Lewis Tappan (1788-1873)


Lewis Tappan (1788-1873)


The Tappan brothers Lewis (1788-1873) and Arthur (1786-1865) were successful businessmen in New York City, philanthropists, and abolitionists. In 1826 the brothers began to import silk from Asia, and they earned a sizable fortune. In 1827 they began to publish the New York Journal of Commerce, for which they refused to print advertisements from what they thought were "immoral" businesses. 

In 1835 the brothers and abolitionist Theodore Dwight Weld came together to form the American Anti-Slavery Society. The organization called for the immediate end to slavery and also advocated equal rights to African Americans with white people. William Lloyd Garrison dominated the American Anti-Slavery Society, although Arthur Tappan served as president of the organization from its founding until 1840. Tappan resigned from the society in 1840 when its membership became interested in fighting for equal rights for women with men.

The Tappan brothers assisted the abolition movement in other ways. Arthur Tappan provided financial support to the Oberlin Collegiate Institute (subsequently Oberlin College), which provided education for both white and black students in fully-integrated classrooms. The college named its first brick college building, Tappan Hall, built in 1836, after him. Tappan Hall provided dormitory space for theological students such as the Lane Rebels, as well as instructional halls. The town's central green space is named Tappan Square.

Description Source

"Arthur and Lewis Tappan," Ohio History Central, Ohio History Connection, accessed 11/10/2017.


Alden, Beardsley & Co., publisher


Julia Griffiths, ed., Autographs for Freedom (Auburn, NY: Alden, Beardsley & Co., 1854)


Oberlin College Archives




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photographic reproduction of engraving from print publication


engravings; reproductions




Alden, Beardsley & Co., publisher, “Lewis Tappan (1788-1873),” The Oberlin Sanctuary Project, accessed October 22, 2019, http://sanctuary.oberlincollegelibrary.org/items/show/59.