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George Law is Born

Today in Masonic History George Law is born in 1806.

George Law was an American financier.

Law was born on October 25th, 1806 in Jackson, New York. He grew up on his father's farm where he spent his days working. At night he attended school. When he turned 18 he left the family farm to learn a trade. He learned masonry and stone-masonry in Hoosic, New York before getting jobs on the Delaware and Hudson Canal. He was the supervisor of the making of the canal-locks at High Falls. After finishing his portion of the project he went and worked a stone quarry in Pennsylvania. He later was employed as a mechanic on the locks.

Law taught himself drafting and engineering and became good on the tasks. In 1829, he was awarded a contract for a small lock and aqueduct on the Delaware and Hudson Canal. Eventually he became a large contractor for the construction of canals and railroads.

In 1837, Law was awarded a section of the Croton waterworks, a project one of his brothers was already employed on. In 1839, he was awarded the contract for the Aqueduct Bridge, now the High Bridge, which crosses the Harlem river and is the oldest bridge in New York City.

In 1842, Law took over the Dry Dock Bank before moving into the transportation business. He purchased the New York and Harlem Railroad, as well as the Mohawk Railroad. Over the next few years he purchased or built steamships and eventually formed the U.S. Mail Steamship Company. The company was awarded the contract to carry the United States Mail to California. By 1849, Law, with his company had built or purchased three additional ships. In 1849, he moved the company into carrying passengers. The ships on the East coast of the United States carried passengers to the Chagres on the Isthmus of Panama. Before long with the California Gold Rush, a train system was constructed from Chagres to the West coast of Panama, allowing for faster transport from the New York to California. Not long after this, the Pacific Mail Steamship Company entered competition in the Atlantic. Law moved four steamships to the Pacific in order to compete with the Pacific Mail Steamship Company (PMSC) on their own "turf." The rivalry ended when Law purchased the Atlantic ships of PMSC.

In 1852, Law got into a quarrel with the Spanish Captain General of Cuba. The Captain General was offended by the comments in newspapers of a purser employed by Law. Later Admiral David Porter made additional comments further angering the Captain General. The purser and Admiral Porter were banned from Cuba and any ship carrying them were not be allowed in any Cuban port. Law, dispatched a ship with the purser on board bound for Cuba in defiance of the Captain General. By this time President Millard Fillmore had already sent an apology to the Captain General and the ban was rescinded prior to the ship with the purser arriving. This infuriated Law further, he later stated Fillmore and later President Franklin Pierce were cowards for their handling of Cuba. This led to Law seeking the Presidential nomination of the Know Nothing party in 1855. He lost the nomination to Fillmore and was named the Vice Presidential candidate.

Law had a steamship named after him the SS George Law. The name of the ship was changed to the SS Central America. In 1857, the ship went down in a storm with it's passengers and crew. It was also carrying $2 million in gold. The loss of the cold was one of the contributing causes of the Panic of 1857.

Law passed away on November 18th, 1881.

Law was a member of St. Nicholas Lodge No. 321 in New York City, New York.

This article provided by Brother Eric C. Steele.