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Published on 23rd September

Zachariah Pearson: Man of Hull -- A tale of philanthropy, boom and bust

by Marian Shaw

There is not a statue of Zachariah Charles Pearson (1821-1891), twice Mayor of Hull, on the land he gifted to the City for its first public park. Why not? Here the great-great-granddaughter of the Victorian philanthropist builds a life-story from a fascinating mix of family and local folk-lore and photographs, genealogical research, and the resources of local, national and international archives – as well as travel to the United States and long journeys online.

Thousands of pieces of jigsaw spread out on the table are brought together to make up a picture of Zachariah’s life as he built up his business from humble beginnings and rose to fame, fortune, and philanthropy. By the age of 21 he was captain of ‘the finest ship then sailing out of Hull’. Within the next three years he was married and the owner of his own vessel – a young entrepreneur expanding his trading routes and establishing his businesses around the world, ready to turn events to the advantage of his family and the development of his city.

What could go wrong? As the book reveals, dramatic world events, bad luck and poor judgement were to bring prolonged financial and social disaster. In his later years, when rebuilding his public presence in Hull, Zachariah certainly maintained a lower profile than his previous flamboyance. A fascinating slice of the history and life of nineteenth-century Hull.

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