J.H.S. 190 Russell Sage

Russell Risley Sage (1816 – 1906) Was a financier & President of the Chicago, St. Paul & Milwaukee Railroad, he played a large part in organizing the railroad and telegraph systems in the United States. He also served as a delegate to the Whig Convention of 1848, where he supported Henry Clay. Sage served two consecutive terms in the U.S. Congress (1853–57).

Sage was born in Oneida County New York, his first job was as an errand boy in his brother's Troy, NY grocery store, very motivated he soon opened his own wholesale grocery business. He was elected as an alderman in Troy, while also serving as a treasurer in Rensselaer County from 1844 to 1851, 1852 he was elected to Congress on the Whig ticket and served for five years until he took over as vice president of the La Crosse Railroad in Wisconsin, a company he had invested in. He also had money invested in Western Union Telegraph. He relocated to New York City in 1863 where he engaged in the business of selling puts and calls, as well as short-term options known as privileges. He has been credited with developing the market for stock options in the United States and inventing the "spread" and "straddle" option strategies, for which he was dubbed "Old Straddle" and the "Father of Puts and Calls." 

In 1891, a man entered Sage’s office and demanded $1.2 million, threatening Sage with dynamite. When Sage refused, the man unleashed an explosion that left him dead, but Sage was mostly unharmed. The event was in all the newspapers.

By the time of Sage’s death in 1906, he had amassed a large amount of money which he left to his wife Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage (1828 - 1918), and it is largely due to her efforts that so many institutions in New York benefitted from his fortune. Olivia donated large sums to the YMCA, the YWCA, the Women’s Hospital, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As a memorial to her husband, she had built the First Presbyterian Church of Far Rockaway, at 1324 Beach 12th Street, where they used to vacation. Olivia also founded the Russell Sage Foundation in 1907 for “the improvement of social and living conditions in the United States,” and helped to sponsor the Regional Plan Association’s (‘RPA’) project to develop a regional plan for New York City in 1929, which would provide Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981) with many of the basic ideas that shaped his career.


“Russell Sage Playground,” New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, accessed April 25, 2023, https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/russell-sage-playground/history

Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Russell Sage." Encyclopedia Britannica, July 31, 2022. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Russell-Sage

“Russell Sage” Kids Britannica, accessed April 25, 2023, https://kids.britannica.com/students/article/Russell-Sage/335246#