Biography of Edgar Cotrell


AN Albanian, widely and favorably known as a representative man, who has contributed largely toward the development of a special industry in our city, is Edgar Cotrell of the firm of Cotrell & Leonard, extensive wholesale and retail dealers in furs and kindred goods.

It is always interesting to trace the ancestry and personal career of any one whom, by earnest, persevering and honorable efforts, has obtained marked and permanent success in some useful calling or profession in life. In the subject of the present sketch we have an illustration of some of the more striking characteristics of New England men and their descendants. He is a son of the late Joshua G. Cotrell, a native of Massachusetts, who was born in 1804, and who, in 1836, married Cornelia, daughter of Dr. Jabez Wilkinson. Joshua G. Cotrell was a man of great pluck, enterprise and high character, who at the age of twenty-two came to Albany and established, on a small scale, the business which is now so largely and successfully carried on by his son Edgar and the Messrs. Leonard. His death, which occurred in 1878, was deeply lamented, while his name is still highly cherished by many of our citizens.

The grandfather of Edgar Cotrell, on his father’s side, was Oliver Cotrell, of Hancock, Berkshire County, Mass., who married Mary, daughter of Nathaniel Gardner, a descendant of Samuel Sewall, the companion and friend of Miles Standish. His great-grandfather was Joseph Cotrell, of Wickford, R. I., who married Hannah, daughter of Judge Nichols, a resident of Newport, R. I., during the revolutionary war, in 1780, and who is described as having been the “owner of much real estate.”

Edgar Cotrell was born in the city of Albany on the 15th of January, 1838. He received his education at the Albany academy and at Williamstown, Mass. As a clerk in his father’s store, he formed his taste for business and laid the foundation of his high mercantile reputation. He adopted his father’s occupation as a means of living, and followed it with close devotion and untiring perseverance. Having thus early chosen his life-long pursuit, and having already gained considerable experience under the direction of his father, he was admitted into partnership in 1859.

Young Cotrell was not long in mastering the details of the business, and took a lively interest in assisting in its development and prosperity. In the meantime, from small beginnings the retail trade of the house had increased so steadily and largely that it was deemed necessary to establish a wholesale department in connection with it – a department which is still continued with much success. The firm of Cotrell & Son kept on flourishing all through those dark and troublesome days when the storm of civil war was raging in the south, and the exciting incidents connected with it were stirring the hearts of the American people.

In 1867, two years after the close of the war, the firm was changed to that of J. G. Cotrell & Co., by the admission of Daniel Leonard as a partner.

In 1870, this firm erected the building No. 46 State Street, where they continued to carry on an excellent trade for fourteen years. In 1878, on the death of Joshua G. Cotrell, a new co-partnership was established between Edgar Cotrell and Daniel Leonard, under the firm name of Cotrell & Leonard, which still continues to exist. On account of the remarkable growth of their business Messrs. Cotrell & Leonard removed, in 1884, to their present elegant five-story marble building at Nos. 472-476 Broadway, which is one of the most desirable locations for such a business in the city. Here the trade of the firm has reached vast dimensions, especially in the wholesale lines, the sales yearly aggregating over a quarter of a million dollars.

The customers of this house are not confined to Albany and the surrounding country, but may be found in many distant places – in New York state, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, etc.

This house, as we have seen, was established sixty years ago by Joshua G. Cotrell, on the principles of economy, enterprise, fair and honorable dealings – principles which continue to be recognized as of prime importance in the conduct of business by his successors, whose highest aim is not only to develop a useful industry on a grand scale, but also to cfive the fullest satisfaction to all classes of their numerous customers.

In 1861 Mr. Edgar Cotrell married Miss Charlotte Hadley, a lady of culture and refinement, with winning social qualities, daughter of the late William J. Hadley, Esq., a celebrated lawyer. Mr. and Mrs. Cotrell, with their two beautiful and accomplished daughters, reside in the old family mansion. No. 172 State street, which is quite famed for its charming hospitality.

For sixty years the Cotrell family has attended the old Second Presbyterian church on Chapel street, where the present Mr. Cotrell is president of the board of trustees.

Mr. Cotrell is a trustee of the Homoeopathic hospital and of the Albany Orphan asylum; president of the Albany City Savings Institution, and of the Albany Safe Deposit and Storage Company; and vice-president of the City National bank, where he passes his time daily during banking hours.

Success has crowned Mr. Cotrell’s mercantile work, while in the very prime of life, and as a banker he has already exhibited qualities of a high order – honest, systematic and straight-forward in all his financial transactions – with untiring efforts to advance the prosperity of the banking-house with which he is connected; well meriting the universal confidence reposed in him. And it is but just to say here, that in all the other public trusts with which he has been honored by his fellow-citizens, he has shown careful management, sound judgment, rare ability and a watchful regard for the best interests of others.

In his personal manners Mr. Cotrell is plain and easily approachable, with generous impulses and a kindly feeling for all. He is a lover of simplicity and sincerity, and a despiser of ostentation or insincerity in any form.

Since the above sketch was written it is our painful duty to announce the sudden death of Mr. Cotrell, which occurred in the night of the 15th of April, 1890. He had retired to his room about 11 o’clock, apparently in good health, but was suddenly stricken with apoplexy and died before touching his bed.

“The cry at midnight came,
He started up to hear;
A mortal arrow pierced his frame –
He fell, but felt no fear.
” His spirit with a bound,
Left its encumbering clay
His tent at sunrise on the ground,
A darkened ruin lay.”

A happy family where mutual love reigned supreme was thus suddenly plunged into the deepest sorrow, while Albany lost one of its best, most esteemed, most active citizens. His memory will always be highly cherished by all who knew him. As one very justly remarks:

“Mr. Cotrell possessed an unusually happy and lovely disposition. He was a man who always won not only respect, but genuine love from every person with whom he came in contact. In business affairs his diligence, uprightness and tact had won for him a leading place, and made him the trusted adviser of many. Those who sought his counsel found in him always valuable advice and a large-hearted sympathy and kindliness which endeared him to them forever. Few men have been called to fill so many responsible places of trust, and none have acquitted themselves more honorably than did Edgar Cotrell.”



Noted living Albanians and state officials , A series of biographical sketches. 1891.

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