Claus Spreckels, of San Francisco, is a man of national and world-wide reputation, and his operations in industry and commerce place him among the noted Americans of this and the past century who by force of sheer industry, shrewd business ability and foresight and unexampled executive powers have assumed directing command of the commerce and industrial production of the world and wield a power and influence beside which the regal potentates and vain-florious military shiefs of the past were mere shadow puppets in the play of history.
The life of Claus Spreckels is one of the interesting and absorbing personal histories of which America is so proud. He was born in Lamstedt, Hanover, Germany, July 9, 1828. At the age of twenty, in 1848, he came to Charleston, South Carolina, where he was employed in the humble capacity of grocery clerk, at small pay. Right here his genious for executive management and commercial control soon became apparent, for after a year and a half he bought out his employer with a promise to pay, and in one year was able to meet all his debts and have the store for his own. In 1855 he sought a larger field in New York city, where he established a wholesale and retail grocery. He soon afterward purchased a grocery business in San Francisco from his brother, and in June, 1856, he started for California. In 1857, he established the Albany Brewery in San Francisco, and after conducting both enterprises for a time, sold the store. His next concern was the establishment of the Bay Sugar Refining Company, but two years later he sold this and went to Europe to study more thoroughly the production and refining of beet sugar. While in Europe he entered a beet factory as a workman, and thus became familiar with all the details of the industry. He discovered that beet sugar could not at that time be manufactured in the United States with profit, and he accordingly returned to California and started the California Sugar Refining Company, which has grown to such proportions that it is now a landmark of San Francisco.
Mr. Spreckels, in the course of some visits to the Sandwich Islands, was impressed with the possibilities of sugar-cane culture and leasing twenty thousand acres of land for his purpose from the government, he developed it and made cane-growing one of the foremost industries of those ocean realms. This enterprise not only profited himself, but was of untold benefit to the islanders, in recognition of which King Kalakaua made him a knight commander of the Order of the Kalakaua.
Mr. Spreckels was one of the organizers of the Independent Electric Light and Power Company and of the Independent Gas Company in San Francisco, being the first president. With the immense fortune acquired through his varied enterprises he has been one of the most liberal men of California, and many public and charitable institutions have reason to be grateful that such a liberal and broad-minded captain of industry exists, not only as one of the pillars upholding the financial and industrial world of to-day, but as one who dispenses wisely the profits which his life of diligence and high ability have accumulated.
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