As told by his great-granddaughter Jessie Snyder Thompson Huberty

The Honorable H.P. (Homer Peter) Snyder

At the end of the nineteenth century, Little Falls was enjoying the fruits of the Industrial Revolution. New factories were springing up in the town located beside the Erie Canal. It was a beehive of activity.

A young man from nearby Amsterdam, H.P. Snyder arrived in Little Falls with nothing but a desire to do something, build something. Although I doubt that he thought of it in these terms, his life was to be the embodiment of the American Dream. In 1872 when he was nine, H.P. was taken out of school, his formal education came to an end, there was no question of him continuing. He had to contribute to the well-being of his family and thus, he was sent to work in one of the knitting mills in town. All the learning that he displayed later in his life was self-taught.

In 1886, aged 23 and recently married to Jessie Falla Breese from a distinguished family from Wyoming, Pennsylvania, H.P. settled on making his fortune in Little Falls. They had a son Charles in 1883, followed by a daughter Estelle in 1885, and finally another daughter Jessie Florence in 1893. Charles, his son, and heir died in 1906 from the measles at age 23.

THE ENTREPRENEURIAL BUSINESSMAN EMERGES

After a time managing the Saxon Knitting Mill, H.P. turned what had been an unprofitable business into a thriving one. He and Michael G. Fisher, a mechanic, developed an attachment to the knitting machine that considerably improved the texture of fabrics. They went on to form a partnership, the Snyder Fisher Company, selling their machines at first in Herkimer County, then throughout New York State, and eventually, around the entire nation.
All the while, Snyder and Fisher continued to manufacture knitting machines and inventing ways to make them better. H. P. also searched for something else to do. He soon realized that there was another market opening up, one that he felt confident to tap. A new division of the company was formed to manufacture bicycles.

The company’s first bicycles were named The Newport Swell and the The Newport Belle. After buying out Michael Fisher, H.P. formed the H.P. Snyder Mfg. Co. in 1894. It became a steady place for employment in Little Falls and was successful from the time it opened its doors until the firm was sold in 1972. Over the years, a partnership was formed with DeLancey Harris and the D.P. Harris Co. to produce Rollfast Bicycles. The company also manufactured bicycles for Montgomery Ward and Western Auto under their own label, Excelsor.

THE WORLD TRAVELER

Always looking for new ways to learn, H.P. felt travel was a necessary part of his education. The Snyders made several trips to South American countries. And then in late 1908, the Snyders and their close friends the Frederick Tealls set out on a four and a half month trip around the world. The major motivation for the trip was the Snyder – Teall mutual grandson Homer Snyder Teall who was recently born in Manila, Philippines where his father Lt. Edward Hall Teall was stationed along with his wife Estelle Snyder.

Prior to the Philippines, the Snyders visited San Francisco. Honolulu, Yokohama, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Leaving the Philippines, they proceeded around the world via Singapore, Penang, Aden, Colombo, Suez, and finally Naples. Here they left their ship and proceeded overland visiting much of Italy, France, and England before heading home across the Atlantic. They returned to Little Falls by rail from Newfoundland. H.P. had set himself on his chosen path in life and achieved success, now he felt it was time to give back.

BUSINESSMAN TURNED POLITICIAN

Always interested in the betterment of Little Falls, he served on the school board and the Police and Fire Boards. He then set his eyes on politics and Congress. He first ran in 1912 but was defeated, but in 1915, he ran again and won. He left the running of his company to his son-in-law, the now Col. Edward Hall Teall, and settled in Washington where he spent the next ten years over five terms representing Herkimer County in Congress as a Republican.

In Washington, H.P. became friends with Calvin Coolidge and Warren Harding, the latter asked him to be his running mate in 1920, but H.P. declined. He felt that he belonged in Congress. H.P. served as chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee that generated the Indian Citizen Act of 1924 (A.K.A. the Snyder Act), this was the piece of legislation which H.P. was proudest. This law granted long overdue United States citizenship to all Native American Indians.

H.P. SNYDER’S FINAL CHAPTER

In 1925, he returned to Little Falls full-time, spending the rest of his life with his first love, manufacturing. He was president of H.P. Snyder & Co. until his death in December 1937. He also served as vice-president and a board director of the Little Falls National Bank. H.P. Snyder left his heirs not only with a financial inheritance but also with a life well-lived.
H.P.’s was an America where anything was possible and he proved it by going from a little boy of nine working in a knitting mill to being an industrialist, manufacturer, and legislator who was a close friend with several Presidents.

Jessie Snyder Thompson Huberty is a member of the Little Falls Historical Society. You can find out more by visiting https://littlefallshistoricalsociety.org/museum-exhibit/writing-series/