Henry van Wart 1784 - 1873
November 14, 2009
Henry van Wart 1784 - 1873, an American (Dutch by descent) who became British by special act of Parliament, founded the Birmingham Stock Exchange, he was a Magistrate, and served as one of Birmingham’s first Aldermen and a director of the Birmingham Banking Company.
Henry van Wart purchased goods extensively from the Birmingham area and shipped them back to America, and he also brought goods on exclusive commission for British purchasers, establishing himself as a most wealthy man.
Henry van Wart was married to Sarah Irving, the sister of author Washington Irving. They had four children: William (1812 - 1868), Matilda (b. 1814), Marianne (b. 1816). and George (b. 1817; later a wine merchant). William later named his first- born Washington Irving Van Wart (b. 1836), whose niece in turn was called Rosalinda Irving Van Wart (b. 1874).
Henry and Sarah met when he was employed by her family’s New York company, Irving & Smith, and they moved to England when he was tasked with opening a Liverpool branch of the firm.
After that enterprise failed, they moved to Birmingham, and he set up a profitable business, exporting the city’s goods to America.
Washington Irving lived with the van Warts at four of their homes in Birmingham, light- heartedly christening two of these buildings “Castle van Tromp” and writing some of his most successful stories at them. He is also known to have worshipped at St Paul’s Church in St Paul’s Square, Birmingham.
Van Wart developed a friendship with Louisiana businessman Frederick W Tilton (an importer of railroad iron), who became Van Wart’s agent in New Orleans. Frederick W Tilton endowed the library at Tulane University.