Sage, Russell, 1815–1906, American financier, b. Oneida co., N.Y. He was successful in the grocery business in Troy, N.Y. Active in public affairs, he became (1845) alderman of Troy and served (1853–56) as a Whig member of Congress. He continued to amass great wealth by banking, and after moving (1863) to New York City he engaged in stock speculation. In association with Jay Gould, he gained extensive financial control in several Western railroads, in the elevated railway system in New York City, and in the Western Union Telegraph Company. An attempt to assassinate him in 1891 failed, resulting in the death of the would-be assassin, Henry Norcross. Upon Sage's death, the distribution of his fortune was left in the hands of his widow, Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage, 1828–1918. She made large gifts to the Emma Willard School and to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy; established Russell Sage College; and donated money to other educational organizations and to benevolent societies. Marsh Island in the Gulf of Mexico was bought by her in 1912 and given to Louisiana as a bird sanctuary. The great single benefaction was the establishment (1907) of the Russell Sage Foundation in New York City. This institution, endowed with a total of $15 million for "the improvement of social and living conditions" in the United States, did pioneer work in cooperating with various social agencies. In addition to conducting research activities in social welfare, public health, education, government, and law, the foundation has also been concerned with the possibilities of increased use of social-science techniques in the practicing professions.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.