John H. Keyser

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John H. Keyser (ca. 1818-August 23, 1899) was a capitalist active in New York City during the late 19th century. He was well known for his charitable projects during economic downturns, and for accusations of corrupt connections with Boss Tweed.


New York Times

From "The Commune in New-York. Its Several Organizations," in the New York Times, January 23, 1874.

How Funds Were Raised.

It was generally supposed that John H. Keyser had been a heavy financial "backer" of the movement in the hands of the united party, as it was known that he had paid some proportion, if not all, of the Cooper Institute meeting expenses. The reporter called upon Mr. Keyser last night to ascertain the facts, and was informed by him that he had never contributed but $25 to the affair, which was for the defrayal of the gass bill. The hall, he understood, was given free for a "working men’s" mass-meeting. Prior to that time, Mr. Keyser had contributed to the Howard Relief Association for the relief of the unemployed, and had also instituted a free service of food and soups at his own house for such as chose to partake. This latter patronage grew, in five weeks, from about twenty persons per day to 1,000 at a single meal, and he finally gave up the project of feeding them. The Committee of Safety had subsequently applied to him for funds, and he incontinently rejected the application.

Obituary, "John H. Keyser Dead" from the New York Times, August 23, 1899.

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John H. Keyser Dead.

Thousands Were Aided by Man Accused of Being Tweed’s Partner.
John H. Keyser, an inventor, manufacturer, and philanthropist of this city, died at his home in East Norwalk, Conn., on Sunday night at the age of eighty-one years.
Mr. Keyser, during the forty years he was engaged in manufacturing in this city and elsewhere, made and lost a half dozen fortunes. He retired about five years ago with a competency. About thirty years ago Mr. Keyser, who was then considered wealthy, built the "Stranger’ Rest," at 510 Pearl Street. In this house he annually sheltered and fed 9,000 homeless men and women for five years, defraying the entire expense himself. In 1870 he built the Strangers’ Hospital, at Tenth Street and Avenue A, at a cost of $80,000 and conducted it himself for three years as a hospital from whose doors no poor person was turned away. During the great panic of 1873 Mr. Keyser fed daily 1,000 persons in his home in Second Avenue, and in the "hard times" of 1888 he established a free eating house in Washington Square, in which 2,000 persons daily received two meals. Again, in 1894, when hundreds of homeless men roamed the streets, he made an effective appeal for the needy, and largely through his efforts 1,200 wanderers were lodged free during the cold weather.
Mr. Keyser was accused, during the investigation of the Tweed ring, of being a partner of Tweed and of having received enormous sums of money from the city through this connection. The Committee of Seventy, which conducted the investigation, reported the following resolution touching upon Mr. Keyser's action after the charge had been made against him:
Resolved, That John H. Keyser has made an assignment to Jackson S. Schultz, as a member of the Citizens' Committee, of property estimated at some six hundred thousand dollars in trust to repay out of the proceeds of the same all sums of money which he may have improperly received from the City or County of New York, and has given full information touching his pecuniary transactions which may be published.
In explanation of this action Mr. Keyser wrote an open letter, in which he declared that he had never been associated in business with Tweed, and that he had not, as the Committee of Seventy intimated, made a confession, because he "had nothing to confess."