Samuel Dana Greene

Samuel Dana Greene
Samuel Dana Greene
Death date
Associated organizations
General Electric (GE)


Samuel Dana Greene was the son of the late Commander S. Dana Greene, who was the executive of the Monitor in her fight with the Virginia, at Hampton Roads, and who succeeded to the command after Lieutenant Worden was disabled, shortly after the commencement of the engagement. He came of a family which had been distinguished in the history of Connecticut from the time of the earliest settlement, and of which various members had been in public service at all times down to the present, as officers of the army, navy, and in executive positions.

He was born on October 24th, 1864, and consequently was 35 years old at the time of his death. Entering the U. S. Naval Academy in 1879, during the entire four years there he stood at the head of his class, and graduated number one in a glass which had started with more than 100 members, but of whom only 40 succeeded in graduating. His career at the Academy was a notably successful one; even then he attracted the attention of his superiors, many of whom then predicted that his record would be one worthy of his distinguished ancestry. After graduation, July 1st, 1883, and two years sea duty, he was commissioned an ensign. Obtaining leave of absence, he entered the Sprague Electric Railway and Motor Company, in 1887, and resigned from the Navy the following year. He did this against the advice of Mr. Sprague, who was of the opinion that he would probably regret leaving the service, though such a regret was subsequently never expressed to the knowledge of his friends. He immediately became very active in the engineering department of the Sprague Railway Company, of which he became chief engineer in 1888. About the first work undertaken was the equipment and operation of some storage-battery ears in Boston, in 1887; shortly after this he was transferred to Richmond, and was in charge of the extremely arduous construction of the first Richmond road. Since that time he has been connected continuously with the corporations which have succeeded the Sprague Electric Railway and Motor Company-that is, the Edison General Electric Company and the General Electric Company. His progress has been one of steady promotion from the beginning; in each new position he developed new qualities, which made his services of greater and greater value. At the time of his death he was the General Sales Manager of the General Electric Company. The important work of the company in all departments, relating to sales and contracts, passed through his hands. His friends confidently expected that he would become, in the course of time, the chief executive officer of that company, if he elected to remain in it.

As was to be expected from the traditions of his family and his own education, Mr. Greene continued to take a great interest in the Naval service. He was one of the earliest and most active in the formation of the New York Naval Reserve, having risen in this service to the rank of Lieutenant-Commander, his grade at the time of his death. During the Spanish-American War, Mr. Greene served as executive officer of the "Yankee," to which vessel the New York Naval Reserve was assigned, under the command of Captain Brownson. At the close of the war he was appointed Naval Attache on Governor Roosevelt's staff.

Mr. Greene married in June, 1896, Cornelia Chandler, the daughter of Rear-Admiral Ralph Chandler. This marriage was the termination of a love affair dating back to the time of his leaving the Naval Academy. Their married life was a peculiarly happy one, and their home one to which it was a pleasure to go.

Mr. Greene's work since leaving the old Sprague Motor Company has been more that of an executive than of an engineer. He has, however, always taken a deep interest in electrical engineering questions, and has found time to contribute a number of papers on engineering topics, particularly those connected with naval matters. He has read several papers before the Institute of Naval Architects, and others before the New York Electrical Society and the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. He joined the American Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1893, and was one of its managers at the time of his death. He at all times showed a strong and intelligent interest in the affairs of the engineering fraternity. He has served most efficiently as a member of the Committee on National Electrical Code, and was largely responsible for the recent action which has been taken by the fire insurance bodies on the subject of grounding. He was a man of a kind which is, unfortunately, rare-one who combined careful and correct fundamental notions of engineering methods with strong common-sense and a great executive ability. He was not a great engineer, and never professed to be such; but his knowledge of the principles of all engineering matters was very extensive and sound.

Greene and his wife were drowned while skating on the Mohawk, late in the afternoon of Monday, January 8th, 1900. They had started to skate at dusk; there was a strong wind blowing, which suggested the use of a skate sail, and when last seen alive they were skating rapidly down the river with the sail. Their bodies were found in the open water near Freeman's Bridge. There is little doubt that owing to the very rapid rate at which they were going, they were unable to stop themselves when they saw the open strip of water in front. Cries for help were heard, and assistance soon arrived, but the rescuers having no appliance at hand for getting at the bodies, which were some distance from the solid ice, valuable time was lost in returning to the shore for these. The body of Mrs. Greene was first recovered; she was still breathing, ·but all efforts to revive her failed. The search for the body of Mr. Greene was continued down the river for an hour or more, without success. The searchers finally returned to the spot where his wife's body had been found, and there found the other. The position of his body and the markings on his gloves indicated that Mr. Greene had stood upright on the bottom of the river, holding his wife's feet in his hands, and keeping her above water as long as possible. This incident was characteristic of the man.

The funeral took place at Schenectady on the 11th of January. There was a short service and prayer at the house, after which the bodies were taken to St. George's Episcopal Church, escorted by Company E, Second Regiment, and a detachment of the First Naval Battalion, under Lieut. Andrews. The services at the Church were conducted by the Rt. Rev. William Croswell Doane, Bishop of Albany. The pall-bearers were Mr. Greene's intimate friends of the General Electric Company and the Naval Militia. The Governor of New York and a number of his staff were present. All business in the city was suspended for the day. After the services, the bodies were taken to Bristol, R. I., where the interment occurred the next day.

The estimation in which he was held by those who knew him is well shown by the following testimonials, which have appeared in print since his death:

"His place in the class of naval cadets at Annapolis, to which he belonged, was so high that he might with confidence have looked forward to the highest preferment in a service to which he was devoted, yet he manfully gave up his chance of being an admiral because he could not see his way to remaining in the Navy without encroaching upon his mother's slender income. In after life, when he had become a successful business man, he always cherished the earliest object of his awakened ambition, though he never openly expressed regret that he had followed what seemed to him to be the path of duty.

"In his business career he climbed the ladder of promotion by self-denying, diligent and honorable service, respecting himself, respecting his employers, and respecting the work which fell to his hands to do. In his intercourse with his official superiors, equals and subordinates, as well as with his customers and the outside world, he was tactful but truthful; reserved but sincere; often cordial but never familiar; prompt, energetic, and accurate in discharging his multitudinous duties.

"To find his attitude on any given question which might arise, one had only to determine what would be the view of a tolerant, impartial and honorable spectator-his zealousness for his company's advancement never betrayed him into sharp practiee, he gained universal esteem by his uprightness, and held it by his serenity.

"To this man, at the early age of 35, had come a splendid position in the business world, official recognition of his energy and ability as a volunteer defender of the state and nation, ample means and a charming home, in which was enshrined a woman in every way worthy of him. Today they seem 'but as yesterday when it has passed, and as a watch in the night.'

"Yet their lives, and more conspicuously his, are full of encouragement and fruits. In these days, when men so often consent to lower their standard of business integrity for the sake of gain, it is well to bear in mind that S. Dana Greene has left his chosen vocation in life at the call of duty and achieved success, and some measure of fame in necessity's field with ideals intact and with untarnished honor."

"Mr. Greene was a strong man, and full of mental and physical energy. He was keenly and continuously interested in everybody and everything. He was a broad and generous-minded man, and seemed to remember people because of something pleasant and wholesome that he knew about them. He remembered things because he saw something in them that could be utilized in the direction of general advancement. Anything new appealed to him instantly, and he was quick to take it up, if it showed merit. At the same time his judgment and conservatism were of a high order and he was equally prompt in dropping a useless idea. At the head of a large body of men, he set an example of industry and application to duty that was an incentive to all. No one appealed to him with any problem in vain. With a temperament that was exceedingly even and kind, full of helpfulness and hopefulness, he was one of the most companionable, sympathetic and lovable of men. He occupied a position in the General Electric Company and in the friendship and interest of central-station managers all over the country that was unique, and can never be filled by any other man. To those who have known him for a half-score of years, his death is a personal affliction. Such friends can but be filled with inexpressible grief."

"Lieutenant Greene was one of the' most lovable characters I ever met in my life. He was always a staunch and true friend, and while a strict disciplinarian, he always knew how to acquire the love and regard of his associates and of all under his direction. The electrical fraternity has lost in him one of its most prominent members."

"Throughout the electrical field the personal and business popularity of Mr. Greene was remarkable. Uniting with the most perfect integrity in business matters, a cordial manner and a personal charm, which endeared him to his associates, Mr. Greene represented the highest type of the young American man of affairs. His untimely death will cause sincere and widespread regret in all departments of the wide field with which he was so prominently identified. To his business associates, Mr. Greene's death is a great and irreparable loss."

"He bore worthily a name of historic association. Both his father and grandfather rendered to their country distinguished service in the war for the Union. By descent and by nature he came to that nobility that imposes obligation rather than confers privilege, and he was ready and constant in the recognition of the obligation. Graduating at the head of his class at the Naval Academy, he decided against the pursuit of his profession in times of peace, but was prompt to offer his services in time of war, and he gave much time and attention to the development of the State Naval Reserve. His scientific and administrative abilities secured for him a career of great promise in the business in which he was engaged, but his interest never flagged in matters of public concern, for which his training prepared him. Any emergency would surely have found him ready. Out off in the prime of his young manhood, under circumstances peculiarly distressing, his loss will be widely and sincerely regretted."