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Larkin, John Durrant - Erie County

JOHN DURRANT LARKIN. John D. Larkin is one of Buffalo's foremost business men. As President and founder of the Larkin Company, he has identified his name with an industry of the first magnitude. It is an instance of what can be done by sagacity, persistence and pluck. It also exemplifies the value of integrity and honor in the business world. Throughout his career Mr. Larkin has been characterized by conscientiousness, and square dealing. Sound methods, superior products and honest prices are his watchwords as a manufacturer. As a producer and seller of staples of commerce he has been thrown into close relations with the public. He knows the popular needs and the demands of the market, and has won his success by supplying them in the right way. Appreciating the economic worth of sales direct from the factory to the family, he has always fostered that idea. The great enterprise which he directs is an important factor in household savings and personal thrift, by furnishing daily living necessities of high standard quality at one-half of retail prices. Understanding this, the people have rewarded him by immense patronage and gratifying confidence. The Larkin concern is not only of representative standing in industrial circles, but has a popular character distinctly its own. By knowing what Mr. Larkin has accomplished, one may form a very fair idea of the man himself. He is a typical American of the enterprising and forceful kind, broad in his views and gifted with a keen eye for opportunities. As the years have gone by he has extended his undertakings and is now connected with many large undertakings besides the business with which he was originally identified. He is a progressive citizen, well known in the social world and active in general movements tending to the betterment of Buffalo.

Mr. Larkin is of English descent. His father, Levi Henry Larkin, was the son of Henry Larkin, and was born in Eye, County of Sussex, in the South of England about 1816. When sixteen years old he came to America. In 1833 he settled in Buffalo. Here he entered the iron works operated by Deacon George H. Jones, learned the iron-working business, and later founded the Clinton Iron Works in Clinton street, on a site in the rear of the present Hotel Lafayette. There he continued to carry on an extensive business to the time of his death, making fancy iron staircases, fences, shutters and other articles. The works which he established are still in existence and are operated under the same name.

Levi H. Larkin was a Whig in politics. He was a member of the old Volunteer Fire Department, belonging to Eagle Hose Company. When the old Eagle Tavern was burnt in 1849 he performed a notable act of courage, ascending the slippery roof to the belfry of the old Court-House in Washington street and smothering the fire that threatened to destroy the building.

Mr. Larkin married Mary Ann Durrant, who was of English birth, though of French extraction. They had seven children, of whom John D. is the only survivor. Levi H. Larkin died in Buffalo in June, 1852. He was a successful man of affairs and a pioneer of the iron industry in Buffalo, and an esteemed citizen, universally respected for his sterling qualities of manhood and public spirit.

John Durrant Larkin was born in Buffalo on the 29th of September, 1845, in a dwelling which occupied a part of the present site of the Lafayette Hotel. He was educated at Public School No. 15, later taking a course in Bryant & Stratton's Business College. Left an orphan at the age of six years by the death of his father, both circumstances and early training inculcated in young Larkin the principle of relying on himself. When twelve years old he became a messenger and general utility boy in the employ of William H. Woodward, owner of a wholesale millinery store in Buffalo. Some years afterward he entered the establishment of his brother-in-law, Justus Weller, who was engaged in the soap business at 960 Seneca street. With him in 1870 he went to Chicago, where the two formed a partnership which continued until the spring of 1875, when Mr. Larkin sold out his interest and returned to Buffalo, where the same year he founded his present business, beginning the manufacture of soap in a small factory in Chicago street.

At the time he established his Buffalo enterprise, Mr. Larkin had had twelve years of experience in the business, of which he had gained a comprehensive knowledge. His ideas were advanced, and his coming to the Buffalo field marked a new departure in his branch of industry. The business grew rapidly, and in 1876 he bought a site on Seneca street and built a factory. In 1878 the firm of J. D. Larkin & Co. was organized. In December, 1899, the Larkin Company was incorporated, with a capital of $1,000,000, Mr. Larkin being President. The original plant has been continually modified by extensive additions and improvements, and today consists of many buildings all connected with each other, containing fifty acres of floor space, and constitutes the largest fireproof manufactory in the world. The lighting plant would be capable of lighting thirty miles of Buffalo streets, or a city of 25,000 inhabitants. More than 100 tons of coal are consumed every 24 hours in generating this electricity for lighting the buildings, for heating and manufacturing purposes. Two of the twelve great soap kettles used are the largest in the world, being thirty feet in diameter and forty feet deep, with a capacity of a million and a half pounds each. A boiling from one of these kettles makes thirty car-loads of soap. Besides the manufacture of the famous Larkin Soaps, an important feature of the concern is the refining of glycerin and the making of superior toilet preparations and perfumes. Its laboratories for these special manufactures are among the largest and most noted in the world. A leading principle of the business is the "Larkin Idea"; namely, direct sale of soaps and food products from factory to family. The concern has an enormous household patronage, based on its sales to housewives of all goods they offer at a trifle more than manufacturer's cost. The premiums offered in this connection are among the best ever put within the reach of the buying public. The Office Building enjoys the distinction of being the largest and most complete in the world. It will accommodate 1,800 employees. The furniture throughout is of steel, which is an absolute guarantee against Are. Besides being President of the Larkin Company, Mr. Larkin is President of the Buffalo Pottery,- Director in the Columbia and Central National Banks, and Trustee of the Commonwealth Trust Company.

In politics Mr. Larkin is a Republican, but holds liberal views on local issues. Active in the charitable as well as the social life of the city, he is connected with several philanthropic institutions. He is a member of the Ellicott Club, the Country Club, the Manufacturers' Club, of which association he was elected the first President, serving for two terms, being reelected unanimously. He belongs to the Prospect Avenue Baptist Church. He is notably a friend and helper of young men. Rising ability always finds in him a prompt and sympathetic appreciation.

May 10, 1874, Mr. Larkin married, in Hudson, Illinois, Miss Frances H. Hubbard, daughter of Dr. Silas Hubbard, formerly of Buffalo, and a prominent physician and citizen. Mr. and Mrs. Larkin have five children: Charles H., Mrs. Prances L. Estey, John D., Jr., Harry H. and Ruth E. Larkin. All the sons were educated at Lafayette College.

SOURCE:  Memorial and Family History of Erie County New York; Volume I