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Immigrant Entrepreneur Hall of Fame: Hugh J. Chisholm

Country of origin: CanadaInternational Paper logo

Year came to U.S.: 1872

Business: International Paper (1898) and Veritiv (2014)

Headquarters: Memphis, TN (International Paper) and Atlanta, GA (Veritiv)

Hugh_J._Chisholm2015 revenue: $22.4 billion (International Paper) and $8.7 billion (Veritiv)

Worldwide employment: 56,000 (International Paper) and 8,800 (Veritiv)

International Paper ranked 127 and Veritiv ranked 323 in the 2016 Fortune 500

 

  • Under Hugh Chisholm’s leadership, International Paper controlled 60 percent of the American newsprint market.
  • He also created the company’s first forest management program.

 

Hugh J. Chisholm’s formal education was cut short at age 13 when his father died and he was forced to work. Such tragedy, however, engendered the grit he needed to become successful.

The fifth of 10 children, Chisholm began selling newspapers on the trains running from Toronto to Detroit at age 13 to help his family make ends meet. While still in his teens, he and his brother formed their own train-based newspaper distribution business. They soon added steamboats on the St. Lawrence River to their franchise. In a few years, they controlled newspaper and magazine distribution rights on more than 5,000 miles of rail and steamship lines and had more than 200 uniformed employees.

In 1872, at the age of 25, he sold his interest in the newspaper distribution business to his brother. He moved to Portland, Maine, became a U.S. citizen and honed his entrepreneurial skills. Between 1870 and 1898, he founded three pulp and paper companies, an iron foundry, a power company, two railroads and a sulfite company. In 1898, Chisholm and two associates merged 17 pulp and paper mills in the East Coast and Canada to form International Paper Company.

Chisholm led International Paper until 1910. Initiating its first forest management program, Chisholm forbade the harvest of immature trees and forged a close relationship with Yale University’s forestry program.

Under Chisholm’s leadership, the company gained control of 60 percent of the American newsprint market. Several years prior to his death, he was awarded an honorary master of arts degree from Bowdoin College. Posthumously, he was honored by the American Newcomen Society in 1952 and was inducted into the Paper Hall of Fame in 1998.

Today, International Paper supplies a wide range of paper, packaging, printing, graphic arts, maintenance and industrial products. In 2014, the company spun out its distribution, facility, logistics and supply chain management business to create Veritiv, which climbed it’s way unto the the Fortune 500 in under two years.

Updated September 2016

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