Isaiah V. Williamson
Philadelphia & London
J. B. Lippincott Company
From his earliest days John Wanamaker was a voluminous writer. His first manuscripts were the lessons prepared for Bethany Sunday School in 1858, and he continued to write on many subjects to the very end. His pioneer work transformed the writing of advertisements. When he reached middle life he began to write on municipal, state, and national political issues. The record of his participation in the Cabinet of Benjamin Harrison was preserved in the annual reports of the Postmaster General to the President. Many of his notable speeches in Pennsylvania political campaigns were published in book form by a league of Philadelphia business men. In his later years he wrote several thousand daily Store editorials. Throughout his long career he carefully prepared, and generally wrote in long-hand, his speeches before they were delivered. And they were speeches on all sorts of subjects.
But he did not write books. His life was a daily outpouring. It was not strange, then, that his writings should be of the moment for the moment. No man of his time had greater vision, and saw more clearly the future. But he lived day by day.
The character of John Wanamaker, coupled with the tremendous demands made upon his time each day, makes all the more remarkable the little biographical sketch of a friend which we are publishing five years after John Wanamaker's death, twenty years after the sketch was written, and nearly forty years after the death of its subject.
Isaiah V. Williamson was of the generation preceding John Wanamaker. But he honored the younger man with his friendship and trust, and the younger man admired him and saw the great soul of Williamson when others went no farther than to be amused about and criticize the old philanthropist's habits of economy. So much that was legendary grew up around the name of Isaiah V. Williamson that John Wanamaker determined to write the life of his friend. It was a big undertaking for a busy merchant. But he went about it with his usual thoroughness and patient attention to detail. Gradually the materials for a life of Williamson were gathered; and then the life was written. In its original form it was a considerably larger manuscript. John Wanamaker cut it down; and parts of it he recast. Then he put it aside. It was found among his papers—the only book-length manuscript that he had written.
It is not for this reason, however, that it is being published. We feel that the life of Isaiah V. Williamson should be known to this generation. The little book is a message to young men, written by one man who had achieved success, about another man who had achieved success before he did. But neither the subject of the biography, nor its author, had any thought for success in the worldly meaning of that word. Nor did they measure their life work by the money they had accumulated and the position they had won among their fellows by reason of the power that money gave them.
Honest living, honest thinking, and a passion for service are the characteristics of Isaiah V. Williamson brought forth in this little book. The biographer's enthusiasm for and keen sympathy with the man about whom he writes could only have been possible through sharing his subject's ideals. There is inspiration in this book for those who want the ideals of Isaiah V. Williamson and John Wanamaker to be theirs.