The Chairman of the Buffalo Board of Park Commissioners from 1869 through 1879, merchant, industrialist and banker Pascal P. Pratt was born in Buffalo on September 15, 1819. He was educated at the Hamilton (New York) Academy, which later became Colgate University, and at the Amherst (Massachusetts) Academy.
Pascal Paoli Pratt began his career as a clerk in the hardware business of his brother Samuel Fletcher Pratt (the firm of Pratt & Weed) in 1836, at age 16. He later became a partner in the firm, along with his brother and Edward P. Beals, first as S. F. Pratt & Co., and later as Pratt & Co. The firm became one of the more prominent retail and wholesale hardware businesses in the country, dealing in hardware, bar iron, sheet iron, tools, contractors’ and railroad supplies, and coach and saddlery hardware.
In 1848, with Pratt & Company continuing in its old line, a new firm, Pratt & Letchworth, was organized to manufacture saddlery hardware, carriages, malleable iron, and steel castings. Manufacturing was initially conducted at 165 Main Street, with inmates of the nearby jail contracted for the work. The principals of the partnership were the Pratt brothers and William P. Letchworth from Auburn, where the latter owner had used convict labor in a like enterprise. By 1872 the firm was the largest manufacturer of saddlery hardware in the United States. Mr. Pratt remained associated with the firm as senior partner until 1896, when it was organized as a stock company, the Pratt and Letchworth Co. The company diversified by adding cast iron toy production in 1889, following the hiring of George S. Crosby, toy designer for Welker & Crosby Company, of Brooklyn. The following year, in 1890, Pratt and Letchworth acquired the patent rights and inventory of another toy manufacturer, F. W. Carpenter Company of Harrison, New York. Pratt & Letchworth marketed their toys as Buffalo Toys and as Buffalo Indestructible Malleable Iron & Steel Toys. Their trade mark was of a charging buffalo. Their works are regarded as some of the finest cast iron toys produced.
In addition to these interests, he was President until 1885 of the Buffalo Iron and Nail Company. That company, which was formed in 1857, built a blast furnace and rolling mill at Black Rock. With a pair of allied concerns, the Fletcher Furnace Company and the Tonawanda Furnace Company, it employed from five hundred to eight hundred men and significantly contributed to the growth of the northern part of the city of Buffalo.
Mr. Pratt also helped to organize the Niagara River Iron Company in 1872. That company operated a blast furnace in North Tonawanda capable of turning out fifty tons of pig iron daily. Pascal Pratt was President of the firm, and among the other principals was S. S. Jewett. This company was later succeeded by the Tonawanda Iron and Steel Company, with William A. Rogers as President.
Pascal Pratt founded, with tannery owner and real estate investor Bronson Rumsey, the Manufacturers’ and Traders’ Bank in 1856. He served first as a director and Vice President of the bank, then became its President in 1885. He continued in that office until his retirement in 1901. He also served as a director for several other area banks: the Bank of Buffalo, the Third National Bank of Buffalo, and the Bank of Attica. He was an original trustee of the Fidelity Trust and Guaranty Company, later the Fidelity Trust Company; a director of the Buffalo Street Railway Company; a director of the Buffalo Gaslight Company, and a director of the Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad Company. He was for many years the President of the Buffalo Clearing House Association, which processed financial transactions between its member banks.
He became the first president of the Young Men’s Christian Association of Buffalo. For twenty years he was president of the Buffalo Seminary and he was one of the founders as well as a life member of the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy. He served as trustee of the Buffalo Orphan Asylum, trustee of Forest Lawn Cemetery, vice-president of the Civil Service Reform Association, president of the board of trustees of the North Presbyterian Church, and vice-president of the Presbyterian Union.
He was a charter member of the Buffalo Club and was a member of the Ellicott and Falconwood clubs. In his early years he had belonged to Eagle Engine Company No. 2 of the Buffalo volunteer fire department, and was an original member of the Volunteer Firemen’s Benevolent Association, and a member of the Buffalo Exempt Volunteer Firemen’s Association. He was a very active member of the Sons of the American Revolution.
Mr. Pratt was selected as a Republican presidential elector in 1872. In 1883 he was appointed as a Commissioner to appraise the value of properties taken by New York State to establish the Niagara Reservation. He was an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1884.
As an interesting side note, three Great Lakes vessels were named after Pratt. The first, a schooner, plied the lakes about 1848, The second, a steam tug built about 1865, exploded its boiler on 25 October 1872 while at dock in Oswego, New York and was destroyed. The third, the S.S. Pascal P. Pratt, was a wooden bulk cargo boat of 273 feet which sailed the Great Lakes from 1888 until it caught fire on November 18, 1908 and was deliberately run aground at Long Point, Ontario to preserve her crew. That boat was also a total loss, and its wreck is today a popular dive site and fish sanctuary.
Mr. Pratt was married in 1845 to Phoebe Lorenz, formerly of Pittsburgh. The couple had seven children. Mr. Pratt died on June 18, 1905. He is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.