"Thomas S. Blair's career is ended: One of the old Pittsburg ironmasters passed quietly away yesterday: Was born in Kittanning: Highly distinguished as a philosopher and scientist: A courtly gentleman, who retired from business to study; father of a respected family." Pittsburg Post, Oct. 23, 1898, p. 2. Newspapers.com 86376832.
Thomas S. Blair died early yesterday morning at the home of his son-in-law, Harvey Childs, Jr., 718 Bidwell street, East End. He was 73 years old. The immediate cause of his death was bronchitis, but he had been in failing health for several years.
Mr. Blair was born in Kittanning in 1825. His father, Thomas Blair, was a prominent lawyer. Blair county was named after his grandfather, John Blair, of Blairs Gap. The Blair family were pioneers in this section of the country, and took an active part in public affairs during the early days. Thomas S. Blair was a small boy at the time of his father's death. His mother moved to Pittsburg soon afterward, and in this city the boy received his early education. He attended one of the old-time private schools of Pittsburg, and then entered Harvard, being graduated in the class of 1844. The year following his graduation was spent in European travel. Returning to Pittsburg he became associated with G. & J. H. Shoenberger, pioneer iron manufacturers. The firm developed into what was later known as Shoenberger, Blair & Co., George Shoenberger becoming senior partner. From that time until his retirement, 25 years ago, Mr. Blair was the active member of the firm, and he was known as one of the ablest business men in Pennsylvania.
His interest in the manufacture of iron and steel extended beyond mere commercial limits. He made a thoroughly scientific study of the business, and grew to be an authority on the subject. The making of steel was a particularly interesting matter of experiment and inquiry to him. Frequent contributions to scientific journals and the application of theories to his business were results of these labors. He was a student and a scholar, but these attributes did not prevent him from being eminently successful as a man of affairs. He amassed wealth, and a quarter of a century ago retired from active business life to engage in pursuits that were of more vital interest to him. From boyhood he had been a thinker, and the advantage of a thorough collegiate training developed his talents to their full depth and latitude. He was a philosopher by nature, and his taste ran toward political economy. He took no part in practical politics further than to appear before congressional committees now and then, when tariff discussions were at their height. He strongly advocated protection of American industries, and ably expounded the "protective tariff" theory. This talent and his association with manufacturers of Pennsylvania often took him to Washington.
But here again his habits of thought rose beyond the purely practical. The last 25 years of his life were spent in almost incessant study of economical and social questions. His book, "Human Progress," published in 1896, created quite a stir among thinkers. This work of his was the fruit of many years' labor. In it he appeared as a profound philosopher and polished man of books. Few of the many who read the book knew its author to be a Pittsburg ironmaster.
Personally Mr. Blair was a delightful companion. He was an American gentleman of the old school, as much at home in a drawing room as in an office or his own study. He was singularly handsome, although not notably large of build. He was noted as a conversationalist, and extensive reading and travels gave him opportunity to prove his power. His keen wit and gentle humor were sources of constant merriment to his family and friends. Few men had a better right to the title of gentleman than Mr. Blair. By disposition he shunned activity that would bring him into public view, but in a quiet way his influence covered a wide field.Mr. Blair married Miss Dike of Steubenville. His wife died in 1878, leaving him three children: Mrs. Harvey Childs, Jr., George D. Blair, of New Castle, and Thomas S. Blair, Jr., of Chicago. William R. Blair, the well-known lawyer, is a nephew. Funeral services will take place at 10:30 a. m. to-morrow at Mr. Childs' home, and at 1:15 p. m. the remains will be taken to Steubenville for burial.