Ashley A. Vantine Biography

Ashley Abraham Van Tine


Ashley Abraham
Van Tine 1821-1890

notice that his name is spelled as two words in the article and as one word under the picture - is that his own handwriting?

  Harriett Macy Vantine
Documents Papers from Ashley A. Vantine's wallet

America's Successful Men of Affairs
editor: Henry Hall
pub. New York Tribune 1895; 96,
two volumes 1:689
FHL 496435

Ashley Abraham Van Tine, one of the most notable of the up-town merchants of this city, was born Oct. 12, 1821, in Chazy, N.Y., and died at his home, No. 153 West 57th street in this city, Jan. 25, 1890. He traced his family line back to old Holland stock, and his father, David Van Tine, followed the occupation of a farmer. It was upon the farm that Ashley A. Van Tine began life. He grew up rugged in health, practical and energetic, and, with a country school education, took the first step in the way of bettering his condition by becoming captain of a canal boat, while yet under age, graduating from this latter service to engage in teaching a school in Plattsburgh. This latter experience was useful to Mr. Van Tine, and by constant study he became a well informed man. Early in life, the subject of this memoir joined the throng of residents of the Eastern States, who were pouring into California, drawn by the glowing tales of discoveries of gold. Being detained on the Isthmus of Panama, a hundred days, he followed a custom usual with him and not often followed, of making the most of every minute of time, and at once began to study the Spanish language, becoming so proficient that the Alcalde offered him great inducements to remain. But the glitter of California gold proved too tempting to the New Yorker, and he pressed onward to San Francisco. For a number of years he carried on a profitable trade in general merchandise in the cities of Marysville and San Francisco, during which period he experienced some of the hardships of life in a region in which the comforts of civilization had not yet been introduced, but steadily gained ground and made his way without serious interruption.

It was during his mercantile experience upon the Pacific coast, that Mr. Van Tine became acquainted with the beauty of the ceramic and textile productions of the two great nations beyond the western ocean. About 1866, he came to New York City and with small capital began to import Chinese and Japanese goods, and to introduce the beautiful productions of Asiatic art to the attention of local buyers. He may thus be said to have become for the second time a pioneer, and, as before, in an almost unexplored field. Little was then known by the public at large concerning the variety and beauty of Chinese and Japanese goods, because scarcely anything of this nature had ever been received in New York up to that time beyond a few invoices of silk, porcelains and lacquered ware. Mr. Van Tine entered upon his new enterprise with his accustomed good judgment and after prudent study of the markets. A love of beautiful objects, formerly cherished by a few, had finally taken possession of the people of New York city and the American public at large, and the adornment of the home was leading to the purchase of every article, which would gratify a refined taste, including hangings, pictures, decorated pottery and elegant trifles of all kinds.

Mr. Van Tine opened his store just at the right time and throngs of buyers rewarded his enterprise. His first day's sale amounted to $50 only. Although insignificant in itself, this result was a surety of success to his mind and he prosecuted his business with vigor and confidence. When he finally began to order hundreds and thousands of the various articles which composed his stocks, the Japanese merchants looked at him with amazement, while buyers in new York were captivated by the variety and extent of the goods he spread before them. In time, he finally added the importation of Turkish rugs to his business and rose to be the leading merchant in the field in New York city. His operations compelled him to maintain branches and representatives in every part of the United States and in many countries abroad. At one time, he had customers in every State of the Union.

In 1870, he admitted to partnership, under the name of A. A. Van Tine & Co., James F. Sutton, who remained with him for twelve years and then retired. James I. Raymond was made a partner in 1875. Various other changes took place in the firm, and finally, in 1887, Mr. Van Tine retired, after an honorable career of nearly fifty years in practical business. He was able to enjoy a few years of well earned rest before his death. His wife and two daughters survived him.

New York Times
January, 1890

Ashley A. Vantine

Ashley A. Vantine, the well-known importer of Oriental goods, died early yesterday morning of pneumonia at his residence, 153 West Fifty-seventh-street, in the sixty-ninth year of his age. Mr. Vantine was among the first to establish the Oriental goods trade in the city and in it he was not successful [that's what it says].

Mr. Vantine was born Oct 12, 1821, at Chazy, Clinton County, N.Y., and when a young man he went to California, making the trip around Cape Horn in a clipper ship. On reaching California he established a general provision and supply business at San Francisco, and afterward opened a branch establishment at Marysville, Cal. These enterprises were successful and he continued in California until 1869, when he came to New-York and established himself in the Oriental goods business, opening a store on Broadway, near Eighth-street. A few years later he moved to 831 Broadway, and from there, in 1883, to 879 Broadway, where the firm, A.A. Vantine & Co., has done business since. Two years ago Mr. Vantine retired, the business being carried on under the old firm name. In connection with his business Mr. Vantine traveled a great deal, particularly to China and Japan, crossing the Pacific sixteen times. He made six visits to Turkey and Southern Russia.

Mr. Vantine leaves a widow and two daughters. The burial will be at Woodlawn.

Two Postcards showing Vantine's Oriental Store

Reverse of Post Card:
Dear Sybil 12-30 this is the spot we are in, hope we will hear from you to-day Madge & Mart
To: Mrs. S. Yoshimi, Boardwork[sic], Atlantic City, N.J.
Postmark October 7, 1908, New York City

This post card is unused but slightly damaged. I cropped it a little.

A book I would love to see. Listed on A little journey to Vantine's (Unknown Binding)
by Elbert Hubbard (Author) , The Roycrofters (1912)

A. A. Vantine's Book Ink Stamp
--In the It's a Small World section:
Robert works about 5 minutes away from my office. I visited with him and saw this mark. Thank you, Robert, for your consideration and charming kindness to a co-worker.
Carol Y
I just came across your page on Ashley Abraham Vantine and I thought you might be interested in the attached scan of an ink stamp found on a book in the collections of the Marriott Library at the University of Utah. The original is 26 mm in diameter and is on:
The spirit of Japan, by Ernest Adolphus Sturge (Tokyo : The Yurakusha, 1905)

Its presence in a book about Japan, published in Japan, which was given to this library by a library in Tokyo, suggests that A.A. Vantine & Co. sold books along with all the other Oriental objects mentioned on your page.

The Japanese and Chinese flags with the crescent moon and star in between are the same symbol used on some of the porcelain associated with A.A. Vantine and Co. See
(which has a link to your page).

Feel free to use the image on your site if you're interested.

Robert Behra
Science and Engineering Division
J. Willard Marriott Library
University of Utah
Salt Lake City

A Little Journey to Vantine's

by Elbert Hubbard


The site has uploaded most of the pages to this charming booklet. I'm very grateful to Peter Romanskiewicz for the link.