 November 1860. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  21. ^ Carver, Wees, Beth; Higgins, Harvey, Medill (2013). Early American Silver in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Metropolitan Museum of Art. p. 102. ISBN 9781588394910. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  22. ^ Duyckinck, Whitehead Cornell; Cornell, John (1908). The Duyckinck and Allied Families: Being A Record Of The Descendants of Evert Duyckink Who Settled in New Amsterdam, Now New York, in 1638. Tobias A. Wright. p. 86. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  23. ^ "DEATH LIST OF A DAY. Frederic Bronson". The New York Times. 30 March 1900. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  24. ^ "MRS. ADRIAN ISELIN DIES IN HER SLEEP; Wife of Banking House's Head Is Stricken in Her 81st Year. A SOCIETY CONSERVATIVE Was a Descendant of the King, Duer and Gracie Families, Long Prominent in This City". The New York Times. 5 April 1931. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  25. ^ Sullivan, Robert G. (1911). "Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs: Van Rensselaer Vol. IV". Schenectady County Public Library. pp. 1814–1821. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  • Morrison, Grant. Isaac Bronson and the Search for System in American Capitalism, 1789–1838. New York: Arno Press, 1978
  • Venit, Abraham H. Isaac Bronson: His Banking Theory and the Financial Controversies of the Jacksonian Period. The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 5, No. 2 (Nov. 1945), pp. 201–214

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