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April 17, 2013

NEW ALBANY BICENTENNIAL: Washington C. DePauw

(Continued)

NEW ALBANY —

But DePauw is most renowned for his ownership of Star Glass Works which made plate glass. Never before had an American been able to make this industry profitable, instead importing the product from Europe at exorbitant prices. DePauw changed this by investing his abundant capital into the company. At one point, two out of every three pieces of plate glass in the U.S. was produced by the magnate. It’s not hard to imagine how he became the richest man in Indiana. 

“Factories owned by and large by one merchant-banker, a man who stood opposed to labor as capital personified, employed as many as 2,500 workers, perhaps two-thirds of the wage-earning population,” Lipin said. “For to live and work in New Albany, the odds were, was to be employed by W.C. DePauw.”

With his wealth, DePauw did give back to charitable endeavors throughout his lifetime. A seminary for women was built with his patronage. Young men were known to have received an education through his backing. During the flood of 1884, he publicly raised money for relief efforts. A fervent Methodist, he also gave funds to the church for a variety of programs. And, most notably, he helped fund his now namesake, DePauw College. After his death in 1887, a fund for New Albany was established that still provides money for the city’s children even today. 

Only years after DePauw’s passing, New Albany lost another great supporter. Due to new natural gas discoveries, the plate glass industry relocated up north marking an end to the golden age of New Albany. But a new century, with new innovations, was right around the corner. 

 

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