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Borden, Matthew Challoner Durfee

American, 1842 - 1912


Matthew Borden, the son of Col. Richard Borden, a pioneer manufacturer of Fall River, Massachusetts, was born in 1842 in Fall River. Borden was a distant relative of the Right Honorable Robert Laird Borden, Premier of Canada. He received his education at the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, then attended Yale University from which he graduated in 1864 and went to New York City to work as a clerk in a dry goods jobbing house. Three years later he became a partner in a commission firm and represented the Fall River American Print Cloth Works. Rather than buying cloth from others to supply his printing mills, in 1869 Borden began building three mills to manufacture his own cotton cloth. He added several more factories as his business expanded. In 1879, American Print Cloth Works failed, and Borden reorganized it as The American Printing Company in 1880; he became sole owner of this concern seven years later after buying out his brother's interest. Borden grew famous for his startling business ventures in the late 1890's-1901. The American cloth manufacturing industry was facing depressed times, and his competitors were contemplating wage reductions and lockouts when the market became overloaded. Borden bought up large quantities of cloth from his fellow manufacturers and effectively saved the industry in 1899. Many thought him quite mad to buy at the price he did, but soon after this, a shortage in the cotton crop sent the price for cloth up, making the transaction a fortuitous one for Borden. Again in 1901 the cloth industry faced difficulties. Strikes were threatened at Fall River when workers feared that the manufacturers would begin cutting wages and and shutting down machinery. Instead, Borden posted a five per cent wage increase across the board, and increased in another five per cent only one month later. As it was reported in his obituary, "The other mills were soon forced to meet both raises. While it was predicted at the time that Mr. Borden's unusual measures would be suicidal to himself and ruinous to the trade in general, they were uniformly followed, with good results on all sides. Prices were stiffened and machinery kept humming, so that the manufacturers profited as well as the employees." Matthew Borden also served as Director in the Bank of the Manhattan Company, the Astor Place and Lincoln National Banks, the Lincoln Safe Deposit Company, and in the New York Security and Trust Company. He was associated for many years with Bliss, Payband & Co. of New York and Boston. He was an avid yachtsman and a member of numerous clubs in New york and New England. In 1895, he gave $100,000 to the Boys' Club of Fall River. Borden died of pneumonia at his summer home in Oceanic, Monmouth County, New Jersey. His wife, née Harriet M. Durfee, had predeceased him, and he was survived at his death by his three sons, Bertram H., Matthew S., and Howard S. Borden.


"M.C.D. Borden Dead, Cotton Mill Leader." New York Times. 28 May 1912.
American Art Association. [Durfee estate sale]. New York, 14 February 1913.

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