Reuben R. Springer
Considered the founder of Cincinnati's historic Music Hall, Reuben Runyan Springer was a businessman and ''a lovable old philanthropist'' who generously supported many causes. It was not only his contribution which insured the construction of Music Hall, but also his idea that there should be such a structure.
Mr. Springer was born in Frankfort Kentucky, in on November 16, 1800, into a large family. He left school when he was thirteen and took a job as a clerk in the Frankfort post office. He later succeeded his father as postmaster, but it's said he didn't really like the work and eventually answered the romantic call of life on a river steamer. He became a a store clerk on the Ohio River steamboat, the George Madison, which ran between Louisville and New Orleans. When a better opportunity came along in 1826, he transferred to the George Washington.
In 1830, his ability was recognized and he was admitted to the firm of Taylor, Kilgour & Company, owners of the George Washington and other boats. This Cincinnati-based company was a wholesale grocery and merchandise house - the biggest business of its kind in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and throughout the south - and used the steamers to move goods from New York by way of New Orleans.
He married Jane Kilgour (daughter of one of the owners of the company) on January 30, 1830; they had no children. It is said that he had a calm dignity, which at times gave him the appearance of coldness. It was, however, based in modesty and quiet self respect. A life-long friend described him as ''methodical - a man who had a place for everything''. Springer was considered a remarkable businessman who made his fortune not only in the grocery trade but also through investments in real estate and the railroads. Actually, the vast bulk of his wealth came from investments in real estate, in the heart of Cincinnati.
Springer lived simply in a gray stone residence at the northeast corner of Seventh and Plum Streets, a block from St. Peter in Chains Cathedral, where he worshipped. When the Cathedral was relocated to its present site from its original structure on Sycamore Street, Springer was the biggest donor.
Legend has it that during one of the performances of the 1875 May Festival, the second to be held in the city, a strong storm came through the city. The noise of the thunder and the hail hitting the tin roof of Sangerfest Halle was so noisy that Mr. Theodore Thomas had to stop the performance until it passed. Reuben Springer was in the audience and he was unhappy that this had occurred, and that this was the genesis of the idea for Cincinnati's Music Hall.
In initiating his gift for the construction of Music Hall, Mr. Springer stipulated that his bequest for $125,000 be for matching funds, with the rest donated by others in the community. However, each time the construction project seemed doomed, he opened his accounts and wrote additional checks: $20,000 in November 1875; $20,000 in April 1877; and an additional $20,000 in 1878. His generosity led the press and others to call the project "Springer Hall" but with his characteristic modesty, Mr. Springer wrote: "This hall, when built, will be out of the donations of the citizens of Cincinnati, the ground on which it is built is the property of the city, and there is eminent fitness in naming it Cincinnati Music Hall."
He was not, however, finished with his contributions. He gave generously toward the construction and installation of the great Hook and Hastings organ, and provided another $50,000 for the Exposition wings. He was also a major contributor to the College of Music, which was created after Music Hall was built.
While mostly associated as the "patron saint" of Music Hall, Mr. Springer was very interested in the arts, owning a personal collection purchased on trips to Europe. He also helped fund the Cincinnati Art Museum and Art Academy.
As mentioned before, Mr. Springer was unusually modest for a man of his wealth and stature. He was a convert to Catholicism and was devout in his faith. Even when he was a senior citizen, he was described as fit and vigorous and was often seen riding through the streets of the city on his handsome gray horse.
Mr. Springer died suddenly on December 10, 1884 after a brief illness. A memorial service attended by several thousand people was held for him at Music Hall on January 11, 1885.