Our History

William Sperry Beinecke, the eldest son of Frederick and a lawyer, served The Sperry and Hutchinson Company from 1952 as general counsel, vice-president, president and from 1966 until his retirement in 1980 as chairman and chief executive officer. Early in his term as president, he guided the creation of the foundation that is now The Sperry Fund. During his years with the company, he was an ardent advocate for business support of charitable and educational institutions, and he led the company to set the pace for corporate charitable giving in this country. Responding to his initiative in 1971, the Sperry and Hutchinson board established the scholarship program in memory of his father and two uncles who had led the company before him. Mr. Beinecke passed away in April 2018 at the age of 103.

Edwin, Frederick, and Walter Beinecke were born in New York City in 1886, 1887, and 1888. They were linked from their earliest years by a deep affection, shared interests, and complementary though different talents and personalities. Together they assumed the leadership of The Sperry and Hutchinson Company in the 1920’s and it grew from a small enterprise to a Fortune 500 company by 1975. The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, given to Yale University by them and their families in 1963, stands as a symbol of the bond that persisted among them.

The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

The Beinecke Brothers

Edwin John Beinecke

Edwin John Beinecke, the oldest of the three brothers, graduated from Phillips Academy and entered Yale College. He left Yale after two years to work with the George A Fuller Construction Company as a timekeeper for the construction of The Plaza Hotel in New York City. For more than fifty years he served as a director, president, chairman of the board, and finally chairman of Sperry and Hutchinson, providing inspired leadership to the growing organization throughout his association with it. He was director until his death in 1970.

Edwin Beinecke was a man of many interests. Over the years, he developed the largest collection of books, manuscripts, and works relating to Robert Louis Stevenson (now at the Beinecke Library) and a magnificent collection of German glass and stoneware (now at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York). At his Greenwich, Connecticut home he created a garden that attracted horticultural enthusiasts from all over the United States. His dedication to Yale was legendary. For years, he was one of the Yale Library Associates, serving as chairman in 1949. He was awarded the Yale Alumni Medal in 1953

Frederick William Beinecke

Frederick William Beinecke, graduated from Phillips Academy and went on to major in civil engineering at the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale University. Fritz (as his friends and family called him) graduated summa cum laude in 1909 with a Bachelor of Philosophy degree and was elected a member of Sigma Xi, the honorary society for engineering students. Frederick Beinecke assumed a variety of interesting roles during his career. Initially employed as an inspector for the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, he later joined the New York Central Railroad. He then joined the Red Hook Light and Power Company as engineer in charge of constructing a hydroelectric power plant. He was a World War I army captain, superintendent in charge of horse-drawn kerosene tank trucks for the Texas Company (later Texaco) in New York, president of a Studebaker automobile distributorship in New Jersey, founder of a stock brokerage firm, department store president, and president and chairman of the executive committee of Sperry and Hutchinson.

Frederick Beinecke was a gentle man with extraordinary compassion and a deep sensitivity to the beauties of life. A profound interest in art and history led him to become one of the outstanding collectors of all forms of original source material documenting the American West. As an accomplished machinist, he pursued the hobby of constructing exquisitely detailed model locomotives and model ships. He collected and repaired antique clocks and was a skilled photographer and an enthusiastic yachtsman and fisherman. Like his brother, Edwin, Frederick Beinecke served as chairman of the Yale Library Associates and gave his great collection of books and manuscripts on the American West to Yale to be housed in the Beinecke Library. He received the Yale Alumni Medal in 1959.

Walter Beinecke

Walter Beinecke, the youngest of the three brothers, also graduated from Phillips Academy and attended Yale. Preferring a smaller institution, he later transferred to Williams College. He left Williams at the end of his junior year to work for the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston and later for the John C. Paige Company (a major insurance broker), serving as its treasurer, president, chief executive officer, and chairman of the board. He also had a long association with Sperry and Hutchinson beginning in 1922, serving as secretary, vice-president, executive vice-president, director and later chairman of the finance committee.

Walter Beinecke excelled at sports. He was a champion gymnast and played on the water polo team at Williams. He was a competitive golfer all his life. His forte was mathematics and games such as bridge and backgammon that required mathematical skill. He was ranked among the best contract bridge players in the world and served on the commission that wrote the original laws for the game. He also collaborated on American backgammon rules.