Hoosick Township Historical Society

William F. Carey 1878 - 1951


William F. Carey rose from being a poor boy in Hoosick Falls to become a millionaire and industrial leader in the United States and throughout the world. He worked on the Panama Canal, built railroads in China and South America, revitalized Madison Square Garden in New York City and spent 10 years reforming the Sanitation Department of the City of New York under Mayor Fiorella H. LaGuardia.


William Carey was born on September 14, 1878, the son of William and Catherine Ryan Carey. They lived on River Road and his father was a stone mason and raised pigs.  It was the son=s responsibility to collect the garbage in the more affluent sections of Hoosick Falls in order to feed the pigs.  He had a brother, Daniel and three sisters.


He worked on the building of the original electric car tracks to Bennington when he was 16 years old.  It is believed that this gave him the interest in railroad construction.  In 1894,  with little money in his pocket, he left for Colorado to become a mule skinner in railroad construction camps.  He was earning thirty cents per hour when he met Ocean K. Dailey, a college professor from Nebraska. They were married on October 29, 1904.


Six weeks after they were married,  they left for the Canal Zone.  He worked on the Panama Canal and became a general superintendent. He was instrumental in making the excavating of the Culebra Cut possible after so many failures. His wife became a teacher in the first American School in the Canal Zone.


In 1906, the Careys returned to the United States where Mr. Carey went into business for himself as a railroad contractor. He started building sections of train track linking Northwestern United States with Canada.  Although he never received an engineering degree, Mr. Carey designed and built many machines used in construction and mining.


During World War I, Mr. Carey built a logging railroad in one-third time the other contractors stated they needed.  The railroad carried the spruce tree logs needed for barracks lumber, making it quickly available and helping the War effort.


The first company he headed was the Seims-Carey Railway and Canal Company. From railroad to bridge construction throughout the country,  he turned to canals as well as other construction projects in China.  He then went to South America and spent years below the Equator in South America building railroads and bridges.  In 1924,  his construction company, built the $41,000,000 Andes Mountain Railway for the Bolivian Government.


During the depression, Mr. Carey turned to strip coal mining in Pennsylvania and recouped resources left in the area.  By now he had become well known among the most influential men of the country. One of these men was Tex Rickard, the famed sports promoter.  They worked together to construct the new Madison Square Garden from the abandoned Garden.  Carey was picked to construct the new Garden.  He was appointed Vice President and Treasurer of the Garden.


Upon the death of Tex Richard, the Board of Directors turned to Carey to become President of Madison Garden and promote the fight being planned between Sharkey and Stribiling in Miami Beach. He took over as President on March 20, 1929.   During his three year tenure, he established a training camp on the Ehmler Estate in Hoosick Falls. Many in New York City felt it was too far away, but he insisted on the sight.  This brought many famous sports writers to the village as well as the outstanding boxers and trainers.  His construction company built the Boston Gardens, and he became a director of the Boston Gardens.


On May 27, 1936, Mayor Fiorella H. LaGuardia of New York, appointed William F. Carey Commissioner of Sanitation for the City of New York.  He was promised a free hand to reorganize the Department.  He had many disagreements with various civic and community groups but went ahead and accomplished his mission.  He built the morale of the workers by putting them in snappy white uniforms trimmed with orange.  All procedures were changed from keeping the streets clean to removing snow.  He developed new machines and was very successful in keeping the streets clean and plowed in the winter.  Mr. Carey started a welfare fund and purchased a fancy estate on Long Island for vacations for the workers and their families.  Rich families did everything to oppose this purchase. After a legal fight, they were forced to leave on a zoning technicality.  They purchased an alternate in Dutchess County where they were welcomed. 


He had many critics concerning his ideas on garbage disposal.  Mr. Carey was an advocate of landfills and fought the concept of incinerators.   He was fought by environmental groups for dumping garbage in Jamaica Bay and was forced to stop.  Community groups caused an investigation of the effects of landfills on health and the panel found that it was not detrimental to the health of the people.  The use of landfills in New York City continued even after he left office but stopped when all space was used up in the area.  He quit this position on January 1,1946 as Mayor O=Dwyer took office.  He received criticism for keeping his private enterprises going while he was Commissioner.  He was a forceful individual and known for getting things done.


During World War II, Mr. Carey was a special advisor on construction and built some of the largest and most needed airports in record time.


Mr. Carey was director and head of many large corporations.  These included the Curtiss-Wright Airport Corporation, his own engineering  firm of Carey, Baxter and Kennedy as well as First Vice President of the Lone Star Cement and the Southern Phosphate Corporation.


He moved to his ranch in Indio, California.  He died at his ranch on February 23, 1951, at the age of 72.  His wife and son were by his side.  At his death,  his survivors included his wife and son, William F. Carey, Jr., of San Diego, California, a brother and two sisters.  His wife died later at the age of 79.