Born in Rahway, New Jersey, Hyatt (1816-1901) became a successful New York manufacturer before the age of 40 with his invention of a translucent paving glass. During the 1850s, Hyatt became a committed abolitionist and he traveled to Kansas in 1856 as President of the National Kansas Committee, one of many groups that raised money for anti-slavery immigrants moving into the territory. His committee raised more than $100,000 for the Free-State settlers, and Hyatt was credited with providing a large group of unemployed individuals with the provisions and tools needed to found the town of Hyattville, giving them useful employment and preventing them from resorting to degrading activities. It was through his relief work in Kansas that Hyatt became acquainted with John Brown.
Following the raid on Harper's Ferry and the execution of Brown on December 2, 1859, Hyatt organized a relief fund for Brown's widow. In 1860, he again led a national campaign to aid Kansas settlers whose farms were nearly destroyed as a result of a two-year drought. Hyatt wrote several circulars in an attempt to arouse people in the Eastern United States to take an interest in the Kansas setters, and he inspired President James Buchanan to contribute $100 to the relief fund.
This photograph was probably made in January 1857, when Hyatt and the National Kansas Committee met for the first and only time in New York City. (Information obtained from the Kansas Historical Society Website, January 2, 2020.) Cowans Auctions