Little Visits with Great Americans

by Orison Swett Marden

Sir Thomas Lipton, A British Boy Wins Fortune and Title by American Business Methods

The lower bay was charged with subdued excitement everywhere as the "Water Witch" hove to alongside Sir Thomas J, Lipton's "Erin," and I stepped aboard. The hum of preparation for the great race was heard above the lapping waves. Fresh and keen came the breezes from the snowy ridges of the ocean's breast. A thousand spreads of sail studded the bay, the great ships standing up in fixed majesty, the smaller vessels darting here and there in the wind, while right in the path of the sun's glare lay the green bull of the "Shamrock." Along the whitened shores beyond were hundreds of fishing craft dancing at their work, and in the offing were the smokestacks of the Atlantic liners.

"Good morning!" came a cheery sailor's voice from the promenade deck. "Step right up here and you will get a better view of our little beauty."

The voice belonged to Sir Thomas Lipton, and the "little beauty" was the dainty craft to which he had pinned his faith. The Scotch-Irish knight was as enthusiastic as a boy. With a cordial handshake, he led the way to the rail and pointed to the emerald swan below.

"There she is," he tenderly exclaimed; "the pride of a nation; isn't she a picture!" His tone fairly caressed the graceful thing. I fully expected to see him clamber down the rope-way and go out to pet her, as the Arab is said to pet his steed, but he satisfied himself by gazing at her and talking about her.

Confessedly, I was more interested in her owner than in the "Shamrock," but I was too diplomatic to show it, so I quite won my way into his heart by praising her.


"Sir Thomas," I said, "I can't say I hope she will win, but I hope she will come so close to it that she will turn us all green with envy!"

"Ah, my boy, that's the spirit," he said; "that's why it's a pleasure to race against you Americans. You meet a fellow more than half way."

The "Erin" is no less beautiful than the racer. With the "Shamrock's" pennant at the foremast and the Stars and Stripes flying from the after-pole, she is a model. Commodore Morgan says she is one of the three finest ocean-going yachts in the world. The Prince and Princess of Wales visited her often, and gave signed photographs of themselves to hang in the elegant cabin. Admiral Dewey's likeness hangs near the "Columbia's." The appointments of the yacht are worthy of the Waldorf-Astoria. Sir Thomas never leaves her, he told me, except to go aboard the "Shamrock." I could not blame him. Finding a pair of upholstered steamer chairs forward, we dropped into them.

The conversation drifted into the early struggles of the baronet, to the days when he did not own a floating palace or an international cup challenger.


"I remember, as if it were yesterday," said Sir Thomas, "how utterly hopeless my financial condition seemed to be when I was a boy of fifteen in New York, I had run away from home to see the world. My experiences were anything but pleasant, without work as I was, a stranger in a great city. I got used to living on a few cents a day, but when it came to such a pinch that I couldn't buy a five-cent stamp to carry a letter to the old folks in Glasgow, I very nearly gave up. I really think that decided me to go back. It accentuated my homesickness. I thought of the prodigal son. I borrowed five cents for that letter, and resolved to get back as soon as a chance offered. I can tell you I was glad when I once more set foot on the other side. I had refrained from telling my people how hard up I had been. This was largely a matter of pride with me, but another consideration was their feelings. I would do anything rather than distress them. So I stepped up, on my arrival, as jauntily as you ever saw a lad, and when a proposition was made to me by my father, soon after my home-coming, to set me up in a small grocery, I jumped at the chance."

"Was that the beginning of your fortune ?"

"Yes. I made money from the start. I put in practice what I had seen abroad, —such as displaying goods attractively in windows, keeping the place as neat as a pin, and waiting personally on my customers. Every dollar that I earned I saved, —not that I really loved money myself. That was not my inspiration, —it was my father and mother."


"I am willing to admit that it was my admiration for American methods that gave me my start," said Sir Thomas, as he leaned against the taffrail. "It was the application of proper methods to conditions that needed them. These applications and conditions are always with us. The world is full of them. A man only needs to know both when he sees them.

"We have all marveled at the prosperity of America, but, years ago, I felt that it would come. But your country is still young, and has many more victories to win. I may say the same thing of all the world. Every country has a future still. Honest competition will still give all the nations a chance for supremacy. It only remains for the people to catch those chances, and not let them pass by. If I were a poor man to-day, I would be just as happy; I know that I could start anew and win.

"Honest application is the stimulus of all effort. That, to me, is the science of achievement. Whenever you find an opportunity to do something that will benefit you, do not fail to take advantage of it. Often, the most trying periods will produce the best results. For instance, fifteen years ago, while sailing down the African coast in a steamer which carried, as the bulk of its cargo, my teas, we encountered a terrific storm. The steamer had to be lightened. At one time it even looked as if we were going to be wrecked; but, really, I thought more of the loss of that tea than of anything else. I had it brought on deck, with the idea of using it for advertising purposes, if for nothing else. On each case I had painted, in large black letters, 'Lipton's Tea,' and then cast it overboard, dreaming that it would float to the African coast, and be picked up by someone who had not heard of the product before. Sure enough, it was."


"Your business must be an enormous one now. Sir Thomas, from the stories in the English papers about the organization of your enterprises into a limited company."

"Yes, I have a good deal to attend to," he said, smiling. "I have sixty stores in London alone, and four hundred and twenty the world over, most of them being in the British Isles. I sell all food products except beef, which I have never handled. I own thousands of acres on the island of Ceylon, where I am the largest individual land-owner. On this land I grow tea, coffee and cocoa, and employ several thousand natives to cultivate and ship it. I have warehouses all over Asia, and branch stores in Hamburg and Berlin. In Chicago I have a packing-house where I sometimes kill three thousand hogs in a day. So, you see, my enterprises are pretty well scattered over the earth.

"How many employees have I? Well, all in all, I have somewhat over ten thousand, and a nicer lot of employees you never saw. I have never had a strike, and never expect to have one, for I make it my personal duty to see that my men are all comfortably fixed. We live together in perfect harmony."

"And what advice would you give young men who are about to start out for themselves, Sir Thomas ?"

"That's a broad question," laughed the great man. "It would take me some time to answer it properly. But, to begin with, I say that hard work is the cardinal requisite for success. I always feel that I cannot impress that fact too strongly upon young men. And then a person's heart and soul must be in his work. He must be earnest, above all, and willing to give his whole time to his work, if necessary. Honesty, it goes without saying, is necessary, and if you want to be wholly successful, you must do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you don't, they will be sure to retaliate, when you least expect it. If young men would follow these rules, they would get along very well; but few of them will. If your article can inspire any of them to harder work, its mission will be blessed."


I inquired whether the chances for young men in Great Britain are equal to those in America.

"That is a difificult question to answer," said Sir Thomas. "Being a merchant, I can speak of trade opportunities, but in the professions I really do not know which side of the Atlantic is the better. Literature, of course, knows no country; neither does art. In the legal profession, the chances are two to one in favor of the United States. You make more of your lawyers there; you utilize them in legislation, in places of trust, while abroad their duties are limited. A good physician in England will probably make as much money as your leading ones here. Taking it altogether, there seems to be as good a chance for professional men on one side as on the other. The British isles are small compared with the states, but young men are going out every day into new British fields, just as your young men are pushing out into every part of your magnificent stretch of country.


"When men tell you," continued the baronet, "that there are no more chances in this world, tell them that they are mistaken. Your country abounds in so many that I marvel why any American cares to leave its shores. There are thousands of manufactures that are still in an imperfect state; there are millions of acres that are still to be made productive; there are, seemingly, countless achievements yet to be undertaken. What I say is best proven by the international yacht races. Every year we race we believe that we have produced the best possible boat, but we find, after the race is over, that we can improve it in some respect. If all men would use their minds in the same way that the builders of these big yachts use theirs, what a world of improvement would be made! After every race, we produce something better, something finer, —the result of brains and workmanship, —and we are not satisfied yet.

"I have often been asked to define the true secret of success. It is thrift in all its phases, and, principally, thrift as applied to saving. A young man may have many friends, but he will find none so steadfast, so constant, so ready to respond to his wants, so capable of pushing him ahead, as a little leather-covered book, with the name of a bank on its cover. Saving is the first great principle of all success. It creates independence, it gives a young man standing, it fills him with vigor, it stimulates him with the proper energy; in fact, it brings to him the best part of any success, —happiness and contentment. If it were possible to inject the quality of saving into every boy, we would have a great many more real men.

"Success depends also on character to carry it through life.

"Knowledge should be a compound of what we derive from books, and what we extract, by our observation, from the living world around us. Both of these are necessary to the well-informed man; and, of the two, the last is, by far, the most useful for the practical purposes of life. The man who can combine the teachings of books with strong and close observation of life, deserves the name of a well-informed man, and presents a model worthy of imitation." The great passion of Sir Thomas's life, yachting, has been a costly indulgence for him, yet he has inadvertently secured more popularity through his efforts to win the "America's" Cup than would have been possible in any other way. The three "Shamrocks" have cost him, all told, reckoning the expenses of sailing the races as part of the grand total, more than one million dollars.

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