merchant, philanthropist, abolitionist
Birthplace: Northampton, Mass.
After a failed attempt in the dry goods business, he and his brother Lewis founded a successful silk importing business in New York in 1826. The Panic of 1837 meant an end to the Tappans' import business, but they quickly bounced back, founding the nation's first commercial credit-rating service in the 1840s. Raised in a conservative religious home, the brothers used their wealth to found a newspaper , the New York Journal of Commerce (1827) free of “immoral” advertising, and devoted both time and money to philanthropic causes ranging from temperance and abolition to theological seminaries and colleges. Arthur Tappan allied himself with William Lloyd Garrison and co-founded the American Anti-Slavery Society (1833), which used Garrison's publication, The Liberator, to advocate an end to slavery. Tappan served as president of the Society until 1840 when he quit over the its decision to take on other causes, including feminism. He continued to work for abolition, helping to found the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (1840) and the American Missionary Society (1846). When efforts to end slavery through the political process were rewarded with the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, Tappan vowed to disobey the law, and redoubled his efforts through support for the Underground Railroad. Though his participation in the abolitionist crusade diminished with age, he lived to see the Emancipation Proclamation.Died: 7/23/1865