Saturday, August 04, 2007

History's Yardstick - An Irish-American Success Story

The previous post mentioned the purchase of an antique yardstick at a community yard sale. The advertising on both sides reads:
The seller guessed the ruler "came from somewhere in the Midwest, maybe Iowa". Several other items for sale bore advertising from that state. What I found was interesting:

William John Dixon was born 12 Jan 1857 in Lisburn, County Antrim, Ireland. Dixon traveled to America as an 18 year-old in 1875. He worked in a lumber yard, learned the business, and founded a lumber business of his own. The W.J. Dixon Lumber Co. had yards in Sac City, Lytton, Denison, Audubon, Auburn, and the Dixon Lumber and Coal Company in Ida Grove and Rockwell City, Iowa. Dixon served in the Iowa legislature, the Board of Trustees of Iowa State College (now University) and the state board of control. He always went by the nickname "W.J."

W.J. Dixon's son, Paul William Dixon, took a degree in Architecture from Columbia University. For a time he managed his father's business, the W.J. Dixon Lumber Co. He eventually became the Chairman of the board of Trustees of Buena Vista College (now University) in Storm Lake, Iowa. Paul William Dixon self-published a book titled Our Heritage, which details the Dixon, Gould and Eastman family connections.

That, after just a few minutes searching the Internet. My yard-sale yardstick is the measure of an immigrant success story. An Irish boy comes to the United States, runs a successful business, and eventually becomes a trustee of the first land-grant college in the country - a school that will go on to achieve membership in the prestigious American Association of Universities. His son attends an Ivy League institution, manages the family business, and becomes a trustee of yet another college that will also go on to be noted as a University with a first: the first "wireless" university campus in the U.S.

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