November 16, 2006
The Face of Hamer v. Sidway
Almost all of us teach that old contract law chestnut Hamer v. Sidway, 124 N.Y. 538, 27 N.E. 256 (1891), probably the granddaddy (or at least grand-uncle) of all unilateral contract cases. Here's a picture of Franklin Sidway (1834-1920), the executor of William E. Story's estate and the putative defendant in the case.
Sidway was a member of a well-connected Buffalo mercantile and shipping clan. He married the daughter of Elbridge Gerry Spaulding, a Buffalo banker who served as mayor and congressman and who played a major role on the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee in financing the Civil War. Franklin himself, after a good education and a Grand Tour of Europe, rose to become director and Vice President of the Farmers and Mechanics Nationial Bank -- his father-in-law, perhaps coincidentally, was President -- the role in which he became involved as executor of the Story estate. He seems to have been cut out for an executor: a contemporary biography calls him "prudent, conservative, quick of decision, and not afraid of large undertakings." In the 1850s he had been one of the organizers of the Niagara Base Ball Club, which is famous as one of the first modern baseball clubs.
The family is remembered in the dignified Beaux-Arts Sidway Building in Buffalo.
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