Thomas Ryan, the son of Irish immigrants, was born in Lovington, Virginia, on 17th October, 1851. Orphaned at the age of fourteen, moved to New York in 1872 and two years later began working at the New York Stock Exchange.
In 1892 he helped establish the Metropolitan Street Railway Company and the Metropolitan Traction Company. Ryan also had interests in the coal, oil, rubber and lead industries. Through a series of mergers Ryan developed a controlling interest in the American Tobacco Company and in 1905 purchased the Equitable Life Assurance Company.
In 1908 Ryan was investigated for corruption but the grand-jury decided against bringing charges against him. When Thomas Ryan died on 23rd November, 1928, he left a fortune of more than $200 million.
Mayors are his office-boys, governors come and go at his call. He possesses himself a party and selects a candidate for the presidency. Tammany Hall is a dog for his hunting, and he breaks city council to his money-will as folk break horses to harness.