US GenWeb

This biography is from Landmarks of Albany County, New York, edited by Amasa J. Parker of Albany, N. Y., Syracuse, N. Y.; D. Mason & Co. Publishers, 1897.

Garret A. Van Allen

Garret Adam Van Allen, fire underwriter and financier, was born in Albany, N. Y., February 28, 1835, the oldest son of Adam Van Allen, a wholesale lumber merchant and banker of that city. The Van Allens are of Dutch descent, their ancestors having resided in Albany county for fully two centuries. Garret A. Van Allen was educated in the Albany Academy. After some experience as bank clerk, he, from 1857 to 1860, occupied the position of deputy county treasurer of Albany county. In 1859 he became prominently identified with the organization of the Commerce Insurance Company, of which he was secretary from 1859 to 1867, when he became vice-president, which office he held until 1884, when he succeeded his father as president. Fire underwriting may, therefore, be said to have been Mr. Van Allen's life business, and in that profession he passed through various experiences, such as the Chicago (1871) and Boston (1873) conflagrations, in which the Commerce Insurance Company paid over $500,000 in losses. In that connection he has also been prominently identified with the National Board of Fire Underwriters, holding positions in its executive committee and being chairman of its Incendiarism and Arson Committee for several years. In 1864, becoming impressed with the value and importance of the national banking system, Mr. Van Allen so urged its advantages apon the gentlemen with whom he was associated in the Commerce Insurance Company, that, with four of them, he became one of the five incorporators and first directors of the First National Bank of Albany. He has been a director of that in- stitution since 1864; vice-president from 1876 to 1884; and in September of the latter year succeeded his father as president. Mr. Van Allen has been a prominent member of the American Bankers' Association; was vice-president for New York State in 1889-1891; and was elected a member of its executive council at New Orleans, La., in November, 1891, for three years. He is vice-president of the National Savings Bank of Albany, treasurer of the Capital City Malleable Iron Company, and has also been identified with a number of important business enterprises; and is a member of the Holland Society, Fort Orange Club, and Albany Institute. Mr. Van Allen was married on September 6, 1860, to Elizabeth Morgan Barker, of Newport, R. I. They have one daughter, Mrs. Anna V. A. Jenison, whose husband is secretary of the "Commerce" and associated with Mr. Van Allen in other business enterprises. In politics he has always been a Republican, and has held elective offices twice, being fire commissioner from 1874 to 1878, and alderman from 1888 to 1892.

Send comments or suggestions to:
Debby Masterson

Go Back to Albany County Biographies
Go Back to Home Page