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< Gouverneur Benefactors — The Noble Family


Harvey (1847-1925) and Edna Wood Noble (1855-1932) were the parents of Edward, Robert and Kathleen. Harvey was born in Verona, NY in 1847 and died in 1925 at the age of 78. His first job as a young man was telegrapher. He moved to Potsdam in 1870 as a telegraph operator for the Rome, Watertown, and Ogdensburg Railroad. Noble moved to Gouverneur in 1873 when he was promoted to station agent. He remained in that position until 1879. In 1876 he married Edna Wood of Potsdam. The Nobles moved to St. Louis until 1880 and returned to Gouverneur, securing employment at the Bank of Gouverneur as a bookkeeper.

In 1883 Harvey entered the coal business. He also sold wood, cement and feed. He ran his business for more than 40 years. The business was located along the railroad track Just north of the Gouverneur Depot, about where the Farley buildings are located today. He had extensive coal sheds and they caught fire several times over the years. He moved to a new location not far away and constructed the most up to date coal storage plant in this part of the state.

Mr. Noble was one of the group that started the Unitarian Church on Trinity Avenue. Today that building is the Masonic Temple. He was a man of distinct literary tastes, a discriminating reader and an intelligent critic. To him, life was much more than eight business careers. He loved his home and family. It was the center of his universe.


North Country towns have produced hard driving, ambitious Americans who have gone on to seek fame and fortune. Rarely, though, have they produced as successful, and yet as devoted a man as Edward John Noble. The man who popularized the perforated sweets known as Life Savers and later built the American Broadcasting Company never forgot his roots In Gouverneur. 

Born in Gouverneur Aug. 8, 1882 a son of Harvey H. and Edna L. Wood Noble, Mr. Noble was both ambitious and hard-working from his early days. Among his youthful ambitions were to attend West Point, or to own a newspaper. But he did neither. He received his preliminary education in Gouverneur public schools, before entering Syracuse University in 1901. 

He was truly a "self-made" man, earning his money as a boy by picking berries and working as a farmhand in the towns of Fowler and Gouverneur. He was a summer correspondent for The Watertown Times, later to be edited and published by one of his closest boyhood friends, Harold B. Johnson. He worked his way through Yale, having transferred there after one year at Syracuse, graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in 1905.

After a stint as a traveling book salesman, (He lost his trunk of books in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, Mr. Noble happened on the confection that was to make his fortune.


Working for an advertisIng agency In New York city, he approached candy maker Clarence Crane with a proposal to promote more widely Crane's perforated peppermint candy. Crane rejected the scheme, but offered instead to sell the entire business for $2,900. More about the Gouverneur Lifesaver...

With J. Roy Allen, Mr. Noble bought the business, invested an additional $900, and set up the Mint Products Company, Inc. in a one room rented loft In Manhattan with six girls, a kitchen stove, and a few pots and pans. In 12 years the $3,800 enterprise grew into an $1,500,000 industry. The owners had solved one of the most threatening problems - the tendency of the candy to lose Its flavor once it had been packaged and merchandised - by devising a tinfoil wrapping that was not only favor tight but also simple to open.

During World War I Mr. Noble served as Major in an ordnance depot in the south, while his brother, Robert, took over the operation of Life Savers.

On Nov. 6, 1920, Mr. Noble married Miss Ethel Louise Tinkham of Napanoch, In Ulster County. Edward J. Noble remained chairman of the board of Life Savers from 1933 to 1955 when his brother Robert P. Noble succeeded him. E.J. Noble was named director, chairman of the board, and chief executive officer of Beech Nut-Life Savers after the two companies merged In 1956. His brother became vice chairman of that board. Robert P. Noble had served as vice president and secretary of Life Savers from 1916 until 1949 when he became its president. He died March 3, 1973.

President Roosevelt appointed the candy magnate In 1938 to be the first chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Authority, and the administration building at the National Airport at Gravely Point in Washington, D.C. is dedicated to him. Before he left Washington in 1940. he also served as first undersecretary of the Commerce Department. to which the C.A.A. had been transferred. 


In 1943, he bought the Blue network from the National Broadcasting Company when the F.C.C. ordered NBC to divest itself of one of its two networks. Buying single stations like WMCA, one of New York's best known radio stations. Mr. Noble enlarged the network, renamed the American Broadcast Company, which went on to become one of the "Big Three" in radio and television. 


When he was not occupied with his various enterprises. Mr. Noble divided his time among his various properties, which included extensive summer properties in the Thousand Islands - such as the George C. Boldt castle near Alexandria Bay and his summer residence at a cabin on Lake of the Isles, Wellesley Island. A speedboat racing enthusiast, Mr. Noble for years owned and raced high-speed motor boats on the St. Lawrence River. Perhaps his best known boat was the 33-foot "Snail" which, after its acquisition in 1926, until its sale In 1950, dominated speed boat racing regattas. 


Long a staunch advocate of the St. Lawrence Seaway and power project, Mr. Noble was the North Country's sole representative on the St. Lawrence Seaway Development corporation advisory board, to which President Eisenhower appointed him In 1954. 

Edward John Noble, multimillionaire, industrialist, financier, and philanthropist, through the Edward John Noble Foundation, made possible the Gouverneur, Alexandria Bay and Canton Edward John Noble Hospitals to provide a unique regional hospital system for that region of the state. 


Other beneficiaries of the Foundation were the Owen D. Young library and student center at St. Lawrence University, the former VanDuzee Hospital In Gouverneur, the First Church of Christ Scientist, and the village of Gouverneur which received its ornamental lighting as a gift from Edward and Robert in memory of their father, Harvey. E.J. Noble died Sunday afternoon, Dec. 28, 1958 at his Greenwich, Conn. home, at age 76.

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