Today, the Morgan Silver Dollar Coin remembers when the millionaire locomotive builder bequeathed most of his fortune to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art on July 5, 1901.
From the Washington Times newspaper of July 6, 1901:
Left His Fortune to Art
New York’s Metropolitan Museum to Get J S Rogers Estate
New York, July 5 — By the will of the late Jacob S Rogers, the millionaire locomotive builder of Paterson NJ, the Metropolitan Museum of Art of this city, is to receive the enormous endowment fund of anywhere from $5,750,000 to $7,750,000.
With the exception of eight bequests amounting in all to only $250,000, the entire estate of the eccentric old gentleman who for years led the life of a semi-recluse is bequeathed to a museum that is devoted to matters concerning which Mr. Rogers had little knowledge, and in which he was supposed to have even less interest.
This princely endowment will put the Metropolitan Museum of Art on a basis of financial resources superior probably to that of any similar institution in the world. It raises it from a position of comparatively narrow resources to one of great affluence.
The total resources of the museum, as shown by the last annual report, were but little over $600,000. By Mr. Rogers great endowment this sum will be increased to certainly nearly $6,500,000, and perhaps to somewhere near $8,500,000.
It is, of course, impossible to estimate within a million or so of the value of Mr. Rogers fortune. The estimate of $20,000,000 which frequently was made prior to his death is undoubtedly in excess of the real amount.
He was secretive concerning his affairs to a degree that at times seemed to amount to absurdity. His will was only made public within an hour of his funeral in Paterson late this afternoon.
But the scanty bequests to relatives and the lavish liberality to the Metropolitan Museum of Art are not the only things Mr. Rogers left behind him. He left the seeds of what has every promise of being one of the greatest will contests ever known in the New Jersey courts.
Indeed with the grim sardonic humor peculiar to him Mr. Rogers seems to have cleared the ground and left the arena wide open for the contestants to go in and fight it out to their hearts’ content.
Nowhere in the will is there any provision which cuts off any of the individual legatees if they make a contest.
There were something like a dozen men and women relatives of Mr. Rogers who were present when the will was read, and who might naturally expect to be liberally remembered in it. They assembled together in the dingy old parlor across the hall from the little reception room in which the body had been lying during the funeral services and ranged themselves around the room while William Pennington, one of the executors, unfolded the paper.
The document dated June 23, 1892, proved to be a very short and concise presentment of the dead man’s wishes as to the disposition of his property. In a codicil, $100,000 is given to Theodore B. Rogers, a nephew, of Wilmington, Delaware.
This gentleman, in fact, turned out to be the principal legatee mentioned in the will, for in addition to the $100,000, he also received all the household goods, pictures, horses, cattle, equipages, the fine stock of wines, and the other household supplies which were in Mr. Rogers possession at the time of his death.
By the terms of the will a brother, Columbus B. Rogers, was down for a legacy of $100,000. Columbus B. Rogers, however, died some time ago so that legacy has lapsed as has also one of $25,000 made to Asabel S. Levy, a New York lawyer and friend of Mr. Rogers, and one of $5000 to Miss Ellen Allen, who for many years was Jacob S. Rogers housekeeper. Both Miss Allen and Mr. Levy died some time ago.
All the other legacies which stand are for $25,000 each to Ellen A. Rogers, daughter of Columbus B. Rogers; Julia Gately, also a daughter of Columbus B. Rogers; Mary J. Westerfield, a daughter of Jason Rogers; Flora E. Rogers, a daughter of Jason Rogers; Annie R. Dupont, a daughter of Theodore Rogers; Ellen R. Bradford, also a daughter of Theodore Rogers; William B. Rogers Jr., and William Dupont, grand nephews of the deceased, are to receive during their lives $500 a year each, which sum is to be derived from the income of the late Mr. Rogers’ large real estate holdings, the balance of the income to go, together with all the residue of the entire estate, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
After the death of the recipients of these two beneficiaries of $500 a year each, all the landed estate of Mr. Rogers consisting of valuable holdings in Broadway and upper Fifth Avenue, New York, as well as some forty acres of land most of which is in the finest residential part of Paterson is to go in its entirety to the Metropolitan Museum.
To make it doubly sure that none of this vast fortune bequeathed to public uses by any chance get back to the members of the family it is provided that in case that it is proved the Metropolitan Museum of Art is incapable of receiving for any reason the bequest then the whole of the gift to the institution Is to be divided among the New York Historical Society, the American Museum of Natural History, the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen, the Mercantile Library Association and the New York Library Association.
The Morgan Silver Dollar Coin shows with an image of the Rogers Locomotive Works in Paterson, New Jersey, surveyed in 1906.