Daniel Gray Reid was a financier, industrialist and benefactor, sometimes known as the “Tin Plate King” because that’s where he made his first fortune. He was born in 1858 on his father’s farm near what would later become Earlham Cemetery. After his father’s death in 1873, he got a job at the Second National Bank. By all accounts he was a hard and ambitious employee, and before long had worked his way up to Cashier, and ultimately, Vice-President.
In 1892, he and his boyhood friend and business partner, William B. Leeds, built a new factory at Elwood, Indiana, that would manufacture tin plate. They were taking advantage of the cheap energy source – natural gas – that was recently found in central Indiana. This venture was successful enough that by 1898, he and several associates organized many other tin plate companies into a tin plate trust. The American Tin Plate Company was headquartered in Chicago, and Reid became its president. In 1901, when J. P. Morgan created the giant steel trust, United States Steel, one of the companies he included was the American Tin Plate Company. All of a sudden, Reid was not just rich, but fabulously wealthy.
After the formation of US Steel, he moved to New York City and started living the life of “conspicuous consumption.” He had a mansion on 5th Avenue complete with a three-story stable for his horses, a country estate in Irvington, New York, and a 200-foot yacht. He never forgot his hometown, though, and lavished a great deal of money on Richmond institutions including the YMCA, the Art Association of Richmond, and Earlham College. Most notable was the $100,000 he gave for Reid Memorial Hospital in 1905 in honor of his wife and son, and the $295,000 he donated to construct Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church in honor of his parents.
Reid continued his financial career on Wall Street and later served as Chairman of the Board of the Rock Island Railway Company, and on the boards of several banking institutions. He was married three times — his first two wives died, and the third divorced him. He died in January 1925, and his funeral was held in the church he had built. He is buried in the large mausoleum in Earlham Cemetery that he had built after the death of his second wife.