|Died||June 4, 1896 (aged 68)|
|Resting place||Woodlawn Cemetery|
|Education||Harvard Law School|
|Occupation||Banking and railroad businessman|
|Spouse(s)||Hannah Maria Wheeler|
|Children||Austin Corbin, Isabella Corbin Edgell, Anna Corbin Borrowe, Mary Corbin Champollion|
|Parent(s)||Capt. Austin and Mary (Chase) Corbin|
|Relatives||Daniel Chase Corbin (brother), René Chéronnet-Champollion (son-in-law), Salmon P. Chase (cousin)|
Austin Corbin (July 11, 1827 – June 4, 1896) was a 19th-century American banking and railroad entrepreneur. He consolidated the rail lines on Long Island, bringing them under the profitable umbrella of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR). He was the owner of Manhattan Beach, a resort in Brooklyn, New York City, from which he barred Jews. He was also the owner of the Sunnyside Plantation in Chicot County, Arkansas, from 1886 to his death in 1896, where he used convict laborers and later brought Italian immigrants to work on the land.
Austin Corbin was born on July 11, 1827, in Newport, New Hampshire, to Capt. Austin and Mary (Chase) Corbin, one of three siblings to survive infancy, with Lois Corbin Dunton, b. 1819, and Daniel Chase Corbin, b. 1832. His brother, Daniel, was also a businessman, involved in banking and railroads, who contributed to the early growth of Spokane, Washington.
Corbin taught school for a short time to earn money for higher education. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1849, he practiced law in his hometown until 1851, when he moved to Davenport, Iowa.
In 1854 he became a partner of the Macklot & Corbin banking firm, the only bank in Davenport to not suspend payments in the 1857 financial panic. This success set him up to start the first national bank, when his cousin, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, established the national banking system early in the Civil War. By 1865, when Corbin moved to New York City, he was considered wealthy.
In New York, he founded the Corbin Banking Company, which he leveraged into a successful banking firm, which funded his diversifying into resorts and railroads. In 1873, while following doctors' advice of ocean air for his ill son on Coney Island, Corbin recognized the area as an untapped natural location for a summer resort, and proceeded to purchase 500 acres (200 ha) over the next three years, opening a large hotel and a new railway system to deliver New Yorkers to the resort in 1878. Both were an instant success, rewarding Corbin and his associates substantially. He next turned his attention to, in contemporary views, the neglected Long Island area. In 1881, he acquired and consolidated the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) with the South Side Railroad of Long Island known as the "Montauk" line and Flushing and North Side railroads. Corbin greatly improved the railroad's infrastructure, which had fallen into disrepair after a period of cutthroat competition had thrown all the island's railroads into bankruptcy.
Corbin's most ambitious plan was the 20-mile (32 km) extension of the rail line from Bridgehampton to Montauk, New York, where he planned to open a deepwater port so that trans-Atlantic passengers could shave a day off their voyages by taking the "mile a minute" trains 100 miles (160 km) to New York City. However, the plan never materialized, as the planned port at Fort Pond Bay in Montauk could not be dredged to handle the seagoing vessels.
Corbin's tactic included the infamous strong-arming (along with his cohorts) of the Montaukett tribe out of nearly 10,000 acres (40 km2) they owned around Montauk. The tribe is still seeking compensation for this tactic. Relics from the tribe are still visible at Camp Wikoff which the LIRR sold the government and where Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders were quarantined after returning from the Spanish–American War.
Corbin acquired the Sunnyside Plantation in Chicot County, Arkansas, from John C. Calhoun II, the grandson of John C. Calhoun and brother of Patrick Calhoun, in 1886. In 1894, he entered into an agreement with the state of Arkansas whereby he was given 250 convict laborers to pick cotton for him; the profits were shared between Corbin and the state. Meanwhile, with the help of Emanuele Ruspoli, 1st Prince of Poggio Suasa, who served as the Mayor of Rome from 1892 to 1899, he brought Italian immigrants to work on the plantation. However, Corbin was accused of "peonage."
Corbin was the owner of the resort of Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn. An antisemite, he banned Jews from patronizing the resort. He also developed the Corbin Building in Manhattan between 1888 and 1889.
He resided in a mansion in Newport, New Hampshire. He also owned a summer estate in North Babylon, New York along the shores of what is known today as Deer Lake in the Parkdale Estates neighborhood. His daughter married René Chéronnet-Champollion, a French artist and grandson of Jean-François Champollion.
Death and legacy
- Arksey, Laura (October 4, 2006). "Corbin, Daniel Chase, (1832-1918)". HistoryLink.org. Retrieved August 31, 2020.
- Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1889). "Corbin, Austin". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York, NY: D. Appleton and Company. p. 676.
- "Thrown from Carriage, Austin Corbin, Millionaire Banker, Dies at Newport, N. H.". Boston, Massachusetts. The Boston Daily Globe. June 5, 1896. p. 5.
- Billin, Dan (January 28, 2004). "Private game preserve has storied history". Valley News. Retrieved August 31, 2020.
- Gatewood, Willard B, Jr. (Spring 1991). "Sunnyside: The Evolution of an Arkansas Plantation, 1840–1945". The Arkansas Historical Quarterly. 50 (1): 5–29. doi:10.2307/40022326. JSTOR 40022326.
- Marc R. Matrana, Lost Plantations of the South, Oxford, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 2009, pp. 40–43
- "Historic Structures Report: Corbin Building" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service. December 18, 2003. pp. 8–9. Retrieved August 6, 2020.
- Kurshan, Virginia (June 23, 2015). "Corbin Building" (PDF). New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. p. 1. Retrieved August 6, 2020.
- Rivas, Ana (March 29, 2012). "Secluded New Hampshire Estate". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved August 6, 2020.
- Discovering the Past: Writings of Jeannette Edwards Rattray, 1893-1974, by Jeannette Edwards Rattray and Tom Twomey, 2001, pg. 112.
- "Austin Corbin Dead; Thrown Out of His Carriage at Newport, N. H." The New York Times. June 5, 1896. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 6, 2020.
- ""Last Forever" - New York Public Radio, Podcasts, Live Streaming Radio, News". WNYC. May 18, 2002. Retrieved August 6, 2020.