Thursday, December 15, 2016

Sanford Gifford's Patron N. C. Folger: Part 4

Today, we conclude our story of Nathan C. Folger, the man who commissioned two early paintings by Sanford R. Gifford which were displayed at W. W. Hannah's jewelry store in June 1851 before being delivered to Folger in New Orleans.

In our last post about Folger, we revealed that the manufactory he had established here in Hudson, in partnership with James Clark, to supply his retail clothing establishment in New Orleans had been shut down by a federal marshal and all the merchandise seized. That occurred in September 1861, during the first year of the Civil War. The news item that reported this alleged that they were supplying clothing to the rebels and that Folger was a colonel in a Louisiana regiment.

In  antebellum New Orleans, Folger was clearly a man of means. He owned "one of the largest clothing establishments in the South," and, in 1854, his newly constructed house was praised in a New Orleans newspaper as "a princely mansion [that] far excels any edifice in our city."

Census records provide more information about his life. In 1860, when Folger was 50 years old, he and his wife, Madeline, who was nine years younger than he, had ten children--the oldest was 24, and the youngest 2. The household also included three female servants, all born in Ireland. The census records for 1860 assess the value of his home at $75,000. The "Slave Schedules" that accompany the federal census for 1850 indicate that at that time Folger owned seven slaves--four females and three males.

Folger's clothing business closed in 1862, the same year the Union took possession of New Orleans. It is not known how Folger spent the years during the Civil War. Records indicate that his second son and namesake, Nathan C., Jr., enlisted as a private in the Louisiana Fenner's Light Artillery Battery and fought for the Confederacy.  

After the war, Folger returned to the clothing business. The New Orleans city directory for 1870 shows him in partnership with Robert Pitkin, selling "ready made clothing, and gents' and youths' furnishing goods." No mention is now made of "Plantation Goods, " which seemed to be the source of much of his success before the war.

Nathan C. Folger died at his home on August 18, 1878. Probate records indicate that at the time of his death, his estate "was encumbered with many debts and liabilities." His obituary, which appeared in the Times-Picayune the following day, provides the information that, at the time of his death in 1878 he was no longer in the retail clothing business. Instead, he had become a tax collector.


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