Born 23 December 1841 in Waterford, Ireland
Died 28 October 1927 in Lake George, New York
Buried Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Sleepy Hollow, New York
Elected 5 February 1910 at age sixty-eight
During half a century, the individuality of David Williams was merged with that of the Iron Age. There had been “trade papers” before the Iron Age was founded in 1859 and there have been hundreds since; mostly of the standardized type which collates the weekly or monthly news of an industry, with occasional articles of a technical nature or tributes to conspicuous personalities in the trade. The Iron Age as Williams developed it had all this and a good deal more. It undertook to guide the industry in its larger policies. Williams himself, recalling at a later day how this publication had been launched originally in an America which was a “half-settled agricultural country with rudimentary industries, dependent on Europe for most of its manufactured goods,” described its founders as looking forward, even then, to the day when the United States “might throw off that dependence and become itself the greatest industrial country in the world.” There was much loud talk in those earlier days about effecting such transformation overnight, but that was not the attitude of Williams and the Iron Age. Their business was to chronicle faithfully and soberly the slow unfolding of a dream which was not to come actually true for sixty years, yet whose eventual fulfilment was destined to be something vastly greater than the pre-eminence pictured by our Jefferson Bricks of the sixties.
It was no part of Williams’s purpose to cultivate recognition in the industry by accepting and applauding its vagaries. His belief regarding its longer future never prevented him from telling unpalatable truths about the present, in the steel trade’s recurrent moods of reckless overconfidence. The Iron Age discussed with cool judgment the extravagances of the “merger period,” at the end of the nineteenth century, and it warned of a heavy reckoning in its orgy of credit inflation on the eve of 1907. But its reasoned hopefulness, on occasions when Pittsburgh had itself begun to believe the country ruined, was a pillar of strength to the despondent industry. That the journal which Williams published for so many years should today, long after his withdrawal from its management, be dissecting with amused and slightly sarcastic impartiality the panegyrics of eminent manufacturers on instalment buying as the only road to national prosperity, illustrates how the spirit infused into such a publication can survive.
Personally, David Williams was modest and self-effacing. He was content to see that the work which he had in mind was done, without seeking public notoriety for himself. One of his oldest business associates wrote that, in all his career of achievement, he enjoyed life simply, preferring the retirement of his own domestic circle, and that “the man whose name is probably best known in the iron, steel and metal trades of the United States is known other than by name to comparatively few and intimately to fewer.”
Alexander Dana Noyes
1928 Century Association Yearbook