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Albert Holden - Founder of the World's 2nd Largest Mining & Smelting Trust

9511 Lake Shore Boulevard
Albert Fairchild Holden
Albert Fairchild Holden

Albert Fairchild Holden, the oldest son of Liberty and Delia Holden, was born in Cleveland on December 31, 1866. Much of his childhood was spent in Utah, where his father managed his mines. Education included Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard University, graduating in 1888 with a degree in mining engineering. Immediately after graduation, he joined his father’s mining business in Utah, eventually becoming one of the most competent mining engineers in the country.

Bert, as he was known to those closely associated with him, had been a noted athlete in college, and he kept himself in good physical shape throughout his life. He thought nothing of tramping through the hills of Utah or Nevada for days on end, looking for potential mining sites or outcrops of unusual minerals.

Albert married Katherine (Kate) Elizabeth Davis on April 27, 1894. Kate was born on March 26, 1869, in Deer Park, Maryland, to William and Mary Davis. Kate and Albert had three daughters, Elizabeth Davis, born on July 16, 1885, Emery May (Norweb), born on November 30, 1895, and Katherine (Thayer), born on November 6, 1898.

Only six years after their marriage, Kate died on December 4, 1900. She had been recovering from an illness in Cleveland and was being looked after by a nurse. There appeared to have been an accident involving the administration of her medication, and Katherine received a lethal overdose.

Bert was in the southern part of Utah in a courtroom testifying in a lawsuit when he received a telegram with bad news from Cleveland. He said, "I do not wish to see it until I have finished this testimony but have a special train ready for me to catch the evening express on the Union Pacific.”

On February 10, 1908, eight years after his wife's death, Bert lost his first daughter, twelve-year-old Elizabeth, to a sudden illness. Some believed that her death came about because Bert refused to allow an operation that his doctors had recommended. Bert felt the loss of his daughter more keenly than he had the earlier loss of his wife.

The daughter, Emery May, was born in Salt Lake City, Utah on November 30, 1896. Hoping for a son, Albert planned to name the baby Liberty after his father. After an objection from Katherine, he decided to name his daughter after his father anyway, taking his middle name, Emery. Katherine did persuade him to allow her to give the baby a more feminine middle name, so they chose the name May.

Following Elizabeth's death, Emery May became her father's favorite. He treated her as if she were the son he had hoped for, and so Emery May received few of the allowances fathers usually made for their daughters. He took her with him on mining expeditions and expected to keep up with him, whatever the circumstances, and expected to bear hardship and physical pain as if she were a boy. Albert was unforgiving when she showed what he considered a weakness. Once, when they were walking across a high trestle bridge, another lady in the party became frightened at the height and refused to go further. Little Emery May said she was also afraid and sat down. Bert replied that he wanted no cowards on the trip, so everyone got back up and continued.

Bert was a hard man to get to know, yet highly regarded in each of the three fields he ventured into the mining business, collecting of mineralogical specimens, and collecting coins. He was extremely energetic and quickly understood every aspect of his business.

Bert was just like his father, but he exceeded all of his father's accomplishments. He succeeded in heading the second-largest mining, refining, and smelting trust in the world.

Albert died on May 18, 1913, three months before his father, from carcinoma of the kidney and metastasis of the liver and buried alongside his wife in Lake View Cemetery.

He spent the year before his death writing a will to provide for his two surviving teenage daughters and philanthropy. He cared deeply about science education and research, and the cultural life of the city of Cleveland. He set up a trust, the income of which was to provide for Emery May and Katherine during their lifetimes. Following their deaths, the trust established an arboretum for the city of Cleveland, in memory of his daughter, Elizabeth. To Harvard, he left his valuable and scientifically important collection of minerals.

Albert’s sister, Roberta Holden Bole, decided to establish the arboretum before an indefinite future date so that it would be functioning when the endowment became available. In 1931, Benjamin and Roberta Bole donated the first 100 acres of the Holden Arboretum that later grew to 2,900 acres.