Thursday, August 29, 2019

Colonel Charles Dexter Pierce (1859-1909): 26th mayor of Oakland

Charles Pierce (Oakland Tribune)
Plot 15

Charles Pierce was born in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1859. His family moved to California in the 1870s and in 1879 Pierce's father, Dexter Pierce started a successful hardware business with Charles and his brother Frank. 

Pierce was a well-known businessman and was elected on an independent businessman's ticket in 1888 and 1889. He served two terms, but declined to run for a third term. He was one of the last Oakland mayors to serve under the original city charter, where mayors were elected by the city council for 1-year terms. In 1889, the Democrats wanted Pierce to run on their ticket but he declined. His brother Frank was also recruited to run for Governor, but also declined.

Pierce owned lots of land in in the Central Valley, including  Mandeville Island, which is 15 miles northwest of Stockton. He also owned Rough and Ready Island, near Stockton, which in the 20th Century was home to the Naval Supply Depot and berthed mothballed ships from the United States Navy.

The brothers also owned the Pierce Land and Stock Company, where they raised prize-winning Holstein Friesian dairy cattle. His cattle once held the world record for their yield of milk and butter.  

The brothers had their hands in numerous other ventures, including the Standard Electric Company,  Stockton Water Company and banking. They successfully brought the National Cash Register to the west coast. The company is still in existence and is known as NCR Corporation. It rapidly expanded during Pierce's lifetime and by 1911 it had sold one million machines, had 6,000 employees and controlled 95% of the U.S. market. According to the Oakland Tribune, the brothers "amassed a large fortune" from this business venture. 

Charles and Frank were often referred to as the "Cheeryable Brothers" after characters in Charles Dickens' "The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby," who were known for their humanitarian activity, benevolence and private charity.

Pierce died of Bright's disease (today known as chronic nephritis), which was triggered by an accident with his horse-drawn buggy. He had suffered from kidney ailments for ten years. Mayor Frank Mott and William Davis were pallbearers at his Masonic funeral. Pierce succeeded Davis as mayor.

Sources: Oakland Wiki,, SF Call, Holstein-Friesian Register (Vol. 17), Wikipedia

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