Daniel Curtiss, Entrepreneur

Daniel Curtiss

Daniel Curtiss was born in Woodbury on September 18, 1801. He was the fifth child of David S. and Sybil Huntington Curtiss. His ancestor William emigrated from England to Stratford, Connecticut in the 17th century, and became one of the original settlers of Woodbury in 1673. Daniel taught school for ‘several terms’ in Middlebury and Litchfield after completing his studies in the schools of Woodbury, then bought a farm which he ran for ‘a few years’. Apparently a restless soul, at least in his youth, he then moved to New Jersey where he engaged in peddling for a short time, and then came back to Woodbury where he established himself in mercantile business at the south end of Main Street. He was a dry goods and grocery merchant.

He married Julia F. Strong in 1837. She was 25 years old at the time, and the daughter of another of the first families of Woodbury. They had eight children. Around this time Curtiss purchased the Jabez Bacon house and store and conducted a large general businss ‘for a number of years’.

Julia Strong Curtiss & Grandchildren, circa 1882-83

Possessed of surplus capital, he found an investment in the manufacture of silverware to be a ‘most successful venture’. He was the first to introduce German silver (a metal that only looks like silver) – the article does not really explain what is meant by “the first” – and employed 75 skilled workers in his factory, located across the street from his store. Actually, another source seems to imply that the 75 employees worked as peddlers of the silver.  Eventually that factory burned, and he relocated the business to quarters on the other side of the Pomperaug River.

In around 1840 he retired from the silver business, apparently selling it to someone who moved it to Waterbury. he then purchased the old Jesse Burton woolen factory which he renovated and improved. His three sons became his business partners, and the business became known as “Daniel Curtiss and Sons”.

In 1845 Curtiss sold his mercantile business and focused on manufacturing and farming. In 1851 the Woodbury Bank was established, and Daniel Curtiss was made its President. The bank originally was housed in the store next to the Jabez Bacon House.

Daniel Curtiss was a member of the First Congregational Church in Woodbury. He was prominent locally, and was a Selectman of the town for some period of time. He also served in the Connecticut Legislature, in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. He was instrumental in developing the industrial resources of the town. He died March 16, 1878. His widow was still living in the house in 1896.

“He always commanded the esteem and confidence of the citizens of the town for which he has done so much. He was essentially a self-made man, and his life was one of steady and active devotion to business. His great success, which built up a large fortune, was teh natural result of his ability to examine and readily comprehnd any subject presented to him, power to decide promptly, and courage to act with vigor and persistently in accordance with his conviction.”

Bacon House & Store Circa 1890

Sources: “History of Litchfield County, Connecticut”, 1881 and “Biographical Review”, 1896.

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