Past Treasure of the Month – December 2018

John H. Hutchings
Presentation Silver
Galveston businessman John Henry Hutchings (1822 - 1906) [image courtesy of the Galveston and Texas History Center, Rosenberg Library].

Galveston businessman John Henry Hutchings (1822 – 1906)
[image courtesy of the Galveston and Texas History Center, Rosenberg Library].

During the month of December, Rosenberg Library exhibited a silver service presented to John H. Hutchings by the Galveston Wharf Company in 1874. The silver set was a recent gift of Julie Hutchings Bennett and John H. Hutchings, Jr.

Born in North Carolina in 1822, John Henry Hutchings came to Texas as a young man in search of economic opportunity during the 1840s. After forming a partnership with merchant John Sealy in Sabine, both men came to Galveston in 1854 and became associates of George Ball. The trio founded Ball, Hutchings, Sealy, and Co. (later called Hutchings, Sealy, and Co.) While at first the firm was engaged in the mercantile business as well as banking, it eventually focused only on banking and commission.

During the Civil War, Hutchings and his associates relocated to Houston after Union troops took control of Galveston’s port. From that location, Ball, Hutchings, Sealy, and Co. transported arms and other military goods for the Confederacy via blockade-runners. When the war ended, the company returned to Galveston and continued to operate a bank at the corner of Strand and 24th Street. After the deaths of both George Ball and John Sealy in the 1884, John Hutchings became the firm’s senior member.

Engraved coffee pot from a five-piece presentation silver service presented to John H. Hutchings in 1874 [gift of Julie Hutchings Bennett and John H. Hutchings, Jr.].

Engraved coffee pot from a five-piece presentation silver service presented to John H. Hutchings in 1874 [gift of Julie Hutchings Bennett and John H. Hutchings, Jr.].

In addition to managing Ball, Hutchings, and Company, John Hutchings held numerous positions in the community. He was a director of the Galveston Gas Company; the Southern Press Manufacturing Company; the Galveston City Company, the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Railway; the Galveston, Houston, and Henderson Railway; the Galveston Cotton Oil Company; the Texas Land and Loan Company; and the Galveston Insurance Company. He also served as President of the Galveston Wharf Company for many years, and under his leadership, many improvements were made to the harbor entrance and bay front. Hutchings was instrumental in establishing a new line of steamships between Galveston and New York. Likewise, he negotiated a settlement over a long-disputed claim to the title of the Galveston wharf property. For this particular achievement, he was presented with the silver service now on display at Rosenberg Library.

Hutchings married Minnie Knox in 1856, and the couple had nine children. He was a member of Trinity Episcopal Church. He died in 1906 at the age of 84.