William B. Leeds

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William B. Leeds
William B. Leeds (Tin-plate king).png
Born September 19, 1861
Died June 23, 1908

William Bateman Leeds (September 19, 1861 – June 23, 1908) was an American businessman. He dominated the tin plate industry,[1] becoming known as the "Tin Plate King". Together with William Henry Moore, Daniel G. Reid and James Hobart Moore, he became known as one of the 'big four' or 'tin plate crowd' in American industry.


Leeds was born in 1861, to parents Noah Smith Leeds and Hannah Star Leeds in Richmond, Indiana. After receiving an education at public schools, Leeds worked as a florist. In 1883, he married Jeannette Gaar,[2] a relative of Harry Miller, general superintendent of the Pennsylvania Railroad. That same year, he joined an engineering corps. Three years later, Leeds was employed by the Cincinnati and Richmond Railroad, where he became division superintendent in 1890.

Leeds first went into the tin-plate industry with partners who invested invested about $250,000, and the company failed.[3] Later, Leeds founded the American Tin Plate Co. in 1898, with his partners Daniel G. Reid, William H. Moore and James H. Moore. The company grew to consist of over 200 companies,[4] and gained control of as much as 90% of the tinplate industry.[5] The company expanded to comprise over 28 mills in Elwood.William McKinley passed a tin tariff, in part to protect their business.[6] They organized the National Steel Corporation in 1899 to provide steel to the tin company, with about $50 million in stock.[3] The company sold for as much as $40 million to U.S. Steel.

Leeds was also involved in founding the National Steel Corporation, American Sheet Steel Company and the American Steel Hoop Company He became president of Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad in 1902. In 1904, he was ousted from the company after a disagreement with his partners.[7] Leeds was heavily involved with National Biscuit Company, Diamond Match Company, Tobacco Products Corporation and American Can Company.[8] Additionally, he was the director of the Audit Co. of New York, Elwood, St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad, Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern Railway, Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad, United States Mortgage and Trust Co., Anderson and Lapelle Railroad Company, Nassau Gas, Heat and Power Co., Nassau Light and Power Co., and the Windsor Trust Co.[9][2]

His son William Bateman Leeds, Jr., and his wife, Nancy Stewart Worthington (later Princess Anastasia of Greece and Denmark) were prominent individuals as well. The SS William B. Leeds was named after him.[10][11][12][13] Leeds was an avid yachtsman, and had membership in the New York, the Seawanhaka Corinthian, Brooklyn, Larchmont, and American Yacht Clubs. He maintained membership in the Meadow Brook club, Automobile Club of America, and The Brook club.[9] The 'Billy Bi' soup was named after him.[14] Leeds was also an avid horseman.[15]

Pearl necklace[edit]

Leeds purchased a pearl necklace for his wife.[when?] The necklace cost $360,000 when he bought it, but he only paid the ten percent tariff on pearls, rather than the sixty percent tariff on a pearl necklace. The United States filed suit, and for several years, as the case was litigated, the "Leeds pearls were the most famous jewels in America."[16]


  1. ^ "William B. Leeds, Sportsman, Dead". The New York Times. 1972-01-03. Archived from the original on 2017-12-21. Retrieved 2017-12-21.
  2. ^ a b Steel and Iron. National Iron and Steel Publishing Company. 1908.
  3. ^ a b Cosmopolitan. Schlicht & Field. 1902.
  4. ^ Derr, Mark (2013-11-26). A Dog's History of America: How Our Best Friend Explored, Conquered, and Settled a Continent. The Overlook Press. ISBN 9781468309102.
  5. ^ Phillips, Clifton J. (1968). Indiana in Transition, 1880-1920: The Emergence of an Industrial Commonwealth. Indiana Historical Society. ISBN 9780871950925.
  6. ^ LIFE. Time Inc. 1940-08-12.
  7. ^ "Royalty gets grip on Leeds Millions". Cambridge Sentinel — Cambridge Public Library. 30 April 1921. Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  8. ^ Farnsworth, Robert S. (2017-12-11). The Grand Western Railroad Game: The History of the Chicago, Rock Island, & Pacific Railroads: Volume I: The Empire Years: 1850 Up to the Great War. Dorrance Publishing. ISBN 9781480927070.
  9. ^ a b The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. J. T. White Company. 1910.
  10. ^ Feuer, Alan (2009). "Luxury Mausoleum, Preowned, Big Markdown". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-12-16.
  11. ^ The Railway Age. 1901.
  12. ^ Williams, Greg H. (2014-07-25). The Liberty Ships of World War II: A Record of the 2,710 Vessels and Their Builders, Operators and Namesakes, with a History of the Jeremiah O’Brien. McFarland. ISBN 9781476617541.
  13. ^ Weirather, Larry (2015-11-11). Fred Barton and the Warlords' Horses of China: How an American Cowboy Brought the Old West to the Far East. McFarland. ISBN 9780786499137.
  14. ^ Fisher, Mary Frances Kennedy (1983). Masters of American Cookery: M.F.K. Fisher, James Andrew Beard, Raymond Craig Claiborne, Julia McWilliams Child. U of Nebraska Press. ISBN 080326920X.
  15. ^ Daily Racing Form: n. Thursday, March 5, 1903. Daily Racing Form. 1903.
  16. ^ Dearing, Albin Pasteur (1986). The elegant inn : the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, 1893-1929. Lyle Stewart Inc. pp. 107–111.