Edward John and Robert P. Noble
North Country towns have produced hard driving, ambitious Americans who have gone on to seek fame and fortune. Rarely, though, have they produced as successful, and yet as devoted a man as Edward John Noble. The man who popularized the perforated sweets known as Life Savers and later built the American Broadcasting Company never forgot his roots In Gouverneur.
Born in Gouverneur Aug. 8, 1882 a son of Harvey H. and Edna L. Wood Noble, Mr. Noble was both ambitious and hard-working from his early days. Among his youthful ambitions were to attend West Point, or to own a newspaper. But he did neither. He received his preliminary education in Gouverneur public schools, before entering Syracuse University in 1901.
He was truly a "self-made" man, earning his money as a boy by picking berries and working as a farmhand in the towns of Fowler and Gouverneur. He was a summer correspondent for The Watertown Times, later to be edited and published by one of his closest boyhood friends, Harold B. Johnson. He worked his way through Yale, having transferred there after one year at Syracuse, graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in 1905.
After a stint as a traveling book salesman (Iosing his trunk of books in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, Mr. Noble happened on the confection that was to make his fortune.
Working for an advertisIng agency In New York city, he approached candy maker Clarence Crane with a proposal to promote more widely Crane's perforated peppermint candy. Crane rejected the scheme, but offered instead to sell the entire business for $2,900. More about the Gouverneur Lifesaver...
With J. Roy Allen, Mr. Noble bought the business, invested an additional $900, and set up the Mint Products Company, Inc. in a one room rented loft In Manhattan with six girls, a kitchen stove, and a few pots and pans. In 12 years the $3,800 enterprise grew into an $1,500,000 industry. The owners had solved one of the most threatening problems - the tendency of the candy to lose Its flavor once it had been packaged and merchandised - by devising a tinfoil wrapping that was not only favor tight but also simple to open.
Joe Laurenza tells the story of the E.J. Noble Lifesaver on Channel 10, Syracuse, NY
The company's phenomenal success caused frequent moves until the firm opened a million-dollar factory in Port Chester in 1920. Later, plants were established in Canada, England, and Australia.
The large Pep-O-Mint roll seen on the building now stands on the Village Green in Gouverneur. It was erected by the Gouverneur Rotary Club on November 10, 1987.
During World War I Mr. Noble served as Major in an ordnance depot in the south, while his brother, Robert, took over the operation of Life Savers.
On Nov. 6, 1920, Mr. Noble married Miss Ethel Louise Tinkham of Napanoch, In Ulster County.
Edward J. Noble remained chairman of the board of Life Savers from 1933 to 1955 when his brother Robert P. Noble succeeded him. E.J. Noble was named director, chairman of the board, and chief executive officer of Beech Nut-Life Savers after the two companies merged In 1956. His brother became vice chairman of that board. Robert P. Noble had served as vice president and secretary of Life Savers from 1916 until 1949 when he became its president. He died March 3, 1973.
President Roosevelt appointed the candy magnate In 1938 to be the first chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Authority, and the administration building at the National Airport at Gravely Point in Washington, D.C. is dedicated to him. Before he left Washington in 1940. he also served as first undersecretary of the Commerce Department. to which the C.A.A. had been transferred.
In 1943, he bought the Blue network from the National Broadcasting Company when the F.C.C. ordered NBC to divest itself of one of its two networks. Buying single stations like WMCA, one of New York's best known radio stations. Mr. Noble enlarged the network, renamed the American Broadcast Company, which went on to become one of the "Big Three" in radio and television.
When he was not occupied with his various enterprises. Mr. Noble divided his time among his various properties, which included extensive summer properties in the Thousand Islands - such as the George C. Boldt castle near Alexandria Bay and his summer residence at a cabin on Lake of the Isles, Wellesley Island.
A speedboat racing enthusiast, Mr. Noble for years owned and raced high-speed motor boats on the St. Lawrence River. Perhaps his best known boat was the 33-foot "Snail" which, after its acquisition in 1926, until its sale In 1950, dominated speed boat racing regattas.
Long a staunch advocate of the St. Lawrence Seaway and power project, Mr. Noble was the North Country's sole representative on the St. Lawrence Seaway Development corporation advisory board, to which President Eisenhower appointed him In 1954.
Edward John Noble, multimillionaire, industrialist, financier, and philanthropist, through the Edward John Noble Foundation, made possible the Gouverneur, Alexandria Bay and Canton Edward John Noble Hospitals to provide a unique regional hospital system for that region of the state.
Other beneficiaries of the Foundation were the Owen D. Young library and student center at St. Lawrence University, the former VanDuzee Hospital In Gouverneur, the First Church of Christ Scientist, and the village of Gouverneur which received its ornamental lighting as a gift from Edward and Robert in memory of their father, Harvey. E.J. Noble died Sunday afternoon, Dec. 28, 1958 at his Greenwich, Conn. home, at age 76.
Left to Right: Kathleen Noble Conger, Edward Noble, (unknown) Harriett Brown Birkett, Martha Brown Franke