William H. Fogg (1817-1884), China trader
1894 - Fogg Memorial Building, Berwick Academy
William Hayes Fogg may have been the most successful merchant the Berwicks have ever produced. Born on a Berwick farm on December 27, 1817, just before Maine became a separate state from Massachusetts, he was named after William Allen Hayes, a South Berwick judge who lived on Academy Street. Fogg's great uncle, Judge Benjamin Chadbourne of South Berwick, had been the Berwick Academy founder who donated land for the campus in 1791.
The youngest of ten children, William Fogg never attended Berwick Academy, but at 14 went to clerk in a country store. He failed at his first business venture, but at age 30 joined his brother to create the Fogg Brothers of Boston, a shipping company in the China trade.
In 1847, just after the Opium War, the Treaty of Nanking had opened trade in five Chinese ports, principally Shanghai, and Hong Kong became a British colony. Tokugawa Japan opened with Matthew Perry's voyage in 1853. Trade in the oriental market flourished; clipper ships raced the globe with cargoes of tea, silk, and eventually “oil for the lamps of China.” And the Fogg brothers were there. Within five years of starting their business, they transferred their base to Manhattan and, after his brother's death, William began to lead, at age 38, the firm that was known first as Fogg Brothers and later as the China and Japan Trading Company.
Over the next 30 years William Fogg's wealth grew, as did his position in New York society. His nephew, Horatio Nelson Twombly of South Berwick, helped manage the company and became active in New York City politics. Fogg and his wife Elizabeth Perkins traveled widely, collected Asian art, and were active in philanthropic efforts. At Fogg's death in 1884 his personal fortune was valued at over $1.5 million. Besides New York City, his company had branches on the Bund in Shanghai, as well as in Yokohama, Osaka, London, and San Francisco.
When Elizabeth Fogg died in 1891, the estate was distributed among educational and charitable institutions throughout the United States. Harvard University received the Foggs' collection of Oriental art and $200,000 to build the William H. Fogg Art Museum on campus.
The Foggs' Berwick Academy bequest of $50,000, although smaller in dollar terms, had an enormous impact on South Berwick, the small community in Maine where at the time the academy served as the local high school. Hiram Fogg, a beneficiary who lived in Maine, led the team involved in designing the 1894 Fogg Memorial Building, a combined public library and new "state-of-the-art" academy. Complete with science labs and electricity, it was the most imposing public edifice the area had ever seen.
Jewett window in Fogg Memorial Library
Author Sarah Orne Jewett, an 1865 Berwick Academy graduate; George A. Clough, City Architect of Boston; stained glass artist Sarah Wyman Whitman; the landscape firm of Frederick Law Olmstead -- all those involved with the new building's design features were part of America's cosmopolitan culture of the 1890s. That culture was already feeling the artistic influences of China and Japan that traders like William Fogg had opened up to the west with their sailing ships. Jewett's essay "The Old Town of Berwick" was published in 1894, the year Fogg Memorial was opened .
(Summary by Wendy Pirsig from the archives of the Old Berwick Historical Society. Updated 2020.)