Special History Study
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. . .fue para mí el amigo más fino y más sincero que he conocido, pues no tengo suficientes palabras para manifestarle mi gratitud a un amigo como él, que siempre lo hayé listo cuando recurría a él en mis necesidades. . . rue go y le suplico que me deje el dinero, si gusta con el seis por cieinto como me lo tenía prestado su buen papá... [1]

Felipe Delgado, 1906

Delgado's letter to José E. Chávez at the time of his father's (Felipe Chávez) death reveals the complex nature of el milloinario (the millionaire). Felipe Chávez (1834-1906) seldom hesitated to lend money to relatives or acquaintances in need, yet at the same time he seldom failed to charge the prevailing interest for his loans. [2] A shrewd entrepreneur, his economic activities are an excellent example of mercantile capitalism and represent the culmination of the system New Mexican merchants developed during the years prior to the Mexican War. His transactions reveal that during the second half of the nineteenth century Felipe Chávez took advantage of the opportunities the Santa Fe trade offered to become one of the most prosperous and influential businessmen in the region. [3]

Chávez was able to build on the fortune he inherited from his father because he adopted a sound, yet flexible commercial strategy. Diversification was crucial to his success. Chávez sold American and European manufactures, grains, raised sheep, shipped wool and precious metals, bought large amounts of merchandise, purchased real estate in the east (New York city), acted as a banker, commissioner, wholesaler and retailer. He maintained economic relations with merchants in Liverpool and Manchester (England), New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, El Paso, Chihuahua, Durango, Zacatecas, and Guadalajara; established partnerships with other New Mexicans; and acted as intermediary between American and Mexican wholesalers. His contracts with United States government agencies helped him acquire the monetary exchange necessary to finance his large purchases of merchandise. Cautious, but not reluctant to take risks, he regularly requested and received information on the prices of precious metals and commodities, and investment opportunities. His decisions were often based on the advice he sought from business associates in New York, St. Louis, and Mexico. His meticulous record-keeping ensured that losses due to carelessness and mistakes were kept to a minimum. He invested capital where he could receive the highest possible return, yet he appeared to have been generous with kin and friends to whom he often lent large sums of money.

Felipe Chávez was the son of José María Chávez and Manuela Armijo. Born in 1834 he attended school at the Seminario Conciliar de Guadalajara (Conciliar Seminary of Guadalajara), Mexico, where he distinguished himself, receiving awards for his academic efforts. He completed his education by 1852. [4]

After returning home young Chávez began to help his father with the management of the family's thriving commercial operations and took charge of the entire business four years later. Felipe was smart, had a great deal of common sense, and was a meticulous record keeper. He kept borradores (onion skin notebooks) of most of his outgoing business letters. [5] He painstakingly checked all shipments he received and was quick to note any discrepancies. Until his father's death Felipe made sure that their merchandise was kept separate. In September 1856, a wholesaler in New York apologized for a labeling error which mistakenly assigned Felipe's merchandise to his father. Felipe quickly noted the error and wrote to ensure that proper credit was assigned. For someone as wealthy as Chávez the sum was relatively small, yet the incident is a good example of Felipe's careful record-keeping and persistence. This was not an isolated episode. Chávez always demanded full accountability from his associates. In 1859 a package of 2,000 yards of lienzo, part of a shipment which included more than 150 of them, was lost between New York and New Mexico. Upon discovering it was missing Felipe dispatched letters to Peter Harmony & Nephews in New York, and Edward J. Glasgow in St. Louis. Since he did not obtain a satisfactory reply he wrote two additional letters until finally Harmony agreed to reimburse him for the cost of the lost cloth. [6]

Large-scale operations were becoming more common when Felipe took over the family business in 1856. He more than met Parish's criteria of the sedentary merchant who became dependent on regular deliveries, ordered from distant areas ahead of time. [7] His first documented major purchase dates from 1856 when he bought 172 tercios (weighing 42,964 pounds) of merchandise valued at $14,167.33. To arrange the bulk of the purchase Chávez used the services of Peter Harmony & Nephews, a Spanish firm located in New York City that often did business with New Mexicans. Harmony acted as wholesaler, retailer, commission merchant, banker, real estate agent, answered Chávez's questions and provided him sound business advice. [8] Harmony was instrumental in arranging most of Felipe's major purchases for several decades. The transactions were complicated because they involved a variety of businesses, and required the transportation of several tons of goods over thousands of miles. Chávez normally bought some merchandise directly from Harmony, but he often instructed his mayordomos to search for bargains or items that were not available in New York or that could be obtained more favorably in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, or elsewhere. Once the order was ready Harmony consigned it to a firm in Independence or St. Louis, often the Glasgow Brothers, that would oversee the final shipment to New Mexico. [9]

Massive purchases were the norm. A 1859 invoice listed 80,000 yards of indiana, manta, and lienzo, 1,092 pairs of boots, 540 pairs of shoes, and 585 pairs of pants. [10] Another one from March 1860 included 36 pages of items—135 balas (bolts) with close to 200,000 yards of fabrics, 346 boxes, 48 bundles or packages, 74 large trunks, and two barrels, all valued at $36,237.77. [11] In 1863 Felipe arranged another order. A bill presented by W. H. Chick identified the expenses incurred in shipping merchandise to New Mexico. Chávez bought more than 50,000 pounds of merchandise for which he paid $1,486.43 for storage and freight. He also bought 70 mules (each one cost $6) and a horse, and had to pay for expenses in taking care of the animals. The shipment was so large that it took a month for the entire load to be processed and shipped. In addition he arranged for the purchase of a variety of hardware, tools, and wagons from several dealers in St. Louis and the standard order of dry goods from the Glasgow Brothers. [12]

For many years the Glasgows arranged for the dispatch of merchandise when Chávez's caravans reached the railroad terminal. They sold Chávez the groceries that normally completed these shipments. [13] Invoices from 1856 reveal that during the first week of May Felipe bought 64,298 pounds of dry goods. Among them 220 sacks of clarified sugar, 71 barrels of whiskey, one barrel of brandy, two boxes of cognac (listed apart from the brandy), 10 boxes of claret, 10 baskets of champagne, two boxes of oysters, two of sardines, 18 pounds of almonds, 10 sacks of coffee, 70 boxes of sperm candles, 40 boxes of white soap, 3,000 cigars, and other miscellaneous items. [14]

This pattern continued throughout the next decade. During the first week of July 1871 Chick, Browne & Co. prepared another order. Thirteen mule-drawn wagons under Francisco Chávez carried 64,866 pounds, and ox wagons led by Ambrosio Pino and Manuel Aragón hauled respectively 5,704 and 18,675 pounds for a total weight of 89,245 pounds. It is not possible to establish if Chávez's economic situation had improved by 1880, but it is clear that the weight of his shipments had not declined. [15]

During certain years his purchases were more modest. In 1873 he received around 12,000 pounds of goods and in 1876 he bought only around $2,500 in merchandise from Samuel C. Davis & Co. of St. Louis, but this might not have been the only merchandise he acquired that year. [16] Chávez appeared to have bought additional commodities at the shipping terminals when his needs for merchandise were more limited. In many cases these were perishable goods, such as jams, ham, butter, crackers, pickles, corn, dried fruits, potatoes, but sometimes the invoices included an occasional wagon, trunks, cups, and silverware. [17]

Chávez set price limits for every item to be purchased and often succeeded in obtaining substantial savings. In February 1860 he sent his mayordomo Antonio Robles to buy merchandise in New York. Chávez trusted Robles and authorized Harmony to make all the necessary funds available to facilitate his agent's task. Robles wrote to his patrón almost daily informing him of the current prices and of the purchases he had made. The correspondence reveals how specific Chávez's instructions had been. Once Robles bought too many capes and he was afraid that they would not be the exact type Chávez had asked him to buy. Robles also provided Chávez with information on the quality and prices of a variety of items and kept him abreast of what he was about to buy. [18]

At times this policy produced less favorable results. In 1859 Chávez gave specific instructions to Harmony regarding the purchase of items for the church. Harmony informed Felipe that out of the order for three crucifixes and six candleholders, he was only remitting one crucifix. He did not dare purchase more since he was unable to obtain them at less than $40.00 and Chávez had set the upper limit at $15.00. [19]

Robles's search for the lowest prices also caused some problems. Anxious to please Chávez he bought some items of clothing from less than respectable businessmen (not associated with Harmony) who offered substantial discounts. Chávez was not satisfied with the quality of some of these items and complained to Harmony. The wholesaler replied that in his efforts to obtain the effects at the lowest possible price Robles had rejected those almacenes (dry-good dealers) where Harmony normally made purchases and acquired merchandise from salesmen who did not have a sound reputation. Harmony warned that it was not possible to make a claim for a reimbursement. Chávez, still trying to recover some of his losses complained again, but Harmony answered admonishing the New Mexican that it was common for outsiders to come to New York and listen to astute salesmen who promised merchandise, 4, 5 or even 20 percent cheaper and delivered items of less than desirable quality. Harmony warned Chávez once again of the dangers involved in such dealings. [20] There is no record of his reply, but apparently he listened because on subsequent trips his agents dealt only with those businesses which had a reputation for honesty and reliability.

Chávez's search for the best available buys still led him to procure merchandise from a variety of wholesalers and he continued this practice throughout the 1870s. In 1858 another mayordomo, Atanacio Montoya, went to St. Louis where he bought twenty carts from one dealer, mules harnesses from another one, small carts from a third one, fabrics from a fourth one, guns and ammunition from H. E. Dimick, and groceries from the Glasgow brothers. [21] Similar purchases were made in 1861 and 1863. [22] In April 1867 he bought a shipment of fabrics from Charles Stern & Co. Amounting to $5,679.98, the order included close to 20,000 yards of muslin, 2,540 shawls of various types, 144 yards of alpaca (wool or cloth), 40 coverlets, 8 grosses of handkerchiefs, 3,000 of a variety of printed textiles, and 5,000 yards of manta. In 1868 he received a letter of inquiry from Cuno, Bohms and Co. from St. Louis and he purchased $2,834 in boots and shoes from wholesale dealer Appleton, Noyes & Co. [23] In June 1871 he acquired goods at least from four dealers—Glasgow Brothers, A. A. Mellier, Rodney D. Wells & Co., and B. & J. F. Slevin & Co. [24]

American merchants courted Felipe trying to obtain his business. In 1865 S. P. Shannon of Kansas City offered Chávez dry goods, shoes, boots, and ready-made clothes, specially designed for the New Mexican market. Shannon informed Felipe that because the company had agents in New York it was able to offer the lowest prices and the greatest variety of goods, and promised discounts of 40 per cent over the previous year's charges. [25] W. H. Chick followed suit in 1867 as he established new almacenes in Phil Sheridan, Kansas. When the firm became Chick and Browne and moved to Granada, Colorado, Chávez received the notification. [26] Other wholesalers tried to obtain Chávez's business and were extremely appreciative when they did, as were the Bartels Brothers. [27] Other American firms, like Pittsburgh's Black Diamond Steel Works, wrote advising him of the excellent quality of their products. [28]

The procedure for sending goods to New Mexico was quite complex. Merchandise from New York was usually sent via steamboat to St. Louis. Often it had to be stored while local purchases were readied. The shipper was responsible for checking that all items listed in invoices had arrived. This was a laborious task because merchandise identified only with the initials of the owner could be easily lost. At other times the content of the boxes did not quite match the invoices and it was troublesome to trace the fate of some of these goods.

By the time the merchandise arrived to Missouri one of Chávez's mayordomos was ready to help with the final shipment. This was not always easy. In 1860 Atanacio Montoya went to Kansas to help haul the merchandise Robles had purchased in New York. From Westport, he wrote to Chávez explaining that it took a lot of work, time and care to load each wagon with 4,000 pounds of goods. He warned his patrón that in spite of his efforts he had been unable to load the entire 69,919 pounds that comprised the load. [29]

Hauling effects from New York to New Mexico was also very expensive. Merchants had to pay for packaging, carrying the merchandise to the almacén, and from the almacén to the port, handling charges, insurance, and a 2.5 percent commission, in all about 6.1 percent surcharge over the original purchase. [30] Railroad freight from New York to St. Louis was not cheap either as it usually amounted to 3 percent of the value of the merchandise. [31] Freighting expenses declined very slowly as the railroad approached New Mexico, and Chávez searched for the best bargain. In June 1868 W.H. Chick informed him that part of the order would have to pay four cent per 100 pounds, but for the rest he would pay only three cents. Chick added that this was absolutely the best price available since freight to Ft. Union was two and a half cents per 100 pounds, and to Santa Fe was three cents. Since the merchandise had to go to Los Lunas and Peralta (south of Albuquerque) Chávez was getting a special deal. [32] Two years later the rates decreased. In July 1871 Chávez paid only two and a half cents per 100 pounds on a shipment from Kit Carson, Colorado, but in November Chick, Browne & Co. charged him three and half cents per 100 pounds for sending 1,540 lbs of coffee. [33] In April 1878 Francisco Manzanares explained to an impatient Chávez that competition between the railroad companies would result in lower rates and assured Felipe that when that time came he would be able to offer him the lowest available rates. [34] And he was correct. Competition among the railroads did reduce freight rates almost by half. In 1878 Vicent M. Baca, Felipe's foster son, advised Chávez that the price of sending 100 pounds to Las Vegas was down to half a cent, and that it was only three quarters of a cent to Santa Fe, and a cent and a quarter to Bernalillo. [35]

Insurance, normally a 1.25 percent surcharge, was virtually a necessity even for relatively small purchases because losses and damages were quite common. In addition to the hazards of shipping tons of merchandise over thousands of miles, the Indian threat always had to be considered. In 1864 Chávez appeared concerned for the first time about the danger posed by Indian tribes. [36] By September 1868 one of his trains was forced to go back due to Indian hostilities. [37] Next year during June W. H. Chick congratulated Chávez on his luck. His train arrived at New Mexico safely while the Indians attacked Phil Sheridan (Kansas) stealing 34 mules and a horse belonging to other New Mexican merchants who were getting ready to travel home. [38]

One of the keys to Chávez success was his ability to take advantage of the information he received from his business associates. Harmony regularly kept him apprised of the prices of cotton fabrics, shoes, coffee, hides, and gold. [39] W. H. Chick and E. J. Glasgow also updated Chávez on current prices of merchandise, freight, and gold. During the climax of the Civil War the Glasgows forecasted a dramatic increase on the price of cotton goods and mailed him reports on the need for various types of wool. [40] Chávez's information network was quite extensive and proved valuable because it allowed him to protect his interests. For example, in 1879 Benjamin Walker advised him of the financial trouble affecting the Glasgow Brothers and warned him to transfer his shipments of wool to the Gregg Brothers of Philadelphia. [41]

Chávez was willing to take risks, but quickly realized his mistakes and did not repeat them. Early in his business career he purchased flannel directly from England. Two invoices survive documenting the transaction. The first one from June 1856 records the sale of 1,000 yards of flannel in Manchester, England. From Manchester the fabric was sent to Liverpool. From there it was shipped to New York, then to Kansas City and finally to Santa Fe. The original cost of the flannel in Manchester including shipping and commission fees was $96.60, but by the time it reached New Mexico the total had risen to $661.04.[42] The next year Felipe tried again. But this time instead of sending the fabric to New York he shipped it through New Orleans. The result was not much different—this time he paid $662.18.[43] There is no record that he ever tried this type of transaction again; he learned from his mistakes.

The death of José María Chávez on October 30, 1858 meant that from then on Felipe was responsible for the well-being of his mother as well as that of his sister Bárbara and numerous relatives. Felipe always took this responsibility quite seriously even though at times it probably became a heavy burden. His brother-in-law, Nicolás Armijo, married to his sister Bárbara, regularly borrowed money from Felipe. Armijo apparently was in charge of the Chávez family businesses in Chihuahua, but appeared to be in constant economic trouble. Felipe's cousin, J. Francisco Chávez, became another chronic borrower. In 1865 he asked for $3,000. Francisco promised to insure the loan and pledged to handle the affair as a regular business transaction. He considered his economic prospects to be very positive and believed that his California property would return to him at least $50,000 in less than two years. There is no record that Francisco ever repaid this obligation. [44]

Other members of the family relied on Felipe's position and wealth to help them through bad times. In April 1867 Melquíades Chávez wrote to Felipe requesting funds to cover a libranza worth $5,000. [45] In 1879 Francisco Chávez II informed Felipe that he was unable to settle his loan, but would continue paying the annual interest and promised to repay the capital as soon as his situation improved. But one month later Francisco requested an additional $3,000 to cover a debt to José Leandro Perea and promised 10 carts with eight mules and 10,000 sheep as collateral on the new loan. [46]

Friends of his father and former employees also appealed to his generosity and asked for employment, loans, or delays in paying their accounts. On January 1868 José Gutiérrez wrote from Las Vegas. He had moved from Algodones hoping to receive a large sum of money he had lent Francisco Perea, but Perea was unable to pay, so Gutiérrez asked Chávez to sell him a train of mules which Felipe had promised some time before. José did not have collateral for the loan and proposed to use the train of mules itself as security. [47]

Chávez received numerous requests for financial help both from hispanos and Anglos throughout the province and he satisfied many of them. [48] Chávez lent money to merchants, like Martín Amador from Las Cruces, and Hilario Romero, son of Miguel Romero. [49] When borrowers requested extensions in their loans these were often granted.

How much profit did Felipe make in his capacity of informal lending institution? It is not possibly to know exactly, since with few exceptions there is no information on the interest rates he charged, or if he regularly did so. [50] In June 26, 1867 he lent A. & L. Zeckendorf $4,312.50. A month later Zeckendorf asked for an extension of the loan and a reduction in the interest. Felipe was charging the Albuquerque merchant 12 percent interest on this loan, and Zeckendorf reminded him that the going rate was a 6 percent. If this was his standard charge Chávez could have earned substantial sums since commission merchants, like Chick & Armijo, P. Harmony, and E. Glasgow paid only 5 percent on those funds left on account. [51] But it is not clear that it was. At the time of his death he was charging Felipe Delgado 6 percent interest on a loan. Delgado's eager request for the continuation of the loan at the same rate possibly indicates that in cash-scarce New Mexico, Felipe Chávez's charges might have been quite reasonable. [52]

Besides, there were risks in lending. There is no evidence that any of Chávez's relatives ever paid any of the principal they borrowed. Many of the other debtors also failed to fulfill their obligations. Collecting debts was time-consuming and, depending on the economic circumstances of the debtor, it might not have been a worthwhile activity. In January 1868 Chávez sent José Felix Benavídez to Cubero and Seboyeta to collect from José Padilla. But Benavidez got nothing out of Padilla, who was apparently totally unable to pay. [53]

Chávez operated as an intermediary between local New Mexico merchants and eastern promoters like P. Harmony and W. H. Chick. For example, in 1867 a merchant from Las Cruces owed $2,400 in a libranza to a merchant from Sonora who had passed away. Harmony wrote to Felipe requesting his help in straightening out the situation. And this was not the only case in which commission merchants resorted to Chávez for help. [54] He also facilitated the economic ventures of many New Mexicans. In June 1860 he made it possible for José Maria Romero to purchase $7,925.13 in merchandise from the Glasgow Brothers. [55]

Throughout his career Chávez maintained economic relations with merchants in Guadalajara, Zacatecas, Durango, Chihuahua (Mexico), Manchester and Liverpool (England), and Canada. In June 1858 Harmony made a $6,820 payment in Felipe's behalf to the account of Durango's Juan Flores. In August 1859 Harmony credited José Cordero with $1,095.50 from the Chávez's account. Felipe continued to make transactions with José Cordero for a number of years. Cordero relied on Chávez's accounts in New York to invest in U.S. government bonds, and when he sent his agents to the United States with the purpose of selling effects, he instructed them to do nothing before they got Chávez's advise. Cordero assumed responsibility for Chávez's libranzas in Durango, Mexico, and sold piloncillo (Mexican sugar) to the New Mexican as late as November 1862. The monthly accounts that Harmony prepared for Chávez often recorded transactions in which Cordero had participated. [56] Associates in Zacatecas also relied on Felipe Chávez to act as intermediary with Peter Harmony. And in July 1861 P. Harmony made an interesting request. As the Civil War disrupted the commercial activities in the United States, Harmony asked Chávez to inquire among his business associates in Mexico, and particularly Chihuahua, if there would be any interest in purchasing several boxes of machinery. [57]

During the next year (1862) the Delino Brothers from Durango also relied on Felipe Chávez to obtain a loan which they backed with United States treasury notes. [58] Sixteen years later, Felix Francisco Maceyra, a leading merchant from Chihuahua, asked Felipe for a substantial loan, but promised a high return—$40,000 to $50,000 at 12 percent. [59] Like his father he continued commercial relations with D. Duarte & Co. from Manchester (England) relying on the services offered by Guadalajara's Alvarez Araujo and the trusted Harmony. [60]

Chávez and other New Mexican merchants, particularly those from the Río Abajo, cooperated formally and informally in commercial transactions. They often took care of each's other businesses. For example, Antonio José Otero acted as Chávez's intermediary in 1862 carrying correspondence from the Harmony store and money orders from Felipe to his business associates in New York. [61]

Chávez participated in more formal arrangements. During the 1850s he formed partnerships with members of other important New Mexico merchants. One of the most important and long-lasting was with Simón and Felipe Delgado, who besides being Chávez's associates managed his store in Santa Fe, like their brother Pablo had done for Felipe's uncles, Mariano and José during the 1840s. [62]

The earliest records for the partnership date from January 1857 when P. Harmony credited the account of Simón Delgado and Felipe Chávez with a $2,000 libranza from the United States treasury. [63] The enterprise seemed remarkably successful, as the earnings for a less than a year (between November 1856 and May 1857) were $4,439.26, a substantial profit on the $25,902.32 that the partners had invested. The Delgados operated as special agents for Chávez handling business affairs in Santa Fe and occasionally travelling east to arrange for purchases. In 1863 Simón Delgado was receiving payments from the Quartermaster of the United States Army to deposit in Chávez's account, but the records do not indicate the nature of the purchases. An 1865 invoice showed transactions with Ft. Craig, but the cryptic entries do not present a clear picture either. In April 1867 Simón Delgado once again sent a libranza against the United States subtreasury for $5,000 which Harmony credited to Chávez's account. [64] Next year Pablo Delgado credited Chávez with another libranza from the quartermaster against the treasury of New York, this time for $4,300.00. Delgado informed Felipe that Minister Shaw paid $2,000 of the above sum. [65]

Don Felipe Chávez
Figure 8. Don Felipe Chávez. Photo courtesy of Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico.

The two families maintained close economic relations throughout the century. During December 1868 Francisco A. Manzanares informed Felipe that he had sent $2,201.81 to St. Louis according to his wishes and that he had left copies of this transaction in Pablo Delgado's home in Santa Fe. [66] A few months later Pablo wrote to Chávez updating him on Jacob Amberg's activities. Apparently Amberg had left New Mexico, but before leaving he had promised that would cover all his debts. But Pablo had found out that the day before, Amberg's brother and a commissioner from St. Louis had arrived at Santa Fe and he suspected something. He informed Chávez that he would keep his eyes open and that would get in touch with Chávez's lawyer if anything else happened. Delgado reassured Felipe that he was taking care of his affairs as if he (Chávez) were in town. [67] And apparently he was. A June 1869 letter showed that Pablo was still handling finances for Chávez out of Santa Fe, sending a libranza for $13,643.56 to W.H. Chick and receiving payment from Chávez's debtors. [68] The partnership continued to operate at least through the 1870s. [69]

The relationship between the Delgados and Chávez is quite interesting and extends for many years. While strong economic interests were important elements, it is clear that there was honest affection between Felipe, Pablo, and Simón. In a 1872 letter Pablo asked Felipe to speak to his son, Juanito, in English because although he was quite shy he did understand the language. [70]

Another partnership joined Felipe to another wealthy family—the Oteros. In 1858 Manuel Antonio Otero and Felipe made two purchases from the Glasgow Brothers in St. Louis. The first dated from June 27 and amounted to 5,985.13. The second was from November 18 and totaled $10,621.13. Invoices indicate that the partnership was still in operation during August 1859. [71]

Chávez normally paid for his purchases with libranzas (drafts), letras de crédito (drafts), or letras de cambio (drafts) that had been deposited in his various accounts. But it was risky to send libranzas to New York. In August 1863 Harmony informed Chávez that they were trying to recover some of the losses resulting from the disappearance of various libranzas in the wreck of the Tempest. This was not an unusual occurrence. [72]

Sometimes his strategy was different. In 1858 he sent his mayordomo, Atanacio Montoya to Westport, Missouri, to collect $15,968.99 worth of merchandise. Chávez paid cash for this purchase—$14,420 in American coins, $432.00 in California gold, $31.00 in doubloons, $184.30 in sovereigns, $19.00 in French pieces, $146.00 in guilders, and $9.00 in odd pieces. [73] He tried to send specie to Missouri for safekeeping in 1861, but this time the Glasgow brothers asked Felipe not to do it because it was impossible to spend it and they did not want to be responsible for it. A few months later they repeated their warning against dispatching currency to St. Louis, and suggested that it would be safer to deal with his agents in New York. [74]

It is difficult to identify directly the source of Chávez's growing wealth. He inherited a substantial fortune from his father and he regularly remitted drafts to P. Harmony, but it is not clear how he acquired these funds. The invoices indicate the date and the amount of libranzas credited to Chávez's accounts. They also name the individual or agency that authorized payment—the United States subtreasury, the Quartermaster General, Americans, New Mexicans, or Mexican merchants. In settling his account with Harmony in August 1859 Chávez got $13,000 from an unclear source and $6,000 from Eugene Kelly. By October Kelly paid an additional $2,000, and by December $6,400 more. Kelly continued to make sizable payments during the next year—$3,731 on August, $2,680. [75] on September 6 and $4,000 on September. Between October 1861 and June 1862 Chávez sent three remesas (remittances) to Harmony from the subtreasury for a total of $37,987.09. [75] In August 1863 he was credited with $6,652.05 from C. R. Morehead & Co. of Leavenworth. In another instance Chávez's account received a draft for $8,000 from C. P. Clever. A month later this note had not been paid, but by November of the same year the Assistant Treasurer of the U.S. in New York issued drafts in favor of Clever which were also credited to Chávez's account. [76]

There is no easy way to accurately assess the wealth of the Chavezes. An 1857 invoice indicates that between May 1855 and August 1856 Felipe had $56,400 tied up in various transactions, and that in August 1857 Harmony notified him that he had $24,326 in his account. [77] In spite of the voluminous correspondence there is only sporadic information on his total wealth. In the 1860 census he declared $5,000 in real estate and $62,575 in personal estate, indicating he owned a substantial amount of merchandise. At this time he was managing his mother's property which was listed as $6,000 dollars in real estate and $55,660 in personal estate, for a combined family total of $118,235. [78] By 1870 the listed family assets had increased to $40,000 in real estate and $100,000 in personal estate. [79]

During the 1860s and 1870s Chávez maintained a sizable favorable balance with Peter Harmony, the Glasgow Brothers, Otero & Sellars, Chick, Browne & Co., and its successor Browne & Manzanares, as well as a substantial sum in the First Bank of Santa Fe. A statement from January 1, 1879, indicates that at that time he had $69,367.19 in his account with the Glasgow Brothers. An invoice from Chick, Browne & Co., shows that six month later his balance amounted to $12,616.14, By the end of the year (December 31, 1879) his account with Harmony showed a favorable surplus of $39,289.99. [80]

An important portion of these funds came from the Quartermaster of the United States Army, but it is not possible to identify the exact amount of goods or services that Chávez provided in return. It is likely that he furnished grain and meat for troops stationed in the west, or possibly for the Civil War combatants. Some of the drafts came from the Assistant Treasurer of the United States in New York. [81] It is possible that mining activities in New Mexico (Ortiz Mountains) might also have contributed to the Chávez's wealth. [82]

Chávez was involved in a variety of economic activities. Sheep raising continued to be an important component of his business, particularly during the 1870s when his shipments of wool increased dramatically. His records indicate that through the 1880s, Felipe had numerous partidarios who cared for nearly 500,000 sheep. [83] Even Americans tried to get involved in sheep raising. In 1869 Edwin Edgar asked Chávez if he would be willing to give him a partido contract. Edgar had had a business at La Bajada for a number of months, but was thinking of moving to Los Conejos, where according to reports it was ideal to raise sheep. [84]

During the 1870s proceeds from the sale of wool became another important source of revenue for Chávez. The system required several fleteros (freighters) that departed from New Mexico every other week. As soon as the carts reached their destination (Kansas and Missouri), the wool was unloaded and merchandise targeted for New Mexico was loaded. [85] In 1869 W. H. Chick assured Chávez that he would sell his wool at the best possible price and would report back as soon as he firmed up the sale. It is not clear what the going price was at this time, but by 1879 Glasgow was paying between 13 and 11 cents per pound depending on the quality. Chávez incurred other expenses in selling this product—2 cent per pound for freight and $1.15 per bale, as well as storage and commission charges, normally 4 percent. With the coming of the railroad the freight charges were reduced slightly to 1.75 cents per pound, but it is possible that expenses were even lower since wool was no longer shipped in bales, but in tercios, each one holding close to 500 pounds.

During the 1870s wool shipments became an significant component of Chávez's operations, growing steadily in size from 7,642 pounds (shipped to Philadelphia) in 1869 to 192,668.5 pounds nine years later. In 1878 his account with the Glasgow Brothers indicated an income of $11,266.55 from the sale of wool. Glasgow, however, was only one of the buyers of Chávez's wool, and it is safe to assume that he made at least twice as much. He made a profit on these sales only because the partido system ensured a risk-free wool production and because the wages Chávez paid to those handling the wool were quite low. [86] His account with P. Harmony indicates that in 1879 he earned $10,414.96 from the activity. [87] His growing interest in wool appears wise since during the 1870s there was a steady increase in prices—the earlier shipments brought about 11 to 12 cents a pound, but by 1879 Chávez was obtaining between 18 to 22 cents per pound. [88]

Sometimes Chávez sent herds of sheep east. This type of operation appeared riskier as indicated in one of Vicente Baca's letters. From Dodge City, Kansas, he informed his foster father that he had lost 800 animals since leaving Belen. But he was still optimistic and felt that he would make enough on the trip to pay what he owed. [89]

Chávez also raised crops, but it is unclear how he managed his agricultural operations. A letter from José Chávez Ballejos identified the amount of wheat and corn to which Ballejos was entitled, but additional information on Chávez's agricultural activities has not been found. He probably produced a significant amount of grains as demonstrated by the purchase of a flour mill (máquina de calórico de Ericson) which according to Harmony would grind five bushels of wheat an hour. [90] Additional evidence also suggests substantial production. In June 1868 Z. Staab asked Chávez whether he could deliver 100,000 or 200,000 pounds of corn for his firm at Ft. Fauntleroy and, if so, at what price. [91]

Throughout his life Chávez also operated as a local retailer and wholesaler. Many of his customers charged their purchases, and it is unclear if and how much interest, they paid on their outstanding debts. Scattered correspondence appears to indicate that he might have been more lenient with the local population than with his business associates. [92] Chávez acted as wholesaler for many of the small New Mexican merchants, and also as their banker. The partial account of José Miguel Baca, between 1868 and 1873, shows that Baca borrowed $217.50 in cash. In addition he charged $469.925 in groceries and supplies. [93] All the fabrics that Chávez and others like him introduced into the territory provided job opportunities for modistas (seamstresses). The records indicate the amounts paid, but there is no indication how many women worked, for how long, and what they produced. [94]

Chávez's ability to prosper was also the result of varied investment strategies. During the 1860s he became involved in real estate. In September 1864 he sent mayordomo Castillo to New York with libranzas amounting to $42,911.36. Harmony acted as the real estate broker and advised Felipe that it would be best to acquire houses (as opposed to lots) since they were easy to lease and would immediately start making profit (about 4 percent per year). Harmony acted quickly. Upon receipt of Chávez letter from September 28, he answered on October 1, and five days later had already acquired a list of houses for sale and had arranged to have Castillo examine them with care. Three months later Chávez was the owner of two houses, one for which he paid $20,500, and the other, $18,000. [95] These properties produced a sizable monthly income—the larger one rented for $358.75 (per three months) and the smaller one for $315.00. Some expenses were involved. Harmony charged a .5 percent commission to collect the rents, and Chávez also had to pay insurance and miscellaneous fees to inspectors, file a legal form to allow Harmony to collect rent, and pay other expenses. [96] By 1866 the rents were increased to $450.00 and $358.75. [97]

That same year (1866) Harmony began to look for a buyer for these properties. Chávez wanted to sell the smaller, which was apparently located in an undesirable neighborhood. The renters did not want to move and offered to lease it for two or three additional years for $2,050, 10 percent of the price that he had paid for the property. And that was the monthly rent that Chávez finally accepted. The same happened with the other house. Harmony informed him that he would be able to get the price he set for the other—$22,500, but Chávez wanted more money and asked for $25,000. He did not get it, and finally Harmony rented this property for $2,300 for three years. [98]

Before the lease expiration approached Harmony began to look for a buyer. There is no record of the final sale, but Harmony informed Chávez in September 1869 that he could probably obtain $30,000 for the larger house and $26,500 for the smaller one, a 31 percent gain (not including rent) for a five-year investment. [99] But Harmony's valuation was a little optimistic. The smaller house finally sold in 1871 for $25,000, but after paying lawyers, fees, and other expenses Chávez realized only less that $24,000, still a considerable gain for a six and a half year investment. [100]

Chávez's financial strategies demonstrate his willingness to invest sizable capital in new ventures as well as flexibility and commitment when changing investment fields. For example, during the 1870s he shifted away from real estate and began to purchase United States government bonds, likely as a result of advice he received from business associates, like Harmony. Although it is not possible to establish how much profit he made, he invested a sizable amount in a short period of time. He purchased the first bond ($10,000) on July 1878 and continued to purchase them on a regular basis, at least through the following year. [101]

Felipe Chávez, a successful entrepreneur, was one of the leading practitioners of early mercantile capitalism in New Mexico. His skillful management of personal resources, local products, and business connections, coupled with hard-work, determination, informed risk-taking and some ruthlessness allowed him to strengthen his economic standing to become one of the richest men in the territory. Chávez's career was exceptional, but not unique. Other New Mexican merchants rivaled him in wealth, influence, and skills. Their experiences clearly reveal that many hispanos possessed a strong drive for "the material productiveness" Parish found only among the German Jews. This drive allowed them to take advantage of the opportunities the Santa Fe trade offered to consolidate the comfortable economic conditions they had inherited.

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Last Updated: 30-Sep-2005