News from 1915: Death of John Lee


Mark Baber

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John Lee's name doesn't appear, as far as I can recall, in any of the standard works on the history of the White Star Line. It is impossible, however, to research the line's history in New York newspapers without coming across his name. As White Star's general agent in New York for a dozen years, he was the firm's principal spokesman in North America. He died 90 years ago today, and this obituary appeared the following morning.

The New York Times, 3 May 1915

JOHN LEE DEAD
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Vice President of International Marine Helped Open White Star Offices Here
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John Lee, former New York Manager of the White Star Line, and Vice President of the International Mercantile Marine, and one of the best-known ocean steamship men in this country, died early yesterday morning at his home, 194 Clinton Street, Brooklyn, in his 65th year. Until he retired, in September, 1910, he was a familiar figure in shipping circles and was known to many thousands of ocean travelers.

Mr. Lee was an Englishman, born in Derbyshire and educated at the Chesterfield Grammar School, later finishing at the Collegiate Institution in Sheffield, 1867. In that year he was apprenticed to the firm of G. H. Fletcher & Co. of Liverpool for a term of five years, receiving a salary of $100 a year. Mr. Fletcher, the senior partner, did not take an active interest in the firm at that time, except to manage his own ships, but it was he who with Thomas H. Ismay founded the White Star Line. Thus Mr. Lee became conversant with the business of that line, and when his term of apprenticeship was finished he was chosen from a number of others in the office for the post of junior inward freight clerk for the White Star business in this city. He came to this country on the old Republic, and her passenger list, which is still preserved, shows that there were only twenty-six first-class passengers besides himself.

Mr. Lee served a year under Joseph Hyde Sparks, who came here to open the agency, and then was appointed chief of the outward-bound freight department and representative of the White Star on the Produce Exchange. On the Exchange he made a reputation for honesty, independence of thought, and broad-mindedness, and often when disputes arose among members regarding the interpretation of charter parties or freight engagements, the disputants would settle the matter by saying, "Let us leave it to Lee," and Mr. Lee would decide the question.

He continued in charge or the outward-bound freight department until 1898, when he became one of a committee of three that took charge of the affairs of the line in this country, which position he held until the end of the following year, when he was appointed General Agent of the White Star for the United States and Canada. Despite the many changes in the management of the various lines forming the International Mercantile Marine, Mr. Lee remained as Manager of the White Star here until he retired. Besides being a former Vice President of the International Mercantile Marine, he was also a former member of the Freight and Passenger Committee.

Mr. Lee was unmarried. He is survived by a brother and two sisters in England.

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Mark Baber

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The Sun, New York, 3 May 1915
Original article digitized by the New York Public Library
Retrieved from the Library of Congress' Chronicling America web site,
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/search/pages/


JOHN LEE DIES AT 65; NOTED AS SHIP AGENT
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Former Vice-President of the International Mercantile Marine Company

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John Lee, former New York manager of the White Star Line and a former
vice-president of the International Mercantile Marine Company, died
yesterday at his home, 194 Clinton street, Brooklyn. He was 65 years old.

Mr. Lee was born in Derbyshire, England. He was apprenticed to the firm of
V. H. Fletcher & Co. in Liverpool and in 1872 came to New York as junior
inward freight agent for the White Star Line. A year later he was made the
company's representative on the Produce Exchange. He was in charge of the
outward freight department until 1898, when with R. J. Cortis and J. Bruce
Ismay he managed the line's affairs.

Mr. Lee became general agent in 1899 for the United States and Canada,
responsible only to Mr. Ismay. He was also a member of the freight and
passenger committee of the International Mercantile Marine.

Ill health caused Mr. Lee's retirement in 1910. For some time he lived at
the Crescent Athletic Club, of which he was a member.

When representing the White Star Line on the floor of the Produce
Exchange Mr. Lee's honesty, independence and absence of bias soon made
disputing members say, "Let us leave it to John Lee." He was an authority
on the interpretation of charter parties in freight engagements.

Mr. Lee leaves two sisters and a brother, William Lee of Derbyshire,
England.

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Mark Baber

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New York Tribune, 5 May 1915
Original article digitized by the Library of Congress
Retrieved from the Library of Congress' Chronicling America web site,
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/search/pages/


John Lee Buried
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Funeral services for John Lee, former vice-president of the International
Mercantile Marine Company, were held yesterday in St. Peter's Church, State
Street, near Bond, Brooklyn, the Rev. W. G. McCready, the rector,
officiating.

The coffin was carried into the church by quartermasters in uniform from the
White Star liner Megantic, and the honorary pallbearers were P. A. S.
Franklin, F. Toppin, J. G. Dettmar, John Gledhill, Edward Burgess, E. J.
Adams, D. D Wiepert, J. B. Holland, Samuel L. Finlay, W. P. Callaghan,
John E. Berwin and Richard Webber. Temporary interment was at Greenwood
Cemetery. The body will be sent to England on Saturday.

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